- Associated Press - Monday, August 1, 2016

MANDAN, N.D. (AP) - Braeden Howes picked up a bow for the first time about three years ago and started competing in archery about a year later.

“I was decently good at it, and now I have my own coach and everything,” he told The Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/2a5n3TB ).

“Decently good” might be the understatement of the year. Howes’ archery prowess - which took plenty of hard work - helped him earn a spot on Team USA in the Junior Compound Men Division at the U.S. Field Archery Championships and World Team Trials held earlier this month in Yankton, South Dakota.

Howes, 15, learned about archery through a parks and recreation program, then continued to learn in the 4-H Shooting Sports program.

“When he started it, he just had a knack for it,” said his mother, Kristi Kraft.

Karla Meikle, Morton County 4-H Youth Extension agent, said it’s been fun to watch Howes blossom as his skills have increased. His confidence and communication skills have improved along with his technical skills, making him strong as both a team member and an individual performer, she said.

“It’s really neat to see him interact with others and become friends with people within the sport,” she said.

As Howes’ skill became apparent, he and his family were urged to find a personal coach. He started working with Linda Beck, who lives in Maple Lake, Minn. With Beck at the helm, the family helped start the North Central Elite Archers, a group of competitive youth archers in the region who meet every few months and train together.

Howes and Kraft cite the people they’ve met during Howes’ competitions as one of the best things about getting involved in archery. Another perk has been the traveling they’ve done together. They’ve been to tournaments in California, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, Utah, Minnesota, South Dakota and Pennsylvania. His father, Dan Kraft, joins them when he can.

So far, the travel hasn’t affected Howes’ education. He missed 15 days of school as a seventh-grader and 33 days as an eighth-grader, but he made up his work before leaving or while on long drives and plane rides. He’ll be a freshman this fall at Mandan High School, and he anticipates things getting a little more difficult.

Howes has received a number of sponsorships to ease his travel and equipment needs. Scheels, Tall Tine Bowstrings, Dead Center Archery Products and TruBall/Axcel Archery Products all back him.

Howes spends 15 to 20 hours per week practicing archery, fitting it in among yard work, chores and helping at the family business, Butcher Block Meats.

All his training has been paying off.

Howes was the 2015 USA Field National Champion and the National Field Archery Association outdoor target national champion in his age group. In May, he won the North Dakota State 4-H archery individual championship; and he and his Morton County team will represent North Dakota at the 2017 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships in Grand Island, Nebraska.

This week, Howes is competing at the U.S. National Target Championships in Decatur, Alabama.

“There’s always something to do, always,” he said.

In Yankton last month, Howes competed up a level, in a junior division usually comprising people 18 to 20 years old. Competitors made it through four rounds, shooting at unmarked and marked targets from 15 to 60 meters away. Howes’ last three shots at 60 meters were perfect, landing him on Team USA and giving him the opportunity to compete in September’s World Field Archery Championships in Dublin, Ireland.

The U.S. will be among 156 nations competing in Dublin in recurve bow, compound bow and barebow, in senior and junior divisions. Eli Hughes, of North Carolina, and Steven Collins, of Missouri, join Howes on the U.S. Junior Men’s Compound team.

Howes doesn’t know where the sport will take him, but he hopes to keep competing and traveling. He has his eye on future world championships and mentions that he would like to visit China.

Kraft isn’t so sure about that. “Let’s go to Italy,” she said with a laugh.

Howes encourages anyone interested in archery to give it a shot.

“Anybody can try it and get involved,” he said.

___

Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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