Eight months ago, Kaylee Moss had no visions of competing at a national archery tournament.
The 11-year-old from Oklahoma City began shooting a bow in January after receiving one as a Christmas gift.
Since the beginning of the year, she has competed in three field tournaments, including the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) Indoor Nationals in March in Kentucky.
The next major tournament on the NFAA circuit was the Outdoor National Championships, which kicked off Wednesday in Yankton.
“Right now, we’re just trying to expose her to it,” said Kaylee’s mother, Mindi, who followed her daughter during Wednesday’s 28-target round. “For her, it’s all new.
“And really, for all of us, this is new.”
Kaylee has been a study in quick-learning, Mindi and father, Travis, said.
Since picking up the sport six months ago, Kaylee has consistently practiced at an archery range near the family’s home — the same range where her father, an avid bowhunter, works.
“She puts in a lot of time; almost every day,” Travis said, between target stations Wednesday. “She learns easy; very quick.”
And Kaylee has found quick success, as well.
She took third place in her division at the Oklahoma state tournament, and earlier this year held a first-place ranking.
“It just clicked with her,” Mindi said. “We’ve heard from people at our range that, ‘She’s definitely special.’”
Even while hobbled.
“Even though I couldn’t walk much, it was a lot of fun,” said Kaylee, who has her left foot in a boot.
Asked how she liked the Outdoor National Championships, even after one day, Kaylee had positive feedback for the new NFAA ranges.
“This is very nice, compared to where we shoot back home,” she said.
Kaylee, and her fellow archers, will have plenty more experience getting to know the new ranges.
The 5-day NFAA tournament began Wednesday and continues through Sunday at the new ranges, located behind the Easton Archery Complex.
“We saw that this tournament was in South Dakota, and we have friends in Nebraska, so we thought, ‘Why not?,’” Mindi said.
“Now we can be the tourist family, stopping to take photos everywhere.”
‘Fun’ For Yankton Archers
Surrounded by archers from California, North Dakota and Oklahoma during her round Wednesday afternoon, Hailey Johnson couldn’t help but smile.
The 11-year-old from Yankton, who wasn’t the only Yankton youth shooting during the tournament’s first day, said later she enjoyed the competition.
“It’s fun to shoot against new people,” Hailey said.
Hailey has been shooting a bow for two years and competitively for one year, according to her father, Jon Johnson, who walked with her during Wednesday’s round.
Among the travel stops for the family this year have been Las Vegas, Louisville (NFAA Indoor Nationals) and the Iowa Pro-Am.
“You could be somewhere every weekend if you wanted to,” Jon said. “That’s why it’s great to have something like this here; you don’t have to travel anywhere.”
Even for archers like themselves who routinely shoot at the Easton Yankton Archery Complex, seeing the updates to the new field ranges has been an eye-opener, Jon said.
“This is great,” he said. “They did so many improvements to it. Even from a week ago when we were out here.”
Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have the chance to shoot with archers from across the country, Hailey said.
“You get to meet a lot of new people,” she said.
Finishing In Style
The cheering coming from the woods beyond the final target at the NFAA ranges on Wednesday came from a group of four women who completed their 28-target round with a flourish.
All four, who hail from all corners of the country, shot an arrow in the ‘X’ on their final target. The ‘X,’ as they pointed out with pride later, is roughly the size of a dime.
Members of the group included Raeanne Klein (Yankton), Mikey McGhee (Holland, Michigan), Mindi English (Springfield, Oregon) and Rena Mascaro (Miami, Florida).
“I thought it was a great time so far,” McGhee said after their round. “It was an awesome group and we all had a great finish.”
Klein, a native of Gregory who won a world indoor championship in Yankton a year ago, said it was much different competing at the new NFAA ranges rather than simply shooting alone.
“Mostly, I’m out here by myself,” Klein said. “It’s awesome to see more people using these.”
About the new ranges, English was complimentary.
“It’s a nice course, but I’m ready to come back (today) and do better,” English said. “When you have a good group, it makes the day so much more fun.”
For Mascaro, the most experience of the group, she said the course provided a challenge for her.
“I’ve been so used to flat courses back home,” Mascaro said. “So this was really interesting for me.”