One of the greatest feelings in the world is to give back. To teach someone something that puts a smile on their face. Throughout my life I’ve been lucky enough to have a dad who has spent every waking second with me trying to better me not only in the woods but as an all around person. That is why I am where I am today. With all the knowledge my dad has given me I have been able to give back to many people.
Growing up I was given my first bow at age 4. Since then a bow has never left my hand- day in and day out I shoot. It’s part of who I am. Many joke around saying I came out of the womb with one. Through my years with a bow I have been able to meet some of the best coaches around and they spent a lot of time with me. These coaches took me to tournaments to see how far I could go. I took the opportunity and ran with it. First starting off in paper tournaments and winning them, then stepping it up to 3D competitions. I even won my division.
At age 14 I was able to hunt for the first time. My dad would put up a stand for me and one for him 50 yards away so he could watch me and make sure everything was ok. My first year hunting I shot my first buck. I was on cloud 9. Three years later I asked my dad why he had not shot a deer since I started hunting. He told me he enjoyed sitting in the stand and watching me, teaching me things as I grew up in the woods. From that moment I realized it’s better to give back in the outdoors rather than to keep all the knowledge you have to yourself.
Since then I have been a coach for the Junior Olympic Archery Development league through the West Falls Conservation Society, coaching kids from age 6-18 every Tuesday. At the league we have a wide variety of youth- from kids who have never seen a bow before to kids who are getting invitations from the Junior Olympic Dream team. Every single kid leaves that night with a smile, and that’s what keeps me coming back every Tuesday. Getting kids involved not only in hunting but in shooting is important. Just because you shoot doesn’t mean you have to kill something. The trick with teaching anyone, in particular children, is to be patient and to remember each kid is different- attention span, drive and discipline. You can’t force a kid to shoot. If he/she doesn’t want to, don’t make them. Let the child choose how much they want to shoot and when they want to shoot. Tuesday nights are one of my favorite nights because it feels great to give back and install the lessons my dad taught in me.
When it comes to hunting this is where my passion really stands out. Any chance I can to introduce someone into the outdoors and hunting I do. I am prideful that everyone calls to ask if I can take them or a child out and introduce them into the outdoors. I feel I have a way with understanding people and being able to introduce them into what I love doing. I have been lucky over the years to be able to be very successful on hunts for someone’s first time deer, turkey or waterfowl. One of the main reasons I have been successful is because I spend every second I can to scout. I want to make sure that we at least see something during the hunt. To get others involved in hunting, you have to make the hunt exciting in order to keep their attention span focused. My main goal is to keep them interested in wanting to go back into the outdoors. The reactions are priceless and that is what makes the sleepless nights and the long hours scouting all worth it.
When you get a chance to introduce someone into hunting, fishing or shooting make sure you do it no matter the gender or age. They are going to be the reason these traditions live on.
-Ryan Van Lew, EvoOutdoors ProStaff