Sharon shooting off the tower

Shoot report – Black Arrow – June 2017

Black Arrow

Black Arrow – archers gathering

I have to say it was a little strange going to the Black Arrow shoot as a competitor, having been a member for several years. The club has moved from the wooded hillside near Coxbench in Derbyshire where I learnt to shoot to now being located near Lout. Even though it is a different location there were some similarities, including the old trap covered shelter. This new site being a stones’ throw or should that be an arrow flight, from Harlequin archers, Long Eaton, and the new Merlin archery wood.  Seems the area is fast becoming a nexus or archery clubs in the midlands.

There was a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere at the shoot with over 80 archers or so attending, though I think they had quite a few no shows. Fortunately the strong winds forecast didn’t arrive until late in the day and even then it wasn’t too much of a problem as its quite a dense woodland.

Our first target a hessian owl

Our first target a hessian owl

The 40 target course would be a mix of 3D, 2D, paper faces and some very well painted hessian faces ranging from badgers to bears. The only downside being not always seeing the detail of these targets until you are up close, so you are having to guess where the scoring zones were. But they did look good.

The club has invested in some of the 2D targets similar to those owned by the Harlequin club. One of these being a 2D lion which I hadn’t seen before and was a lot smaller than expected, might explain why it was so hard to hit and see from the white peg thanks to the fast growing bracken. Glad I managed to hit it from the red peg, one of my few good shots of the day.

The not so large 2D lion

The not so large 2D lion

They do also have some homemade 3D targets, including a large bear, complete with a salmon which was the kill zone and a coloured peacock. The only problem being the latter target was still wet though, so I now have a blue and white right boot.

3D peacock - should have come with a warnings as paint was still wet

3D peacock – should have come with a warnings as paint was still wet

As for other shots there were a few framed shots which I quite liked, though I think a few of the peg positions were a bit tight for younger archers and too close to trees or branches that you could have caught a limb on.

Our group for the day would be Sharon, myself, D’No aka Dean shooting bow hunter and David shooting AFB both from Hanson. The club catering was great as they had two food stops, which enabled them to run a shoot through, both having a wide selection of cakes to keep archers going along with hot drinks.

Paper face red squirrel

Paper face red squirrel

It’s obvious they are putting a lot of effort into the courses, including building a tower enabling them to set a more technical elevated shot involving height difference. This is something they struggle with being located in an otherwise flat woodland.

A slightly different angle showing Sharon shooting from the tower

A slightly different angle showing Sharon shooting from the tower

They had one interesting shot through a barrel and another of a paper face duck over a small pond and used dead ground well. Another nice feature was the way they had covered all their target bosses with camouflage tarpaulin making them less obvious.

Marshals were all friendly and proved good at reacting to problems when reported, which is always good to see. Though I think they struggled with the speed of growth of the bracken in some areas as a few shots were very hard to see despite having been trimmed the day before.

In all it was a good day seeing friends and catching up with an old house mate Stuart, from university days. On a personal note I think I would have preferred to see some the well painted hessian targets on the closer shots, as I felt some of the small paper faces (Jay, duck etc.) felt a bit stretched. Still Sharon shot well, winning ladies AFB and I managed a second place.

It was good to see the club appearing to be thriving and running shoots at their new grounds, I hope this continues in the future.

Thanks for reading

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Shoot report – Long Eaton Field Archers – October 2015

Long Eaton making announcements at the start

Long Eaton making announcements at the start

The early mist of the October morning soon gave way to a bright sunny day, giving dappled sunlight on many of the 3d targets at Long Eatons ground. If you are interested you can read an earlier shoot report here, along with a listing of all shoot reports being available on where the Arrow lands page.
The course this time would be 36 targets all 3D, including predator prey and a moving target.

First target

First target

Sharon and I were joined by two Paget de Vasey archers Craig and Breanna Smith, both shooting hunting tackle. As we shot round I discovered Rianna follows the Off the Arrow shelf tumblr blog. Small world this archery community is.

Long deer target in the sun light

Long deer target in the sun light

The early morning low sun made shooting the big 3d Bison very difficult with the sun directly behind the target. There was quite a bit of discussion as to the distance and I think it was around 68 yards. I managed a very lucky lower leg hit with my first arrow, far more luck than skill.

Long bison in the sun seen from the red peg

Long bison in the sun seen from the red peg

Unlike previous times we had shot LEFA , they organsied the day as a shoot through, rather than everyone stopping for a hour for lunch. I think this worked well and we flowed round the course easily all day. In fact, I don’t think we saw the group in front or behind most of the day. The result of this was, at times we thought we were the only ones in the woodland. This made for quite a relaxing shoot, surprising when you think there were over 120 archers present.

Lion on the log

Lion on the log

I think LEFA must have bought a job lot of small 3d targets as there were a number of them, including a flock of magpies and small birds. Whilst there were many well laid shots, there was one target I think could have been improved. This was a small 3d hedgehog. The shooting pegs were situated in a hole and you were just over eye line to the ground, if like me you are 5ft 8 inches. The issue was you had to shoot over a low log. Anyone 5ft 4 or shorter struggled especially if they were shooting flat trajectory bows like a compound.

I’m not a huge fan of small 3d targets as I’m not convinced they are worth the money. The other thing I have found is if the 3d is soft then it gets shot out quickly, if its hard then due to the small size and shape they tend to result in glance offs if not hit straight on. This might be a personal thing, but if I was putting out a small target I’m more likely to use a paper face.

LEFA set some excellent shots like the large stag in the woods, along with the puma on the horizontal log.

Long 3D stag in the woods

Long 3D stag in the woods

Turkey shoot through an avenue to trees.

3D turkey

3D turkey

One highly unusual target was the running deer, which from a distance looked like it was flying.

The flying deer

The flying deer

There were also a few targets set at an angle making it harder to judge and hit.

Predator / Prey shot from the red peg

Predator / Prey shot from the red peg

Predator / Prey shot up close

Predator / Prey shot up close

It was good to meet up with Steven Tomkins, who I’d been chatting with online about Prokill24 all weather targets. I’d seen the targets at the national championships and there had been some posts on the various forums about them. Steven took the time to have a chat about their design and production. I hope to do a write up on there target faces in the next few months after I’ve tested them out, so watch this space.

Example of the Prokill target face on the practice bosses

Example of the Prokill target face on the practice bosses

I didn’t shoot well largely due to my shoulder playing up following a couple of hours of heavy gardening on Saturday using the petrol engined strimmer. Should have known better, really. Sharon was successful in winning not only the ladies Hunting Tackle but also the ladies handicap trophy. Congrats to Rianna also who was placed in Hunting Tackle.
Thanks for reading.

Shoot report – NFAS National Championships – September 2015

Saturday morning at National Championships

Saturday morning at National Championships

I can truthfully say I think this year’s NFAS National Championships was probably the toughest I’ve shot over the last few years. Not due to poor weather, but simply the demands of the course and terrain. I also think that the weeks of practice shooting 80-120 arrows every other day built up my stamina and helped me cope with shooting so many arrows over 2 days. If you are interested you can check out a review of last year’s championships here.
The location of the championships was stunning, with it taking place on the banks of Windermere lake in the Lake District, which we were able to enjoy in fine dry weather. Yes, dry weather in September in the Lake District, we were shocked too.
The location offered some stunning views as we headed up and down the slopes and through beautiful mature oak woodlands of the Graithwaite estate.
Sharon and I had decided not to camp this year and Sharon had managed to book  a two bedroom apartment in Near Sawrey which proved an excellent find with a fabulous local pub 200 yards away. This accommodation we would share with fellow SVYF member Steve.
Having been able to get the Friday off work we headed up the motorway  Friday morning meeting Stephen at the apartment shortly after 2 pm. We unloaded the cars and popped down to the camp site and venue  to check we knew the route down the country lanes for the following day. As it was our accommodation was about 10-15 minutes drive from the venue.
This years Nationals would see 400 archers spread over two courses, the courses having been set by Lakeland (B) and Kendal (A) clubs.
Traditionally the nationals had been solely paper faces but a couple of years ago they started to introduce a few 3d targets. This year would see over a quarter of the 40 targets being 3d targets. This year they imposed a time limit of 8 hours, stating all archers had to stop shooting after 8 hours from the start, even if they hadn’t shot all the targets.
General observations

 I’m going to make a few general observations.

Peg positions varied and I know a few archers have commented on this. By all means make the red challenging, but please ensure that other pegs are at reasonable distances especially for juniors.
It is my view that some targets were at their maximum range, possibly even beyond. You don’t have to stretch shots just because it is a championships, especially with the quality of the grounds the championships was on. The challenge is in what you score not whether you score.
When you have a long shot and then put a face which may have a large scoring kill zone but wound lines are unforgiving I personally don’t think it is fair.  It slows down the day as archers are forced to take three arrows.
There was some discussion on some new target faces produced by ProKill (http://prokill24.com/), which people hadn’t seen before. The problem with them was they had been stapled to the card rather than glued which meant the face was pulled off when arrows were extracted. That meant they were only used on the first day. I hope to write a review of these faces in the near future.
We must give top marks to the catering van that was providing food on the camp site and relocated during the day to provide food for A course. The guys were fantastic starting serving at 7 and going on into the evening. They also have a very cool Star Wars themed catering van.
Saturday

The weather, initially misty, soon turned into a beautiful autumnal day of no breeze and bright sunshine.We were on site shortly after 7:30 am with registration opening at 8 am.The shoot starting just after 10.

A course - 3D crocodile - seen from the side

A course – 3D crocodile – seen from the side

Day one would see me shooting A course, set by Kendal Archery Club and Sharon would be on B course. With only two courses the groups would be of mixed styles.
A course was located nearest admin so was a short walk. The group would be Helen shooting compound, Sandra who I’d shot with at the 3d championships this year shooting longbow, Lionel and another Rob, both shooting primitive. We started on target 24 which was a longish paper face small deer.
A course - target 24 - first target

A course – target 24 – first target

One beautifully set shot was a long shot on a bedded 3D elk, that looked fantastic.
A course - bedded elk 3D from the blue peg

A course – bedded elk 3D from the blue peg

Another was a shot across a small pond to a 3d crocodile.
A course - 3D crocodile - seen from the side

A course – 3D crocodile – seen from the side

A course - view back from 3D crocodile

A course – view back from 3D crocodile

I think it is fair to say A course felt as though it had been set by two teams.
Targets 1-20 proved slower and longer distances, with several waits or hold ups on the peg. Whilst 20-40 flowed well, the only holdup being the long bedded deer , which both looked great and was a technical shot.
A course - 3D Javelina

A course – 3D Javelina

The worst delays of the day were at a downhill skinny turkey followed by an uphill paper face wolf. We were waiting 10-15 minutes to shoot the turkey and another 20 minutes on the wolf, while we waited for the groups in front to shoot. These delays broke up the flow of the day noticeably in those 20 targets and I  think we had two clear targets in those 20.
A course - long paper face small deer and me Robin hooding fellow archers arrow

A course – long paper face small deer and me Robin hooding fellow archers arrow

We were off course by about 4:30 and headed back to the apartment and then to a local pub for food and then an early night.

Sunday

Sunday morning dawned a little cooler than Saturday with a slight breeze. Again we were on site from about 7:30 am for a breakfast roll and registration.

The scores and placing from the first day were posted at administration tent. Sharon was in a slim lead in ladies hunting tackle and somehow I was in second in American flatbow. It is a weird feeling having so many people congratulate you on placing when you felt you hadn’t shot well.
Unlike A course, B course would see us having a mile walkout to the assembly point.
B course - long 3D dinosaur

B course – long 3D dinosaur

I would start on peg 4 an uphill paper face leopard, my group comprising of 2 compound archers Dave and Alan, along with Ken Adams shooting longbow. We were also joined by Joan Adams who wasn’t shooting this year.
B Course - uphill turkey 3d

B Course – uphill turkey 3d

I didn’t feel Sunday flowed well with a few hold ups whilst we waited for the group or groups in front to shoot the target. On one target there  was over 30 minutes while we waited with other groups to shoot a long paper face moose.

B Course - downhill 3D crocodile

B Course – downhill 3D crocodile

One thing Lakeland did was have a marshal checking arrows whilst archers were on course to make sure the arrows were correctly marked.
B course - paper face puma between the tree bough

B course – paper face puma between the tree bough

I knew I’d not shot well on Sunday and think I can put that down to a loss of confidence. I broke one arrow quite early on and a second a couple of targets later and I think this got into my head. Unlike A course, B didn’t have as many backstops for the 3ds so if you did miss there was a chance of breaking an arrow, as David, one of the compound archers in the group can testify to; when he misjudged a long downhill shot on a 3D ram and the carbon arrow exploded as it hit the tree behind. I was very lucky on this target, with my arrow just staying in the top of the animal.

B course - lucky shot of the day

B course – lucky shot of the day

There were a few targets with trees or banks behind that were unforgiving on arrows.
The only advantage of all the delays was being able to chat with Jim Pierce from Artemis and also a fellow ex-Black Arrow member who was in the group in front. He did a grand job trying to keep my spirits up, cheers mate.
I walked back to the parking area on my own thinking over my shots, feeling pretty low. I need to work on coping with delays and not letting it effect my performance.
As the award ceremony approached I met up with Sharon and other archers patiently waiting for the results. The first to be called was Gents AFB and the first name was mine. By some miracle I had managed a third place. According to Sharon my face was a picture when it was announced. I was so touched by the number of people that came up afterwards to congratulate me.
Bronze medal from Nationals

Bronze medal from Nationals

Sharon retained her title as Ladies Hunting Tackle champion. Sharon and I  also won the Nearest and Dearest trophy for the second year running.
Our fellow SVYF member Robin won Gents Barebow, which helped the club towards winning the Instinctive Team trophy. Congrats to Colin who won 3rd in Crossbow too. Here is a link to the full results (http://www.nfas.net/downloads/champs/2015%20Sept%20Nationals%20Reults.pdf).
well done to all that managed to make it round the courses and congrats to all medal winners on what I think were a very tough couple of courses.
Thanks for reading.

Question from a reader – Improving grouping

Last week I posted a response to a readers question concerning aiming and focus. This is  the second part of my response and in this I will try and address another question
I practice very very much and I can not reduce the diameter of my groups
I know this feeling all too well and I used to spend hours quietly practicing at the range at Black Arrow and now at home.

Reducing the diameter of the group comes with practice. Lots of practice in my case. It takes time and consistency in equipment and techniques.
Here are a  few tips I’ve picked up along the way. I  hope they help.

Know your Equipment

If your equipment is not consistent then you have a constantly changing variable to any practice you undertake.

If you shoot a takedown recurve each time you dismantle and reassemble your bow you run the risk of accidentally changing settings. Whether this be the bracing height or dropping twists in the string. So take care and time to make sure everything is right. I have found a camera phone invaluable aid for checking brace height or nock position. Set the bow up, making sure everything is right  and then take a few photos of the bracing height, nocking point etc. It provides you with a quick easy to check reference.

Photo of recurve set up

Photo of recurve set up

If you do change anything make sure you change one thing at a time. However if you change bracing height you might need to immediately change your nocking point as well.

Weather can play a part on equipment too. Traditional English longbow archers will tell you that in warm weather the bow will behave differently to when it’s cool.

Arrow weight and quality

  • Are all the arrows you are using straight and in good condition re nocks and fletching wear?
  • Do they weigh the same?
  • Do they really have the same spine?

I had one student who was struggling with grouping and when we weighed his arrows we found a huge weight variation which explained his issue at longer distances. Additionally, the spine shown on the boxes of wooden shafts  can vary, (in some cases we have found a 20lb variation in a single box that is theoretically ranged within 5lb.) This can be caused for a number of reasons from storage to temperature.

A good idea is to number the arrows and note where they hit. That way if you find one that always goes left or drops short you know it’s the arrow not the archer. I also make a note on each arrow how much they weigh in grains and match shooting sets of the same weight. (Definition of Grain)

This is obviously more of a problem with wooden arrows than with carbon or aluminium arrows.

Equipment consistency is easy compared to archers.

Are you consistent in draw, anchor and release?
If you aren’t being consistent here then getting a good group is impossible.
Light is right and going back sometimes to a lightweight bow means you can focus on draw, release and overall technique.

Take your time between shots don’t rush to shoot as your muscles take time to recover after each shot.  A rushed shot is seldom on target but can often infuriate you.

One technique I use is to start at short distance say 5 yards. And focus on bringing the group in. I then move back 2-3 yards and work on grouping at that distance.  Gradually you move further back. This builds an image bank in your brain of where you should be at different distances. I would practice at, 5,7,10,13,15,17,20,23 and  25 yards shooting 3-6 arrows. Not until I would get at least 5 arrows constantly in a group of 3 inch diameter would I move to next distance. This took months of practice and patience, lots of patience and quite a few replacement nocks. Some days I would shoot 40 arrows others 120 depending on how I was feeling and whether I could focus on the practice. no good practicing if you aren’t focused.

Jim Grizzly Kent recorded a video for YouTube a while back on cup shooting which is another good practice technique.
 Finally, if you can get a friend to video you shooting this might help identify any inconsistencies that you have (once you get past being self concious of being recorded). I am thinking of doing an article on the use of video in the near future.

I hope this helps once again thanks for reading.

Making and doing archery madness

I firmly believe that a successful club is more than just a field or wood and group of people who shoot there.
A good club supports its members, nurturing and developing their skills and interests. I believe it should also be somewhat of a social gathering.

It is very easy for a newbie archer to get lost and confused with friendly offers of advice or to be too nervous or embarrassed to ask for help. Ideally you want new members to be intimidated as little as possible but not everyone has the confidence to ask questions or seek advice.

Learn from the past
Many years ago, I was a member of the Black Arrow club in Derby. In fact it was the  first ever archery club we joined. Kevin the club chairman and Cherrie the Secretary organised a making and doing session for all the new members who had joined. It gave all present the opportunity to learn the basics of arrow making, string making and how to serve strings. It proved a great success being both instructional and social with Cherrie and Pete (her partner) providing food for all.
Over the Christmas holiday of 2014 Sharon and I organised a similar event at our house, with the objective of giving a few of the newbies some guidance on making or repairing arrows and a variety of other topics.
It proved to be a very sociable afternoon  and evening, helped by the contributions of everyone who came and Sharon’s expert cooking. Yes, not only is she a cracking shot but also a great cook.

Nigel showing his expertise on straightening wooden arrows.

Nigel showing his expertise on straightening wooden arrows.

We covered topics of how to make wooden arrows including fletching arrows, attaching piles and nocks. Having a number of experienced archers there proved really useful as each explained how their technique was slightly different from each other enabling a great spectrum of knowledge to be displayed and discussed.  The discussion on whether to varnish the arrow prior to fletching or fletch then varnish was one hotly debated topic. An equally debated topic was the merits of different glues for attaching piles to wooden shafts with some preferring  hot melt over epoxy glues. All the advice and comments were provided freely and in a relaxed atmosphere.

Jason showing how to use fletching tape

Jason showing how to use fletching tape

Whilst arrow making was going on in one room, arrow straightening of aluminium arrows using our straightening jig was being demonstrated in another. There was also just enough space to demonstrate applying serving to a bow string.

Discussions went on long into the night on different techniques and it was a very sociable evening. Our thanks to all who contributed their time and advice.

Greta making her first arrows

Greta making her first arrows

With everyone at the wood the following day even more discussions took place, this time with archers showing off their arrows they had made previously and again citing the merits of varnishing first or other such topics.

So if you have the opportunity to run something similar to this at your club go for it. It doesn’t take much planning and benefits can be huge.

Thanks for reading and to all those that attended. Special thanks to Kevin and Cherrie who set the bar so high all those years ago.
Oh, Kevin if you are reading this remember the glue.