Learning Something New: Archery

During my initial counseling with my Commander in June, he tasked me with learning something new over the course of the next year. While my initial plans to learn to play the piano fell through (as time was starting to come up short and I was not going to be able to learn to play on my own), I eventually settled on archery. Since there was a range on post and it was much cheaper than some of my colleagues’ selections (like collecting trading cards or restoring an old grandfather clock), it seemed like a good choice. And of course, I was going to teach the girls to shoot as well, because that is just how we do things in our family.

Time to start watching Hawkeye

After realizing that I was not going to be able to learn to play the piano and having only six months left to learn something, I started to panic. I pride myself in being a jack of all trades, master of baking, but my boss’ rules stated it had to be something completely new, in order to expand my experiences. I could not take up painting because I already painted miniature figurines. I could not learn calligraphy because I already, um, knew how to write. And if I learned to juggle, taking only an hour on the project seemed to not be in keeping with the spirit of the task. While looking through Barnes & Noble one day for ideas and considering bird watching, knitting, and canning, I swallowed my pride and texted my Mom. She suggested Archery. And instead of mocking her with “Mom, the 14th Century called and wants their hobby back,” I did a little research on the subject and my choice was made.

Nope, not until you are, well, at least a little taller

After purchasing a longbow, arrows, a quiver, and a few books on archery, I joined a Live-Action Roleplaying (LARP) group and made our way towards Mount Doom headed to the range to get in some practice.

Not too bad considering this was my third day with my first bow

From what I can tell, archery is easy to learn and difficult to master. My first trip to the range was a big success, as I did not hurt myself or others and I hit the 20-yard, 30-yard, and 40-yard targets with the majority of my shots. I certainly rolled my fair share of “1”s during this outing, but at least it was not too hard to pick up. I was thoroughly enjoying it though, so at least the activity would be fun while I learned and improved. I do not think I would have gotten the same thrill from canning…

“Who would have thought we could be safe AND have fun?”

Once the girls got back, I showed them my longbow and pictures of the range to generate interest in learning with me. They did not need a lot of convincing. While they both have bright pink bows and arrows to play indoors, they needed something a little better to take to an actual range. When I was shopping for equipment in Tucson the week prior, I saw a children’s starter bow that was just perfect for the girls. On our next trip into town, we stopped in, and each picked up their first recurve bow.

“Gabbs, show us your war face!”

Once we got to the range, before we even pulled out our bows and arrows, we had a little talk about range safety. We talked about a lot of things, but the most important being that there is only one shooter at a time (and the only one holding a bow) and everyone else stands behind them. When the girls were shooting, it was okay to stand about five feet behind, but when I was up, they had to sit on the bleachers. Archery can be dangerous, and I was taking absolutely no chances.

She must have learned that kick from watching Robin Hood

Elaina really enjoyed shooting, even though it took her a while to get a decent shooting form. She was a little disappointed the arrow was not sticking to the target, but I was not about to give her a “real” arrow just for that (their arrows had suction cups on the ends).

Next up, the Sherwood Forest Invitational

Gabriella, on the other, was a natural. Not only did she have good form and aiming, but she has the arm strength to really pull back on the string and let the arrow fly. I knew that high protein chocolate milk was going to pay off.

Of course, this was the bandage I randomly pulled out of the case

Since I am still learning, I had a bit of an accident and bled a little in front of the girls. When pulling an arrow out of the target, my hand was too close to the fletchings and slipped, causing my finger to get a little shredded. After telling the girls to look away and putting a bandage on to control the bleeding, we were back to shooting in no time.

She keeps inching a little closer to the target with every shot

After about 30 minutes, Elaina was still having a good time, but her fingers started to hurt, so she called it a little early. Considering this was her first time out, I thought she did pretty well. They were certainly trying their best too, as the girls were both asking me why their arms were sore the next day.

It stuck!!!

Gabriella kept on going though, hitting the target almost every time. She definitely has a future in archery, and I hope she decides to keep slinging arrows downrange with her Old Man Dad. Since I am enjoying it as well, I can see me continuing with this activity after my directed learning experiment is up.

Perfect form. Now I just need to work on their “archery wardrobe.”

While this was originally my task, it was a blast learning archery with Elaina and Gabriella. They seemed to have a good time and have already started asking me when we are going back. We only have a couple months left at Fort Huachuca, so if we plan on going back to the range at the Sportsman’s Center, we need to make it pretty soon. And I am definitely looking forward to it.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what rolling a Natural 20 looks like in real life.

Thanks for checking in on us.


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