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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to all of you and thanks for reading.

The view from the valley

Shoot Report – Lyme Valley Archers – April 2017

Lyme Valley - starting biref

Lyme Valley – starting biref

On a beautiful bright spring Sunday morning we loaded up the car for an hour or so drive up the motorway to Lyme Valley Archers NFAS shoot. This would be my first shoot since Spirit of Sherwood in December last year and to be honest I was more than a little nervous.

For those who are interested here is a link to a previous shoot report. Lyme Valley club always put on a challenging course, helped by their ground which is a steep sided wooded valley outside Stoke-on-Trent. Thankfully this year the weather was warm and dry being more like summer shoot conditions than spring, the grounds and paths can be a bit slippery in the wet conditions.

Joining us to form our shooting group would be Paul and Claire from Long Eaton Field Archers, both shooting unlimited (that’s a compound class with all the whistles and bells). They were great company throughout the day which helped make for a relaxing and enjoyable shoot.

The view from the valley

The view from the valley

Lyme valley is always a popular shoot and this day was no different with well over 130 archers attending. I thought it went quite smoothly for us anyway with no real delays or hold ups until the end of the day when I think everyone was feeling a bit tired. Though I know a couple of archers chose to leave at lunch as they were finding it very slow going. It was great to see Jim smiling and enjoying shooting a flatbow again.

Great shot by Sharon

Great shot by Sharon

The event has a lunch break from 12:30 to 1:15 which see all archers stop shooting and walking back to the entrance for lunch. Though this can be disruptive and I’m not a fan of lunch breaks, it is necessary at this clubs grounds due to the geography being such as catering is at one end of the wood and you only pass it once. We were very fortunate in being near catering when the lunch horn went off.

Long down hill shot

Long down hill shot

3D target in valley floor

3D target in valley floor

A couple of shots I think  worth mentioning were the downhill bedded antelope, along with our first target an uphill lion right at the end of the wood.

First shot of the day

First shot of the day, 3D cat between the trees.

The 36 target course was a mix of 3D and paper targets.

3D Dragon emerges from an egg

3D Dragon emerges from an egg

3d fish behind log

3D Fish behind log on the river bank

Speaking with a couple of Lyme Valley club members the course had been set by new coarse layers and I think they did a pretty good job. There were a number of challenging shots, offering up and downhill challenges for all, something that not many clubs can offer. Personally I think with a couple of small changes to the route or standing places for groups it might be even better and feeling less cramped between targets.

Jim chatting with Sharon before we start.

Jim chatting with Sharon before we start.

If you want to experience a different course with ups and downs then Lyme Valley is a good course to go for, just be aware it can be quite physically demanding to be going up and down the slopes. Though I think Sharon and I were feeling tired before starting, having spent the Saturday from walking round Derbyshire woods scouting shots for the 3D championships.

Sharon on the Last shot of the day

Sharon on the Last shot of the day

Despite feeling tired Sharon shot really well, winning ladies AFB. I even managed to scrape a third in gents AFB. Once again our thanks to Paul and Claire for their company and to all of Lyme Valley for their hard work. All contributing to a lovely day out shooting, made it good to be back.

Thanks for reading

Shoot Report – Harlequin Archers – July 2016

Ken Adams - birthday boy

Ken Adams – birthday boy

We are nearly at the end of August and I’m only just getting to finish this shoot report from July.  Where does the time go?
Anyway onto this long awaited shoot report. The last day of July saw us head up to the Leicestershire / Derbyshire borders for the Harlequin Archers shoot and unlike other summer days in July,  it was dry and even sunny at times.
As I write this, yes I tend to write these reports up in note form before typing them up, so yes you can call me old fashioned and explains why they sometimes take so long. I remembered that I promised a shoot report for Harlequin Archers previous shoot but never published it. I know one keen follower picked up on this and asked why only recently. Apologies for this, I did start writing it but it didn’t come together as well as I’d hoped so it never got past the draft stage. So I’m going to combine some of my thoughts on that shoot with this report.

Before I start on the shoot report I’d like to wish a very belated happy birthday to a great man, who was celebrating his 70th that Sunday. Happy birthday Ken Adams of Spirit of Sherwood fame,  may you have many more archery filled days.

 Anyway on to the shoot report.
As we pulled up to park, one of the marshals tapped on the car window asking “is that Rob?” To my shock and delight it was an old university and house mate from over 20 years ago! Stuart had recently taken up field archery with his son, having joined Harlequin club only a few months ago. We’d lost touch some 15 years ago as so often you do. Guess it really is a small world.
Our shooting group for the day would be Roger and Julie from Long Eaton both shooting barebow. This is becoming somewhat of a regular thing at Harlequins (not a complaint).
Clever use of foliage on 2D bear

Clever use of foliage on 2D bear

The course was a shoot through with two food stops, one either end of the woodland, with both serving hot and cold food and drinks. I can testify to the quality of the lemon drizzle cake which was lovely and yes I had a couple of pieces to check the quality. Having the two feeding stations was a very good idea for Harlequin as it gives the archers chance to grab a drink and relax. It also means the club doesn’t have to route all the course round one central point which could limit the ground used. Something that can be very hard for some clubs whose woodland doesn’t allow for multiple easy routes to and from one central location.
Harlequins ground is pretty flat consisting of broad leaf woodland  with an area of dense scrub and rhododendron bushes.
Sharon photographing me on the peg before missing a 3D bedded deer.

Sharon photographing me on the peg before missing a 3D bedded deer.

Harlequin have purchased some new 2d targets of various sizes including a gorilla, tiger, huge moose, kangaroo (yes you read that right a kangaroo), bear on all fours and standing bear. Of them all I think the tiger looked the best as you could see distinguishing features clearly something that wasn’t possible on some of the others.
Tiger 2D

Tiger 2D

In fairness to the suppliers I thought the silver back gorilla artwork was amazing up close making it probably my favourite.
The one down side of these new targets was the degree of effort required to draw arrows, as it normally required two of us to extract them. I witnessed several of the compound archers struggle extracting their arrows. Guess the upside is the targets are likely to last well and some have replaceable inserts for the kill or higher scoring zones.
Julie shooting 2D bear

Julie shooting 2D bear

One shot I thought was really good was an owl 3D. This was positioned in the V of a tree branch and shot through a gap in bracken over a small mound. It worked because of the framing of the owl through the undergrowth, proving you don’t need distance to make a technical shot.
3D owl in the tree through the bracken

3D owl in the tree through the bracken

There were some familiar shots too which had been used in the previous shoot. These, I thought worked well as the extra summer growth and leaf cover made them again nicely framed. The white goat shot returned which I think was one of the cleverest shots from their previous shoot and was again a challenge as it is set in such a way as to give an optical illusion thanks to the supporting trees making the distance hard to judge. I don’t want to give too much away as I think its a very clever shot.
Paper face turkey across marsh

Paper face turkey across marsh

I found this course a marked difference to the previous shoot they hosted which I attended but never finished the shoot report for.  The most recent course was I feel a better course with a better mix of targets and distances. The previous course had used a new areas of the woodland and I felt it was a lot tougher course, with what felt like several long shots  (around 40 yards or more). My personal feeling was there were a few targets at the limit of what I feel is appropriate distance for the size of target. I wouldn’t use the phrase stretched as I don’t think this would be fair or entirely accurate. I also felt this latest course felt like it flowed better and more rounded or balanced overall. Though it flowed well as a course progress on the day was quite slow initially, I think the organisers didn’t quite get the balance of groups quite right, as  in front of us there was a group of 6 people and then 5, while behind us there were groups of 3 or 4. The balancing of a group list is very hard though and when we along with others raised the delays with a couple of marshals they did their best to improve the situation by tweaking the groups (possible because they had left free pegs and there was nothing to be brought in). Some of the free pegs may have been due to the lower number of attendees at this shoot.
Sharon on the peg

Sharon on the peg

Overall it was a good day, with Sharon shooting well and winning ladies AFB. I believe it is worth noting that a few archers have commented that they had been put off shooting at Harlequins ground having shot their previous shoot and not enjoying it for one reason or another. I would suggest to them that based on the latest course I think they are worth a visit.
Thanks for reading.

Shoot report – NFAS 3D Championships 2016

Walk out to Y course on Saturday

Walk out to Y course on Saturday

A few weeks ago there was the National Field Archery Society 3D championship which is one of the larger events in the NFAS calendar. This saw just under 700 archers attending the two day event, which this year would be held on the outskirts of Sherwood forest, Nottinghamshire. Somewhat appropriate don’t you think for an archery competition.
The two courses I would be shooting were Y and X course, set by Spirit of Sherwood and Pines Park respectively. Unlike at a normal shoot where you would be shooting with other archers in different disciplines in the same group e.g. barebow with longbows, compound with flat bows, these courses would be specifically set for wooden arrow shooters.
What are the championships?
For those not familiar with the process of the NFAS championship here is a quick run down.
The championships consist of 2 days of shooting 2 different courses. With all 40  targets being 3D targets of varying sizes and distances.
A & B courses were for archers shooting compound bows, crossbows and barebow ie the metal/carbon arrow courses. X & Y were for longbows American flatbow, primitive and hunting tackle i.e. the wooden arrow courses. Normally Y and X are the classification for metal arrow courses, but for some reason the they changed it this year. Maybe it was to keep us on our toes. You are randomly allocated to a shooting group. With all archers in the same class shooting the same course on the same day.
You can check out the previous years reviews here for 2015. So I would shoot Y course Saturday with all other flatbow archers and X on Sunday.
Behind the scenes
There is a an awful lot of preperation work that goes on behind the scenes at events like this. Espeically in the case for Spirits course (Y) as the undergrowth and tree plantation needed a lot of clearing to make clear pathways and routes through. So well done guys.
Administration of shooting groups is also another headache and I know there was a delay on the Sunday due to a number of no shows on the metal arrows courses. So top marks to the administration team (Karen, Shirley and others) who, not only coped with last minute drop outs but also managed to get the  final results out and on the websitea little over 24 hours after the end of the event.
I would also like to say how great  it was to meet new people and old friends.
We’d decided against camping this year, and instead found a small pub about 3 miles from the site. Memories of heavy rain and wet tents always come to mind when people think of the 3Ds but this year it was to be a fine dry weekend.
One of the advantages of the 3D championships more so than other champs is the chance to catch up with old friends like Mark Taylor of Artemis. Mark took us to our first ever NFAS shoot so it was really great to catch up with him.

Day one

Y course announcements at Spirit of Sherwood

Y course announcements at Spirit of Sherwood

So I would start the 3d championships on Y course and peg 12 with 3 other archers, Brian and Amanda shooting longbow and Claude joining me on flatbow. The course was set by the Spirit of Sherwood club who in my view set some the best club courses on the nfas circuit.
First target on Y course

First target on Y course

When you got out onto Y course and started moving through the woodland it was evident the sheer amount of work involved in setting up a course in this virgin woodland. I hate to think how much fuel must have been used in chainsaws and strimmer to cut through dense woodland section.
Y course after food break

Y course after food break

The terain did make for closer shots than expected, which in some ways made it more frustrating when you scored 16 points for what should have been an easy 20 or more. That lapse of concentration is the archers fault and I freely admit to being one of them.
another 3d on Y course

another 3d on Y course

3D in the darkness

3D in the darkness

Others might say it was too easy, well I didn’t see any max scores recorded. The shorter distances also meant the lower poundage bows or the less experienced archers scored well.
Cobra in the shadows on Y course

Cobra in the shadows on Y course

one of the longer shots on Y course

one of the longer shots on Y course

One thing I have not mentioned are the cakes. Spirit of Sherwood have a great cake stall and I would recommend their lemon drizzle cake to everyone. In fact I think I just have.
Last target of the day on Y course

Last target of the day on Y course

So that was the of the first day and we headed back to our digs for some food and rest for the next day. Unlike in previous years the organisers did not post the first day results, so no-one knew where they were placed.
Thanks for reading, i’ll post the second days review shortly.

Shoot report – Long Eaton Field Archers – May 2016

LEFA Practise area

LEFA Practise area

Despite the best efforts of the weather forecasters to predict poor weather for the Long Eaton shoot,  the British weather provided a  spring day which was mostly dry although not that warm.

The shooting group couldn’t have been better company, with fellow Severn Valley members JT, Paddy and Jim Kent aka Grizzly Jim joining Sharon and I.

LEFA marshals and shooting group

LEFA marshals and shooting group

The course was to be 36 targets, all 3d targets, with LEFA running it as a shoot through. Targets included the normal LEFA favourites of the bison and moving target, along with a couple of choose the target where you had a couple of 3d targets at slightly different angles and distances. This gave the archer the choice as to which to go for.
JT shooting our first target

JT shooting our first target

There were some nicely laid shoots, framed well between trees and using dead ground. It  was evident the course layers had worked hard on redesigning the course and it seemed to work well with few hold ups. You can read a previous shoot report here. Despite the easy flow, it was a tiring day as you were slipping and sliding in areas due to the mud, nowhere near as bad as Wolverine had been. I was very grateful that it didn’t rain as we would probably have joined that carpet of bluebells covering the forest floor.
View through the trees

View through the trees

Sadly my archery was not up to the mark and I don’t feel I did the course justice .
JT shooting

JT shooting

The lack of practice over the past few weeks showed as I struggled to hit anything. Amazing how a few weeks off shooting has such a negative effect for instinctive archers or at least it does for me.
Sharon shooting at LEFA

Sharon shooting at LEFA

Sharon shot well winning ladies AFB and congratulations to Jim on his placing.
Thanks for reading.