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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Happy New Year to all

So around this time of year people are normally doing a couple of things. Firstly trying to stick to their New Year resolutions they have made whether this be going to the gym, quitting smoking, eating healthily, etc. Archers will probably be starting their planning for the upcoming season. The latter will usually involving deciding on which competitions to enter and possible setting goals for their own achievements.

Personally I have never been a big fan of New Year resolutions; I tend to think, why wait until the New Year to improve your situation. Having said this I am kind of trying one this year, which is to find the time to watch material on or read more about shooting practices and approaches. So far this has involved watching quite a few YouTube videos.

I know that many might be thinking about improving their own performance, and it is something I often get asked. What can I do to shoot better? I want to score more? What can I do about making improvements? So what goals should I set?

These are questions equally important for newbie archers those who have experience, as we can all improve. In the next couple of articles I’m going to be looking at setting personal goals, measuring achievements and so on.

Well the first thing I’d like to say is. Be realistic with what you want to accomplish but still aim for improvement. This means setting realistic expectations, which sounds great coming from a dreamer like me. So what do I really mean? Well if you can’t or don’t have time to practise, you are unlikely to be as prepared as you could be or physically fit enough, with sufficient stamina or muscle memory.  Likewise, I know I’m never likely to get into the Olympics or even into Archery GB, but I can still try to improve and keep developing. (Sorry but every time I hear or thinking about trying to improve, this voice in my head says “Do or do not, there is no try – Yoda”) So let’s say we can still strive to improve, whether this be in my own shooting or helping others through coaching.

So be realistic in your expectations.

Reducing misses and making the hits count

Well we are all hoping to reduce misses, whether newbies or experienced. So let’s try and break this down a little in respect to NFAS shoots, how they are scored and number of arrows shot.

In the most common NFAS round “The Big Game round” you get up to 3 opportunities to hit a target and in turn score. As an adult you would start on the red peg, normally the furthest and hardest shot. If you are successful in hitting the target you score 16 for a wound, 20 for a kill or 24 for an inner kill.

On the other hand if you aren’t successful in hitting, you move to the white peg. From there you take your second arrow, with a wound scoring 10 and a kill shot 14 points. (There is no distinction from an inner or outer kill after the first arrow).

Your final chance to score comes from the blue peg where a wound scores 4 points and a kill 8. If you miss with the third arrow then you blank the target. The other members of the group shoot and once you’ve marked the score cards you move on to the next target.

So if you are on form your goal is to shoot as few arrows as possible 36 or 40 depending if it’s a 36 or 40 target course. I’ve never yet gone round a course hitting with my first arrow only, come close a few times but always seem to taken 2 or 3 second arrows.

I tend to keep an eye on the number of first, second and third arrows I take as it gives me an idea of how well I have been shooting.

So the first step is to try and reduce the blanks i.e. the targets where you don’t score anything (Julie, as friend of ours, never writes a zero on a score card when someone blanks a target. She draws a little smiling face)

How can you do this? Well don’t stress about missing it! “What?” I hear you say, “that doesn’t make sense”. Well it does if you take a minute and think about it. If you beat yourself up for missing a couple of times or stress out about being on the blue peg because you think you should have got the shot earlier, then that is not going to put you in a healthy mind set for that third arrow. So when you get to the peg, or rather if you do,. take a deep breath and chill. Take a moment and compose yourself, forget about everything other than your breathing and form. Focus on the spot you want to hit and nail it. Don’t just think of hitting the target somewhere, pick a point and focus on that.

Aim small, miss small as the saying goes. (Or aim for the fish’s eye, which won’t make a lot of sense unless you’ve read Steve Perry’sMan Who Never Missed.)

The Man who never missed – Steve Perry

Ok, so you have reduced the number of blanks. Now comes the reduction in the number of 3rd arrows. Ideally if you are taking a 3rd arrow you want to come away with 8 points as this means you’ve learnt from your first 2 misses and adapted.

Once you’ve reduced the blanks and the number of 3rd arrows, you have to reduce the number of 2nd arrows you have to take. This is a lot harder as normally the white peg is still a very challenging peg and is often located not that far from the red. If you are at the white peg, take what you learnt from the red peg with you. If you dropped short of the target or saw your arrow fly over consider this when on the peg. Take a moment or two to look at the shot again, judge the distance. Look for deceptions such as dead ground that may have caught you out from the red.

I see many archers end up on the blue peg or 3rd peg because they have rushed their second arrow, which can often be because they have been annoyed or self-conscious of their failure in front of others. I know this because I’ve done it myself.

When you do have to take a second arrow try and focus on improving from just hitting the target and getting a wounding hit to a kill shot, this is also a good idea.

Ok, so this hopefully all makes sense, but to give you an idea  on a recent 36 target course, I had 1 blank which was a one arrow target, 1 third arrow, 6 second arrows , the remaining being first arrows. By my standards not a great showing, but not bad and of course this gives me something to improve. When I first started I probably only had 10-12 first arrow hits, and it took a lot of practise and time to improve.

In the next article I’ll look at other factors that can affect your success, like Club ground practise, shooting form, equipment set up and maybe a bit more.

Thanks for reading.

3D coyote target set behind fallen tree

Shoot Report – Windrush – October 2017

Archers massing before the start

Archers massing before the start

On a beautiful sunny early autumn morning we headed towards Windrush shoot grounds in Oxfordshire. I have to say the old adage that the journey is as important as the destination seemed accurate on Sunday, as due to the early start and route down the took us along some country lanes we ended up dodging squirrels crossing the road, indecisive flocks of partridge who couldn’t decide whether they wanted to cross the road and not forgetting the pair of fallow deer running across parallel to the road in a adjacent field. Added to the wildlife was demonstration of multiple hot air balloons as we approached the woodland, all in all it was quite eventful.

3D fox between the trees

3D fox between the trees

It had been a number of years since we’d shot at Windrush and were curious to see how or if it had changed in that time. Our shooting group would consist of Sharon, myself and the father and son team of Anthony and Michael, both shooting barebow and both on their first NFAS shoot. I have to say I felt sorry for the poor souls having drawn what some might have seen as the short straw and others might see as a baptism of fire with shooting with us. Hopefully we haven’t put them off field archery.

Anthony shooting bedded 3D boar

Anthony shooting bedded 3D boar

The course of 36 3D targets was arranged in a series of loops round the central admin hut which worked well, with about 100 archers navigating the course easily. This meant we enjoyed a shoot through course i.e. no formal stopping at a set time for a lunch break.

Windrush Club hut

Windrush Club hut

Catering was very efficient as was the admin. In fact I thought the whole event seemed to work well. The course was safe and well marshalled, as we saw marshals walking the course checking on archers and targets throughout the day and taking the time to chat. All of which added to the relaxed feel of the day.

Sharon shooting 3D

Sharon shooting 3D

The land itself that the course occupies is a flat ground, being in an open deciduous mature woodland. Windrush course layers try and provide some height difference with the use of a platform in one area for a well-hidden bedded deer 3D.

3D badger target being shot by Michael

3D badger target being shot by Michael

They also make use of a few tree stumps as shooting platforms. I’m not sure if I am completely comfortable with this as I think some might find the footing a challenge. Maybe adding some chicken wire for additional grip or off cuts of decking with the grooves in it would help. Having said that it is only a minor comment on what I thought was a very nicely laid and engaging course.

3D antelope with shooting peg on the stump

3D antelope with shooting peg on the stump

Even though the ground is quite open and flat the course layers offered a good selection of targets at sensible distances that were challenging but not stretched. It is so easy on flat ground to push targets that little bit further back to “offer a challenge” but Windrush didn’t do this. They set targets at sensible distances for their size and used the dead ground or framing to make the shot a challenge.

3D coyote target set behind fallen tree

3D coyote target set behind fallen tree

 

Anthony shooting 3d deer - very nicely framed shot.

Anthony shooting 3d deer – very nicely framed shot.

They also managed to use the cover they did have to make for some very nicely framed shots between trees, over or under fallen trunks.
One thing I did learn was if I listen to the voice in my head more often when something doesn’t feel right it helps. On a couple of shots earlier in the day the little voice in my head was saying “come down, something’s not right” Well I didn’t listen and resulted in having to take another arrow. Now I know what you are thinking. “You’re a coach, you should know better” well yes I should, but sadly I don’t always practise what I preach. Having said that I did on one shot I did listen to the now screaming voice and it did make a difference as I came down and drew up a second time( and yes I did get it with that shot)

3D dinosaur target set between trees

3D dinosaur target set between trees

The day flowed really well with us experiencing no hold ups, in fact the only delay was at one of the food stops whilst Anthony had to replace the rest on his bow. In all it felt a very relaxing stroll in the autumn woodland, whilst chatting with Anthony and Michael about their experiences of archery so far and what their aspirations are. And yes Anthony I am Rob with the blog. By the way, here is the link to the book I was recommending Shooting the Stick bow.
The Briar Rose club saw five members attend and came away with 3 first places, with Sharon winning ladies AFB and me in the gents’ class. Have to say special congrats to Steve on his first in Gents Barebow.
I’d also like to congratulate Eleanor on winning ladies longbow (John let me know when you have sometime with flatbow). By 4:30pm we were all on the road home, making for an early end of good day out.
Thanks for reading.

Equipment Review – Timber Creek Wooden arrows

Timber Creek Arrows

Timber Creek Arrows

I recently picked up some Timber Creek wood arrows from Merlin Archery care of Jim Grizzly Kent  and thought it worth putting a review together.
First impressions are positive.
The shafts are 11/32 with a 4 inch feather shield fletchings and black nocks. Made from Siberian spruce, these were spined as 50/55 as I wanted to use them with my flatbow.
The varnish finish is good being smooth and flawless over the entire length of the arrow.
Only thing I don’t like is the nock colour. Whilst they look great, fit well on the string, they are black which makes them very hard to see on longer targets. I like the thread binding at the front of the fletching as this can protect the tip of the fletching.
The shafts are straight and with the clear varnish you can see the quality of the wood grain.
Close up

Close up of fletching and nock

Having weighed them the six arrows come in 30 grains variance which is pretty impressive for unmatched out of box.
The piles are 100 grain field point which will be fine for most but I prefer an 80 grain.

100 grain piles

100 grain piles

Out of the box they are 32 inches in length and come pre – piled and ready to shoot.  Only thing I’ve noticed is the piles on two are very slightly proud of shafts, probably due to the shafts being slightly less than an 11/32. So if shooting a bag boss they can snag on the fabric. In fairness this is not an uncommon problem with wooden shafts and one I’ve encountered when making my own.Initial goes
I’ve tried shooting them at full length and they fly ok at about 12 -15 yards but really need to cut them down to my draw length. At 20-25 yards I was noticing the difference of pile weight and length. My normal arrows are fitted 80grain points so will probably fit 80 grain piles for true comparison.

Further testing 
Having now cut them to my draw length and fitted 80grain points I can add a couple of extra observations.
Being spruce the wood feathers or crumbles a little when tapering them. I found the same with other spruce and to be fair these were better quality.
Removing the old piles was easy using a gas ring to heat them for about 10 seconds and then unscrewing with a pair of pliers. Not sure if the 100 grain field point will blunt if a wayward arrow were to hit a rock, but this is the same for other pile designs and the reason I prefer steel to brass.
Having shot them they fly very slightly high and to the left but only slightly which makes me think slightly stiff.

Grouping at 15 yards

Grouping at 15 yards

Flight wise, they are very good and I’ve shot them a couple of hundred times.
I’ve not missed so badly as to bounce them off a tree yet so not sure of durability but am sure I will find out soon.

UPDATE – First casualty and note to self. If you shoot your own arrow it breaks. Managed to shoot the pile off one.  Yes pile, not nockthat takes skills.

First casulaty

First casulaty of the testing

 Those interested in the Timber Creek range of bows might like to know i recently picked up a Timber Creek Cobra and hope to write a review in the near future.
 If you don’t have the time or expertise to make your own arrows I think they are a good buy being good quality components assembled well. Priced at just under £5 each it’s not bad value. (http://www.merlinarchery.co.uk/timer-creek-wooden-arrows-basic.html)

Overall a 8.5 to 9/10 due to the nock colour.

Thanks for reading

Removing broken wood tip from inside pile

Thought those of you, who like me shoot wooden arrows and sometimes have the misfortune to break the pile off might find this a useful tip. No pun intended.

Quite often I find my arrows break directly behind the pile, leaving a small piece of wood inside the pile which can be difficult to remove especially if you want to reuse the pile.
I know some people drill the wood out and others simply throw away the pile.
Well I thought I would show how I remove the broken piece of wood.

Tools required

Tools required

The tools required are
1 x long wood screw 2 1/2″ is ideal (cross head)
1 x screwdriver
1 x gas stove or gas ring
1-2 x pliers
1 x small pot or basin of water
Step 1
First stage is to carefully take the screw and screw it into the wood still in the pile.
Screw into wood

Screw into wood

Step 2 
Once the screw is secured in the wood, you need to heat the pile up as this breaks down the glue securing the wood to the pile.
Holding it by the screw you can heat the pile using the gas ring. It should only take 10-20 seconds.
Word of warning here. 
I usually use screw on piles, but if you have taper fit or parrell fit you can have the piles pop off as the glue and gases in the glue expand under the heat.
The reason I mention this is on one occasion when removing a pile I left it in the ring to heat up too long as I worked on another. I heard a loud pop and saw the pile shoot across the kitchen towards the window and the screw and wood went in another direction. Fortunately no one was  injured and nothing was broken (otherwise I think Sharon might have injured me)
Heating the pile

Heating the pile

The other thing to be careful of is to not let the wood burn as this will not only smoke the kitchen out possibly triggering a smoke detector but also make it harder to remove the wood.
It’s worth doing this in a well ventilated room as the glue can stinks, especially the two part epoxy I use. How long you keep it in the flame will vary depending on the glue. Hot melt, melts quickly whilst some epoxy ones might take 20 seconds. It’s a bit of trial and error here.

Step 3
Holding the now heated pile  in the pliers (don’t grab it with your hand as it will be hot) take the screw driver and continue to screw the screw into the wood.
You should find that because the glue has melted and lost adhesion to the pile the screw will force the wood free. Resulting in the wood remaining on the screw and free of the pile.

Wood remains on pile

Wood remains on pile

Step 4 
Drop the pile and screw into a pot of cold water to cool.  Once cool you can dry the pile.
You might need to clean out the inside of the pile of glue residue with a bit of wire wool or I find an old shaft tapered down and screwed in and out a couple of times works well to dislodge any residue.
The easiest way to remove the wood from the screw is to hold the wood in the pliers and then using the screw driver “unscrew” it.
Hope you find this useful.
Thanks for reading.