Dressing for the Range
Dress your children in appropriate clothing that won't become tangled or impair their shooting ability and range. For example, avoid dressing your child in anything that could drape over the bow, such as a scarf, hoods or any loose-fitting attire. Instead, dress your child in comfortable, weather-appropriate attire.
Choosing and Inspecting the Equipment
Before shooting, teach your child how to properly inspect and maintain his equipment, including the bow and arrows. Provide your child with an age-appropriate bow that is recommended for his height and weight. Instruct your child to draw back the bow. If he's having difficulty drawing the bow and holding it taut for 30 seconds, the draw weight is too much. Once you find the correct bow, have the string replaced professionally or perform this fix yourself if it's frayed or damaged. Also, inspect the arrows to ensure they're not damaged and are the correct size for your child's bow. Ideally, the arrow's point should sit 1 inch beyond the bow when it's drawn. Improper arrow length will lead to difficulty with shooting and accuracy.
Safety at the Range
Follow the range's rules concerning the shooting and recovery of an arrow. Typically, ranges expect archers to aim, shoot and retrieve their arrow before allowing anyone else to shoot at the target. Instruct your child to stand at least 6 feet behind the shooting line while waiting his turn to avoid injuring himself or the archer at the line. While on the line preparing to shoot, instruct your child to pay attention to anyone behind or in front of the target. Only allow your child to shoot once the area is secure. Instruct your child to only retrieve the arrow when permitted and to watch for any other archers in the area before doing so. Finally, teach your child shooting a bow without an arrow can damage the equipment and it's never acceptable to point a bow at an unauthorized target, including an animal or another person.
Basic Archery Safety
No matter his experience, never leave a child unattended at the range or practicing at home. It's also dangerous to shoot an arrow straight in the air because it's almost impossible to estimate where it will land. Place the target at a realistic distance for your child. Placing it too far away could cause the arrow to become lost or damaged if it hits the ground. Finally, when your child is retrieving an arrow from the target, instruct him to always look and walk, never run, especially if the arrow fell short of the target. Stepping on an arrow jutting from the ground will not only break it, it can also injure your child.
Archery in Michigan Schools
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has an educational archery program for children from fourth to 12th grade in more than 500 schools throughout the state, usually as part of the schools' physical education programs. Check with your local school system to see whether they offer sport archery. If not, suggest that they start. The DNR provides the curriculum and offers the free training classes to help physical education teachers familiarize themselves with teaching sport archery.
Archery in Michigan Camps
Many Michigan children's and teens' camps have archery programs. Chooseacamp.com lists more than 40 Michigan camps offering archery as part of their programs. Many of the local YMCA/YWCA centers throughout the state also offer sport archery programs. Summer camp is an ideal place to have your kids try archery to see whether they like it before you invest money in a bow, arrows and the other equipment needed for your child to participate in sport archery.
Local Archery Clubs for Kids
The Michigan Archers' Association's website lists more than 50 local archery clubs throughout Michigan. Many of these clubs, including the Bay City Bowmen, the Detroit Archers and the Flint Bowmen, offer archery lessons for kids. Most of them provide opportunities for kids to participate in competitive sports archery events. This includes both flint shoots and "3D shoots," in which participants shoot at three-dimensional targets shaped like deer, moose, bear, turkey and other wildlife native to the area. 3D shoots usually happen in wilderness environments and are generally fun family events. If you can't find an affiliated archery club nearby, check with your local archery, outdoors or sporting goods store. They will often have information about the nearest sports archery opportunities for kids.
Archery at Home
Regardless of whether you have sports archery opportunities nearby, you can set up an archery range for your kids at home. You need an area at least 10 yards -- and preferably 20 to 40 yards -- long. Choose an area where wayward arrows aren't going to hurt anyone or anything. If you don't have such an area, you can construct a backstop behind the target area using 1/2-inch plywood or bales of straw. A variety of archery targets are available at sporting goods stores, ranging from paper targets that can be attached to straw bales to durable standalone "self-healing" targets that can be used for several years before needing to be replaced.