A walk with Jim Grizzly Kent

Start of the day and the walk with Jim

Start of the day and the walk with Jim Grizzly Kent

If you are a fan of YouTube, reviewing archery videos or a reader of various archery magazines you will probably have heard of or encountered Jim Kent, or rather Jim “Grizzly” Kent. He has been producing videos for years, originally on his own channel Archery Adventures and more recently for Merlin Archery Adventures. I was lucky enough to have Jim agree to be the subject, or should that be victim, of this article. So here you have it, a Walk with Jim Grizzly Kent.

So on a crisp beautiful autumnal morning I met up with Jim to have a shoot around a woodland and chat.

Rob – You are pretty well known to many on the archery circuit, thanks to your videos or articles in magazines, but how would you describe yourself?

Jim  – I’m not sure. I like to think of myself as a traditional archer that shoots instinctively. I know someone once described me as an ambassador for instinctive archery.

Rob – How did you first get into archery?

Jim  –  I was about 4 and I found an arrow in a shed at home and I was fascinated by it, I then found the bow. I couldn’t draw it but my Dad made me a simple bow and a few arrows. I was off then shooting clumps of moss or tree stumps in the woods.

Guess I was stumping before I even knew what it was.

Let me introduce Jim "Grizzly" Kent

Let me introduce Jim “Grizzly” Kent

Rob –So can you explain what your love or passion is that drives your interest in archery?

Jim  –  It’s special to me, Traditional archery. Archery as a whole has always be a part of my life especially the traditional side. It’s something special, it speaks to me. Whether or not I could ever put a finger on why? I don’t know.

Maybe it’s reliving running around the woods with bows and arrows, which is something we all wanted to do as a kid. Something some of us did as kids with arrows with suckers on the end and what not.

It fills you with the child like wonder that you had as a kid and so easily lost as you grow up. You always wanted to go on an adventure and I guess when I’m out in the woods I am on an adventure, that’s my little adventure

Rob  – is that where the title came from for your original YouTube channel?

Jim  –  Yes, it’s where the original title of Archery Adventures came from. Ever since I was a kid the idea of adventure inspired me and as you get older they get less and less adventurous, as you get older and older and realise how the world works.

Rob  – So why did you start the YouTube channel?

Jim  –  Don’t know if you’ve heard of an archer called Chris Bilingsgate, he has a YouTube channel (Billingsgate Unlimited) and we got talking on a couple of forums initially, then we had a skype chat and he suggested I could make a video.

He said I should make a video, but I didn’t think anyone would watch it, but he convinced me to give it a go. That’s how it started.

So the first was filmed on my parent’s dining room table “An introduction to instinctive archery”. The sound was awful and had me rambling on, not much changed there.

Rob – Sorry Jim, but I managed to find the first video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQrjDu1Hn2A great to see how the beard has grown over the years too.

Jim  –  I really enjoyed it and it got a couple of hundred views in first few months. I was working full time and doing this in my spare time.

The thinking man Jim - another one taken from a photo shoot by Chris Frosin Photography

The thinking man Jim – another one taken from a photo shoot by Chris Frosin Photography

Jim  –  That was the first step. Then I made one on making arrows. This is kind of ironic, as I’ve just done a new recording on how to make arrows for the Merlin channel.

Gradually the views went up and the subscribers went up and then from nowhere suddenly the subscribers went boom and up and up.

Rob – You’ve come a long way in a comparatively short space of time, since that first YouTube video. You’ve now got a following on Tumblr and YouTube of not just UK archers, but a global following. Was it hard initially?

Jim  –  Everything was self-funded at that early stage, with bits I had bought and then reviewed. That led to Merlin sending me a few bits and bobs to review. Then I got a job doing it with Merlin a few years later.

Rob  – So if ten years ago I’d told you where you’d be today, how do you think you’d have responded, would you have believed it?

Jim  –  No not at all, it’s weird. I tend to let life just play out. Never forced anything, what will be, will be. I started the YouTube channel because maybe I like sharing my experiences or just the sound of my own voice.

Having shot half the course we afforded ourselves a break and continued our chat over a cup of coffee to keep ourselves warm.

Jim  – I do genuinely enjoy writing, I love writing when I have the time, and though it was something I had to work it to get good at, largely due to being dyslexic which was identified in childhood, but didn’t get the support from school at the time.

Cup of coffee time and chat

Cup of coffee time and chat

I quite regularly write for Bow International magazine, and lucky to have some friends that are good photographers who produce some great pictures. I used to write for Stick and String an online magazine which sadly no longer exists, along with Archery UK magazine which you get with membership to Archery GB.

Also there is a new one Field Archers News UK. 

It’s finding the time and not trying to force the creativity as that doesn’t work. I need to have the idea and inspiration; I need to come to it naturally. I can’t magic something up to write about as I feel it comes across false. If you force it, it becomes a boring read. Need to feel passionate about the subject.

One thing that was very clear when shooting round with Jim, was how much he misses shooting for fun.

The recreational shooting we all enjoy without having to worry about testing this bow, writing and producing a video etc.

Okay, so he’s in a position many of us would love to be in, with a job that allows him to try out new bows, record videos on archery events round the country and more. But I think this is at the expense of shooting for fun. The irony being this is the very reason that got him making videos in the first place.

 The other thing is he loves taking photos, whether it is the light through the trees or his bow in the sun, his phone is out and he’s snapping away.

Jims bow against the tree

Jim’s bow against the tree

Rob  – When we were wandering round the woods we were talking about the fact you’ve always been an advocate of the traditional style and the instinctive shooting technique. What do you see as being traditional archery?

Jim  –  No sights, and a simple bow. The simplicity of the bow is important, even if it’s got glass fibre or carbon in the limb make up. In essence a simple bow, a wooden bow, shot off the shelf, feathered arrows, no pressure button etc. Shooting off the shelf is a big part of traditional archery, I feel.

Rob – So having finished our drink, it’s time to head off and do the other half of the course. Which is a good time to ask about how competitive archery features in his thoughts.

Jim  –  Traditional archery to me is more of a lifestyle than a sport. Yes you can compete, but I don’t see it as a sport. I am competitive but I don’t enjoy being competitive, but when I am competing I want to win. But I don’t like competing. Doesn’t sound too opposite, does it? I hate scoring.

Rob – Guess the problem is that being known, means people expect you to shoot well, which can distract from the enjoyment.

Jim  –  There are different competition circuits out there with EFAA, NFAS, Archery 3D, Archery GB. World 3ds has an instinctive archery class that suites very much the way I shoot. A traditional bow shot off the shelf with carbon arrows, where you’re not penalised for using carbon arrows.

It’s more of a class than a way of shooting, but I’d want to use this as a platform if I could to raise the profile of traditional archery.

Rob  – Another thing you learn very quickly about Jim is not only does he know a lot about archery and a good shot, but he also has a sense of humour and loves playing practical jokes.

So it is not unusual to see him collapsed in a corner of a wood or under a tree, trying to stop laughing, having succeeded with one such joke.

Photographic evidence of this can be seen here and yes they did eventually retrieve the arrow from the tree.

It appears Jim and I share another passion other than archery, that of being in Autumn woods. I have to agree with Jim that Autumn is one of my favourite times of year and there was more than one time we stopped to watch the “leaf shower” as the autumnal leaves fell from the tree canopy, leaving a mosaic of colours and patterns on the woodland floor.

the ever so serious Mr Kent

the ever so serious Mr Kent


Jim  –  The Gathering is why I do archery, it’s social, friendly made up of diverse group of archers and abilities. There is so much diversity in traditional archery. It’s about being in the woods with people you care about, who are your friends. It’s special.

Rob – Can I talk to you a bit about the Gathering. We’ve seen the videos of the Gathering and it does look amazing. It comes across as a group of friends and people passionate about archery, having fun.

There are facilities in Europe that can accommodate that style of event, not something that we have here in the UK sadly. But even in Europe there are limitations based on size of the accommodation, that’s why it’s remained small.

Rob  – I guess if it became a bigger event some of that social interaction would be lost. You’ve said archery is a very inclusive activity, can you expand on this?

Jim  –  I find with the traditional side of things it’s so much more accessible. You can spend £200 on a nice little flat bow, half dozen arrows, quiver, maybe a bag target and from that moment you can enjoy archery. You can enjoy the pleasure of shooting arrows down range.

Rob – So what of the future of traditional archery in the UK?

Jim  –  When I’ve been to Europe and the Blackforest. You can turn up to a course. Hire a bow and arrows if you haven’t got them.

You see people with pushchairs with a bow on the back, going round, stopping taking a shot and then dropping their bows back on the push chair and carrying on. It’s a family activity or day out.

Rob  – the Olympics opened up a number of sports to people like cycling, rowing athletics.

Jim  –  Yes we see it every 4 years, when there is a hike in interest in archery when the Olympics is on.

Most target clubs will offer Olympic style recurve but that it, but there isn’t much deviation. Don’t get me wrong there are some that offer other styles but not many. Also many see traditional archery as shooting a longbow.

There are traditional styles that aren’t just English longbow, there is recurve, hybrid or flat bow. The reason it fascinates me is there is so much diversity in field archery.

I believe if you offer people the chance to try it and they’ll love it, then traditional archery will be bigger. There’s a whole other world of archery in the woods.

Jim showing his skills

Jim showing his skills

Rob – It’s not just the Olympics that has triggered interest though. Films like The Avengers, Brave and the Hunger Games have all encouraged people into trying archery.

Jim  – Let’s get something straight, I really like the Hunger Games. Anything that gets young people into archery is great. I shot a YouTube video about the Hunger games and a few people got the wrong idea.

 

Taking from a photo shoot by Chris Frosin Photography

Taking from a photo shoot by Chris Frosin Photography

Rob  – So if you could reach every newbie archer out there with one single piece of advice what would it be?

Jim  – Drink in all the advice you can find, search for it everywhere. There are so many people willing to give advice on YouTube and all social media, enough to last a lifetime. Never takes one person’s approach as gospel as you need to find what works for you. Then apply to you what’s relevant to you, some of it won’t appeal other bits will.

Not everything that people do is relevant to you or the way you shoot or want to shoot. Do within archery what makes you happy.

There is a polar right and a polar wrong.

Everything else in between is what you make of it. There are no hard and fast rules, though there are fundamental concerning safety. Shoot what makes you happy, if you like shooting the Olympic style bow or a longbow. If it puts a smile on your face, then do it.

Learn your own path. What’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander. Reason it fascinates me is there is so much diversity in field archery.

 

Autumnal sunlight through the trees

Autumnal sunlight through the trees

It’s been said that every journey starts with a single step, well every journey ends with a step too. So as the sun begins to go down I think that is a good time to quiver our arrows and head home after a great walk and talk. Wish my archery had been as good as the company.

Many might see Jims’ success at having a career in a hobby he loves but think about this. Careers in our hobby, like other sports are not easy. With often long days and working weekends, which must be hard with his young family? It also reduces the time he has for recreational shooting or time with his family and friends or to commit to clubs.

Work / home life split is hard for so many of us and when you are in the social media limelight, fronting a company or line of bows it must be a double edged sword. A mix of doing something you love and hit the target. But this is at the expense of shooting for fun, the very thing that got him in to making archery videos in the first place. There’s a degree of irony in that I feel. On a personal note the few hours we spent wandering round the woods shooting and chatting was very relaxing and just what the doctor ordered. I believe it is the Japanese who have a theory called “Shinrin-yoku “ or forest bathing, taking in the atmosphere of the woodland, makes a lot of sense to me.

One thing that stands out when you talk to Jim is his passion for the hobby, which is so evident as he speaks about his archery experiences. Think the description ambassador is pretty accurate.

Thanks for reading

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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.

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.

Taking the wood and life for granted, don’t do it.

Archers walking in the woods

Archers walking in the woods

This last weekend Sharon and I had the pleasure of taking some visitors around the Severn Valley wood. None of them had shot there before so it would be a new experience for them (cue manic laughter, maybe I should have warned them about the mud).
I think it is fair to say a good time was had by all. There were no score cards and instead you had five instinctive archers wondering round the wood. Chatting about  bows, life and stuff, while  enjoying the day and hitting a few targets along the way.
In many ways I think Sharon and I had become complacent and used to shooting in the woods and forgotten how fortunate we are to have such facilities and be in reasonable health to get round.
It was so relaxing to shoot round with JT, Jim and Paddy and see the wood from their fresh eyes. Thanks to Paddy for the photos, think you did really well in capturing the atmosphere of the day. It was great to see all the regulars chatting to guests about the merits of this bow over another. Then again when you have the archery media icon that is Jim Grizzly Kent there’s bound to be a few conversations about archery books and bows.
Bows, bows and more bows

Bows, bows and more bows

On a slightly more serious note though, its good to remember that we can get caught up in life and can easily transfer this to our hobby. The result is we start stressing about what we should be able to hit or whether the bows performing correctly and all this can develop into you not enjoying the hobby or in worse cases to target panic. I know I’m guilty of this as I’ve been concentrating on re-learning the AFB and been stressing about it.

Rob shooting on the bridge

Rob shooting on the bridge

This weekend showed that throwing away the scores and shooting instinctively is so relaxing. makes you wish you could do it every day.
Thanks for the company guys, but I have one question though, who bought lunch afterwards?
As always thanks for reading.

Shoot Report – HaySmith – February 2015

Hay Smith  Shoot just before start.

HaySmith Shoot just before start.

So this is my first shot report of the new year and it sees us heading north to Leicestershire to try out a brand new club and ground. The “HaySmith and Spares” club was set up following the success of the course they laid at last year’s 3d championship course.
So on a cold frosty Sunday morning we headed up the motorway. I approached the shoot with some trepidation as it was to be the first time out for several years with my American flat bow (AFB). I’ve been trying to build up my strength to cope with shooting it for last couple of weeks but this would be the first real test.

Cold and frosty  start to the day

Cold and frosty start to the day

The club’s grounds are quite a small deciduous woodland with a few streams running through, but generally a flat course and easy to navigate.

To say the shoot was popular is an understatement with it being fully booked within 24 hours of registration opening.  The shoot itself was to be a twice round 20 targets with five archers to a peg and all pegs being filled.

Being a new club there were a few 3d targets with  the majority being paper faces. Having said this they did have some new 2d foam targets: a wolf and rabbit which I hadn’t seen previously. Maybe in hindsight reducing the numbers on the shoot to 4 a peg with a couple of empty pegs might have made the day flow more quickly but you live and learn. Having said that it was great to catch up with so many people many of whom we hadn’t seen since last year. It was also good to meet up with Jim Grizzly Kent from Merlin Archery Adventures and have a chat.
One thing the organisers did right at the beginning before the shoot started, which I though was a great idea, was have every archer check the arrows of the archer next to them. After which they announced that anyone found with unmarked arrows would be escorted off the course.
I think it is fair to say the club members put a lot of effort in to making access around the wood easy with numerous bridges across the brooks and secure steps cut into the banks.
We started on target 7 and were joined by Alan and Neil from Pines Park and Josh from Centaura.

Target 7 - first target of day

Target 7 – first target of day

One interesting thing they did was take some standard faces and change the scoring zone and to ensure all archers were aware of the new zones they provided copies at administration and catering. One of these was to be our first target which fortunately I managed to hit.
There were some lovely set shots including one of a 3D wolf across the small pond, thought the reflection looked great.

3D wolf shot - target 20

3D wolf shot – target 20

There were some lovely framed shots which unfortunately suffered due to the low sun and shadows making them not only hard to hit but also hard to see.

Hard to see target

Hard to see target

They had the space to put on a particularly long shot to a 2d hessian tiger which was over 50 yards and probably closer to 65.

Long Tiger shot

Long Tiger shot

In all there were good shots but I  didn’t feel they knitted together as a course as well as they could.

Unfortunately not all things went well for them, which was a shame considering the effort they had put in. There were a couple of issues with targets where the overshoots were close to the next peg so when archers on one target missed the boss the arrows were heard to land near the group in front. This perception of danger often unsettles archers. A ricochet off the ground by one target landed near Administration, resulting in the shoot stopping until the organisers rectified the issue, which they did quickly.

Like many clubs HaySmith relied on outside catering and unfortunately they weren’t the fastest which resulted in delays as groups waited for food. In fairness the food was good and it was the first time the caterers had done such a large event.
Sadly these issues and delays resulted in a long and at times slow day and for this reason the organisers decided to reduce the number of targets that the archers were to shoot from 40 to 30.
It was a brave move by the organisers on the day and I think given the delays they were encountering it was probably a good idea. It meant people could get off the ground and set off home before it got dark.

 They are running a second shoot this weekend due to the initial demand and speed at which their first was booked up.

I’m sure they will review and develop the course over time addressing any issues.
Sharon did well winning ladies Hunting Tackle and being only a few points behind the top gent archers. As for me I didn’t do well and need a lot of practise to get my head in the right place with the AFB. I did have one very lucky shot on a 3D standing bear that was a lot smaller than I expected.

Lucky shot of the day

Lucky shot of the day

I think the mark of a course and shoot is whether people would go back. Despite all the problems I know we will and I hope others do too. Yes there were problems on the day but they reacted to them and will know for the future. Not all clubs learn from their mistakes.

Thanks for reading.

PS I still say the club colours are pink and not salmon Chris.