Literature Review – My Outdoor Life by Ray Mears

Ray Mears - My Outdoor Life

Ray Mears – My Outdoor Life

As many of you will know I normally write reviews of archery related books, but this was a birthday gift and since Ray Mears is well known for being an outdoors enthusiast I thought I would include his book here. Some of you the UK readers may have caught his recent TV series exploring France’s wilder parts. Anyway I hope no one objects to me including it here.
The copy of the book I have is over 350 pages, a paperback published by Hodder & Stoughton ( for those interested the ISBN 978-1-444-77821-2
It covers his life from early childhood and the development of his desire to learn about woodland skills, to his involvement with television and his numerous expeditions taking him to the four corners of the globe. I wonder how many passports he’s gone through in his time?
Included in the book is his account of a helicopter crash that nearly cost his life along with members of his film crew. I can’t help but think how lucky they were to survive.
This wasn’t the first book by him I’ve read, that being The Real Heroes of Telemark, which if you have a chance I would highly recommend.
I found this book a very easy and engaging read, written in a manner that encourages you to imagine him talking to you, possibly reminiscing on past adventures and trips, over a shared campfire. I feel it gives a far greater insight into the man who many will know from his television series or bushcraft books. It goes some way to exploring what has shaped his life, from early judo lessons, on to the expeditions in Africa, all providing a greater level of detail than I was expecting. It is a very brave person who can open themselves up and discuss their feelings and beliefs in this way, being both honest and open, whilst not fishing for compliments or favour. I feel this is very apparent where he writes of the loss of his first wife and the turmoil that engulfed him.

Ray Mears inside the book

Ray Mears inside the book

One thing I found of interest was his analysis of how TV documentary makers have changed from when he started and now. How they afford less time to expeditions, expecting filming to be completed in far less time than in the past. Maybe this explains why some modern documentaries feel as though they are lacking in depth. Could this be a reflection of the speed we now are forced to live our lives at. Expecting fast facts and data?
Overall I’ve enjoyed the book and have little doubt that I won’t reread it from time to time.
To give it a rating almost feels wrong as though rating the man and his achievements which I am sure are not yet ended. In fact he has just completed a new series on UK television. For that very reason I’m going to give a 9/10 as I’m sure he’s got more stories and adventures to come.
Thanks for reading


Road trip USA

Golden Gate bridge

Golden Gate bridge

Okay so a few of you will know Sharon and I undertook a road trip to the USA in June. I Whilst there we tried to find a  few archery shops, as everyone we spoke to said we should have a look at the range of bows and associated archery gear available across the pond.
So the trip itself was in four parts with us staying for 3 nights in each location
  1. San Francisco
  2. Lake Tahoe
  3. Yosemite National park
  4. New York
This was our first trip to the USA having wanted to go for a  number of years but never quite getting there.
Sadly we were unsuccessful in our primary quest of checking out lots off archery shops. The store we visited in San Francisco was closed for some reason, one of the one’s  we’d hoped to get to on route to Lake Tahoe was closed on Tuesdays which resulted in us successfully finding only one store. Whilst their selection was great so far as compound bows and targets were concerned they had very few traditional style bows.
So we didn’t come home with any archery goodies but quite a few photos of our trip.
I then decided on a second mission , which I hoped would be more successful.  This was to find a drinkable US produced apple cider. Those of you who follow me on instagram and tumblr will have seen the mixed results.
So in the great tradition of sharing, here are a load of holiday photos showing what we did do.
One of the highlights of the trip had to be seeing whales breaching outside San Francisco harbour, even if it was from a fair distance away it was still amazing to see.
Sharon at Golden Gate

Sharon at Golden Gate

San Francisco is a nice place to visit for a few days to recover from the jet lag.

Lake Tahoe was our next destination and we picked up a rental car in San Francisco to head there via the archery shop that was open. As we left San Francisco we saw how the drought is changing the landscape with brown fields of grass surrounding San Francisco, gradually giving way as we climbed higher to woodlands and forests.

View of Lake Tahoe

View of Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe would prove a very good location to spend our wedding anniversary with some very pleasant walks along the shore line and into the surrounding countryside which offer fantastic views of the lake.
Hiking near Lake Tahoe

Hiking near Lake Tahoe

We were  lucky with the weather, with it being mostly dry and warm. Except for Yosemite where we were caught in thunderstorms on the hill decent from Upper Yosemite falls.

Yosemite Falls, seen from the valley

Yosemite Falls, seen from the valley floor

If you are walking in Yosemite make sure you have plenty of water as it is quite dehydrating.
The route for the walk

The route for the walk

That hike took us just over 6 hours in total up and down but offered fantastic views from the top before thunderstorms rolled in.

Hike up to Yosemite Upper falls

Hike up to Yosemite Upper falls – half way

 The views of the valley from the top of Yosemite falls was amazing.

View form the top

View form the top

Note sure which was the best quote from Sharon at Yosemite, whether it was about the life like 3d poses of the deer or that the bear was closer than you would shoot it if it was a 3D target on a field course.

Yosemite valley deer in early morning

Yosemite valley deer in early morning

Walking round Yosemite was great especially if you got there early as you  avoided the busy parts and trails.  There is more wildlife about and the light for photographs is amazing early in the day.

Sun in the trees at Yosemite Park

Sun in the trees at Yosemite Park

We left Yosemite at 5 am to make the long drive to San Francisco airport to catch our plane to New York.

New York skyline reflection

New York skyline reflection

To coin a phrase, New York City was on our bucket list and was nice to visit but it is a big city and we really aren’t into big cities. If you do visit check out the Highline which is an old rail track converted into a green and leafy walk and is a good distraction from the busy streets, with a decent coffee stall (blue bottle) at the meatpacker end.
New York Highline walk

New York Highline walk

The  9/11 Memorial is very moving as are the talks by survivors of the attack.

We would definitely go back to Yosemite as the views hiking and whole scale of the place was amazing. Lake Tahoe is another location we would return too, maybe for a ski trip.
Thanks for reading.

Shoot report – Hanson June 2013

Hanson at the start of the day

Hanson at the start of the day

Been a while since we have managed to make a Hanson shoot. (There is a past shoot report here) It used to be one of our nearer shoots, but since moving its now just under an hour and a half drive on a good day. This is a shame as Hanson have a good reputation for putting on a good course and excellent catering. They are also a friendly bunch of people too.

I think they have suffered recently with some archers not booking on their shoots due to parking and access issues. In response to this the club had done a lot of work to improve access to the car park. When I say a lot, I do mean a lot. They have laid 100 tonnes of hard core and gravel to make a road from the entrance to the wood to the car park.
Hanson road

Hanson road and entrance to car park

This has greatly improved access. Drivers were able to get in and out without problems.  Well done guys.

The Shoot

As for the shoot itself, it was a 40 target course with a 50/50 split of 3d and paper faces. We (Sharon and I) started on peg 15 with Andrew, Mike and Cassey all from Black Sheep club. I was the only wooded arrow shooter in the group,  the others being all bare bow archers, which made me feel a little outnumbered.
Weather was good, with sunny spells and warm but not too hot, which makes a change as it often rained at Hanson shoots.

Sharon at Hanson

Sharon at Hanson and not in waterproof clothing

The club had done a lot of work on setting up new and interesting shots, through trees and a great one where they have put a paper face spider target and draped false cobwebs round it to make appear in a cave. Wish I had chance to take a picture of it.

Another was a long standing bear, between the trees. This is a photo a friend took and posted on Facebook. This was a real challenging shot that resulted in a few arrows finding their way into the branches.

Hanson 3d Bear

Hanson 3d Bear

Overall it was a really good day, though the afternoon was slow, I think due to the number of archers present (there were 5 to a peg so 200).We kept catching the group up in front not their fault as at the longer shots people were taking 2 or 3 arrows.

The mistake we made was not taking an early lunch as we passed catering, the thing was when we got to catering the first time we had shoot  only 5 targets so weren’t feeling hungry. The problem was we would have to shoot 20 more targets before returning which meant we were hungry, tired and in need of a break.

The important thing was there was still apple pie when we finally got to have lunch at 3:00. Hanson do great food and I always try to get some apple pie.

Overall I think it was a really good shoot, everyone appeared to enjoy themselves despite some of the delays. I can only think of one target that might be thought of as being stretched which was a paper faced Wildebeest.

So how did we do?

Sharon came away with 680 a great score that got her first place. I thought I was shooting okay,  but not great having missed a few first arrows so  was surprised to hear Sharon say she had been chasing my score all day!  I came away with 700 matching my personal best. This won me first place. Maybe  my shoulder is finally settling down.

Post Shoot

The only problem with the day was at some point before I put on bug repellent I was bitten on the back of the hand  by a horsefly. This resulted in an allergic reaction and a very swollen hand, I managed to get my wedding ring off before it got too swollen. Thankfully I’m on the mend now.

horsefly bite

horsefly bite = very swollen hand

Moral of the story is remember to put on insect repellent.

As always, thanks for reading.

Walk in the woods – never know what you might find

One of the reasons I enjoy field archery as a hobby is the opportunity to be out and about. We have the opportunity to see natural sights that are often hidden or missed.

Bird nest

Bird nest

Saturday whilst walking from one target to another and dodging the heavy “summer” showers,  I spotted a blue tit flying to a hollow in a tree.

Watching I realised it was a nest hole filled with young chicks. With care I took this quick picture and then watched from a distance to make sure I hadn’t scared the parents away. Here’s hoping they don’t get drowned in the wet weather we are having or found by a hungry squirrel.

Will keep an eye out for it next week. Thanks for reading