Some people make the assumption that archery is an unsafe sport for kids. Actually, even though archery involves firing pointy objects through the air, it is one of the safest sports that you can participate in. Just check out this chart. Injuries afflict fewer than one in every thousand participants.
For archery to be a safe sport, you need to follow proper safety protocols and rules. Below, you can read safety tips to help you prepare, fire and collect safely on the range.
1. Make sure your equipment is in good shape.
For starters, you should never use a damaged bow or any damaged arrows. Check your arrows carefully, and discard those which show danger signs of wear. Sometimes wear and tear is not apparent. If you are in any doubt, there is an easy trick to checking the quality of your arrows. Try rolling one on a flat, smooth table or similar surface.
If it rolls smoothly, that means that it is in good condition. If however, it wobbles, that means that the surface may be uneven. This could indicate that there are small fractures, or that the arrow is subtly bent. Arrows like these may look fine to the untrained eye, but they are not safe to fire.
Likewise, the string on your bow should not be frayed or damaged in any way. If it is, replace it before shooting. Also, check the general structural integrity of the bow. If it snaps while you are trying to shoot, it could injure you or others. You should unstring your bow after each session. You do this so that the string does not exert continual stress on the bow when it is not in use. This should lengthen its lifespan and prevent stresses from gradually deforming it.
2. Pull hair back and secure clothing and accessories.
Anything which can snag while you're shooting is a potential hazard. If you have long hair, pull it back in a ponytail. Try to avoid wearing loose, baggy clothing.
If you are wearing accessories such as jewelry which could catch on the string, remove these items and set them aside.
3. Wear an armguard.
Armguards are your friends. They will keep your forearm safe while you are shooting.
4. Aim your bow away from people and animals.
Once you have taken the steps above, you will be ready to actually nock an arrow and take aim. At this point, the most obvious safety tip comes into play—also arguably the most important. Never point your bow in the direction of any living thing at any time for any reason.
5. Make sure your bow is not pointed at an object which could be damaged by the arrow.
It is important to remember that not all accidents with projectile weapons necessarily involve hitting a person or animal. If an arrow strikes an object which might shatter or explode, this too can endanger others (plus, you do not want to damage property). Stay aware at all times of such objects in your environment, and point your arrows away from them.
6. Learn the rules at the archery range and follow them to the letter.
Every archery range has its own set of rules and procedures. Different ranges also may have unique signals. Before you attempt to shoot at any range, take the time to learn these rules and signals. Misinterpretations can lead to accidents.
If you have any questions, ask an employee or volunteer at the range.
7. Setting up your own range? Allow for 165 feet of clearance at a minimum behind your targets.
If you do not live near an archery range, you may be thinking about setting up your own. If that is the case, make sure that you have a clear view and plenty of space around the rear of your targets and to the sides. 165 feet of clearance is the minimum. If you can manage more, do so.
Even with sufficient clearance behind your targets, your archery range is still not entirely safe until you have installed a backstop of some nature. This provides an extra layer of protection for passersby. By containing the arrows which miss the target, it can also reduce your search time when you go to pick them up.
While you are at it, make sure that your grass is trimmed neatly. You do not want arrows disappearing into tall grass where they might go unseen or forgotten. If you have pets, keep them indoors while you are shooting and collecting.
You should also take the time to clear obstacles out of the range. If for example there are old tree stumps or roots, these can act as tripping hazards. You may feel safe as you know where they all are, but they could be easy to forget while you are focused on your archery.
Shooting and Collecting
1. Wait for the “all clear” before you nock the arrow.
At the range, there will be an attendant who gives signals to participants. You may only nock your arrow when the supervisor shouts “all clear,” or gives the equivalent whistle (typically a single whistle).
Some ranges require you wait for a second signal before you actually launch your nocked arrow. This might be two whistles together. So when the supervisor whistles once, you nock the arrow. When he or she whistles twice in a row right after that, you assume your position and fire.
This is why it is so important to learn the exact meanings of the signals at the specific range where you will be shooting. A signal which means “nock and fire” at one location could just mean “nock” at another.
Before you pull back on the string and release the arrow, do one more quick check behind and beside you to make sure no one is standing too close. Then check in front of you, aim, and release the arrow.
While you are shooting, you may sometimes hear a series of whistles in a row. A series of whistles is an emergency signal. Other ranges may have different ways of signaling an emergency.
Regardless of how the signal is given, it always means the same thing: “STOP SHOOTING IMMEDIATELY.”
If you do hear this signal, do exactly that. It will never be given unless there is a genuine emergency, such as somebody wandering out into the range when they should not be. If you continue to shoot, you may hit that person.
Even if you already have an arrow nocked, you must not let it fly. Instead, point your bow towards the ground. Return the string to a neutral position. Remove the arrow, and wait until you are again given the “all clear.” At that point, you may resume.
2. Wait for the “all clear” before you go to collect your arrows as well.
When the supervisor is using verbal signals, he or she may call “all clear” once again when it is time to walk across the range and pick up your arrows. If he or she is using whistle signals instead, this generally will be three whistles together.
3. Do not rush out to the target. Take your time and watch the ground so you do not trip over stray arrows. Ask other archers for permission before you grab these.
Your first impulse may be to run out and grab your arrows as quickly as possible so you can get back to the line and resume. This is very unsafe, however. Even though no one is supposed to be shooting, that does not mean that nobody will. People make mistakes.
If you walk slowly, you give others a chance to spot you before they do something foolish. You also give yourself time to look down as you walk. If you do not, you could step on an arrow. Naturally, that is something that you want to avoid if you wish to keep your feet intact.
4. Place one hand on the target when you extract the arrow. Before you pull, look over your shoulder to make sure you are by yourself. Pull directly outward (not at an angle).
You need to take these steps when you are pulling your arrows out of the target in order to ensure that you do not damage them. If you try to pull at an angle, or if you do not brace yourself with your hand, you could put undue stress on the shaft, resulting in breakage.
Failing to brace yourself could also send you careening over backwards when you do get the arrow free from the target.
The reason you need to check over your shoulder is to ensure that nobody else is standing behind or beside you. If you do lose your balance or jerk your arm back, you do not want to topple into somebody or jab them in the face with your elbow or an arrow.
5. Carry arrows in a safe position.
When you are walking with an arrow, you should always do so slowly and carefully. Point it downward. That way, if somehow somebody does run into you, you will not stab that person by accident.
6. Discard damaged arrows immediately.
Just as you check your equipment before you begin to shoot, you should check it afterward as well. If any of your arrows have developed even superficial damage, should get rid of them and replace them with new, intact arrows. There is never any excuse to be shooting with unsafe equipment.
Notes for Adult Supervisors
While this guide is aimed at children, you may be reading it as an adult. If that is the case, here are a few additional tips to help you keep kids safe while they learn archery:
- Remember that things which seem obvious to you may not be obvious to a child. Never leave out safety tips or instructions because you think they are clear. Answer questions patiently.
- Kids often do not remember what they are told the first time they hear it. Do not be afraid to repeat instructions and do so often.
- Children each have different learning styles. What works for one kid may not for another. One child may learn best from verbal instructions, but another may need to see these safety tips written down. Still another may benefit from seeing a demonstration. If you are in a teaching role, tailor your methods to each child.
- It is easy for kids to get caught up in their emotions. You might never run out into a range to retrieve an arrow before a signal is given, but a child just getting into archery may get carried away by his or her excitement and forget. Be ready for incidents like this.
- Do not forget that archery is a great way to teach responsibility. As an adult, even if you have seen the stats on archery safety, you may still be nervous to hand a child a bow and arrows. Nonetheless, this is a wonderful opportunity for a child to train far more than eye-hand coordination. Handling a bow and arrow means taking responsibility for one’s own safety and that of others. Children who learn how to do this by practicing archery have developed essential skills and qualities for all areas of life.
You now have a comprehensive guide to archery safety. Since you are new to the sport, it is wise to review these guidelines and tips before heading out to the archery range each time you go to practice. It is not hard to stay safe while practicing with your bow, but it does require diligence on your part. Follow these tips closely, and you and others can continue to enjoy this wonderful sport safely.