snowy field

Seasons are changing and its getting colder, tips on staying warm

snowy lane

snowy lane

Winter is coming. No I’m not talking about the Game of Thrones TV series which I’ve still not watched any of. I’m talking about the change of seasons. It seems almost overnight the trees have become bare, with their leaves now carpeting the woodland floor, whilst temperatures have started to dip further.

Recently there was a post on the NFAS Facebook site about suitable clothing for cold weather and that got me thinking and revisiting an article I wrote a few years back on the subject of staying warm in the winter months. I thought I would update it now, but focus a bit more on the base layers we have been using for a few years and a few other bits that might prove useful or even early Christmas gifts.

Sharon shooting in the snow

Sharon shooting in the snow

Being cold can really distract from your enjoyment of shooting, whether you are out hunting for your Christmas turkey or in our case at a field shoot. Cold hands make having an effective release hard, wet feet makes the body feel cold and day long. So here are a few tips and clothing advice we’ve found useful over the years.

Layer up – Merino wool base layers have served Sharon and I for years and I do mean years. Whether we are out shooting, hiking or skiing they are what we reach for to keep us warm. Ok, so ours are getting a bit worn now, but when you consider the number of years we’ve worn them I think they have been well worth the money.

Merino wool base layer

Merino wool base layer

Ours are Icebreakers and come in two weights 200 and a heavier 260. They work by keeping you warm when you need to be and doesn’t develop that synthetic feel other base layers do. The 260 weight have thumb holes and long sleeves that work really well for archery and for that matter skiing too as they keep your wrist warm. I think they are now sold at a 280 weight.

Heavier weight Base layer

Heavier weight Base layer

So what is Merino wool and why does it make it so well?
Here is a link to Icebreakers website and goes http://uk.icebreaker.com/en/why-icebreaker-merino/what-is-icebreaker-merino.html
I tend to avoid synthetic base layers as I find whilst they do keep you warm, then tend to hold body odours and result in getting a bit smelly quickly.

Don’t get too hot. This may sound strange when talking about shooting in cold weather, but if you get too warm you start to sweat. If this sweat doesn’t wick away from your body, you can very easily get cold when you stop moving round and that can in turn lead to hypothermia. You don’t have to out in in 3 ft snow to catch hypothermia, it can set in at just above freezing point as it is based on your body temperature dropping. So please take care.

Billy Connolly once said on one of his TV shows “there is no such thing as bad weather just wrong clothing

Disposable hand warmer are useful to carry in a pocket to warm you up and they are quite inexpensive, if like us you buy them in bulk on-line.

Handwarmers

Handwarmers

There are various reusable ones that use charcoal sticks or lighter fuel too, but I don’t have any personal experience of the latter. The charcoal ones are a bit of a pain to get started and stay warm so we stick with the disposable ones. I know some people find the lighter fuel ones very useful. The disposable ones last for a few hours and I tend to have a few spare in the car or back pocket when skiing and hiking. One thing I have learnt is that they need air / oxygen to work so if they are buried under lots of layers they don’t work that well.

Decent waterproof boots are essential, wet feet equal cold feet, cold feet makes for uncomfortable day. You can read a review of mine here. I’m not a fan of wellington books as don’t find them that warm

Survivor Man – Les Stroud tweeted dry feet = happy feet

and he is so right there. I also keep a change of shoes in the car that will be dry and warm to change into after shooting, along a towel to dry your bow and you if you get wet. There are a few blankets in the car just in case. While talking about feet it is worth spending a bit more on decent socks too or to have a spare pair in the car to change into.

Decent windproof / water proof jacket. Ideally a breathable gore-tex jacket that you can move and shoot in. Finding one you can shoot in is a lot harder than you might think though, as the biggest problem is finding one that doesn’t have baggy sleeves to catch on the bow string. Fleece shirt and body warmer (Ideally windproof) which just acts as another layer is a good addition. You have to be careful that you don’t end up so restricted in moving due to heavy coats etc that you can’t move.

Keeping your legs warm. Again we have some Merino wool base layer leggings for when it is really cold. We never wear jeans. If jeans get wet, body warmth will leach out of you as jeans take an eternity to dry.

Lined walking trousers

Lined walking trousers

I use a pair of Craghopper Kiwi lined trousers and have for several years. They dry pretty quickly and keep you warm. The only downside I have found to them is don’t get too close to naked flame as they are synthetic. They do have a couple of zip pockets that means keeping keys safe is easy.

Lined walking trousers

Lined walking trousers

I do have some breathable waterproof over trousers too by Northface which I can put on if the weather turns wet. They can work well as an extra layer over lighter trousers like the Bear Grylls one I reviewed a while back on this site.

Warm hat and neck scarf or ideally neck buff will keep you warm. One thing I’ve not mentioned yet are gloves. It can be hard to find suitable gloves when shooting, especially if you are using a tab. Flip over mittens can work well. Sharon uses a pair and has for a couple years. Hers are fingerless gloves with a loop of fabric that fits over the fingers so making them into mittens when needs it.

Thermal mug by lifeventure

Thermal mug by lifeventure

Snacks energy bars and liquid – ideally a warm drink in a small thermos flask will serve you well. I tend to have a mug flask with hot fruit cordial on my belt and a flask of spicy soup in the car. The advantage of having a fruit cordial is if it goes cold its still drinkable. Thermal mug by Lifeventure http://www.cotswoldoutdoor.com/lifeventure-thermal-mug-d3432028 have worked well for us for a few years and keep the drink warm for a few hours.

Thermos mug

Thermos mug

Last thing is to consider of how you are getting home. I’ve been to a few of shoots over the years, where the biggest challenge wasn’t the course but getting off the car park, field or track. The fields and tracks had been churned up by all the archers’ cars or snow has changed to hard packed ice. The resulting quagmire or skating rink makes getting home a challenge.

There is a layer of compacted snow into sheet ice

There is a layer of compacted snow into sheet ice

For this reason I carry a tow rope, small spade, length of old carpet and jump leads just in case and I’ve used them all at shoots. A relative recent addition have been plastic tracks, sometimes called mud tracks or grips. They are about 6 inches wide and 12 inches long, made of a deep honeycomb structure and allow the tyres to gain a grip on the soft ground. These have proved really useful and helped more than a few people who have become stuck.

Ok, so all this may sound a little over the top but better to be prepared than cold.
Hope you find this useful and thanks for reading.

Insight into Shires Archery

Some of you may recall a while back, me writing about a development with this site.

The idea is to create an opportunity for shops and businesses to offer an insight into the business, more so than they might be able to glean from a website. More of a light hearted overview than a dry news story. This is the first.

Action shot

Action shot

Rob – So where is Shire Archery based?

Trevor  – We are exclusively online at the moment but are looking to change that in the near future. I am a few miles north of my home town- Chesterfield famed for its bustling market and Church Spire which is both twisted and bent! It is a good spot to live being close to the Peak District National Park and having the ‘Dukeries’ on my door step, which are contiguous and include Sherwood Forest- famed for a certain Mr. Hood. All in all I feel rather lucky to live here, so the opportunity to welcome customers to the area I am enthusiastic about.

Rob – So readers might like to know about you or the business in general? How long have you been doing what you do?

Trevor  – About 13 years now including the official opening. I had shot and had some experience early on but my first real taste of Traditional archery came in the summer of 2003. I was living and working with a blacksmith just outside of Budapest. He had four Hungarian bows made totally out of wood, horn & sinew laminate. He had made them himself as a deep interest in his cultural heritage. As you can imagine being English and romancing the Longbow we had a lot to talk about. One warm evening whilst he was tending to the fruit trees beside his workshop, he went inside and along with two beers, brought the bows for us to shoot… I was hooked.

Rob – What a great way to start a journey into archery.

Rob – How did the business get started? Was it a hobby that grew into a business or maybe, a family business?

Trevor  – I had worked as a blacksmith in Wales after University for about 5 years traveling back and forth around Europe and the UK, I met some amazing people, skilled and incredibly welcoming. So I took the idea of operating a ‘craft business’ seriously from 1st hand experience of its highs and lows. With a wealth of knowledge and contacts I did not realize i had at the time I started to lay the foundations for my own endeavour in 2008 whilst working for a local engineering company.

Local archers and people from all over had contacted me throughout that time on recommendation to make arrows or source hard to find materials, so I took the plunge with Shire Archery opening as a business in March 2012. It took everything I had and then some, but it has been worth it.

Rob – I always think that launching your own business is incredibly brave but if it’s something you love and feel passionate about then go for it.

Trevor  – I will tell you a little secret- made the phone call to register on a windy day in Edinburgh from The Doric Tavern, a pint of Ale in front of me, with the realization of the enormity of what I was about to do.

Rob – If that had been me I think it would have been a large single malt. Please carry on.

Trevor  – I wanted to create a workshop space to carry on making, with a specialist web shop & physical sales space, all for the traditional archer from the ground up.

Rob – So is it a one man show or a team of archery enthusiastic people behind the scenes?

Trevor  – It’s just me at the moment but I have a really good team around me I can call upon, whom I trust in their own specialisms be it technical, photography or administrative support, they have been absolutely essential to the business as it quickly grew beyond my original plan and expectations. I am always doing something so it certainly keeps me busy; I can only dream of a day spent chewing the fat with customers and drinking more coffee than is good for me.

Resting in the woods

Resting in the woods

Rob – Sounds great. It might be worth explaining the range of products you sell, whether you manufacture them yourself? The hobby or sport of archery is incredibly diverse, from target to field, traditional to very technical Olympic set ups.

Trevor  – The product side of things is pure Trad and I have no plans to change that. It has expanded in range and scope to well over 200 core items with more expected. The choice goes beyond the usual stock of wooden shafts, fletchings, arrow heads and equipment for the archer. Although this is an essential solid base we also stock many archery related items of kit, gifts, supply hard to find natural materials and make arrows on request.We also take a lot of pre-orders and special requests which I am happy to see if we can help with.

I am always searching for interesting products or crafts people who would like mutual support- I would like to expand the bow side of things next.

Rob – Do you see yourself as a specialist in one area and if so why did you specialize?

Trevor  – I do yes my personal interest and background is in the Trad and crafts side of things, so I lean heavily in that direction, product quality is paramount to me so I don’t sell anything I am not happy to use myself. It is not that I am not interested in the modern stuff its amazing to be honest and the technical side of it astonishing. It’s just not ‘my cup of tea’ and as a business I want to be concise in what we offer and what we do.

Rob – Where do you see yourself fitting in?

Trevor  – We aren’t the biggest but we are certainly trying hard to be up there with the best in our niche. No one, not even the big pro-shops can stock everything in every conceivable variation there is just to much choice and its always changing. I have no interest in expanding so much so that it becomes ‘just a job’ or that I feel like I have become a slave to it. I love archery and that is something shared by our customers. The support out there from the traditional archery community has been amazing and I can only say thank you, as without it we would not exist.

Rob – What’s the appeal to you?

Trevor  – The modern notion that items which are made by hand are cruder, quaint, expensive or inferior compared to those that are mass manufactured or branded I find utterly bizarre.

Action shot

Thinking man

Rob – Where’s the Love! The time! The passion!

Trevor  – The real appeal beyond working for myself is ‘seein folk rayt’ as they say around here, our customers span the whole gambit of traditional d archery (http://shirearchery.co.uk/traditional-archery) and are international, being able to either help them out or supply them with something they value in our shared passion is the driver for me

If I had to have a simple mission statement for ‘Shire Archery’ that summarizes all this it would be-

Trevor  – “Raising the Profile of Trad-Archery”

Rob – thanks Trevor

I sincerely hope you find continuing success with both the business and your archery. I’m sure this article will help to increase people’s awareness of Shire Archery.

For those wanting to to contact Trevor Lilley at Shires Archery here are their details.

Website – http://www.shirearchery.co.uk/

Email – shirearchery@hotmail.co.uk Telephone – 01246 477119 / 07581726161

Thanks for reading

 

Some new ideas from off the arrow shelf site

walk in park

Hi everyone

This is a quick message to say that there are a few new developments here in the near future. I hope to be launching a couple of new sections or categories of articles for this site.

A walk with… will cover informal interviews with archers I’ve met, giving an insight into their love of archery, how they got into it initially and so on. It is based on the idea of chatting with them as they walk round the woods shooting.

Behind the counter… is aimed at businesses associated with archery, whether these produce bows, custom leather worked quivers, or whatever, giving them the opportunity to provide some insight for readers.

So why am I doing this?

This is a new development for the Off the arrow shelf blog so I hope you all enjoy it. The reasoning about this is pretty simple really, like all good ideas. Quite often I am being asked about archery suppliers, where you can get the arrow shafts from or which bow to go for. So I thought I would create a series of articles on different archery related shops, suppliers etc.

Before I start I’d like to make a couple of things clear. I have no company sponsorship or formal connection to these businesses. Yes I may have bought products from them in the past and even written review on some products, but I am not sponsored.

I’ve also met loads of people over the past few years I’ve been doing this hobby and running this site. Some have become good friends and nearly all have a wealth of stories or advice that I feel would be great to share.

I will still be writing shoot reports, equipment reviews and linking to other useful resources for archers.

Let me know what you think and thanks fro 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.