Shooting for a new pastime
By RANDY GONZALES
Nathan Kaufman was aiming the compound bow at the target. All the while, Jim Duryee was helping line it up in the bow's sights.
Arrow after arrow whistled through the air: Some hit the target; some didn't.
Not exactly a performance resembling Katniss Everdeen from the movie "The Hunger Games," but Kaufman was grinning from ear to ear Saturday morning at the 15th annual Youth Outdoor Festival at Hays City Sportsmen's Club.
"Pretty cool," said Kaufman, 12, of shooting the bow and arrow. He is from WaKeeney and attended the event for the first time.
"I think I should get a bow and arrow," he said. "A good one."
That kind of enthusiasm is what event organizers Kent Hensley and Troy Mattheyer are shooting for every year.
"If you have a younger kid who thinks they might want to get into shooting sports, hunting, fishing, trapping, this is a perfect time to get them interested," Hensley said.
"It's a lot easier to get a kid interested when they're 8 or 10 than it is when they're 15 and 16. By the time they hit 15 and 16, they're already interested in a lot of other things."
At Saturday's event, children could try about anything and everything an outdoorsman would enjoy. They could shoot skeet or trap, shoot BB guns, paint guns, muzzleloaders, there were casting contests -- even someone there to show the ins and outs of fur trapping.
Duryee, Great Bend, was there as part of Big Bend Bow Hunters to help children learn how to use the compound bows.
"We've been coming up here for lots of years," he said. "We really enjoy doing it, we really enjoy doing it for the kids. That's where you get the joy out of it, is from the kids."
Approximately 200 to 250 kids were expected to attend Saturday's event. The first year, approximately 30 showed up, and the only events were shotgun, archery and 22-caliber guns.
"I didn't know what to expect back then," Mattheyer said.
Mattheyer and Hensley both said they receive plenty of volunteer help from numerous local outdoors programs.
"This is a great event, a lot of great volunteers," Hensley said. "It's a great feeling to know the community wants to be part of this program and getting these kids involved in the world of shooting sports."
And now, children who were learning in past years are helping out as volunteers.
"There have been kids who came to this program 12, 15 years ago that are now out here teaching other kids how to shoot," Hensley said. "That's really making you feel good, when you know you've done that."
The event brings people from far and wide.
"I do like the way it draws from a long ways around," Mattheyer said. "I have calls from Colby, Kansas, even Kansas City.
"People have gotten used to the event. ... They may not have the opportunity to do this kind of thing where they're from."
That's why Dale Henderson, Ellis, brought his grandson for the first time Saturday.
"These guys show them pretty well what to do," he said. "You don't get an opportunity over in Ellis like we have here."
On a cool Saturday morning in August, children and volunteers alike were having a good time.
"If a kid's interested in being in the outdoors, enjoying God's creation, this is the place to come," Hensley said.