A group of middle school-aged children stepped up to the firing line, neon-colored Genesis compound bows in hand, and eyed a set of targets almost 100 feet away.

As archery coach Bill Knight blew his whistle once, the group started firing arrows, taking the time to draw their bows back, check their stance, and line up their shots.

In competition, each archer would get five shots. However, in Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute’s first archery camp, held at the Hudson Uptown Building, each archer got only three shots. The camp runs through Friday.

Kent Byrd, 12, who has previous archery experience, took extra time checking his stance to make sure the string did not hit his arm when he released his arrow.

“I also check to make sure that the corner of my lips line up with the string to make sure the arrow hits the target,” Byrd said.

Camp attendees Aidan Hannibal, 12, and Taylor Whisnant, 11, both agreed that checking their stance was the most important thing to check to avoid the tightly drawn string hitting their forearms.

“My arm always stiffens up before I shoot, which is why the string hits my arm sometimes,” Whisnant said. “I have to remember to angle my arm a little bit.”

Despite such efforts, there were plenty of bruised forearms among the group. 

The method they use even just to approach the firing line is systematic, Knight said. The first rule about the National Archery in Schools program is that there are no vocal signals, only whistles, so there can be no misunderstood instructions. 

As the archers step up to the starting line, two whistles from the coach signal the archers to grab their bows and approach the shooting line, which is a few feet in front of the starting line. 

At the shooting line, the archers stand before their arrows in the "bow on toes" stance, a stance where the bottom of the bow rests on their shoe while their hands rest on top of the bow.

Another whistle signals the archers to fire their arrows.

After shooting their three arrows, they return their bows to the holding racks and wait until everyone finishes shooting.

When everybody is back at the starting line, Knight blows his whistle three times to signal the archers to retrieve their arrows.

The group also practiced emergency stops, which the coach signals by five or more whistles, a sign for each archer to immediately stop whatever they are doing.

Reporter James Branch can be reached at 828-610-8723