Brandon Shehan is much like most other 13-year-old young men—he loves hunting, fishing and playing baseball. But Brandon has taken on a new hobby—archery—and as the cooler weather of October rolls in, he’s anxious to put his skills to work in a real-live setting.
When he isn’t in the woods, on the water or on the baseball diamond, Brandon often spends his free time watching his hobbies on television. Naturally, the TV is often glued to The Outdoor Channel and a program called "Impossible Shots" caught Brandon’s attention. The show highlights professional exhibition shooters attempting to make near-impossible shots. After watching a segment highlighting archery, he was inspired to try bow-shooting.
So at the tender age of nine, Brandon’s parents bought him his first bow and he began setting up targets in the yard. After mastering stationary targets, he began trying his luck with swinging bottles and began zeroing-in on smaller stationary targets like shotgun shells and dimes. It wasn’t long before he was nailing those as well.
Brandon’s dad, Greg, said, after watching him in the yard, he realized Brandon had a talent for archery. So he and his dad decided it might be a good idea for Brandon to enter some archery contests.
Greg began looking for some archery clubs where Brandon could get involved and compete. Talking to people locally, Greg learned about the Bowhunters of Alabama organization where he found a tournament schedule and a chapter Brandon could join.
According to its website, Bowhunters of Alabama (BHA) provides bowhunters in Alabama an opportunity to voice their opinions and ask questions regarding bowhunting regulations. The organization promotes bowhunting by creating chapters across the state to foster local interaction. These chapters host tournaments providing an opportunity to experience archery and learn more about bowhunting in situations much like real-live hunting. This experience could then be applied in the field during hunting season.
Greg learned of nearby Covington County’s BHA chapter and its archery shoots. Although Brandon lives in Monroe County, the students welcomed him in their chapter and contests. Brandon’s extensive practice in the backyard paid off because he won most all of the smaller competitions, even against students who had been competing much longer than he.
So he began competing in larger contests and he’s had great success. Recently he won his greatest honor thus far — first place in the Cub Division of the Alabama International Bowhunting (IBO) Organization State Championship, which is a preliminary for the IBO World Championship contest.
ALL the contests in which Brandon competes are 3-D archery competitions. These contests can be set in fields, the woods or even indoors. The participant will shoot at a variety of life-sized, animal-shaped targets. Depending on the contest, the participant may take aim at anything from antelope, deer, sheep, snakes, beavers, skunks, moose, elks, cougars and bobcats. Perhaps the biggest challenge of 3-D archery contests is guessing the distance of the targets and knowing where to shoot. The targets have a set of scoring rings on them; circles near the heart have the largest point value, followed by the lungs and then other body shots. Shots on the hoof or antlers, for example, have a zero point value as they would not be "kill-shots." The contestant with the highest score wins.
His experience on the shooting range paid off in the field last year as Brandon was able to hit his first deer with a bow. Brandon was with his dad, sitting right in behind their shooting house, as two does walked out behind them. As he tried to turn around, the deer kept looking at him. Finally, he was able to catch them as they were distracted, get his bow set and make the shot. Brandon had killed several deer with guns, but the added challenge of using his bow gave him great pride.
Greg said, since he’s been hauling Brandon from shoot to shoot, he’s taken an interest in shooting as well. He’s borrowed a bow and has competed twice, and although they’re in different divisions, he and Brandon are shooting at the same targets and same distances. He laughed and said Brandon’s beaten him both times. But most importantly, Greg said it’s fun getting out and practicing together in the yard. In fact, they’re even recruiting Mom, Kathy, who runs the family business, Uriah Grocery, into the action.
Greg, a former football and baseball coach, is the principal at JU Blacksher School in Uriah where Brandon is in the eighth grade. Being around young people all day, Greg noted the importance of them having an activity to keep them busy.
"There are so many bad influences Brandon could be around," Greg said. "I see it so often. There are many kids who need something to do, and they’re going to find something to do whether it’s good or bad."
Bow season in Alabama starts mid-October and will run through January. It’s too cool for fishing and baseball is out of season, so you can bet Brandon will be practicing his archery skills in the great outdoors. He just might coach Dad a bit while he’s at it!
Grace Smith is an associate editor for AFC Cooperative Farming News.