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Rod, Gun and Game: Youth archery interest soars into New Year, thanks to media

STRAIGHT SHOOTERS — Kids have been turning out to archery clubs in record numbers, this year. West Falls Conservation Society runs a program, for kids ages 5 - 18 years old. Photo by Forrest Fisher.

SPRINGVILLE — A brand new year in the outdoors world is about to unfold. It’s exciting! We have so many new things evolving, as the result of high technology advances for our everyday, commercial world, with many of the new inventions helping to make the outdoors safer, more fun and a bigger adventure for us all.

We have new bows, lighter and stronger arrows, better firearms, more accurate range finders – the list goes on, with more emphasis on safety. We even have new apps for our cell phones that will teach anything we need to know, in 30 seconds or less.

I’m not sure I don’t prefer my pocket notebook with pencil and paper though, a few waterproof matches in my Boy Scout pocket knife case, a compass on a lanyard around my shirt collar and an orange whistle there too, just in case I ever really get lost or hurt and need help. None of these old-fashioned things depend on battery life and my real-life “app” could depend on that!

We should appreciate though, that we have come a long way. Battery life aside, some things thought of as “old-school” are not quite as easy as using your touchscreen, but everything has its time and place. One thing that seems to be catching on like wildfire, in the last two years, is archery, for both youth and adults.

More moms and dads, across the nation, realize their kids are held captive with electronic games and are looking for ways to help their kids develop more hand-eye coordination and self-confidence in physical skills.

Safely learning to shoot an arrow, just like Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year-old fictional character in the “Hunger Games,” series, where muscle skills, foraging, knowledge of wildlife, hunting and survival were required to stay alive, seems to have provided a starting spark, for so many youngsters.

Retail archery dealers reported that archery sales boomed, through the last 12 months, largely helped by the movies. Younger kids were also attracted to the idea of archery, through another movie, “Brave,” in which an animated young lady also touted her skills for survival with a bow and arrow. Both films have served to heighten the spotlight on the simple and fun world of old-fashioned archery. Then, just a month ago, a sequel to “Hunger Games” was released, and proved to be another hit movie that enticed even more kids to look into archery.

A check with the Junior Olympic Archery Development program at West Falls Conservation Society shows surprising interest from new youngsters. Program Director Bob Pfeil said, “We have never had quite so many new kids develop such an interest in archery, so fast. We have had to divide our age groups into three sections and now we have about 50-plus kids split up into 1-hour sessions, beginning at 6 p.m. every Tuesday, at the West Falls indoor archery range.”

Located at 55 Bridge St. in downtown West Falls, the club has trained instructors that cater to developing archery skills for youngsters aged 5-18 years of age. They run their agenda under a national program entitled Junior Olympic Archery Development, to help benefit the kids. The club offers a heated, indoor 18-meter archery range that is comfortable during the cold winter months. The program moves outside, during summer.

The JOAD program provides archery instruction and competition, for young archers across the country. Through the JOAD Olympian Awards program, young archers earn incentive markers with wall certificates, as they develop and improve their scores with ratings via the ranks of yeoman, junior bowman, bowman, junior archer, archer, master archer, expert archer, olympian, silver olympian and gold olympian.

The younger kids, ages 5- 9, start out with a 9-meter target distance, while the older kids who have developed adequate shooting skills move to 18 meters. What a great way for kids to learn a little more about the metric world of international length and distance measurement! From beginners to gold olympians, thousands of young archers learn the fun and excitement of archery, across the USA, in more than 250 JOAD clubs.

The National Archery Association also provides continuity for JOAD archers to participate in the sport beyond the age of 18, through college and other local club programs, across the country.

The local JOAD program conducted at West Falls Conservation Society is held every Tuesday from 6-10 p.m., all year long, except during summer vacation. The program is always looking for youths from 5-18 years old who are interested to learn archery and develop their arrow shooting skills. The program offers free use of bows, arrows, finger tabs, quivers and the best of instruction, all for a weekly program fee. Both recurve and compound bows are used in club activities and in tournaments. JOAD archers who use a compound bow or recurve bow can train to compete in local, state and regional tournaments and can earn a seat on a youth world team, to compete in other countries representing the United States, on behalf of USA Archery.

Jake Kaminski, anchor shooter for the USA Men’s Olympic Archery Team last year, placed his last arrow in the 10 ring at 77 yards distance, to win the silver medal for team USA. Kaminski is a former member of West Falls JOAD and was initially trained in this program. Kaminski and his wife Amanda now live in Florida, where he continues to train for the next Olympic games.

Another youngster in the same JOAD program appears to be headed for Olympic competition, as Samantha Reese, a 15-year-old expert archer in the West Falls JOAD program, has been recognized for her archery skills and talent. Reese has earned a third return invite to the Olympic “Dream Team” roster, for United States Olympic Trials in 2014. There are many other state and regional hopeful champions, in the current JOAD program at West Falls, that serve as very good examples for newbie archers, some as young as 5 years of age.

Many other young JOAD youth archers also compete in local, state and national archery competitions and do well. To learn more about the West Falls Conservation JOAD program, contact directors Bob and Eileen Pheil at 941-9393, or email

Winter 3-D archery

Winter archery activities are popular in Western New York. A formal 3-D archery league, the 2014 3-D Niagara Region Winter League, begins Sunday, Jan. 5, at Allied Sportsmen in Alden, shooting for 12 weeks at affiliate clubs around WNY. Call John Peters at 585-496-5819 for more information.

Another formal winter archery league, the 2014 WNY 3-D Archery League, begins Sunday, Jan. 5, with revolving archery shoot site locations, each week. Call Mike Cummings at 337-0126 for more information.

Another indoor winter 3-D archery league is held at Alden Rod and Gun, 12 County Line Road, starting Jan. 12-March 23, shooting every other week beginning at 11 a.m.

On Friday evenings, beginning Jan. 3, at 7 p.m., West Falls Conservation will start their indoor 3-D archery fun shoot program. The clubhouse is located at 55 Bridge St. in West Falls, right off Route 240, in the town of Aurora. The shoot is open to all, young and old, and consecutive weekly participation is not required. Call 337-0126 for more information.

Outdoor calendar

Jan. 4: Erie County Trappers Association Fur Handling Seminar, Collins Conservation Club, 2633 Conger Road, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., free. For more information, call 337-2556.

Jan. 7: New York Walleye Association monthly meeting, 7:30 p.m., Legion Post No. 1041, 533 Amherst St., Buffalo. For more information, call 875-8148.

Jan. 7: Niagara Musky Association, monthly meeting, 7 p.m., Eldridge Club, 17 Broad St., Tonawanda. For more information, call 225-3816.

Jan. 8: WNY Safari Club, monthly meeting, Michael’s Banquet Facility, 4885 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg. For more information, call 565-1980.

Jan.11: Fundraiser for Ray Markiewicz who is fighting leukemia, Eden Legion Post No. 880, 1-6 p.m. For more information, call Jim Bailey at 649-9714.

Jan. 16: NY SAFE Act, Tresmond Law team vs NYS, Buffalo City Court, 9th floor, 50 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, N.Y. For more information, call Steve Aldstadt at 846-5448.

Feb. 5-8: Safari International Annual Convention, Las Vegas. For more information, visit or call 888-SHOW-SCI.

Feb. 7-9: Coyote Hunt Contest, 7th Annual, White Sulphur Springs Firehouse, Sullivan County, $2,000 grand prize for heaviest coyote, women’s and youth division, $40 entry. For more information, call 845-482-4987 or visit and click on news.

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