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Rod, Gun & Game: Youth archery interest soars, heading into the New Year

ENJOYING ARCHERY — Youth ages 5-18 can develop archery skills from beginner to expert at the West Falls Conservation Junior Olympic Development Program Tuesdays from 6-9 p.m. Photo by Forrest Fisher.
We have so many new features for outdoorsmen evolving as the result of 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 — and they are affordable, higher precision binoculars, the list goes on, with more emphasis on safety. We even have new apps for our phones that will teach anything we need to know, in 30 seconds or less, or so it seems.

We should appreciate that we sure have come a long way in the outdoors. Battery life aside, some things thought of as “old school” are not quite as easy as using your touchscreen to access that new app, but everything has its time and place. One thing there is no app for and seems to be catching on like wildfire in the last two years is archery, for both youth and adults.

Safely learning to shoot an arrow, just like Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old fictional character in the Hunger Games, where muscle skills, foraging, knowledge of wildlife, hunting and survival were required to survive, seems to have provided a starting spark for so many youngsters. Just recently, the sequel was released and has been another big hit.

Retail archery dealers reported last year that archery sales boomed through the last 12 months. 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 and existence with a bow and arrow. Both fiction films have served to heighten the spotlight on the simple and fun world of old-fashioned 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 one-hour sessions.”

Located at 55 Bridge Street in downtown West Falls, the club has trained instructors that cater to developing archery skills for youngsters ages 5-18. The program is held every Tuesday from 6-10 p.m., all year long, except during summer vacation. The agenda is part of a national program, Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD). The club offers a heated, indoor 18 meter (20-yard) archery range that is used during the winter months and the program moves to the 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 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 to 9) start out with a 9-meter target distance, while the older participants that have developed adequate shooting skills move to 18 meters. From beginners to Olympians, thousands of young archers learn the sport across the USA in more than 250 JOAD Clubs annually. The National Archery Association also provides continuity for JOAD archers to participate in the sport through college and other local club programs across the country.

Jake Kaminski, anchor shooter for the USA Men’s Olympic Archery Team last year, won the silver medal. Kaminski is a former member of West Falls JOAD and was initially trained here in this program. Kaminski and his wife, Amanda, now live in Florida, where he continues to train for the next Olympics. Many young JOAD youth archers compete in local, state and national archery competitions. To learn more about the program, contact directors Bob and Eileen Pheil at 941-9393, or email

Outdoor calendar:

– Jan. 3: Indoor Winter 3D Archery, Friday fun shoot league, 7 p.m.,12 weeks, all archers welcome, call Mike Cummings 337-0126 for info.

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

– Jan. 7: NY Walleye Association, monthly meeting, 7:30 p.m., Legion Post 1041, 533 Amherst St., Buffalo, call 875-8148 for info.

– Jan. 7: Niagara Musky Association, monthly meeting, 7 p.m., Eldridge Club, 17 Broad St., Tonawanda, call 225-3816 for info.

– Jan. 8: WNY Safari Club, monthly meeting, Michael’s Banquet Facility, 4885 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg, call 565-1980 for info.

– Jan.11: Ray Markiewicz fundraiser event, an eternal friend of fly fishermen, fundraiser for Ray who is fighting leukemia, Eden Legion Post 880, 1-6 p.m., call Jim Bailey at 649-9714.

– Jan. 16: NY Safe Act, Tresmond Law team vs NYS, Buffalo City Court, 9th floor, 50 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, call Steve Aldstadt at 846-5448 for info.

Send outdoor information to Forrest Fisher 10 days in advance, to

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