Do I still love archery? Maybe, maybe not so much right now.

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot over recent months. I’m sat here trying to writing up a couple of shoot reports, along with some notes on future articles and one thing struck me. I don’t have the same drive as I had 12 months ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing people, catching up with friends, being sociable and meeting new people. Shooting with friends is very relaxing and enjoyable, with the recent shoot at Forest of Arden with Roger and Julie proving this. Added to this are the number of conversations I’ve had at recent shoots with archers, which start with “Are you Rob?”, “I read your blog” which is amazing. Likewise having the opportunity of being in a team setting one of the 3D championships courses was great, if a lot of hard work and we’ve had some very positive feedback from archers who shot the course.

But I feel I’ve seen, and in some ways been the target of some of the darker side of the hobby, the politics, arguments, power games some might call it. True these happen within all clubs or organisations where people interact. But I think it has affected me and my enthusiasm for the hobby.

I think it struck me first last September at the NFAS championships. There I saw some people being very vocal in complaining at having their arrows checked by marshals at Administration on arrival. (Arrows have to be checked to ensure they have name and shooting order on to comply with the shooting and safety rules of the society. This can be easily done with a piece of tape or Sharpie pen.) Yet there were some who complained and weren’t always very polite about it. I think I took this to heart. I couldn’t understand why people were complaining about something that is and always has been a rule for all shoot nots just champs. Everyone marshalling the courses, checking arrows, doing the admin etc. is a volunteer. So why have a go at the volunteers because you haven’t followed the rules?

Then later in the year as many of the regular readers know Sharon and I had our membership renewal for our old club blocked. This left a very bad taste in my mouth and something I still think of now. To be honest I’m not sure if I ever really got over it or the way it was handled. I wonder if people realise the impact such actions have?

I know this kind of behaviour and actions is not just affecting me, as I know others who have had similar experiences in recent months.

So now I find I have less enthusiasm and find it hard to make time to practise. This time last year I’d be shooting 2-3 times a week, 120 plus arrows a night, and again at the woods on Saturday and a competition Sunday. Yes in the last 2 months I’ve practised 2-3 times, tops.

I think some of the problem with me feeling like this is I don’t get to shoot that much now, either as a competitor or simply at a wood with friends. So the relaxing chilled element of the field archery where you are shooting in a wood and seeing the seasons change has been lost.

Yet as I write this I think of all the people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet through archery. Especially those who have introduced themselves by saying they have read this blog. For a few that is how they heard about field archery. I have to say I’m amazed that one small blog in the UK can have such an impact.

By the way if you do read this blog and bump into me on a shoot then be warned I will ask you what you find useful. It is something I always ask as I try to write what I hope people will find interesting and useful to know.

It’s interesting to hear the responses, as time and again it seems to be you want more write ups on shoots you’ve either attended or are thinking of going to in the future. I know one person at Hawk shoot commented on how they’d read previous shoot reports to get an idea of what to expect.

I am always amazed that anyone reads these rambling of mine. What is even more amazing from my perspective is what one archer I met at the Druids shoot recently said the blog had been recommended to them!

I still feel uneasy about my hobby. I know I’m not the only one who has experienced the darker side of the hobby as a few of you have reached out to me in the past.

So what now? Well, I’m still here a little more jaded and a lot less energetic.

Those who know me, know that I will still help with coaching, arrow selection etc I’m just a bit quieter now and less likely to volunteer or comment on Facebook, web-boards etc.

Sorry if this sounds bit of a downer article, but I just wanted to share my thoughts and in some way explain why my writing on this site has been less frequent.

Thanks to all of you and thanks for reading.

Micropore Tape - how useful

9 uses of Micropore tape for archers

Micropore Tape - how useful

Micropore Tape – how useful can it be?

Okay so some of you may be wondering what I am talking about? Microporous tape, isn’t that the stuff you use to tape up bandages? Well yes it is and that is what it is normally used for but it can be incredibly useful for archers and worth some space in a pocket or your quiver.

Granted it’s not quite at the level of duct tape but here are 9 examples of how I have used in the past.

Temporary fixes – equipment can fail from time to time, no matter how well you look after it. A friend when shooting at the national championships had the serving unravel on her longbow. She tried tying it but this didn’t work so at a coffee stop we added a small piece tape to secure the serving and all was well for the rest of the day.

Temporary nocking point – I have used tape time and time again when setting up beginners bows, or trying to fine tune a suitable nocking point on a new string.

Complying with the rules – I was at one shoot last year, with an archer shooting in a compound class. They had been setting up their bow the day before and fitted a spirit level bubble for checking they were shooting it level. These aren’t allowed in the competition rules so we stuck a piece of tape over the bubble to hide it for the day, rather than trying to dismantle the mounting unit.

Preventing carbon splinters – I think this is potentially the most useful of the non-normal uses for the tape and is good for all archers to know whether they shoot carbon arrows or not. When carbon arrows break it can result in very sharp splinters (splinters that aren’t picked up in x-rays and can be very hard to extract).I find it is amazing how few people realise the potential issues of getting these in your skin.

Broken Carbon arrow wrapped in tape close up

Broken Carbon arrow wrapped in tape close up

If I find a broken carbon arrow I will wrap tape round the end and down the shaft if required, so protecting myself from any splinters, before putting in my quiver for disposal later.

Broken Carbon arrow wrapped in tape

Broken Carbon arrow wrapped in tape

Protect your bow from scratches – I use a piece of tape to cover my wedding ring so it doesn’t scratch the handle of the bow. This has kind of become a bit of a ritual of mine when getting ready to go out shooting.

Saving your marriage – What? Okay so I need to explain this one in more detail. In cold weather my wedding ring can be a little lose on my finger  and I’ve nearly lost it in the past when out in the snow, so I wrap a piece of tape over it to keep it secured.

wedding ring

wedding ring

Protecting your fellow archers’ modesty – last year when attending a shoot Sharon had what could be described as a wardrobe malfunction. Whilst stepping over a fallen tree across the path, her trousers ripped. To save her modesty a few pieces or tape were used to secure the trousers in place. Oh course she finished the shoot and you can read about it here.

Impromptu arm sleeve – on a cold and rainy day an archer wore a coat over his normal shooting gear. Problem was his bow string kept catching on his coat. Couple of strips of tape helped hold it out of the way.

First aid – well it was what it was designed for after all and it does well at holding plasters on or securing a bandage.

So I’d say carrying a roll of Micropore tape might just prove very useful. Though I doubt the Mythbusters TV series will dedicate a program to investigating its powers. Thanks for reading

Instinctive Archery – is that the right description?

Sharon on the range

Sharon on the range

Lots has been written over the years and probably will be for years to comes on the theory of what instinctive archery is. Often the authors of articles or books try to define what they view as instinctive shooting, this means there are countless definitions on YouTube, the net, archery books etc. these range from subconscious gapping to shooting without thinking. Many archers question if there is actually anything that is truly instinctive about it.

I recently watched a YouTube video by Jim Grizzly Kent (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDCldJ_YqMk&t=2s) and he used the phrase intuitive archery and this stuck with me.

The reason I think it did was a couple of days earlier I’d been helping a friend who gap shoots set up his bow. He’s recently had to drop his bow draw weight due to an ongoing shoulder injury and had bought some new limbs of a different and lighter poundage to his old ones. Since we have a range which allows archers to shoot back to 40 yards plus it seemed a logical location to help him get himself sorted.

I was watching Steve shoot, noting the arrow flight, release, noting down where the arrows fell for each shot. All starting at 5 yards and moving back in increments of 5 yards. I’d give him feedback on whether I saw him throw his arm or not get a clean release on the shot which would give a false reading etc.

view of the range

view of the range

Just so you know Steve shoots barebow under the NFAS banner, this means he is not using a sight on his bow, but can use metal or carbon arrows. In Steve’s case he shoots carbon arrows off a very nice Andy Soars Black Brook take down recurve bow.

During the process Steve explained how at 5 yards he would be aiming say an inch or so below the spot, then at 10 yards it might be half inch below, 20 yards it might be point on. This went on all the way back to 50 yards, with him shooting three arrows at each distance, then taking a break before shooting another three. With me noting the distance and observing his form on each shot.

It was as he said at this stage a very conscious process of working out and focusing on aiming but as he said. “The more familiar I become with shooting the new limbs, the less conscious the aiming will be. I’ll stop having to think I need to be 3 inches above”

For me it was interesting for two reasons.

Firstly from a coaching perspective, hearing how he explains his approach and process, along watching him execute this shot. Steve is very good at explaining his shooting cycle and stages.

Secondly from an instinctive archers viewpoint it was interesting to hear his explanations of how he gaps and works out how to aim or rather where to aim.

One advantage to this process of shooting Steve highlighted was it gives the archer a fall back plan if for any reason they to take a break from shooting due to work / life / health reasons. Their gaps will remain the same (so long as the arrow specs, draw dynamic and limbs are the same). The downside of this technique I’ve been able to identify cover consistency of the archer or equipment. Like all archers you must ensure you can perform your shoot cycle consistently.

If you change your arrow spec this may and probably will affect your gaps as a heavier arrow would fall faster so for longer shots you’d aim higher.

From my viewpoint

Whilst I don’t gap shot I do know that when I shoot I try and do a couple of things.

On longer shots I try to envisage the arrow flight to the target. How it will climb and fall hopefully into where I’m wanting it to land.

Shorter shots I know how it will appear in the target as if by magic. A friend when he saw me shot once said you don’t anchor you draw up set and release in one movement, which is something I know I do when either at short shots or when I’ve been practising a lot and on form.

I know when I stop shooting for a couple of weeks or longer then my eye, subconscious distance judgement, instinctive aiming  or whatever you want to call it goes and I feel I’m a bit rusty.

Anyway I thought some of you might find this interesting, have a look at Jims video and a read of the different authors thoughts on instinctive and a gap shooting.

Thanks for reading.

Bows, bows and more bows

What bow is good for a beginner archer?

Selection of bows

Selection of bows

This is a question that most archery coaches are asked at some point by their students.
What bow should I should get?
Like all good answers it is both simple and at the same time complex. In simple answer terms, it should be a bow that works for you. Knowing what works for you is the difficult part. So here are a few thoughts that might help, I hope you find them useful.
Buying your first bow is such a personal decision for anyone to make,  it is very hard for me to say buy this bow over another. Each of us is different, for that reason I have to say it is up to the archer which bow they choose. But, yes there is a but, I will  try and give some advice on what to look out for and to consider when buying the bow.
When I can I tend to go with my students to the archery shop when they want to buy their bow, so they can ask advice or my opinion. Also it is so I can be sure they get good service, not something that is a problem with good archery shops.
So for your first bow I would suggest you go with something that will develop with you and give you the opportunity to develop and not restrict you. Ideally you are looking for something that is not too heavy a draw weight so you aren’t over-bowed and not too heavy in the hand that you you struggle to hold it.
You want to have a bow that can support your development.  Sadly too often I have seen new archers who have bought a bow and then found it to be too heavy a draw weight, too demanding to shoot or even the wrong hand.
sharon - old bow

Sharon – shooting her first bow

For this reason I would tend to point archers to a basic take down recurve bow initially. Why?
Well I believe there are a number of advantages of this type of bow for a beginner.
  • Entry level take down recurves are relatively inexpensive as bows go, being about £65 to £85 depending where you get them.
  • You can up bow draw weights if you want too as your muscles develop. On this point I’d like to say you need to watch the draw weight though, so you don’t buy too light a limb and have to change them within a few weeks, but then don’t go to heavy that you strain. A good coach or shop will advise you as specifics vary for individuals. My students have ranged from 18lbs to 28lbs. My first bow was 32lbs but I had been shooting around that weight of club bow for several weeks and knew it was comfortable.
  • One piece bow or take down recurve. You can’t change the limbs with a one piece bow unless you buy a whole new bow so buying a one piece might not be the best investment for a starting archer.
  • Take down recurves tend to be pretty easy to shoot allowing the archer to develop an understanding of what is involved in archery  and bow set up.
  • It  is worth mentioning entry level  take down recurve bow maintenance is pretty straight forward too and allows a new archer to learn how to maintain their bow.
  • It also allows them to  develop good form as pretty easy bow to shoot compared with flatbows or British longbows.
Swapping limbs
It is worth remembering that not all manufacturers limbs fit all other manufacturer bow risers and it is something that can be an issue when looking to upgrade limbs. The limbs can be too wide or the screw thread alignment might be different.Unless they are ILF limbs and riser (i’ll cover that later)
A piece of advice I give some is not to trade in your old lighter limbs when you upgrade to a heavier draw weight. Some shops offer a discount if you do this but I would suggest you keep them as sparer, which you can go back too should you need too. Say after a break from archery due to holiday,work pressure or I’ll health.
Limb pocket and bolt

Limb pocket and bolt

So what is ILF?
ILF – stands for international limb fitting. ILF limbs are a standard design which bow manufacturers produce to. This allows ILF bows risers and ILF limbs to be quickly and easily swamped between bows so you could have KAP limbs on a Samick riser. Or Samick limbs on a Sebastian flute riser and so on.
By the way, for those interested there is something called a Warf bow. Nothing to do with the character from Star Trek, he was Worf.
A Warf bow is one made from a compound riser, but been modified to house ILF limbs.
There are some downside of these beginner bows.
  • The limb weights tend to be limited from about 18lbs to 32lbs.
  • The basic take down bows limb performance is limited as the limbs aren’t that high performance, tending to be made of wood, rather than carbon fibre etc so they don’t have the same speed.

So this is a brief overview of a few things to consider. I hope this proves helpful and as always thanks for reading.

snowy field

Seasons are changing and its getting colder, tips on staying warm

snowy lane

snowy lane

Winter is coming. No I’m not talking about the Game of Thrones TV series which I’ve still not watched any of. I’m talking about the change of seasons. It seems almost overnight the trees have become bare, with their leaves now carpeting the woodland floor, whilst temperatures have started to dip further.

Recently there was a post on the NFAS Facebook site about suitable clothing for cold weather and that got me thinking and revisiting an article I wrote a few years back on the subject of staying warm in the winter months. I thought I would update it now, but focus a bit more on the base layers we have been using for a few years and a few other bits that might prove useful or even early Christmas gifts.

Sharon shooting in the snow

Sharon shooting in the snow

Being cold can really distract from your enjoyment of shooting, whether you are out hunting for your Christmas turkey or in our case at a field shoot. Cold hands make having an effective release hard, wet feet makes the body feel cold and day long. So here are a few tips and clothing advice we’ve found useful over the years.

Layer up – Merino wool base layers have served Sharon and I for years and I do mean years. Whether we are out shooting, hiking or skiing they are what we reach for to keep us warm. Ok, so ours are getting a bit worn now, but when you consider the number of years we’ve worn them I think they have been well worth the money.

Merino wool base layer

Merino wool base layer

Ours are Icebreakers and come in two weights 200 and a heavier 260. They work by keeping you warm when you need to be and doesn’t develop that synthetic feel other base layers do. The 260 weight have thumb holes and long sleeves that work really well for archery and for that matter skiing too as they keep your wrist warm. I think they are now sold at a 280 weight.

Heavier weight Base layer

Heavier weight Base layer

So what is Merino wool and why does it make it so well?
Here is a link to Icebreakers website and goes http://uk.icebreaker.com/en/why-icebreaker-merino/what-is-icebreaker-merino.html
I tend to avoid synthetic base layers as I find whilst they do keep you warm, then tend to hold body odours and result in getting a bit smelly quickly.

Don’t get too hot. This may sound strange when talking about shooting in cold weather, but if you get too warm you start to sweat. If this sweat doesn’t wick away from your body, you can very easily get cold when you stop moving round and that can in turn lead to hypothermia. You don’t have to out in in 3 ft snow to catch hypothermia, it can set in at just above freezing point as it is based on your body temperature dropping. So please take care.

Billy Connolly once said on one of his TV shows “there is no such thing as bad weather just wrong clothing

Disposable hand warmer are useful to carry in a pocket to warm you up and they are quite inexpensive, if like us you buy them in bulk on-line.

Handwarmers

Handwarmers

There are various reusable ones that use charcoal sticks or lighter fuel too, but I don’t have any personal experience of the latter. The charcoal ones are a bit of a pain to get started and stay warm so we stick with the disposable ones. I know some people find the lighter fuel ones very useful. The disposable ones last for a few hours and I tend to have a few spare in the car or back pocket when skiing and hiking. One thing I have learnt is that they need air / oxygen to work so if they are buried under lots of layers they don’t work that well.

Decent waterproof boots are essential, wet feet equal cold feet, cold feet makes for uncomfortable day. You can read a review of mine here. I’m not a fan of wellington books as don’t find them that warm

Survivor Man – Les Stroud tweeted dry feet = happy feet

and he is so right there. I also keep a change of shoes in the car that will be dry and warm to change into after shooting, along a towel to dry your bow and you if you get wet. There are a few blankets in the car just in case. While talking about feet it is worth spending a bit more on decent socks too or to have a spare pair in the car to change into.

Decent windproof / water proof jacket. Ideally a breathable gore-tex jacket that you can move and shoot in. Finding one you can shoot in is a lot harder than you might think though, as the biggest problem is finding one that doesn’t have baggy sleeves to catch on the bow string. Fleece shirt and body warmer (Ideally windproof) which just acts as another layer is a good addition. You have to be careful that you don’t end up so restricted in moving due to heavy coats etc that you can’t move.

Keeping your legs warm. Again we have some Merino wool base layer leggings for when it is really cold. We never wear jeans. If jeans get wet, body warmth will leach out of you as jeans take an eternity to dry.

Lined walking trousers

Lined walking trousers

I use a pair of Craghopper Kiwi lined trousers and have for several years. They dry pretty quickly and keep you warm. The only downside I have found to them is don’t get too close to naked flame as they are synthetic. They do have a couple of zip pockets that means keeping keys safe is easy.

Lined walking trousers

Lined walking trousers

I do have some breathable waterproof over trousers too by Northface which I can put on if the weather turns wet. They can work well as an extra layer over lighter trousers like the Bear Grylls one I reviewed a while back on this site.

Warm hat and neck scarf or ideally neck buff will keep you warm. One thing I’ve not mentioned yet are gloves. It can be hard to find suitable gloves when shooting, especially if you are using a tab. Flip over mittens can work well. Sharon uses a pair and has for a couple years. Hers are fingerless gloves with a loop of fabric that fits over the fingers so making them into mittens when needs it.

Thermal mug by lifeventure

Thermal mug by lifeventure

Snacks energy bars and liquid – ideally a warm drink in a small thermos flask will serve you well. I tend to have a mug flask with hot fruit cordial on my belt and a flask of spicy soup in the car. The advantage of having a fruit cordial is if it goes cold its still drinkable. Thermal mug by Lifeventure http://www.cotswoldoutdoor.com/lifeventure-thermal-mug-d3432028 have worked well for us for a few years and keep the drink warm for a few hours.

Thermos mug

Thermos mug

Last thing is to consider of how you are getting home. I’ve been to a few of shoots over the years, where the biggest challenge wasn’t the course but getting off the car park, field or track. The fields and tracks had been churned up by all the archers’ cars or snow has changed to hard packed ice. The resulting quagmire or skating rink makes getting home a challenge.

There is a layer of compacted snow into sheet ice

There is a layer of compacted snow into sheet ice

For this reason I carry a tow rope, small spade, length of old carpet and jump leads just in case and I’ve used them all at shoots. A relative recent addition have been plastic tracks, sometimes called mud tracks or grips. They are about 6 inches wide and 12 inches long, made of a deep honeycomb structure and allow the tyres to gain a grip on the soft ground. These have proved really useful and helped more than a few people who have become stuck.

Ok, so all this may sound a little over the top but better to be prepared than cold.
Hope you find this useful and thanks for reading.