The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) reports runaway success with its efforts to grow archery less than a year after it joined forces with the Archery Trade Association to hire a specialist to run the program.
Mainstream interest in archery has grown alongside increased media attention for the sport. The first nationwide archery survey, completed in early 2013, found that 18.9 million Americans 18 and older participated in archery and bowhunting in 2012, proving America’s strong interest in archery.
Steady archery interest increases revenue for archery shops. Randy Phillips, owner of ATA-member Archery Headquarters in Chandler, Ariz., estimated his business will clear $70,000 this year in archery classes alone. He also said archers at his Archery Academy range increased from 35 to 200 each week since March.
Brian Lamoreaux, owner of Bill’s Outdoor Sports, in Enid, Okla., says he saw so much more business because of “The Hunger Games” movie that he opened a shop at a second location. And ATA-member Van’s Sporting Goods reported an 83 percent increase in archery sales in mid-2010, one year after an archery park opened in Cullman, Ala.
Nancy Herron, director of outreach and education for TPWD, credits archery with fostering ties between friends, parents and kids.
“We’re very excited about the interest in archery, and that families can enjoy the sport together,” Herron said. “We certainly want to make a commitment to develop more archery parks in Texas. Archery is the right way to go.”
Leaders in Texas are setting up archery programs for long-term success and capitalizing on increased interest in archery and bowhunting by following three principles: educate leaders, promote bowhunting and build facilities.
1. Educate leaders
Danny Yarbrough, community archery specialist with TPWD, promotes archery in recreation centers and schools in Dallas-Fort Worth, an area with 7 million people. Since August 2012 he’s led nine National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) workshops that equipped 150 instructors to teach the program in their schools. In August, he will introduce all teachers in Maybank, about 50 miles from Dallas, to NASP.
Since March, Yarbrough has held two USA Archery training sessions that drew 38 people from parks and recreation agencies. USA Archery reaches youths who don’t have NASP at their schools, or who have access to NASP but want to participate in archery during summer.
A Basic Archery Instructor workshop, planned for August, will certify 16 people to teach archery to youths.
“We have barely scratched the surface of archery’s potential in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and in Texas,” said Yarbrough. “All 14 communities I’ve recruited are planning archery programs for this fall. The level of excitement is high, and I expect archery to get bigger and better.”
2. Promote bowhunting and backyard recreation
In February, ATA conducted an “Explore Bowhunting” workshop for a recreation program, teachers from 20 Texas schools, and the Irving Police Activities League. Many of these schools already teach NASP and hunter education. ATA provided funding for 22 equipment kits for implementing “Explore Bowhunting” in Texas.
Texas has a proud history of archery and bowhunting. North of Dallas, the city of Allen is jump-starting archery programs. Travis Glick, an Allen recreation specialist, said archery is popular because of its multi-generational appeal.
“People have enjoyed archery for a long time in their backyards,” Glick said. “Programs like NASP have introduced a lot of kids to archery, and reminded parents that they used to shoot archery and go bowhunting when they were younger.”
Glick said archery instruction in schools teaches kids, but recreation center programs can be family-oriented. “Explore Bowhunting” will be offered as a class for families in Allen this fall, just in time for deer hunting season.
3. Build archery parks and centers
“To build archery programs, we must provide parks and ranges near communities,” said Carter Smith, executive director of TPWD. “We are exploring partnerships with parks and recreation departments and state parks to make archery and bowhunting accessible and convenient.”
Shortly after Yarbrough was hired in 2012, ATA sent a survey to recreation centers in the Dallas-Forth Worth area to identify centers interested in starting archery programs or building facilities. Fourteen rec centers responded with requests for equipment and training, and Yarbrough visited each one.
Yarbrough says archery is unparalleled in its ability to build camaraderie in various groups. He says Texas plans to build five archery parks in the next five years. In April, ATA hosted a workshop for communities interested in building archery parks. Five communities attended the session, and one, Mesquite, already purchased land for a park.
The ATA encourages its members to help establish and build archery programs by making the sport accessible to all archers, participating in local archery and bowhunting clubs, and supporting programs at schools, rec centers and parks.
The ATA also offers a 41-page “Archery Park Guide” that’s filled with examples, plans and tips on how to build a community archery park.
News page photo: nixter, Flickr Creative Commons