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Caroline and Samuel Brenckle pose with one of the 3D targets used in shoots sponsored by the Tidewater Bowhunters and Archers. Caroline and Samuel Brenckle pose with one of the 3D targets used in shoots sponsored by the Tidewater Bowhunters and Archers. Photo courtesy Ashley Brenckle
2022 Jun

Archery for Everyone

Discover why archery is the ideal sport for adventurous families

Nick Brenckle grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania, where hunting to manage the deer population was a seasonal ritual. To extend the hunting season and get more time in the woods, archery was added to family outings.

When Nick moved to Virginia and started a family in Chesapeake, he introduced daughter, Angelique, to archery. She started learning archery at age 12, and her brother, Samuel got his first bow at age three.

“As comical as it was to watch a three-year-old walk through Newport News Park for Tidewater Bowhunters and Archers shoots, he really took a liking to it,” Nick said.

When daughter Carolina turned seven and got her first bow, mom Ashley was also honing her skills.

Nick was thrilled that his wife was “falling deeply in love with the sport.” At last his family was joining a legacy of Brenckle archers.

The Brenckles and their children, now ages 18, 12, and 9, are the kind of family that does everything together—and not just archery.

“We really enjoy playing baseball and softball,” said Nick, 38. “Even to the point we also coach the teams our kids play on. Outside of the ballfield, we fish, hunt, camp, and hike together every chance we get.”

Most of all, they hope more families will be inclined to take up archery and form a Chesapeake-based archery club.

“It’s great for the family to have another avenue to get outdoors and relax together without the distraction of electronics,” Nick said. “It may sound cheesy, but the laughs, jokes, travel, and competitive times are the best-made memories.”

Suffolk Family Says Archery Strengthens Family Bonds

Check Out Kingsboro Bowmen & Wilcox Bait and Tackle
The Hollomon Family
The Hollomon family has found archery to be a healthy outdoor pastime, where they can have fun, bond, and relax together. Photo courtesy Tricia Hollomon

A cousin introduced Chris Hollomon to archery when he was 15, and it quickly became one of many sports he played in high school.

Sadly, he said, archery was not available when he joined the Navy at age 18. Happily, his wife surprised him with a new compound bow a couple of years before his retirement in 2012. “It was like I had never put it down,” said Chris, 48.

Soon, the enthusiasm spread to wife Tricia, 41, and all through the family, including Nathaniel, 18, Gabriel, 17, and Daniel, 14.

“My first experience with archery was in high school gym classes,” said Tricia. “Although it was fun, it was never really something I imagined I would pick up later in life, but after seeing the joy my husband got from it, I couldn’t resist.”

The Hollomons, who live in Suffolk, enjoy the competition associated with the sport, but they especially appreciate the friends they’ve made along the way.

“There’s nothing better than meeting up at the archery range with other families and shooters within our organization and spending hours laughing and releasing all the stresses that build up,” Chris said.

The family belongs to the Kingsboro Bowmen, which is based out of Lone Star Lakes Park in Suffolk. Tricia is president, and Chris is secretary/publicity chairperson. They buy most of their equipment at Wilcox Bait and Tackle in Newport News.

The boys got their first bows when they were ages six through nine. Daniel, the youngest, didn’t want to be left out, and Nathaniel wanted to do what his dad, a certified USA Archery instructor, was doing.

“I saw people doing it in movies like The Hunger Games and The Avengers and thought it was cool,” said Nathaniel.

For the Hollomons, archery is less about beating other people and more about beating your own last score, Chris explained. You are always trying to improve and do better, but it’s always fun to bet against each other.

“It’s always quite comical when a teenager gets the best of their dad,” Chris said, chuckling.

As far as emotions are concerned, you definitely experience all of them—joy, calm, focus, frustration, and anger, especially when you lose a $12 arrow, Chris added.

“We always felt [that] the composure, focus, and calm that our children learned through shooting archery really helped in a host of ways, including their academic pursuits,” he said. “Archery is something that anyone can do. We’ve met kids shooting as young as five and people who are still shooting in their 80s.

“It’s been fun for us and has only worked to strengthen our bond as a family,” Chris said.

Archery is Affordable Family Fun, Says Suzanna Brady

Tidewater Bowhunters Offers Monthly Shoots
Coach Bo Brady and son Lucas, and grandfather Tom Brady
Bo Brady coaches son Lucas while grandfather, Tom Brady, watches. Photo courtesy Suzanna Brady

Archery is affordable fun and easy to learn if you watch a few YouTube videos and have family or friends to coach you, too. That’s how Suzanna Brady, 30, got into the sport before joining Tidewater Bowhunters and Archers of Newport News.

“You can have a $100 bow and shoot just as good as someone with a $1,000 bow,” she said. “It all comes down to how much practice you do.”

“My husband started to bow hunt a few years ago, and I purchased a bow to learn,” Suzanna continued. “I took a few shots and put it down. Then about six months ago, I picked it back up and started to practice. I really have YouTube to thank for that.”

On the Eastern Shore of Virginia where they live, Bo, Suzanna, and son Lucas, 8, hunt and fish during the seasons. When they aren’t on the archery range, they are a board/video game family.

“My son and myself have never had actual archery lessons, just my husband and father-in-law, Tom Brady, directing us,” Suzanna said.

“If you don’t have the greatest arm strength, don’t worry, you can draw a bow,” she said. “You can custom build your bow for you and easily change it as needed. To start, you may only be able to draw 10 pounds, but as you practice and get stronger, you will be at 40 pounds.”

Their backyard includes a simple, inexpensive shooting range, and their equipment generally comes from local pro shops like Ocean’s East in Virginia Beach, she said.

The family attends the club’s monthly shoot, which is the first Sunday of the month. It’s a fun 3-D target shoot with targets that are life-size animals ranging from deer to wild boards to snakes and even the occasional dinosaur.

“We like 3-D shoots a lot because you feel like you’re out hunting the animal,” she added.

“When I shoot, I feel relaxed and it helps clear my mind and just think about the arrow and the target,” Suzanna continued. “We bond over archery and have something to do as a family that gets us out and in nature, enjoying the outside, and learning a skill some don’t have.”

Lucas likes archery because it makes him feel like a character from his favorite video game, Link from Zelda. Plus, it helps his ability to focus, he said. “Sometimes I miss a target, and I have learned that’s OK,” he said. “I can get it the next time.”

Archery Teaches Can-Do Spirit

Girl Scouts Offers Girls Opportunities To Learn Archery
Girl Scouts learn teamwork and more during archery activities. They can also earn a badge. Photo by Pixabay

Archery is a favorite first-time sport for hundreds of Girl Scouts annually, according to Bonnie Taylor, high-adventure volunteer coordinator for the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast.

“Watching a timid little girl hold a bow for the first time and barely pull it back before she releases it to later on watching her get a bullseye is so rewarding,” Bonnie said. “They learn to overcome their insecurities of ‘Can I do this?’ to ‘Watch this!’ The smiles on their faces are all worth it. They also learn teamwork because we will often place balloons on the targets, and they have to work together to pop them all.”

Girl Scouts practice at archery ranges located at Camp Darden in Southampton County and Camp Skimino in Williamsburg. Archery is also offered at Burke’s Mill Pond in Gloucester and Camp Apasus in Norfolk, as well as at council headquarters on Cedar Road in Chesapeake. Cadettes can earn an archery badge.

For more information:
• Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation offers archery lessons, including beginner and recurve archery, beginning Oct. 5. Register at vbgov.com/government/departments/parks-recreation
• Doan Archery in Chesapeake provides archery repair, coaching, and lessons. Call 757-676-8373.
• Summertime YMCA Camp Red Feather at Virginia Wesleyan University in Norfolk includes archery; ymcashr.org/camps/ymca-camp-red-feather
• Girls who want to join Girl Scouts can find out more at gsccc.org.

Kathy Van Mullekom

Kathy Van Mullekom is a retired journalist, whose beats included gardening, women’s issues, restaurant trends, and fashion. Formerly a York County resident and master gardener, she now lives in southeastern Virginia Beach, where her leisure hours are spent golfing with husband Ken and exploring parks with her two grandkids, Mattie, 9, and Grady, 7.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/kathyhoganvanmullekom

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