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.

stream running through valley

Shoot Report – Bowmen of Bude

Catering tent at Bowmen of Bude

Catering tent at Bowmen of Bude

Sorry all for the delay in posting this shoot report. There is little doubt that Bowmen of Bude have a lovely ground, situated on a quiet wooded hillside a stones throw from the coastal town of Bude. This was the first time we had visited the club.
stream running through valley

The stream running through valley

Admin and catering for the shoot was situated in what appears to be an abandoned orchard.  Luckily it wasn’t a windy day as we might have done a few impressions of Isaac Newton being bumped on the head with occasional apple.
Admin at Bude through the orchard

Admin at Bude through the orchard

As it was the weather was kind to us being bright and warm, allowing for some lovely views and photos.
Target 1 second time round, Sharon shooting 3d

Target 1 second time round, Sharon shooting 3d

We would be joined by Chris shooting hunting tackle and Sandra in ladies longbow for our jaunt round. it’s always a good laugh shooting with Sandra and this was no exception.
Chris and Sandra sorting cards

Chris and Sandra sorting cards

All the marshals were very friendly and helpful, chatting with archers throughout the day. I also think they did enjoy watching archers shoot some of the longer shots set out on the course. Especially the elk and grizzly bear.
The 3D grizzly bear from red peg

The 3D grizzly bear from red peg, yes it is that far away.

Chris walking back from white peg Tfor the 3D grizzly bear

Chris walking back from white peg Tfor the 3D grizzly bear gives you an idea of distance.

The course was challenging thanks to clever and extensive use of the hillside and slopes , something they have in abundance.
Bowmen operated  a handicap system on the day which I’m not sure about. Each class is allocated a handicap which is added to your total score.
Chris on white peg shooting the 3D elk

Chris on white peg shooting the 3D elk

Sharon forcing me to pose for my shot on elk

Sharon forcing me to pose for my shot on elk. Managed to hit it with first arrow.

Personally I’d rather know what others scored in other classes without any handicap  but since the score called out includes the handicap level and you don’t know what the different classes handicap level is it’s hard to make sense of. I know they have since published a full listing on the Field archery news UK site.
Rob trying to judge distance to a shot

Rob trying to judge distance to a shot

The course  would be a twice round 18 with a slight difference. The organisers had set each of the 18 targets as a predator prey, meaning the first time round you shot the target that was the predator and second time you go for the prey. This I thought was a good way of organising a twice round whilst still making it challenging. Though I guess if you are a gap shooter it makes the second time round a bit easier .
Rob trying to judge distance for 3D bear

Rob trying to judge distance for 3D bear

I  think the only thing I felt spoilt an otherwise very enjoyable shoot was the end and placing ceremony. All visitors ie those outside of a set postcode were allocated into one class independent of gender or shooting style. The handicap is applied and then places calculated  with there being a 1st, 2nd and 3rd awarded. This meant that despite shooting a higher score in gents afb I didn’t win the class and instead got third in the visitors class. Very strange way of doing things.
I don’t feel this is fair or would encourage others to attend. I also wonder if it is fair to locals as they don’t get to know how they fare against visitors. Image if you had shot a personal best and then found someone else had been recognised as being the winner on the day.
When I mentioned this to the organisers they said it was because it was the South West crown. If that’s the case give 1st, 2nd and third as normal and then award the crown separate. The Welsh and Scottish Champs don’t do this so why south west? Just my thoughts though.
Though I didn’t like the visitors element which I think spoilt the ending, in all it was a good day with a challenging course and great company.
Thanks for reading.
Pride Park - don't let the sun shine fool you, it was freezing cold

Shoot Report – Pride Park Archers – November 2016

Pride Park - don't let the sun shine fool you, it was freezing cold

Pride Park – don’t let the sun shine fool you, it was freezing cold

On a very cold Sunday November morning we would head to not far from Ripley in Derbyshire, to the new grounds of Pride Park Archers. The club has only just taken on this woodland a few weeks earlier and are in the process of settling in. So  this would be their inaugural shoot on these grounds. 
Don’t let the bright sunny morning photo fool you it was freezing cold with a very keen wind blowing off the fields. We did have some rain showers in the morning, which thankfully were quite short lived.
Our shooting group would consist of 3 members from Harlequin Archers club, Martin, Shane both shooting Compound limited and Gayle shooting barebow.
Shane and Martin retrieving arrows from across the creek

Shane and Martin retrieving arrows from across the creek

As for the course this would be a twice round 20, with the usual mix of paper and 3D targets. Some of you might think it is a long way to travel for a twice round twenty but this was both their first shoot at their new grounds as well as  a 20th anniversary shoot so we wanted to show our support for the club. We have a bit of a soft spot for Pride Park as they were the first club we ever went to a competition at all those years ago. We’ve always found the club very friendly and supportive not only at club events but also the NFAS as a whole.
Sadly not everyone showed them the same level of support with there being 14 no shows. I feel this  is a really big hit for the club, never the less there were another 74 of us mad fools who did brave the chill wind and turn up. The no shows caused a slight  delay to the start as Admin did their best to balance the groups. The catering team were doing their part to keep us feed and thanks to Paula for the cooking especially the burgers at lunch time.  
Their new grounds occupy mixed woodland, mainly coniferous situated on a Derbyshire hillside. This made for an unusual visual effect when the pine needles fell, making it look like flurries of snow were falling or maybe it was because it was so cold we were thinking snowfall.
Being off the beaten track means there is a fare walk to the woods across a couple of small fields but in return they do have a nice bit of woodland to develop. 
The wooded hillside offered some very nice shots, such as the long downhill 3D bear and I think as the club settles into the wood there will be even more potentially challenging shots.
The downside of the wood is there is little ground cover of any depth in places, so if you miss the 3D target your arrow will become a casualty, which a couple of mine did.
Gayle shooting 3D badger target

Gayle shooting 3D badger target

Overall I thought the targets were well placed, though I think the paper face Jay target didn’t need the boss angled as it’s a challenging shot already and angling it means arrows are likely to tear up the foam quickly. The zombie shot was different and a bit of fun too.
Paper face jay between the trees

Paper face jay between the trees

It would be fair to say I really struggled getting round the course. Compared to other grounds I have shot at its not that hard, but my asthma has been playing up for the last few weeks following a virus. This meant I struggled with the slopes resulting in my always carried but rarely used  inhaler being used lots.
I’d like to thank not only the group I was with but others who asked after me, along with Chris Harley who took time to walk back up the slope with me at the end of the shoot. Thanks Chrissie
Sharon shot really well, being back on form, winning not only the ladies class but out shooting all the men in the class (obviously including me).
Sharon shooting 3D crocodile

Sharon shooting 3D crocodile

Considering the limited time the club members had and the amount of work that was involved in just clearing the pathways, I think they’ve done really well. Yes there is room for a few improvements and enhancements but it is early days for them in the wood. One thing that I think  should be mentioned is the way the marshals reacted to problems quickly investigating and solving them, such as getting a replacement boss when one was found to be shot out.

Good luck Pride Park Archers with your new woodland.

Thanks for reading.

Shoot Report – NFAS Championships

Arrow checks at the National Championships on Sunday

Arrow checks at the National Championships on Sunday

September saw the National Field Archery Society championships which this time was to be held not far from Hemel Hempsted on Gaddesden Estate. It’s not the first time the estate had hosted the championships and if interested you can read the past
reviews here.
For those of you unfamiliar with the championships it is a two day event. This year it would comprise of 2 courses; A & B, with archers shooting one course each day. Unlike the 3D championships wooden arrow and metal / carbon arrow archers would not be split. Each course comprises of 40 targets, these being a mix of paper and 3D targets. You can read last years championships here, which had been held in the Lake District. Some 400 archers would be either camping or filling local bed and
breakfasts or hotels for the weekend.
Sorry there are so few photos from the event but the Saturday was very wet so my phone was buried under waterproofs to keep it dry. I did manage to get some photos from the Sunday though.
With Sharon and I shooting American Flatbow we would shoot course A on Saturday and B on Sunday. A course had been set by by the Field Officer of the NFAS and other volunteers and the NFAS committee with B course being set by the Cloth of Gold club, whose grounds are part of the Gaddesden Estate.

It was an early start both days for us as we’d offered to help with the admin of the event. Sharon would be helping handing out the score cards and I’d be doing arrow checks. For those that aren’t aware of NFAS rules, all arrows have to checked to ensure that they have the archer’s name and the shooting order. On that point, one thing that amazed me was the number of people who attend the event yet forget to mark their arrows or argue that its not needed. Not only are the markings required
by the rules of the society but also a requirement on safety grounds.

If an arrow is shot and an incident occurs you need to know who it was and from where it was shot, hence the reason of shooting order and name. Most people where fine and friendly but there are always a few that feel it feel it’s unreasonable. I can understand why so many of the admin or organising crew get tired and disillusioned. Anyway onto the shoot report…

Saturday

Saturday’s course would prove to be the flatter of the two courses. With the overcast and damp weather it made the woodland quite dark at times making some of the paper targets very hard to make out. I think this problem was compounded by the use of some new target faces being used this year. Some of these new faces were quite dark, especially the pigeon and goose, which the whole group struggled to first identify and then score well on.

The first day of the champs would see me shooting with Sue, Ian and Ben. I’d shot with Ben at liberty and Sue I’ve know known for years. It was a mixed group of Sue and me on American Flatbow, Ben in Hunting Tackle and Ian in Crossbow.

We started on target 40, which meant we shot one target and then had a
food stop, but that is just luck I guess. The next 20 targets worked well and were challenging, though I think a few could have done with having a torch shone on them as they were very hard to see in the darker areas of the wood. After target 20  had we were back to the food stop and this time did stop and have chance to catch up with others. The second half of the course didn’t go as well for me with a few shots after lunch that were I thought were further than they needed to be. Yes it’s a champs but I think they could have been challenging without being set at those distances.
By the end of the day the rain had stopped and it was a bit brighter, with us heading back to the hotel in Hemel Hempsted for a shower and a meal. One positive thing from the weekend was a large group of us went out for a great meal on Saturday night.

Sunday

Sunday - B course - pre-shoot announcements

Sunday – B course – pre-shoot announcements

Following very little sleep on the Saturday night due to the hotel room being far too warm and noisy we were up at 6 am and on site for 7 am having promised to help with the administration and arrow checks.

Sunday course would be B and I think the course layers probably had the more challenging terrain to work with and I’m really glad it was dry as getting around would have been a whole lot harder if it had been wet. On a couple of shots the organisers had set up ropes for you to use to get down to retrieve your arrows and it was needed.
As is normal the shooting groups changed completely so I’d be shooting with Ian, his son Connor and Dawn shooting Crossbow. I’d shot with Dawn at last years 3D championships when she had been shooting American Flatbow. Fortunately the weather was far kinder to us on Sunday with it being both dry and slightly warmer.

Starting target on Sunday - 3D bear across the pond

Starting target on Sunday – 3D bear across the pond

I think the course worked well for the most part, with our first target being a 3D bear along a river bank. The downhill paper faced tiger was also a good shot.

Paper face tiger between the trees

Paper face tiger between the trees

The lack of sleep really played havoc with both Sharon and I with neither of us shooting as well as we could or should have on Sunday. Think Sharon suffered the worse as she’d been working away from home the week before the championships so was already tired.

Long paper face Rhino target

Long paper face Rhino target

Despite the lack of sleep Sharon still managed to gain a second place in Ladies American Flatbow. For the second year running I managed to secure third in Gents American Flatbow, which I was surprised at since I didn’t feel like I’d shot well enough.
We managed to win the nearest and dearest trophy for the third year running, which I think is the prize we both wanted most.

Nearest and Dearest trophy along with a silver and bronze.

Nearest and Dearest trophy along with a silver and bronze.

Severn Valley won the Barebow Team trophy and special congrats to Mae on wining Junior Girls Barebow at her first Nationals.
Thanks for reading.

Shoot Report – Lyme Valley – August 2016

Lyme Valley shoot - August 2016

Lyme Valley shoot – August 2016

So a few Sunday’s back saw us headed north up the motorway to revisit Lyme Valley shooting grounds. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that this is one of Sharon’s favourite club grounds and if you are interested you can read a previous shoot report here.
The weather was kind being both dry and warm, making for good conditions under foot; an important factor to remember as Lyme Valley course is along either side of a steep valley and it can be very, very slippery conditions if wet.
The course would be 36 targets, two being paper faces and the remaining being 3ds. One weird announcement at the start was for those shooting bare bow. They were told they MUST remove the screws on their bows that are for holding clickers. Why? Because they could be used as a sighting aid which is not permitted in that class. This resulted in a flurry of activity as people tried to find suitable hex keys or screw drivers which would release the screws.
Starting on peg 7 there would be three others joining us Terry who we had shot with previously at South Cheshire and a couple from Centaura Elaine and Stan.

First target of the day - Lyme Valley shoot

First target of the day – 3d Fish across stream Lyme Valley shoot

Our first target would be a 3D fish across the stream which flows at the base of the valley and a shot that Lyme Valley have used a few times but still works well and looks good. Though maybe they could disguise a backing boss so any arrows that miss don’t run the risk of breaking when embedding themselves in the stony river bank.

Down hill 3D crocodile on the river bank

Down hill 3D crocodile on the river bank

By the fourth target we’d caught the group in front at a small 3d rabbit under a fallen tree with the next shot being a small 3d deer across the stream. This would be the norm for the day. In hindsight it might have been better to space these two shots out a bit more as it was a bit crowded.

Sorry bit out of focus - first target after lunch small down hill 3D

Sorry bit out of focus – first target after lunch small down hill 3D

Lyme operates a lunch break from 12:30 – 1:15 and as luck would have it we were at one of the further points on the course when the lunch horn sounded.
Following the lunch break we would return to a long downhill 3d capercaillie. Sadly Stan had to retire at this point due to his arrow rest breaking and he was not able to replace it.
Overall the day didn’t flow well with a number of hold ups on targets while we awaited our turn to shoot. From what I understand I think this might have been due to a number of reasons, some being associated with the course and others with archers.

3D bear - the tree branch forces you to change stance

3D bear – the tree branch forces you to change stance

As a course it didn’t feel it knitted together as other courses have at Lyme Valley. Don’t get me wrong there were some nicely laid shots such as the 3d bedded elk, which i wish I’d got a better picture of. Unfortunately that same shoot saw us waiting over 30 minutes to shoot it. Coping with that long a break and keeping concentration and focus can be very difficult.
There were a couple of sections of the course where the shooting pegs for two targets were very close leaving little space for the two groups to stand. I’ve mentioned the 3d rabbit and 3d deer already. This made people feel a bit uncomfortable as they tried to find somewhere to stand without being in sight of the archer shooting.

Up hill 3D standing bear

Up hill 3D standing bear

I don’t feel the delays can be all attributed to the course though as by some reports there were a few slower groups who let’s say took their time to shoot and retrieve arrows, enjoying a bit of a prolonged chat in the process.
I have little doubt that Lyme Valley course layers will take this on board for future shoots.
Despite the delays Sharon shot well with her winning Ladies AFB. I had far too many second and third arrows. I think I coped better on this course and shoot psychology speaking than on past shoots when dealing with the delays and my poor shooting. When I go to a second or third arrow I tend to let it affect me for the next few shots. That day I tried to focus on just the basics of form and breathing, reminding myself I can do this hobby of ours. Maybe it’s slowly sinking into this thick Welsh skull of mine. Stranger things have happened, I think.
Thanks for reading.