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.

Me shooting the large 3D red dragon

Shoot report – Hawk archers – June 2017

Hawk Club and archers massing

Hawk Club and archers massing

Okay so this may come across as a bit of a fanboy write up of the shoot report for Hawk but I will freely admit that I really like Hawks grounds and the shoots they host. A fact any regular reader of this blog might already be aware of.
Those of you haven’t read my write ups before might be thinking “Why do I like the shoots so much?

Well I find the courses challenging not because targets are stretched, but because they cause the archer to read the ground, the inclines etc. and try to factor that into their shots. In essence that is the appeal of field archery to me. Hawk course layers force you to focus and push yourself, in a good way. You can have a read of previous shoot report here if you are interested, hopefully you are.

The last report was from a couple of years back as they didn’t run an NFAS shoot last year, which was a real shame, but I know they were busy setting a course for WFAA .

3D fox at Hawk grounds

3D fox at Hawk grounds

I know that many archers that have shot Hawk can find the ground challenging to get round and the shots difficult, not because of the distance but the landscape and terrain. Even those used to shooting on an incline will find Hawk a challenge but I truly believe that it is well worth exploring this Welsh hillside. If you are wanting to test your archery skills, head to their next shoot.
Interestingly at their last shoot I know one reader of this blog was talking about this to another archer at the shoot. She had searched for Hawk Archers on the internet, and found this blog, with the write up of previous shoots, so they had an idea of what to expect.
So enough of my rambling, let’s get onto the important stuff and the actual shoot report for Hawk Archers.

So being in Wales it is appropriate to start with a comment about the weather. Heavy showers had been promised but thankfully those we had early in the day weren’t a problem and cleared quickly, leaving a warm dry day. Yes dry day in Wales.

Troll in a hole

Troll in a hole

As always there was a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere at Hawk shoot and this time it was great to see so many people there, since traditionally Hawk shoots are quite small. This time there were over eighty archers attending.
Our shooting group for the day would consist of Luke and his dad Ant both shooting in the primitive class. I know that some archers find shooting with juniors difficult but Luke was a great sport and coped with his new bow really well.

Luke shooting at coyote

Luke shooting at coyote

This year Hawks course would be a 36 target course with a mix of 3ds and a few paper faces, with a theme of Dragons this year. One of which was a huge 3D red dragon on the hillside, along with a black dragon and a couple of really cool custom paper face.

Hawks black dragon 3D

Hawks black dragon 3D

I guess the giant red can’t have been that huge as it took me 3 arrows to hit it, with the first two landing just at its feet. (Must have been the Welsh man in me not wanting to shoot our national flag)

Me shooting the large 3D red dragon

Me shooting the large 3D red dragon

The shoot would be a shoot through with you passing the catering hut twice, where you could fill up on supplies before heading off again. Only downside this year was the lack of their homemade chilli, which is usually great.
Another very cool custom target made by the guys at Hawk was a two headed wolf, that was amazingly detailed and well sculpted.

Two headed wolf 3D

Two headed wolf 3D

Hawk was also the first opportunity for us to catch up with some of the archers who had shot our 3D course and find out their views of the course, which appears to have been very favourable. I will put an write up on what happened when I get the chance.
Despite having not touched a bow very much over the last few weeks, Sharon shot well, winning ladies AFB and despite not picking up a bow in what seemed ages I did ok and won gents AFB.

Sharon on the practise bosses

Sharon on the practise bosses

This year Hawk introduced a memorial trophy in both gents Bare Bow and American Flat Bow in memory of past members. I have to say I feel very honoured to be the first person to receive this new AFB trophy in memory of Bob Nourish.
From what I understand Hawk will be one of the teams setting a course for this years NFAS National Championships in September, which going by their normal standards should be a great course.
Thanks for reading

Sharon shooting off the tower

Shoot report – Black Arrow – June 2017

Black Arrow

Black Arrow – archers gathering

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

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

Our first target a hessian owl

Our first target a hessian owl

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

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

The not so large 2D lion

The not so large 2D lion

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

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

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

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

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

Paper face red squirrel

Paper face red squirrel

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

A slightly different angle showing Sharon shooting from the tower

A slightly different angle showing Sharon shooting from the tower

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading

The bluebells the shoot is named after

Shoot report – South Wilts – Bluebell shoot – April 2017

South Wilts start

South Wilts start

Okay so this shoot report is well over due for which I am very sorry.  I am still trying to catch up with all my writing, having  been so focused on the course setting for the 3D championships and the subsequent run up to it I’ve let this site updates slip, so I’m sorry.  My writing isn’t the only thing that I’ve let slip, as my garden is resembling a jungle at present. Anyway on to the shoot report for South Wilts bluebell shoot.

The bluebells the shoot is named after

The bluebells the shoot is named after

This was our first trip to South Wilts shoot ground and due to the distance, a two and half hour drive involved we made it a weekend trip and stayed over. Granted we might have had a shorter trip if we hadn’t diverted past Stonehenge but since we were in the area it seemed like a good idea. Being the first time there it would mean a completely new course and largely new group of archers to meet and shoot with. Having said that there were a few familiar faces present, including Pat a friend from my coaching course all those years back.

Being a spring shoot we were forecast a few rain showers but it was not as wet as expected with only a couple of light showers­­ early in the day. Having said this it did not deter the archers with over 160 attending the event.

Wolverine 3d from the junior pegs

Wolverine 3d from the junior pegs

The course itself would be 40 targets, with 36 being 3Ds and the remaining paper. South Wilts have a lovely woodland with carpets of bluesbells, hence the shoot being called the Bluebell Shoot”. The grounds are mostly flat but they have constructed a couple of towers to offer a different shot. I think it might be worth them modifying one of the towers so there isn’t a metal bar across where you draw up. I came very close to hitting my lower limb on the bar. On the other towers they had ropes that worked better.

Sharon on one of platforms

Sharon on one of platforms

On the subject of towers I do think they work as they offer the course layers the opportunity to set some fine shots including one at a ram, shown in the photo.

The view from the platform

The view from the platform

I actually think they used the ground well too for the majority of the shots. The day flowed pretty well with the only real hold up we had was at a long target, large grizzly 3D but in many ways I would expect it at that style of target.

One of the long bears

One of the long bears

Our shooting  group for the day would be Tony, shooting hunting tackle, with his wife Pat who wasn’t shooting accompanied by their granddaughter Lacy shooting barebow. I know some people don’t like shooting in a group with a junior or cub, but I have to say Lacy was great company and a good shot. Tony we knew from his time as general secretary for the NFAS a few years back.

Our first target a 3D puma

Our first target a 3D puma

We did get lost at one stage going round the course, but I think this was as much to do with the archery interfering with the conversation as the course not being clearly marked. I found out later we weren’t the only ones to miss the turning and the marshals added some more direction arrows as the shoot progressed in case any other archers were enjoying the conversation and not paying attention.

South Wilts club has been at the grounds for a number of years and this is obvious from the construction of the towers to the quality of the facilities available for its members. Catering was very good and prices reasonable, with all the marshals I spoke to being friendly and very helpful, especially when trying to source a torch to check Lacys’ hand for splinters after she tripped.

Yes some more bluebells

Yes some more bluebells

The lack of practise due to the work on the 3ds showed in my shooting, but I managed to scrape third with Sharon winning ladies AFB.This was our first double medal win under the new club banner of Briar Rose Field Archers (more on this later). Maybe if we get there next year we can improve on this, as I think it is a good shoot to add to the list to revisit.

One other thing I would really like to mention here, were the number of archers who thanked us for stepping forward to set a course at the 3ds. Here’s hoping that those who thanked us enjoyed A course.

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