lights, camera, action, I mean Archery

And the Oscar goes too…
Some people love being in front of the camera, others prefer to do the filming. The question is can video resources help you if you are an instinctive archer?A few weeks ago I posted an article on how we’ve been using a tablet computer mounted on a tripod to record archers at a club coaching session. So How does this help? This aids the archer as they can be shown exactly what they do when drawing up or at point of release. How their hand moves or whether they drop their bow arm. Often they think they are anchoring correctly to the face when in reality they aren’t because it all happens so fast , too fast for some to process. Recording them has huge benefits to the archer’s understanding of what they are actually doing as opposed to what they think they are doing.
Talking to fellow club members on Sunday they showed me footage shot on their iPhone, playing it back in slow motion to watch the arrow flight. With the growth of YouTube and ease by which people can make and edit their own recording I believe there are more budding Spielbergs are out there.

What we can learn from other sports

It is now common for touchline judges and sport referees to make lots of use of instant replays in games, multiple camera angles along with slow motion footage to aid their decisions. Managers and coaches use it for  post match analysis of players performance, game plans etc. So can we use it for our sport of archery, or more precisely for those of us who consider ourselves instinctive archers. I believe it can be used.
From my perspective I believe video resources can be immensely useful for many sports, field archery included and they are becoming more common.
One word of note, there are advantages and disadvantages of these helpful guides and video tips. For starters some may not be that helpful, so it is worth checking out multiple sources of information to get a more rounded understanding of the topic. If you are going to review these resources then make sure you watch a few different sites or techniques as each presenter convoys a slightly different perspective when they narrate their story. The important thing to remember is that they aren’t always right in what they say.
Some can come across as a marketing or sales pitch for the latest products or next development in the technology. Whilst others take a balanced view giving the positive and negative perspective which is important.Generally I’ve found these resources can be broken down in to three types
  • Instructional recordings  where a skill is demonstrated.
  • Video reviews of equipment, competitions or locations.
  • Personal achievement report.

Instructional –  these vary in length from a few minutes to longer durations. Short duration clips of a few minutes I think can be ideal for helping archers out on different topics from how to serve strings, to fletch arrows, to how to aim and shoot instinctively. The short duration is an important factor here as long reviews might go into more depth, but they are harder to find time to watch. Wolfie instinctive archery (https://www.youtube.com/user/Wolfiesairbrush) YouTube channel has some great advice for instinctive archery techniques.

Equipment reviews are good to so long as they aren’t marketing based publicity. I’ve come across a few that are more about selling the product than actually reviewing it’s merits and flaws. Jim Grizzly Kent Archery Adventures (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxl7N0J9Rc8kDnjV_BzH-yg) still comes across as a good product review even though they are now Merlin Archery Adventures. I think Jim does a pretty good job of giving a balanced viewpoint of the bows he reviews.

I also quite like the personal achievement videos; when someone has posted their own success story. You often see these pop up on Facebook sites and YouTube. It can take a lot of courage to put yourself out there for all to see and comment on. There are a lot of people who enjoy criticising others or simply being argumentative. 3d archery (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4HdCXofIA4jsWi1q9AdBUA) have some nice event reviews, showing shots from different courses, offering advice and views.

There are loads of different sites on the Internet so I’ve listed a few others sites that are worth a mention too.

Ironmind Hunting (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9zPmJfjW2R9r0y2uUzq9aQ) has some good instructional guides.
Jeff Kavanagh (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgGoY0qpH8f11COXWkE8aLQ) is worth checking out for a mix of archery related topics.
Nathan Skyrme channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1kxvgSeCWZXdg4I6_BI5Zg) has also started producing some material and equipment reviews.
If you know of any others that you believe are worth sharing then add a comment here.

Making videos where I’m in front of the camera has never appealed to me. As someone once said “I have the perfect face for radio” , but I can see their merits.
Thanks for reading and don’t worry, I won’t be coming to a YouTube channel near you.

Equipment review – Flambeau bazuka bow case

Bazuka case in the rain

Bazuka case in the rain

I think it’s fair to say I get some ribbing about my flatbow bow case. The normal comments are   “Is that for the hard shots?” Or “Is it for the ones you don’t like?” But at the end of the day it works and protects the bow which is what I bought it for. This is also why I bought one for Sharon to house her Black Brook American flatbow.
Whilst many archers simply have a cloth case for covering their bow I wanted something more substantial especially when going camping. There are loads of different cases for takedown recurve or compound bows, but it is quite hard to find ones suitable for one piece  American flatbows. This is why I invested in a Flambeau bazuka case. For those interested I do use a cloth cover which the bow sits inside the hard plastic case.
I know other archers use these cases to transport their longbows and American flatbows especially when flying (I think Flambeau say it’s airline approved) as they provide excellent protection.
Though as Jim Grizzly Kent said when I was talking about the cases with him “I’m not sure how I would feel walking through an airport carrying something called bazuka.
It was in fact an old club member from Black Arrow who first showed me his Bazuka case some four or five years ago.
Some anglers among you may already be familiar with the case as I know it can be used for fishing rods too. I actually bought Sharon’s case from http://www.gerrysfishing.com/ an angling store who were very helpful when checking size and delivery times.

The plastic is very durable taking knocks without deformation, it’s also pretty light for it’s size.
The carrying handle is well positioned to make it easy to carry and balance in the hand. The only problem I’ve found with the handle is the moulding seem is a little rough on mine whilst Sharon’s is fine, but this is easily solved with a bit of sanding or tape.
The case opens one end allowing you to slide the bow in or out and the flap securely locks into place.
Opening flap of the case

Opening flap of the case , with my linen bow bag in the case

There are holes where you could fit a cable or padlock.

securing pin so you can extend the length of the case

securing pin so you can extend the length of the case

Mine was relatively cheap at just over £35 though this was a couple of years back. It was purchased from Merlin archery in Loughborough. I’ve added some foam padding inside the top to provide some padding at the ends .
The length is adjustable which means it can accommodate a variety of lengths of bows or fishing rods. The case comes in two sizes and the ones we have go from 63-87 inches which is the smaller one I think.

Give you an idea of the size

Give you an idea of the size

Dimensions and diameter of hole can be seen in the photo.
View of the opening of the case approx 10 cms

View of the opening of the case approx 10 cms

Being black plastic it can get warm if left in the sun or car, which is important to consider when storing or transporting your bow. Bows don’t like getting too warm. So when possible I will keep it in the shade or keep the flap open. Since it is pretty air and water tight it’s worth remembering never to put your bow away wet as the water has nowhere to evaporate.
The times I’ve found it of most use was when going camping, as I can pack the bow into the case and put it in the car without worrying about it being knocked or damaged in transit whilst buried under tent, sleeping bag etc.
Whilst you wouldn’t be able to fit a quiver in with the bow,  I think you could fit some arrows is you packed it carefully.

Overall I’ve been pretty impressed and happy with the case. I’ve been using it for about four years. When you consider the bow costs in excess of £600 I think  £35 (though that was several years ago) to keep it protected is well worth it. The case I bought Sharon was around  £50 including delivery so considering her bow was £670 again it is well worth it.
So if you are after a very durable bow case for your flatbow or longbow I’d recommend the bazuka case. 9/10
Thanks for reading.

Wooden arrows shafts , a few thoughts before you buy…

Arrow shafts

Arrow shafts

As many of you know Sharon and I make our own arrows and to be truthful, I find it can be quite relaxing after a stressful day at work. One thing we have found to be increasingly difficult over recent years, is to find suppliers of good quality wooden shafts.
There are numerous companies out there that supply shafts or even complete arrows either via retail outlets or mail order and of course there is eBay, but the quality can vary greatly. So I thought it might be worth putting forward a few views, thoughts and suggestions.
Please be aware that I’m not associated with any shop or companies, nor do I have an axe to grind with any retailers.
Retail outlet visit
If we have the time we rather visit a shop to inspect the shafts, spine and weight match them ourselves.
The advantage is you know exactly what you want and are in charge of getting it, the disadvantage with this process is it takes times. Sharon and I have spent a good couple of hours in archery shops before now, sorting through a mountain of shafts to find the ones that meet our requirements.
The other advantage of visiting a shop is you can wander around looking at all the nice bows, quivers etc, window shopping archery style whilst chatting to other archers.

Selecting shafts or how to get what you want?
It is very easy to go to a shop  and grab a dozen 11/32 or 5/16 shafts from the box marked  40/45 spine or order a dozen online. We have found the possible problem here is that the actual shafts spines can vary widely. They might have been 40/45 at time of initial sorting and boxing, but they might not be now post transit from the wood mill to the retailer. Storage affects the shafts too, sometimes drying the shafts out.
The physical weight of the shafts can vary as well and this is important as all bows have a minimum mass weight for arrows. Below this weight you run a risk of damaging the bow as there is insufficient mass in the arrow to absorb the energy being transferred to it by the bow. Think of it as being similar to dry firing a bow and we all know the damage this can cause.
Likewise the shafts may have been put into the wrong box.

Not always the retailers fault
I’d like to make a quick point in defence of the retailers here. In fairness we have all been to shops and supermarkets where stock isn’t always on the right shelf, a tin of beans with the  chilli mix or chopped tomatoes rather than whole ones etc. We spot this because the packaging is different, but with wooden shafts this is a lot harder, after all they all look the same so you can’t easily distinguish a 35/40 from a 55/60. This is why some retailers colour code the tops of the shafts e.g. Red tops are from 40/45 box, brown 45/50 and so on. This is a good idea and helps with initial sorting.

If you do go down the route of checking the  shafts may I suggest you purchase a set of grain scales for weighing the shafts. They are quite inexpensive and prove immensely useful. I can’t remember exactly where I  bought ours from,  but they are easily found online or at archery retailers.
Grain scales with sponge

Grain scales with sponge

When I use them I have a small piece of sponge with a groove cut into it where the shaft rests. This helps  to lift the shafts clear of the plate as I find this prevents the shaft snagging on surrounding items which would result in a false reading.
Remember to take a pencil or pen and paper to note the weights.

The process
We tend to weigh the shafts first and then spine them. This saves some time as weighing them is a quicker process than spining and you aren’t spining ones that prove too light or heavy.
It is worth noting that not all retailers allow you to do this and some don’t have the necessary space or equipment.

If you can spare the time and can travel to a shop here are a couple I’ll mention.

Wales archery (http://walesarchery.com/) situated just over the border in South wales have a huge selection of shafts and have in the past allowed us the use of their digital spining gauge. They are very friendly and helpful and have loads of bows you can look over. There are also some nice country pubs you can pop in for lunch.
Merlin archery (http://www.merlinarchery.co.uk/) in Loughborough too have always been very helpful and allowed us to use their spining gauge although their’s requires a bit of mathematics. I leave that to Sharon as she has the brains (skills and looks). We used to pop up on a Tuesday evening as they are open late.

The great Internet!! 
The other option is buying on-line. Finding good suppliers of wooden arrow shafts by mail order is even harder to find than you realise. You take a risk buying off the net and I would not recommend this unless you know the supplier has a good reputation. Pay for the service – I don’t mind paying a bit more if the quality of the product and service is good and some retailers offer a spining and/or weight matching service.

I’m going to pick out a couple who i have found to be good in recent months. I know there are others out there but these are a couple to start with for now.

For my take down  recurve I found Richard Head Longbows (http://www.english-longbow.co.uk/) for 5/16th was excellent. They are slightly more expensive than others  but are of very good quality. He does spine and weight matching.
As many of you know I’ve swapped back to AFB (American flatbow) and needed some 11/32 shafts and was recommended Longbow Emporium  (http://www.longbowemporium.co.uk/). Marc was really friendly when I spoke to him concerning my requirements.

This is by no means a definitive list or guide as there are many others who supply components via mail order or shops. I’ve just picked out a couple I’ve had experience of. If your favourite shop isn’t on the list or you have something to contribute why not add a comment on your positive experiences below.
I hope it proves useful.
Thanks for reading.

Blogging Future and answering questions

So over the last few months I’ve had a few questions from fellow archers at shoots, many of whom are followers of this site. In response I’m going to try and answer their questions now.

Why not YouTube?

A couple of people have asked why I don’t produce video or YouTube blogs like other archery reviewers. There are quite a few UK based sites such as the Merlins archery adventures , Wolfie instinctive archery , Nathan Skyrme add to these the US sites like 3D Archery  and you can see there are quite a few.

Perfect face for radio

Perfect face for radio

The simple answer is, I have a perfect face for radio 🙂
I’m also too self conscious when in front of the camera, so prefer a written or at least typed blog.

What are your future plans for the off the arrow shelf blog?

Autumn, or Fall for my American readers, is here, making for shorter days and longer nights. It also marks the slow down in the field archery calendar with less shoots along with less time and opportunities to practice.
This will mean a slight switch in articles as I post less shoot reports. My plan is to write a few more equipment reviews on items archers might feel useful.

Timber Creek Cobra

Timber Creek Cobra

I’m presently working on one on the Bear Grylls walking trousers, Leatherman multi tools, Timber Creek Cobra, along with testing the prokill24 target faces. I am always looking for other ideas for reviews, so let me know if you have any suggestions.

Example of the Prokill target face on the practice bosses

Example of the Prokill target face on the practice bosses

The winter months give me some time to catch up on my reading so I’m looking at literature reviews along with general archery or coaching related topics, including the use of mobile apps and cameras to support archery coaching.

How many Off the arrow shelf blogs are there?

The original blog is the one on WordPress which has been going for a number of years and has over 260 articles.
I recently started a tumblr site too as I found there was quite a lot of good material on there along with reaching a larger audience.
I can also be found on instagram, which is my latest adventure into blogging.

So there you have it. I’m always happy to hear from readers and it’s even better when I actually get chance to chat with you at shoots. Please come over and say hello.
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