FORT POLK, La. - More than 20 youngsters invaded Fort Polk's Range 23A - more commonly known as the civilian shooting range - with bows and arrows April 27 as part of Child, Youth and School Services' Outdoor Adventure Week, held to commemorate the Month of the Military Child in April.

Instructor Mark Gutierrez, who works for CYSS at Fort Polk's Siegfried Youth Center, has been an archer for more than 35 years.

"We give them an introduction to archery and show them the basics," Gutierrez said. "For some reason, the girls seem to pick it up quicker the boys. I don't know why it's that way, it just seems as if the girls are a little more confident and maybe they don't have as much pressure to perform."

Gutierrez said the hardest thing for the young archers to learn is that a bow and arrow is not a toy and they must keep their arrows pointed down range. He reiterated that information as the first group got ready to fire.

"Safety is the most important thing out here," he said. "These are not toys; they are weapons."

Each archer was afforded the opportunity to fire 18 arrows at targets. For some, it was not the first time they had shot an arrow. For others, it was a new experience.

Kerigan Carlan said it was her first time to use a bow and arrow.

"It was fun," the 11-year-old said. "Pulling the string back was hard, but I think I did pretty well for my first time out."

Jonathan Pini, 12, was also a first-timer. "Hitting the target was fun," he said. "I was happy how I shot. I hope we can shoot some more."

For 10-year-old Michael Simpson, the day's activities were old hat.

"This was not my first time," he said. "I came out last year. I think I did pretty good since I was more experienced."

Another veteran was DeAngelo Burney, 9.

"I had a good time," he said. "It was pretty easy holding the bow, but it was hard pulling the string back - my arrow kept falling off."

As its name suggests, Outdoor Adventure Week is a week-long event packed with plenty of activities for Fort Polk youth. In addition to trips to Range 23A, the youth were also scheduled to visit Alligator Lake and Toledo Bend Recreation Site for boating and swimming activities.