Shooting a compound bow is a sure-fire way to build skills and have fun - in competition and out in the field.
The air is buzzing with excitement. Hundreds of archers fill the massive arena. They are the best of the best, here to compete in the annual statewide archery competition. They set their arrows, raise their bows, and breathe. They concentrate. Steady. They visualize a perfect arc for their arrows. Their breathing slows. It stops. Fifteen meters away, all that now exists is a distant target. Arrows fly. Bull’s-eye.
The Conservation Department helps thousands of students hone their archery skills at school in Missouri’s National Archery in the Schools Program (MoNASP). Jordan Guilfoyle and Luke Stephens, like many other students from around the state, continue to sharpen their skills outdoors in the pursuit of wildlife and fun.
“What I love about archery is, it’s all on you — you control everything,” Jordan says. Jordan was introduced to archery by his dad, and has been shooting since he was 5 years old. Now he’s 14 and is going into ninth grade this fall.
He started shooting a compound bow in elementary school. “We’d meet in the gym during school and after school a few times a week,” Jordan says.
Once he started MoNASP, Jordan was hooked. He kept with it through middle school and plans to shoot in high school, as well. “I like it because it’s very competitive,” Jordan says. “It pushes you to try your hardest. I’ve become a much better shot. And you meet a lot of really good people.”
State, regional, and national competitions let archers in Missouri compete with students from around the state and country. Jordan says events are his favorite. “I’m real competitive. I really like the excitement.”
In 2013, Jordan’s school team came in second place in the entire state. “I shot a 282 out of 300. It was my personal best,” he says. In MoNASP, a perfect score is 300. Each archer shoots 15 arrows from 10 meters, and 15 more from 15 meters. Jordan likes to take the skills he’s learned in competition to the field, hunting squirrels, turkeys, and deer. “I’m hoping to harvest my first deer this fall,” Jordan says.
About archery, Jordan says, “It’s a real thrill because you have to have a lot of confidence in yourself. It takes a lot of thinking to find your target and keep it there.” Jordan’s little brother likes to shoot with him. “He’s 9 years old. He wants to do MoNASP, too.”
Luke was also on Jordan’s school team that placed second in the state. He’ll be entering ninth grade this fall, too. “Practicing is a major commitment,” Luke says. “But I like to go and shoot arrows. It’s fun, and you get a good feeling when you have a hot hand going — whenever you’re shooting really good.”
Luke has been shooting a bow since fourth grade and competing at nationals for the past five years. He plans to shoot competitively through high school and has his sights set on applying for an archery college scholarship. “I like to go bow fishing, too,” Luke says. “I’m just starting out. I kind of learned by myself through trial and error. The tricky part is the water refraction. The water bends the light. So you have to stick the arrow tip under the water and adjust your aim to where the fish looks like it is. I’ve learned it’s best to bow fish at noon, when there’s less light refraction.”
Last fall, Luke tried archery deer hunting for the first time. “It was fun even though
Luke says that even though it’s always great to hit the bull’s-eye, an added plus is he’s made a lot of friends through archery. He enjoys teaching the younger students in MoNASP, and has become a mentor for those just starting out.
Luke’s advice for beginning archers is: “Try new things and don’t give up. You will get it eventually. Even after just a couple of weeks things started picking up for me.”
Nichole LeClair Terrill