Emmons County 4-H archery program hits the bull’s-eye
As the arrow zips into the target’s bull’s-eye, the young archer erupts in exuberance. It’s the same elation that follows a game-winning touchdown or a buzzer-beating shot. The sport of archery has found its own bull’s-eye in KEM Electric Cooperative’s service territory.
On Sunday afternoons, the Emmons County Extension Service is putting bows and arrows in the hands of youth through the 4-H shooting sports program, led by certified instructors Dan Henderson and Larry Leier. The Emmons County archery program began with 11 youth four years ago and included 23 archers last year.
“The archery program is a great way for kids to get involved with the 4-H program even if they aren’t involved in traditional clubs,” says Emmons County 4-H Youth Development Extension Agent Acacia Stuckle. “4-H is all about learning by doing, and archery is a great example. Kids learn both responsibility and safety while participating in a positive activity outside of school.”
Henderson added, “There’s nothing like seeing the smile on a little kid’s face when they hit a bull’s-eye. That’s the fun part.”
“If they can control what they’re doing, it’s a jumpstart for them to start younger,” Henderson says. “The excitement of a little kid that shoots almost as good as a high school kid, that’s a real confidence builder for them.”
An avid archer himself, Henderson has hunted deer, elk and bear with a bow and arrow. He’s also competed himself and has been shooting for 36 years, so he’s able to focus on the details during classes.
“You can tell them something minor about how they’re doing something and it changes something and you can see their confidence just grow,” he explains. “If you don’t hold your hand exactly the same or put your fingers exactly the same each time, it changes dramatically.”
KEM Electric Cooperative members Carrie and Robert Heidrich, Linton, enrolled their oldest children, Cody, 11, and Jessa, 10, in archery last year.
“When they started practice was the first time they ever picked up a bow,” says Carrie, who is also a leader of a club, the Southern Stars 4-H Club. “We thought we’d go and just give it a try and my son absolutely fell in love with it.”
And the entire family quickly became enthralled with the sport.
“They have the whole family involved in it now. We shoot as a family now, we practice as a family,” Carrie says. “We’ve always been avid hunters, so this falls right in line with that.”
While the family purchased their own bows, the Emmons County Extension Service provides compound bows and arrows for archers enrolled in the classes.
Youth ages 8 to 19 who are enrolled in 4-H can also participate in archery competitions held throughout the state. The North Dakota State University Extension Service has offered shooting sports as a 4-H program since 2001, and has expanded the number of competitions as the program grows.
The Heidrichs have competed in three 4-H events – Cody has earned first place in his division at each, and Cody and Jessa have been part of first-place teams from Emmons County.
“I tell them the only one you have to beat is yourself. You don’t have to try to beat somebody else. Focus on what you’re doing and you’re going to get it right,” Henderson advises his youth.
One of the competitions is an annual state 4-H tournament in May in Washburn, where youth compete with 3-D targets.
“The kids love it. They get to go out and tromp around in the grass and the trees and do things they normally wouldn’t get to do,” Henderson says.
Competition divisions are based on both age and the type of equipment being used, explainsAdrian Biewer, state coordinator of the 4-H shooting sports program and an NDSU Extension Service state specialist in youth development.
“There’s basic archery, where you’re shooting a bare bow, but you can take it to any level you want with the target sights and the perfectly balanced arrows and the highperformance speed cams.You can take it to any level you want and you can compete in that division,” he says.
Hitting the target
In 2012, Emmons County had 82 kids enrolled in 4-H. Stuckle anticipates this number to rise as interest in the archery program continues to grow.
Statewide, North Dakota hosted 300 shooting sports events last year, with 4,375 young archers attending those events. Last year’s spring state tournament drew 189 archers.
“It continues to be the fastest growing 4-H program,” Biewer says.
“Anybody can do shooting sports and they don’t have to be a super athlete to be good at it,” Biewer says.
Instead, archery requires concentration skills and selfdiscipline.
“Research has shown that their concentration is enhanced because they have to focus. For some kids who have difficulty focusing, they learn to focus through shooting sports because that’s how you get better,” he says.
“They get to spend time with their friends and it’s a positive recreational activity,” Biewer says. “It requires some skill to get that arrow in the bull’s-eye, so there’s a challenge to it and the challenge is you’re never going to be perfect, but you want to try to get there, so I think that intrigues a lot of kids.”
“It’s great recreational fun,” Carrie agrees. “It’s great to get together with other kids and bond over something you have in common.”
She also credits the volunteer coaches who lead the classes.
“Dan is really good with the kids and he makes sure they absolutely follow the rules,” Carrie says.
“Our program is very fortunate to have dedicated volunteer instructors like Dan Henderson and Larry Leier. The positive impact they have on our youth is immeasurable,” Stuckle adds.
“The instructor really wants you to do well,” Biewer points out. “He’s going to be a positive role model in how you accomplish that.”
It’s all about taking aim at a growing 4-H program.
“Archery gives kids a positive outlet outside of school, whether they are involved in sports or not; 4-H truly is for everyone and archery is just one of the many opportunities,” Stuckle says.
To learn more:
Archery classes, which began March 3, start at 1 p.m. each Sunday at the Emmons County Courthouse Auditorium in Linton. To learn more and for a specific class schedule, call the Emmons County Extension Service at 701-254-4811.
Co-op shares 4-H values
KEM Electric Cooperative has been a longtime financial supporter of area 4-H programs. Area 4-H clubs have also used the cooperative’s hospitality room for monthly meetings and cooperative staff has helped judge exhibits during the Emmons County Achievement Days.
“KEM Electric is very proud of our area youth and is happy to support the local 4-H programs,” says Chris Baumgartner, co-manager of KEM Electric Cooperative. “The cooperative principles of education and commitment to community are so closely aligned with the 4-H values of working together, performing community service and developing leadership skills. We are happy to support such a strong and lasting program that supports our youth and shapes future leaders.”
What is 4-H?
The 4-H program provides hands-on experiences through projects, activities and events, including area 4-H Achievement Days. The youth program is overseen by the NDSU Extension Service. Eighty-two youth were enrolled in 4-H in Emmons County in 2012. Youth ages 5-19 are eligible to enroll in one of the county’s five clubs.
“The life skills taught throughout the various aspects of 4-H help to create responsible citizens for tomorrow,” says Emmons County 4-H Youth Development ExtensionAgentAcacia Stuckle.
To learn more about 4-H, contact your local county NDSU Extension Service.