Archery — once considered by most teenagers as an antiquated activity reserved for silly-looking men in green tights and feather caps — has now become a hip, pop-culture sensation thanks to “The Hunger Games” book trilogy and recent film adaptation.
Interest in archery, particularly among young women, has skyrocketed since the blockbuster film debuted in theatres March 2012. All the bullseye-buzz can be attributed to the series’ main character, Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old heroine, who armed with only a bow and arrow, must hunt for food and fight for her own survival in a gruesome death-match. Across the country, Katniss-wanabees are now purchasing bows and are flocking to archery ranges in record numbers.
But long before Katniss ever launched her first arrow, Colorado archer-extraordinaire Connie Renfro was setting records as a female bowhunter. Renfro has a bowhunting resume spanning more than 25 years. Most notably, in 2002, she became the 54th bowhunter, and the only women to harvest Colorado’s “Big 8” big-game species with a longbow.
In this short interview, Renfro shares her perception on “The Hunger Games” archery craze, and also provides practical advice for young archers who would like to take their “game” to the next level:
“The Hunger Games” has generated a huge interest in archery, particularly among young women. What are your thoughts on this film bringing archery to the forefront of pop culture?
I have not had the opportunity to watch “The Hunger Games” yet but I have been hearing the buzz related to the film and archery. I believe the interest in archery among youngsters is a positive event and I hope that they will develop a life-long love of our ancient sport. I suspect that many of the young people who become interested in archery because of this movie would never have discovered the sport otherwise. I guess Hollywood can be a good thing for the youth sometimes!
What advice do you have for parents who want to get their kids involved in archery?
My first advice for parents is to contact a local and/or state archery club. Information can be found at http://colotradarchers.com/ regarding traditional archery here in our state. The Colorado Traditional Archers Society’s main function is to promote traditional archery for every member of the family, especially children. They also provide a mentored youth hunt every fall to let kids experience a real bowhunt. As far as equipment, my personal opinion is that starting kids out with traditional archery equipment is the best choice. The traditional archery method that is depicted in “The Hunger Games” is as simple as it comes and can fit any archer. Parents should also invest the time and energy to understand the equipment so they can help guide their kids along the way, and to ensure that safety is paramount at all times. Even kids’ bows can do serious harm if used in an unsafe manner.
For young archers who would like to follow in your footsteps and take up bowhunting, what’s the best way to transition from target shooting to hunting?
My best advice is to seek out an experienced bowhunter to serve as a mentor. For those who have never hunted, I would recommend starting out with something like bow-fishing for carp or hunting rabbits – it’s a good way to break the ice, let your child experience harvesting a fish or rabbit to see if hunting is really going to become a passion. As a young adult, my first “harvest” with my bow was a ptarmigan and it served to get me excited for more hunting. After three years of hunting, I harvested my first big-game animal, an antelope doe, and I have never looked back. I would strongly encourage parents to teach children to love the adventure of shooting and hunting with a bow and not focus on the harvest – it’s all about the journey not the destination.
What is it about the overall bowhunting experience that has fueled your passion and interest all these years?
Archery for me has been an all-consuming passion. I doubt that any words I write can accurately paint the pictures of my hunting memories. The experiences have been truly life-changing. Bowhunting has been one of my biggest challenges in life – both physically and mentally. It takes perseverance, patience, hard work and a little luck. You get out of the sport what you put into it – the harder you work and the tougher the hunt, the greater the reward in experiences, memories, and, sometimes, the harvest of a beautiful animal.
Hunting is a sport that is overwhelmingly male-dominated. Why do you think you’ve been so successful as a woman archery hunter? What advice do you have for other aspiring women archers?
Bowhunting may indeed be a male-dominated sport but I can honestly say that from my first days as a bowhunter, I have always felt welcomed and respected by my peers. I believe my success in the sport has been due to having an excellent mentor (my husband, Gary). My advice to other women who may be considering bowhunting is to find a great mentor and enjoy the ride. You can take it to any level that you want—whether you just want to hunt small-game or go after a grizzly bear. You can decide how far you want to go.
Taking Aim at Colorado’s ‘Big 8’
The Colorado Bowhunters Association (CBA) recognizes bowhunters who have harvested Colorado’s “Big 8” big-game species with a bow. Species included in this category are: elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, black bear and mountain lion. To date, only 91 bowhunters have accomplished this extraordinary feat.