When thinking of ways to build a group’s camaraderie, you might not consider blindfolds, spray bottles and sneaking up on people. That is unless you’re in an Explore Bowhunting workshop.
Explore Bowhunting is available nationwide through state wildlife agencies and is currently offered in 13 states. On May 20, 30 volunteers, archery shop owners and state agency staff members gathered for Alaska’s first Explore Bowhunting workshop. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG), Archery Trade Association (ATA) and Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) hosted the workshop in Anchorage.
“We started the workshop with an activity called “You Can’t Get Any Closer than That,” which teaches the group about stealth while hunting,” said Katie Haymes, an Explore Bowhunting coordinator with KDFWR who led the event. “One person was blindfolded, holding a spray bottle filled with water. Everyone else tried to sneak in without being heard. If the blindfolded person heard someone stalking them, they sprayed that person with water. During that activity, everyone met, laughed together and became friends.”
Stalking each other as an ice-breaker is a unique introduction to the fun activities in Explore Bowhunting’s revamped curriculum.
Alaska’s participants learned about various archery equipment, how to use animal calls and how to follow a blood trail. To learn shot placement, the group molded animal organs from food products and then shot the organs for archery practice – a favorite activity, Haymes said.
Explore Bowhunting’s hand-on activities and unique nature engage kids taking the program, and excite program coordinators. Ginamaria Smith, ADFG’s south-central coordinator of hunter information and training programs, learned of Explore Bowhunting in December 2012 and immediately planned a workshop.
“The ATA put together a curriculum that will be easy to implement alongside our other outdoor-related programs like National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) and Project Wild,” Smith said. “Even teachers who don’t hunt can teach Explore Bowhunting.”
Those attending Alaska’s first Explore Bowhunting workshop were familiar with archery or bowhunting. They’re now prepared to teach Explore Bowhunting in a state well known for its big game and rifle-hunting.
“Bowhunting licenses are available, but hunters need instruction first,” Smith said. “They also need to know about bowhunting opportunities in our state. There’s a 5-mile corridor on either side of the Dalton Highway that was made famous by the “Ice Road Truckers” TV show and is only open to bowhunting. And Alaska may not have wild turkeys, but there are plenty of chances to hunt snowshoe hare and ptarmigan (grouse) with a bow.”
The ATA recently debuted the second edition of Explore Bowhunting nationwide. The curriculum includes an equipment kit, new anatomy flip-book and updated teacher and student handbooks with customizable pages. The customizing option appeals to state agencies with unique wildlife, such as Alaska.
“The ATA set out to create a program that showed instructors the best way to teach bowhunting to their students, and also answer questions about where to hunt, how to contact their state agency, and where to find a hunter education program,” said Emily Beach, ATA curriculum and education manager. “Explore Bowhunting is a logical next step for students who already have learned about archery through NASP and want to learn more about the hunting aspect of archery.”
Explore Bowhunting is an educational program designed to help instructors, program leaders and educators teach students the basic skills of bowhunting. The ATA created this program to spark an interest and passion for bowhunting in youths. Through these hands-on experiences, students gain confidence interacting with the natural environment, and strengthen their appreciation for wildlife and the woods.