BB Guns and Recurves Prove Popular in Recent Survey

January 29, 2018 | by Nick Pinizzotto

The results from last week’s NDA survey regarding when people shot their first gun or bow were very familiar to me. Most who responded said that they shot their first gun between the ages of six and 10, and their first bow between that ages of six and 15. In the comments, almost 80 percent indicated that the first gun they shot was a BB gun, with most referencing a Crosman 760 Pumpmaster. When it came to bows, a similar percentage shot a recurve first before eventually switching to a compound or crossbow. My experience closely mirrored the results of the survey, except I was given a bow to shoot when I was about eight years-old, and did not get my BB gun until I was 10.

When it came to hunting with a gun or bow, predictably most hunted with a firearm between the ages of 11 and 15, while the majority of bow hunters didn’t start until they were 16 and older. In fact, the largest group, coming in at 38 percent, did not hunt with a bow until after they were 21. Roughly, that means most didn’t take to bow hunting until about 10 years after they first began hunting with a firearm. That is surprising to me, and it makes me wonder why archery has lagged behind.

My first bow was a yellow plastic longbow that came with three wooden arrows fletched with molded green plastic feathers. The arrows were tipped with brass caps that resembled practice points, although they were crimped to the end of the arrow as opposed to being screwed in. The string was pretty much just household string that nobody would ever mistake for a real one. In fact, I’m pretty sure when I broke the string, we replaced it with whatever we had laying around the garage, and it worked just fine. There were no sights, and the rest was a widened out area on the black rubber grip. Several other kids in the neighborhood had the same bow, and it was common for us to shoot together, or at least talk about shooting when we saw each other at school.

Before we were deemed old enough by our parents to have “real” bows, we would make our own out of branches and string. I can vividly remember experimenting with different lengths and flexibility of the branches, and spending hours looking for perfectly straight sticks to make arrows from. Over time our bows became more effective, but never approached the capability of the top-end yellow plastic ones. I wish I would have kept one of those homemade bows, or at least got a picture of one because I would have framed it.

Eventually we progressed from stationary targets to stalking dangerous game that lived around the neighborhood. Our primary target was chipmunks because they terrorized our mothers by digging holes and eating their flowers, which put them squarely on the “allowed to shoot” list. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure they were the only critters on that list, even if we may have stretched the boundaries from time to time. While we liked to talk a big game, the reality is none of us ever hit a chipmunk, or any other live target that we shot at. There were a couple of reasons for this. First, the bows only came with three arrows, and the chance of finding more at the store without buying another bow was zero. If a shot were to be taken in the field, great care was taken to ensure an erroneous shot would find a safe backstop. Second, the bows weren’t very accurate, despite our impeccable shooting ability. By employing great care, I think I stretched at least a couple of years out of my bow and arrows, but by that time, I was ready to upgrade to something a little more adult-like.

When I eventually got my BB gun, the bow admittedly took a back seat for a while before I was eventually strong enough to draw a youth model compound. While I really wanted to hunt with a bow, my dad had been getting me conditioned to the idea that I had to be at least 16 years-old first, even though I was already hunting with a firearm by 12. This is the same man that tricked me into believing that it wasn’t legal to go trout fishing on opening day until I was 10. The hoax was finally revealed when I got to school and had to hear about the fishing trips that my less gullible friends got to go on. I was eventually able to talk my dad into letting me hunt with a bow when I was 15, but even then it was under some very strict rules.

So why is it that most don’t start archery hunting until well after hunting with a firearm? Is it because many faced the same obstacles that I was as a kid? Is it the cost and complexity of the equipment? What is the appropriate age to hunt with a firearm or bow, and should those ages be different? What about the appropriate age to hunt small game versus big game? In this week’s survey, we begin to dig into these areas to see what our subscribers think. I’m looking forward to seeing the results.