3D Deer between the trees

Continuing the New Year goals

The woods

The woods are calling

In my last posting I wrote about the setting of New Year goals and how you could start to monitor your progress as you develop in your archery life. In this post I’d like to take this a little further and explore some general advice along with some metrics beginners or experienced archers may consider suitable.

Poor equipment = poor shooting

First thing you can do is to get your equipment right, your bow, glove, tab, arrows etc. Now this doesn’t mean going out and spending a small fortune on the latest carbon arrows of only 6 grains per inch or new bow limbs that promise to launch your arrows even faster. It is about getting what you have working the best it can. As my old coach told me “Learn to shoot the bow you have.

Every archers knows that having confidence in your kit helps in your shooting. If you are worried that the bows not performing or just ignorant of possible problems, it’s unlikely you’ll be consistent in your shots.

With my coaching hat I’d like to give you an example of how not knowing your kit can have an effect on your shooting and make you doubt yourself.

Many years ago I was asked by a newly signed off archer why he couldn’t get a grouping at a distance past about 20 yards. So we wondered down to the range and I got him shooting at a few distances, asking him to shoot each arrow exactly the same, adjusting just for the distance but not for the flight of the previous arrow.

His form was fine and his bow set up was correct with the appropriate brace height, etc. I noticed his line was fine but some arrows flew high others low. He’d bought the wooden arrows from a local stockist as he’d not yet started making his own. I asked if he’d checked the mass weight of the arrows. He hadn’t, so we dug out my grain scales and measured them. When we did we discovered that of the 8 he was shooting there was approximately 90 grains difference, with the other 4 talking the range up to over 100.

Grain scales with sponge

You can’t hope to get a consistent grouping if all your arrows are different weights. This is why I spend time matching the arrows I make, I try to match arrows both in mass weight and spinning for mine and Sharon’s bows. (Quick call out to Marc at longbow emporium for a great matching service in arrow shafts)

QUICK TIP – A useful tip when setting up your bow is to use your mobile phone camera, to  photograph your brace height or button settings. This way you have a pictorial record you can use when setting up your bow, arrow rest, replacing the string etc.

Photo of recurve set up

Photo of recurve set up

Club ground – the Good and Bad points

There is no doubt that practise is important, in fact it is very important. For this reason I think it is worth mentioning the merits and flaws of club practise grounds and trying to use it to judge your progression and development.

So the good part of having a home course is pretty obvious, it gives you a practise area that is relatively static and unchanging day in day out, meaning you can judge your progress, week on week. You can go back to a target again and again until you get it right.

I always remember in my first club, where there was a deer 3D that I always struggled with and I would go back and shoot it again and again.

3D Deer between the trees

3D Deer between the trees

The downside of practise on the same ground can be you end up shooting targets on a sort of autopilot as you’ve shot it so many times before you don’t appraise the shot as you would or should if presented for the first time at a competition. In essence you shoot the shot from memory and in turn it becomes too easy, as you don’t spend the time to read the ground or judge the shot.

One technique you can use to keep the course shots fresh is to shoot 3 arrows at all the targets, even if you hit with your first. So for an adult you would shoot, one from the red, white and blue pegs. This is a technique I have used for several years at club grounds and found it works for me. It forces me to keep testing my distance judgement and makes me adapt as I’m moving from one peg to another. It also builds your stamina in your muscles as you are shooting more arrows. I’ll cover more about physical fitness in my next article.

Competition Courses and Base lines

Ok so you have been shooting at your club grounds and you now want to go out to try other clubs and enter a few competitions. Maybe there is a group of you and you’ve been to a few shoots but not sure how you are doing. Thing is how can you judge how you are doing when you are at different courses? Sure you can look at your score and if it’s higher than your last shoot you are improving right? Well maybe, maybe not.

Due to the nature of the NFAS, the club courses you shoot change over time, year on year.  In fact this is somewhat expected by archers. A club that doesn’t change its course can often receive negative comments from some like “It’s just the same as last time” or “They haven’t bothered to change the course from last time we shot it”.

On courses that do change you can shoot the course one day and score over 500, but the next time you return to that club, a few months later, it might be a different story with a changed course. There will be different targets and distance, the result is you might score more or less. This means it can be very hard to accurately judge your own progress when you revisit a clubs grounds.

So what can you do, to judge how well you are shooting?

As courses change it can be a good idea to identify some kind a base line for comparison. One method is identifying one or two people, ideally shooting in the same class as you and track their scores in comparison to yours.

A second method is keeping track of the scores of the archers who came in first, second and third in your class, this can help to give you an idea of what is possible. Often the placings and scores are posted on the hosting club or NFAS website.

One very important point to remember here when talking about scores and is equally important, whether you are newbies and experienced archers alike is DON’T get disheartened when you may have scored 300 and the winner scored 600 plus. Check the scores of other people, and the 3 placing. The winner might have got 600+ but the person in second might have just over 500 points. The winner might be on top form and had a personal best, so it is important to try and get the bigger picture. I can assure you this method of tracking can help and Sharon always looks out for the gents scores in American Flatbow when at a competition as there are more male archers in the class than female. She used to track the gents in Hunting Tackle when she shot that style.

A third method is to track your average points score, based on your total score divided by the number of targets. When I first started shooting several years ago my aim was to get an average per target into double figures and being really happy  with my average started going up from 8 points to 9 and then 10. When I broke 400 on a 36 target course, it was great. Several years later, with a lot of practise and shooting day in day out, I now have different objectives. I hope to get 16 point average on a course. The advantage of using this method is it can provide you with a baseline comparison of progress for a 36 target or 40 target course.

I have learnt that these averages will vary dependent on the club I’m shooting at, as now with a little more experience I know that some club courses are more challenging than others. Other facts like the weather on the day, or whether it’s a slow day with lots of holdups all plays a part.

The important thing to remember and this will sound a bit corny so sorry in advance. Your life in archery is a journey and it takes time. You will have good days, you’ll have great days and you will have bad days, just don’t rush it or beat yourself up over it.

Last Tip

Don’t worry about what others are scoring. What! You just said for me to track the scores of first, second and thirds! Or work out my averages. Yes I said that, so you can get an idea of how tough the course was, but while you are shooting forget about it.

Go out and do these two things

  1. Enjoy yourself; you are out in the woods, shooting a bow, hopefully in good weather and company.
  2. Shoot your shot when on the peg, with your bow. Don’t be thinking about anything else, just your shot.

One of the reasons I love archery is it offers you the opportunity to compete against myself, yes you can compete against others true, but for me I’m there to shoot my bow the best I can and to make the best shot I can. If my arrow lands where I want it to, whether it’s the top scoring area or not, I’ve made my shot.

Ok, so in the last article in this series I am going to be looking at resilience physical and mental, along with shooting form and technique.

Thanks for reading

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Can you hit a barn door

Shoot Report – Spirit of Sherwood – December 2017

Spirit of Sherwood Wooden arrow shoot

Spirit of Sherwood Wooden arrow shoot

I tend to see the Spirit of Sherwood Christmas shoot as the end of the year as far as NFAS shoot calendar is concerned, which is silly really as NFAS shoots carry on all through the year. However for this reason and because they put on cracking shoots, we always make an effort to get to their shoots and this years was no exception.

As it’s a good two hour drive for us to get up to Spirits grounds we decided to head up the night before and stayed over at a local travel lodge in Worksop. As it was, the drive up on the Saturday was quite unpleasant being very grey and drizzly all the way, though not as cold as it had been during the previous week. I’m glad we did the drive on the Saturday as I wouldn’t want to do it early in the morning. Have to say the weather didn’t help the splitting headache I had had all day and would have for the next few days.

Spirit of Sherwood shoots are always well attended, with shooting places being booked up several weeks in advance and this one was no exception. This would be wooden arrow only and a Christmas themed shoot. There were to be 36 targets on this course course consisting of a mixture of 3D targets, with a number of novelty shots.

If you like, you can read a previous shoot report here from one of their shoots earlier in the year. It was great to catch up with some friends, like Jim Pierce. Just trying to remember Jim, did you start on target peg 8 or 9?

Thankfully the damp grey weather of the Saturday was replaced with a mostly dry sunny Sunday and warmer weather than we’d experienced during the week.

3D deer between the trees

3D deer between the trees

The shooting group joining Sharon and myself for the day would include Kevin and Carolyan from Pines Park shooting Hunting tackle and american flatbow respectively.

Spirits ground is a flat woodland of a mix of confer and deciduous trees, making it a pretty easy to get round. It’s quite a pretty wood with the winter sun shining through the branches, though at this time of year the days of sunlight are short, so they tried to start early to give archers the best chance to finish in good light.

Can you hit a barn door

Can you hit a barn door

Spirit course layers always set a moving target to challenge archers, last time it was a 3D crocodile. This time they had made up a moving barn door, literally suspended on a cable. If you missed you were awarded a sticker. After all we all have days where we can’t hit a barn door. I thought this was a great fun idea for a novelty shot.

If you missed the barn door you got the sticker

If you missed the barn door you got the sticker

Of all the 36 targets I think there was only one that I really didn’t get on with and to be fair it wasn’t the target as such but its positioning. It was one of the novelty shots where you shot one arrow and had to choose to shoot a large bear for 20 points, a penguin for 30 or a small fish for 40. The reason I didn’t like it was because in the distance you could see archers moving and this caught my eye when I was shooting. Don’t get me wrong, the shot was perfectly safe as they always are at Spirit. It was just the moving archers caught my eye when I was shooting, which is something that I don’t like and find very, very distracting. It is something that I really struggle with this on some other shoots.

3D wolf target between the trees

3D wolf target between the trees

Other novelty shots included a mini tower from which you could shoot a predator prey shot of knight and dragon. 6 of the 36 targets novelty targets, including moving shots, predator prey and pick and stick ones. I’m normally not a fan of lots of novelty shots but this was a Christmas fun shoot and think it worked.

Predator Prey shot from the castle

Predator Prey shot from the castle

The course itself was arranged in a rough clover leaf formation of three loops, round one central point, giving the competitors the opportunity to pass catering two or three times. This makes it possible to have a pretty effective shoot through with few if any hold ups, for us at least.

Sharon shooting a 3D deer at Spirit of Sherwood

Sharon shooting a 3D deer at Spirit of Sherwood

The course layers at Spirit had gone to a lot of trouble in setting the targets and they had set a really nice deer herd shot of different size and angled 3Ds set between the trees where  you had to select the target to go for, decisions, decisions.

3D deer herd shot, pick your target

3D deer herd shot, pick your target

Another target worth mentioning was a large Raven 3D they had set on a tree stump, again framed very nicely.

3D raven on the tree stump between the trees

3D raven on the tree stump between the trees

The Spirit club had also set out a couple of boxes of chocolates at different points round the course for archers to help themselves, a very kind and generous gesture.

Boxes of sweats could be found round the course

Boxes of sweats could be found round the course

I don’t feel any of the targets were particularly long shots, and one thing they did do well I thought was how quite a few of the targets were nicely framed between the trees. This gave the archer a corridor view, making them look closer or further than they were. They had obviously considered the canopy for low poundage bows on all the shots, something that not all shoot organisers or course layers do. The result were several targets set at sensible distances whilst remaining a challenge and more importantly enjoyable. It’s good to see course where targets aren’t stretched or 3Ds are angled to make them near impossible.

Pick your target the 3D zebra or 3D cheetah

Pick your target the 3D zebra or 3D cheetah

We went round pretty quickly with no hold ups other than looking for the occasional wayward arrow that preferred the undergrowth than the target.

3D porcupine target in the leaves

3D porcupine target in the leaves

Night draws in quickly this time of year, so by the time we got to the raffle and prize giving it was already dark. Fortunately as it was a wooden arrow only shoot there were only a few different classes. Following on from the Christmas theme of the shoot, Spirit were doing Christmas themed prizes for first place, Christmas puddings no less. I don’t think anyone will be surprised to hear that Sharon came away with one as she won ladies American flatbow. Have to say that I was surprised in receiving a Christmas pudding as I didn’t expect to win gents flatbow.

The journey back took a couple of hours, but as always its well the drive.

Thanks for reading.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and Good Luck for the New Year.

Let’s talk about quivers

Jims bow against the tree

Jims bow against the tree

While I was writing the article on the traditional bowhunters style proposal in the NFAS recently, I got thinking about the different types of quivers that we use. This got me thinking about writing an article on the different types of quivers being used in archery.

There is almost as much variety in quivers as there are in bows, back quivers, bow quivers, field quivers and more. So what’s the appeal of one over another?  We know they come in all shapes and sizes and I got wondering as to what people use and why? To answer this or rather to get more insight I thought I’d turn to the great internet for help and specifically a Facebook group I belong to “Fellowship of the bow” which is mainly for traditional archers and it has a few thousand members. On the site I posted a simple poll and invited members contributions and thoughts on there. The feedback and response was awesome for which I’m very grateful.

The results from the poll are shown below and it is interesting in the sheer diversity of styles . The three most popular are in descending order, back, hip and then field quivers, though bow quivers were also very popular too. I’m also going to mention a mate of mine who has a quiver mounted on a walking stick, which offers both a method of carrying arrows and a useful aid when walking some field courses.

  • Back quivers 62
  • Hip 50
  • Field 47
  • Bow 37
  • Other 9
  • Target 6
  • Arrowbag 4
  • Native style 2
  • Historical 1
  • Walking stick 1
  • Personal caddy 1
  • Mongolian 1

What is very clear is the choice of quiver can be as personal as the choice of bows, some people love back quivers while others hate them and prefer the convenience of the bow quivers.

Often quivers are one of the first things that archers buy when they start shooting. When I first started I made a simple leather quiver, just enough to carry three or four of the arrows I owned.

Shortly after I got more seriously into the hobby I bought a leather field quiver out of a bargain basket at a local archery shop, when I really got hooked and I’ve been using it ever since. It is fairly standard as quivers of that kind go, with four tubes allowing you to carry 10-12 arrows if you ram them in, along with a couple of pockets for spare string, pens etc. and a belt loop. A while back I covered what I carry on a shoot (here is the link to it). Though it can carry more I tend to only carry 3 or 4 arrows in the quiver with the rest being kept in an arrow tube on my back. I have tried using a couple of back quivers, but never found one that has worked for me.

So lets’ have a brief look at the different types of quivers out there, some of the positives and negatives. I’ve drawn on my own experiences, along with feedback from the poll and comments from archers. So in no particular order lets’ start.

Bow quivers – these are quivers which are fitted direct to the bow, hence the name bow quiver and usually house 2-6 arrows.

The appeal of these tends to be associated with the convenience of having everything to hand on the bow, resulting in less to carry. The other thing that many commented on was the lack of noise with this form, with none of the rattling of arrows as you walk round the wood. I have to say that they can look good. What is interesting is that some people seem to use these in conjunction with a field or back quiver to carry spare arrows.

I find it interesting that some people commented on how they add a bit of stability to the bow, while others say it makes no difference. I know that this has been debated on a number of occasions but having never used one I can’t say one way or another.  My only point of concern is the positioning of the quivers. You need to ensure they don’t impede the flex of the limbs.

As I’ve said I’ve never used a bow quiver but I can see the appeal for the convenience, they can look very cool too on the right bow.  Though I wouldn’t fit one on my flat bow I think I would put one on my recurve.

Back quiver – so these are worn on the back, though you might have guessed this by the name, it does kind of give it away. I’m going to group back quivers with those that are small backpacks with integral quivers here too. These small back packs are a bit like camel packs that house arrows along with a few other bits.

The appeal of back quivers appears to be a mix of practicality and looks. As one person said it’s quite a romantic look.  A few people commented on the fact they prefer back quivers as they don’t like stuff hitting their leg or around their waste.

I’ve tried using a couple of different back quivers and never got on with the ones I have used, as they always seemed to move too much on my shoulder. I’d struggle to stop the arrows falling out when I bent over, or catch them on the tree branches.

The big advantage of this style can be it leaves your hands free and all the weight is on your shoulders rather than your waist.

From comments and my own experience 3 point connection seems to work best for comfort, practicality wise too, as comments imply they rest better on the shoulders.

One design feature that was mentioned was having a back quiver made from a material that is sufficiently flexible so when you bend over the material, say leather, flexes holding the arrows so they don’t fall out when you bend. Makes a lot of sense as this is something that puts a lot of people off using them, including myself.

One interesting thing that was mentioned, and I have seen, are some back quivers which have a slit in the side which you draw arrows from, rather than drawing them from over your shoulder.

Target quivers – tend be a little smaller than other quivers and not necessarily designed to accommodate the large numbers of arrows or larger diameter arrow like 11/32 wooden shafts that you tend to use in field archery.

Field quivers  – these allow you to carry a few more bits and pieces, mine has a couple of pouches where I carry spare string, pens, string wax, whistle etc. check out my article on what I carry on a field shoot for more details.

The downside of field quivers tends to be there size and potential weight on one side of your body. This was something that was raised by a couple of people on the poll, along with disliking the way they hit your leg as you are walking. I know for me I tend to have my hand on my quiver when walking to stop it knocking my leg.

I’ve stuck with a field quiver for most of my archery life so far, though I have modified mine slightly by replacing the belt I use and using a Bohning Rigid Shooters Belt for more comfort.

Choice of types of quivers is just one thing, you then have the materials they are constructed from. Though in essence we have traditional leather verse modern materials, its worth remembering other materials have been used for quivers, including cloth ones. But I think that is another area of discussion, some people like the modern materials, others like what they see as the more traditional look and feel of leather.

Many modern material quivers, especially the backpack style offer effective weather proofing and are waterproof. This is really important to remember as I know on a couple of shoots in poor weather where I’ve literally turned my quiver upside down to empty the water out. I also had to empty all the contents of the pouches to let it dry out completely. It’s worth remembering that your quiver encounters the same weather conditions as you, so remember to waterproof them.

Another advantage to modern fabric quivers are they tend to be lighter, something to consider if you are carrying all day around a field course.

One problem you can have with selecting the right quiver is in some ways the same as with bows, i.e. the price. The cost can vary as widely as the designs. Of course you can pick up quivers for a few pounds from most archery shops or the internet, but likewise quivers can be quite expensive, especially if you go for custom leather ones.

For me I think I’ll stick with my field quiver on my belt for now and my arrow tube on my back. It works for me. Much as I would like to have a back quiver, I can’t seem to find one that works for me.

Me at the wood

The choice is such a personal thing, but at the end of the day find something that works for you, so long as it can carry your arrows, does it matter if it’s on your bow, back or attached to your belt.

Thanks for reading.

Different day at work

Different day at work

Different day at work

Bit of a different day at work one day this week.

Every year an event is run at the university I work for, where staff members are encouraged to demonstrate or promote their hobbies and interests, whether this be cooking, painting etc.

Most of the stalls are housed in one large lecturing room, with a couple of other breakout rooms.

The session runs for a couple of hours over the lunch time and there were people with stands full of homemade cakes, another one on how you can get involved with girl guides organisation. One very popular stall was a sushi stand, where they were letting people have a go at making their own sushi. In other rooms there were sessions on BMI health checks and massages for those feeling stressed? The event is all about staff well being and what the institution can do to promote well being and what staff do themselves.

I had a stall on archery (surprise, surprise), and though I couldn’t bring in any of my bows, I was able to show a selection of arrows, along with fletching set ups and a variety of literature. In hindsight I think I should have printed off some large pictures but I didn’t know I would have had a display board.

Archery stall

Archery stall

I think there were nearly 200 people booked to attend and many more that were just passing by, or maybe they were just after the free lunch provided by the organisers if you booked in advance.  It did feel busy at times, though I think that might have been helped by being near the sushi stall.

What was interesting when talking with a few people were the number who said they’d tried archery at Centre parks or other such holiday camps and really enjoyed it. Makes you wonder if the archery community should try and promote the hobby more?

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.