Along The Trail 4-11-13

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After a two hour drive, we pull onto the long lane of the Mercer County, Kentucky Fish and Game Club.

Gravel popping under the SUV’s tires, we crest a small rise and are greeted by the smell of blue smoke coming from dozens of small campfires in front of tents, lean-too’s and a couple of teepees. People milling about everywhere, maybe two hundred or so, all packing traditional bows around with them.

Some yard sale looking recurves that have seen better days – others fine, handcrafted, one-of-a-kind pieces of art, almost too pretty to take into the woods and risk a scratch. Predicted high’s in the low 70’s with blue bird skies, a perfect afternoon to fling a few arrows and enjoy some friendly competition at the 3rd annual Kentucky Tradfest.

The first couple of targets set the tone for my day – and for the boy’s. More often than not, my arrow didn’t find its intended mark. The kid’s on the other hand: the solid thump of his arrow striking the foam of the targets, most of the time in the 8 and 10 rings.

Thankfully and mercifully, there were a handful of large life-size targets that even my arrows found the 8 and 10. Of course, they were the actual size of a moose or buffalo! I shake my head and can’t imagine what other people who’ve seen me shoot think.

“How does he ever manage to take actual, live game with his bow and arrows?” has to go through their minds…

Twenty years worth of bad shooting habits have festered in my brain. Short drawing, rushing my shot, plucking the string, target panic – all signs of a poor 3-D shooter. Even on my best day, I’m solidly mediocre.

A big fat average.

Something about me shooting at an inanimate target gives me the shakes. Nerves kick in. Now, put me up a tree stand in early November and I’m no longer an “archer”. Hunting mode takes over and something primitive turns me into a predator that seems to help my arrows fly straight and true, but even still, I wish that I had learned proper archery technique when I was younger.

That brings me to the meat of this week’s article.

Recently, there’s been lots of discussion about bringing the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) here to Switzerland County. I for one think it’s a great idea and commend the school administration as well as our local Conservation Officers for working hard to try to make it a reality.

Archery is a wonderful sport and any time we as outdoorsmen and women get a chance to introduce our community’s youth to the shooting sports, we should jump on board. 4-H already does a wonderful job of introducing kids to archery as well as the Boy Scouts and other camps and civic groups. But none has the opportunity to bring the sport to as many kids as NASP does.

NASP isn’t about turning kids into hunters or teaching them how to bowhunt, although if a few join the ranks of hunters, I’m all for that, too. What NASP is about is opening up an opportunity for a kid to become plugged in. Maybe that child isn’t a gifted basketball player or a track sprinter. Maybe they aren’t the stereotypical athlete. But, put a bow in their hand, teach them proper techniques, give them confidence and they become an “athlete.”

They become an archer, a competitor.

They become part of a team.

NASP began in Kentucky over 10 years ago and has spread all over the U.S. and Canada. Indiana has been a major player in NASP and locally, we are just now getting on board. NASP fits into the school’s physical education curriculum and has been proven to improve the students’ educational performance in grades 4 through 12. The students are taught about the history of archery, safety, techniques, how to use the equipment, core strengthening and maybe most important of all, self improvement.

In a short amount of time, our school has created a competitive wrestling program and fostered support for a football team and I’m betting NASP will do the same!

Kudos to all those that have a hand in working to get this done!

- David Hewitt