It’s a Tuesday night, the sun is getting ready to set, but down in the basement of the City Auditorium, a group of children ranging in age from eight to late-teenagers were starting up a class run by Valley City Parks and Recreation.
But unlike your typical basketball or flag football class, this one requires a little more safety instruction.
“These aren’t toys,” instructor Jill Christensen told the class, “They’re weapons.”
And after a brief lesson on safety and technique, the kids in the class grabbed a bow and waited their turn to shoot some arrows as part of the youth archery class held by VCPR.
It’s a class Christensen has taught for several years, sometimes doing multiple sessions depending on the demand. This year’s class, which meets weekly Tuesday nights until April 17, is full, Christensen said.
The class aims to teach youth the style known as instinctive shooting, which is a more traditional style lacking sights.
Aside from a few archers that brought their own bows, the youth shoot the traditional bow and arrow, using their eyes and instincts to line up the shots.
“It just comes naturally,” Christensen said.
The variety of children taught range from young girls in full pink attire to teenagers, rife with the latest trends, and even a few younger boys complete with their own compound bows.
In the first class Tuesday, the kids took turns shooting arrows at targets less than 15 feet away from them. As they did, Christensen kept a close eye to help the shooters find form and avoid mistakes.
Though the shots were scattered at first — a child would miss high first, miss low later — by the final shot some were hitting bulls-eyes, others were within range.
Christensen said with each passing week, the focus will be on a quick review of what they’ve learned, followed by more shooting.
“They’ll get more efficient at it and then they graduate to the shooting range next door,” she said.
The shooting range, across the hall in a separate part of the City Auditorium, tends to be a highlight for the class. In addition to larger targets, the expanded shooting range, operated by the Barnes County Wildlife Federation, contains three-dimensional targets, including a bear, that can be shot at from a much longer distance than the small room they start out in.
Christensen said it’s a progression that happens as class continues.
“Just tonight you see the last shot they made and how many were on-target,” she said. “Next class you’ll see more arrows on the paper. The class after that you’ll see more condensed bunches. They will get better. ... If they keep trying, that’s the key.”