Young archers from across Oklahoma are taking aim in Tulsa this week for the Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools Program East Region State Shoot.
The 2-day shoot, hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, will bring about 2,500 young archers to the Tulsa State Fairgrounds.
It kicked off Wednesday morning with 4th graders through 12th graders from eastern Oklahoma. The competition continues Thursday with the top 25 elementary, middle and high school teams in Oklahoma competing in the Grand State Shoot.
State shoots for students in central and western were held last week in Oklahoma.
The outcome of the shoots will determine which teams advance to national competitions. ODWC Information and Education Specialist Colin Berg said up to 400 students will qualify for nationals.
The Archery in the Schools programs is now in it’s 16th year and growing, currently about 650 Oklahoma schools participate.
Berg said archery is getting more popular and just seems to click with kids.
"They're using a lot of different motor skills and their brain is a big part of this being confident and just relaxed out there,” Berg said. “And you never know who's gonna be the best archer. When you walk into the classroom, it could be the smallest girl the one that shoots then right in there every time. It's fun for the kids."
ODWC launched a new program this year for 9th through 12th graders called Varsity Archery.
The agency teamed up with Archers USA to create special targets and set up modern, adjustable Genesis bows and equipment.
Berg said the Varsity Archery program is the first of its kind in the country.
"It's the next step trying to get them either into competitive type archery or hunting. That's what we need them to do. We like them to progress,” said Berg. “We're real excited about it. It's a little bit different. It gets a lot of interest when people start seeing the targets.”
The targets are part of the challenge, they feature a picture of a turkey with a faint bull-eye printed in the center of the bird.
“You can barely see at 10 meters, if you’re eyes are really good you can see the lines. When you get back to 15 [meters], you can’t,” said Berg. “It’s more of a hunting type situation, where you don’t have a spot necessarily where you can aim.”
One other incentive to archery, Berg notes: colleges are now starting programs and offering top archers scholarships.