Aiming to Inspire

by Tim Froberg

When Kristin Armitage pulled back on an awkward-feeling bow and let an arrow fly for the first time as an 8-year-old, she didn’t discover her inner Robin Hood.

“It definitely did not come natural,” she said. “I was terrible at it.”

Armitage is terrific at it now. She competes in various local leagues, serves as a staff shooter for Trophy Hunters Supply in Seymour, hunts wildlife with a bow and arrow, and is a busy certified instructor who teaches archery to children and adults in Little Chute, Neenah, and Kimberly.

The sport taught to her as a child by her father, Duane, has become a hobby, passion, and way of life for the Appleton resident.

“It’s pretty much all I do,” said Armitage with a laugh.

Armitage competes in three winter and one summer archery league, shooting at stationary, moving, and 3-D targets. Her greatest thrill is passing her knowledge on to others, particularly children, by teaching them to shoot.

“It’s just so much fun,” said Armitage, a 2006 Fox Valley Lutheran graduate and a Neenah native who works as a customer experience coordinator for C-3 Corp in Oshkosh. “I don’t think I could teach anything else with nearly as much enthusiasm. If I had to teach a kid math, I’d be in trouble.

“But once you learn how to teach and go through the necessary steps, it becomes very easy to diagnose a problem and help them figure it out. It’s so rewarding when they hit that bull’s-eye – they’re so thrilled about it. Even when a kid hits the target for the first time, it’s a big thing to them. Their faces just light up and they want to do it again and again.

“Once you get through the basics, it’s a challenge to figure out how to make that arrow land where you want it.”

When she’s not competing or teaching, Armitage enjoys bow hunting with her dad.

“Bowhunting is definitely more challenging than shooting at a target,” said Armitage. “When you’re hunting, there are so many more things involved and you have your heart in your throat at times. Learning how to manage that adrenalin and pull off a shot when you might be 20 feet up on a tree stand – that’s just another level (of archery) entirely.”

Armitage serves a co-president and director of the Twin City Rod and Gun Club Archery Division and does all she can to promote the sport.

“I think archery is the Fox Valley’s best-kept secret,” said Armitage. “Our numbers are shrinking and we’re trying to focus on the solution. With public outdoor ranges in many of our communities and a pro shop every 15 miles, archery is everywhere. You just have to know where to look. The best place to start is to sign up for group lessons within your community.

“One thing that people should know is that anyone can do it. You don’t have to go through years of struggle to learn how to do it. There’s a guy (Matt Stutzman) who set a world record for archery shooting and he doesn’t have arms. It’s just a matter of understanding how to do it and it’s so much fun. I’m willing to help anyone who wants to learn.”