Happy New Year to all

So around this time of year people are normally doing a couple of things. Firstly trying to stick to their New Year resolutions they have made whether this be going to the gym, quitting smoking, eating healthily, etc. Archers will probably be starting their planning for the upcoming season. The latter will usually involving deciding on which competitions to enter and possible setting goals for their own achievements.

Personally I have never been a big fan of New Year resolutions; I tend to think, why wait until the New Year to improve your situation. Having said this I am kind of trying one this year, which is to find the time to watch material on or read more about shooting practices and approaches. So far this has involved watching quite a few YouTube videos.

I know that many might be thinking about improving their own performance, and it is something I often get asked. What can I do to shoot better? I want to score more? What can I do about making improvements? So what goals should I set?

These are questions equally important for newbie archers those who have experience, as we can all improve. In the next couple of articles I’m going to be looking at setting personal goals, measuring achievements and so on.

Well the first thing I’d like to say is. Be realistic with what you want to accomplish but still aim for improvement. This means setting realistic expectations, which sounds great coming from a dreamer like me. So what do I really mean? Well if you can’t or don’t have time to practise, you are unlikely to be as prepared as you could be or physically fit enough, with sufficient stamina or muscle memory.  Likewise, I know I’m never likely to get into the Olympics or even into Archery GB, but I can still try to improve and keep developing. (Sorry but every time I hear or thinking about trying to improve, this voice in my head says “Do or do not, there is no try – Yoda”) So let’s say we can still strive to improve, whether this be in my own shooting or helping others through coaching.

So be realistic in your expectations.

Reducing misses and making the hits count

Well we are all hoping to reduce misses, whether newbies or experienced. So let’s try and break this down a little in respect to NFAS shoots, how they are scored and number of arrows shot.

In the most common NFAS round “The Big Game round” you get up to 3 opportunities to hit a target and in turn score. As an adult you would start on the red peg, normally the furthest and hardest shot. If you are successful in hitting the target you score 16 for a wound, 20 for a kill or 24 for an inner kill.

On the other hand if you aren’t successful in hitting, you move to the white peg. From there you take your second arrow, with a wound scoring 10 and a kill shot 14 points. (There is no distinction from an inner or outer kill after the first arrow).

Your final chance to score comes from the blue peg where a wound scores 4 points and a kill 8. If you miss with the third arrow then you blank the target. The other members of the group shoot and once you’ve marked the score cards you move on to the next target.

So if you are on form your goal is to shoot as few arrows as possible 36 or 40 depending if it’s a 36 or 40 target course. I’ve never yet gone round a course hitting with my first arrow only, come close a few times but always seem to taken 2 or 3 second arrows.

I tend to keep an eye on the number of first, second and third arrows I take as it gives me an idea of how well I have been shooting.

So the first step is to try and reduce the blanks i.e. the targets where you don’t score anything (Julie, as friend of ours, never writes a zero on a score card when someone blanks a target. She draws a little smiling face)

How can you do this? Well don’t stress about missing it! “What?” I hear you say, “that doesn’t make sense”. Well it does if you take a minute and think about it. If you beat yourself up for missing a couple of times or stress out about being on the blue peg because you think you should have got the shot earlier, then that is not going to put you in a healthy mind set for that third arrow. So when you get to the peg, or rather if you do,. take a deep breath and chill. Take a moment and compose yourself, forget about everything other than your breathing and form. Focus on the spot you want to hit and nail it. Don’t just think of hitting the target somewhere, pick a point and focus on that.

Aim small, miss small as the saying goes. (Or aim for the fish’s eye, which won’t make a lot of sense unless you’ve read Steve Perry’sMan Who Never Missed.)

The Man who never missed – Steve Perry

Ok, so you have reduced the number of blanks. Now comes the reduction in the number of 3rd arrows. Ideally if you are taking a 3rd arrow you want to come away with 8 points as this means you’ve learnt from your first 2 misses and adapted.

Once you’ve reduced the blanks and the number of 3rd arrows, you have to reduce the number of 2nd arrows you have to take. This is a lot harder as normally the white peg is still a very challenging peg and is often located not that far from the red. If you are at the white peg, take what you learnt from the red peg with you. If you dropped short of the target or saw your arrow fly over consider this when on the peg. Take a moment or two to look at the shot again, judge the distance. Look for deceptions such as dead ground that may have caught you out from the red.

I see many archers end up on the blue peg or 3rd peg because they have rushed their second arrow, which can often be because they have been annoyed or self-conscious of their failure in front of others. I know this because I’ve done it myself.

When you do have to take a second arrow try and focus on improving from just hitting the target and getting a wounding hit to a kill shot, this is also a good idea.

Ok, so this hopefully all makes sense, but to give you an idea  on a recent 36 target course, I had 1 blank which was a one arrow target, 1 third arrow, 6 second arrows , the remaining being first arrows. By my standards not a great showing, but not bad and of course this gives me something to improve. When I first started I probably only had 10-12 first arrow hits, and it took a lot of practise and time to improve.

In the next article I’ll look at other factors that can affect your success, like Club ground practise, shooting form, equipment set up and maybe a bit more.

Thanks for reading.

Advertisements
Can you hit a barn door

Shoot Report – Spirit of Sherwood – December 2017

Spirit of Sherwood Wooden arrow shoot

Spirit of Sherwood Wooden arrow shoot

I tend to see the Spirit of Sherwood Christmas shoot as the end of the year as far as NFAS shoot calendar is concerned, which is silly really as NFAS shoots carry on all through the year. However for this reason and because they put on cracking shoots, we always make an effort to get to their shoots and this years was no exception.

As it’s a good two hour drive for us to get up to Spirits grounds we decided to head up the night before and stayed over at a local travel lodge in Worksop. As it was, the drive up on the Saturday was quite unpleasant being very grey and drizzly all the way, though not as cold as it had been during the previous week. I’m glad we did the drive on the Saturday as I wouldn’t want to do it early in the morning. Have to say the weather didn’t help the splitting headache I had had all day and would have for the next few days.

Spirit of Sherwood shoots are always well attended, with shooting places being booked up several weeks in advance and this one was no exception. This would be wooden arrow only and a Christmas themed shoot. There were to be 36 targets on this course course consisting of a mixture of 3D targets, with a number of novelty shots.

If you like, you can read a previous shoot report here from one of their shoots earlier in the year. It was great to catch up with some friends, like Jim Pierce. Just trying to remember Jim, did you start on target peg 8 or 9?

Thankfully the damp grey weather of the Saturday was replaced with a mostly dry sunny Sunday and warmer weather than we’d experienced during the week.

3D deer between the trees

3D deer between the trees

The shooting group joining Sharon and myself for the day would include Kevin and Carolyan from Pines Park shooting Hunting tackle and american flatbow respectively.

Spirits ground is a flat woodland of a mix of confer and deciduous trees, making it a pretty easy to get round. It’s quite a pretty wood with the winter sun shining through the branches, though at this time of year the days of sunlight are short, so they tried to start early to give archers the best chance to finish in good light.

Can you hit a barn door

Can you hit a barn door

Spirit course layers always set a moving target to challenge archers, last time it was a 3D crocodile. This time they had made up a moving barn door, literally suspended on a cable. If you missed you were awarded a sticker. After all we all have days where we can’t hit a barn door. I thought this was a great fun idea for a novelty shot.

If you missed the barn door you got the sticker

If you missed the barn door you got the sticker

Of all the 36 targets I think there was only one that I really didn’t get on with and to be fair it wasn’t the target as such but its positioning. It was one of the novelty shots where you shot one arrow and had to choose to shoot a large bear for 20 points, a penguin for 30 or a small fish for 40. The reason I didn’t like it was because in the distance you could see archers moving and this caught my eye when I was shooting. Don’t get me wrong, the shot was perfectly safe as they always are at Spirit. It was just the moving archers caught my eye when I was shooting, which is something that I don’t like and find very, very distracting. It is something that I really struggle with this on some other shoots.

3D wolf target between the trees

3D wolf target between the trees

Other novelty shots included a mini tower from which you could shoot a predator prey shot of knight and dragon. 6 of the 36 targets novelty targets, including moving shots, predator prey and pick and stick ones. I’m normally not a fan of lots of novelty shots but this was a Christmas fun shoot and think it worked.

Predator Prey shot from the castle

Predator Prey shot from the castle

The course itself was arranged in a rough clover leaf formation of three loops, round one central point, giving the competitors the opportunity to pass catering two or three times. This makes it possible to have a pretty effective shoot through with few if any hold ups, for us at least.

Sharon shooting a 3D deer at Spirit of Sherwood

Sharon shooting a 3D deer at Spirit of Sherwood

The course layers at Spirit had gone to a lot of trouble in setting the targets and they had set a really nice deer herd shot of different size and angled 3Ds set between the trees where  you had to select the target to go for, decisions, decisions.

3D deer herd shot, pick your target

3D deer herd shot, pick your target

Another target worth mentioning was a large Raven 3D they had set on a tree stump, again framed very nicely.

3D raven on the tree stump between the trees

3D raven on the tree stump between the trees

The Spirit club had also set out a couple of boxes of chocolates at different points round the course for archers to help themselves, a very kind and generous gesture.

Boxes of sweats could be found round the course

Boxes of sweats could be found round the course

I don’t feel any of the targets were particularly long shots, and one thing they did do well I thought was how quite a few of the targets were nicely framed between the trees. This gave the archer a corridor view, making them look closer or further than they were. They had obviously considered the canopy for low poundage bows on all the shots, something that not all shoot organisers or course layers do. The result were several targets set at sensible distances whilst remaining a challenge and more importantly enjoyable. It’s good to see course where targets aren’t stretched or 3Ds are angled to make them near impossible.

Pick your target the 3D zebra or 3D cheetah

Pick your target the 3D zebra or 3D cheetah

We went round pretty quickly with no hold ups other than looking for the occasional wayward arrow that preferred the undergrowth than the target.

3D porcupine target in the leaves

3D porcupine target in the leaves

Night draws in quickly this time of year, so by the time we got to the raffle and prize giving it was already dark. Fortunately as it was a wooden arrow only shoot there were only a few different classes. Following on from the Christmas theme of the shoot, Spirit were doing Christmas themed prizes for first place, Christmas puddings no less. I don’t think anyone will be surprised to hear that Sharon came away with one as she won ladies American flatbow. Have to say that I was surprised in receiving a Christmas pudding as I didn’t expect to win gents flatbow.

The journey back took a couple of hours, but as always its well the drive.

Thanks for reading.

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and Good Luck for the New Year.

Some of the wood carving in the fort area

Shoot Report – NFAS National Championships – September 2017

Some of the wood carving in the fort area

Some of the wood carving in the fort area

Sorry this shoot report is so late in appearing, works been pretty mad, with long hours and a restructuring, but enough of that it is an archery blog after all. So the NFAS National championships has come and gone in what seems like a blink of an eye last September. Has it really been that long ago?

The weekend long competition this year was held in the Usk area of South Wales and if you would like to, you can read a review from last year’s event here.

I have to say I wasn’t approaching the weekend with a great deal of confidence and yes this will probably sound like me making excuses. I’d not had time to do much practice due to long hours at work and not having the opportunity to practice at weekends. I’m not as disciplined as Sharon, who gets up early and practices before starting work. Guess that is an advantage she has of working from home at times.

Archers on the shooting line

Archers on the shooting line

I don’t know about you but I know the lack of practise and associated lack of confidence really affects me as I tend to doubt myself and second guess my shooting. It also tends to affect my muscles as I don’t feel as fluid in the draw up and release sequence. Not to mention the stamina required to shoot two full days of competition.

Archers massing for the start

Archers massing for the start

Anyway time would tell and more importantly onto the interesting bit, the shoot report. The NFAS National championship is an annual event, attracting archers from all over the country shooting under the NFAS banner. Unlike the 3D Championships held on the late May bank holiday, where all targets are 3Ds, the Nationals are a mixed competition meaning you will shoot both paper faces and 3D targets (approximately 60/40 split respectively) on each course.

This year we were lucky enough to find a very nice local hotel Llangeview Lodge only a five minute drive from the courses, so no need to pack the tent or have a long drive to and from the event.

As is the norm, competitors shoot two courses, one each day. Saturday would see us shoot B and Sunday A, with the courses having been set by Hawk archers club (B) and a group of volunteers (A).

So day one saw us shooting B course. This course’s woodland was quite dense in areas making for some quite dark shots. The woodland hosting the course also had a number of small ponds, which Hawk course layers used on a number of shots, such as the crocodile and brown bear.

Ian shooting 3D bear on B course across pond

Ian shooting 3D bear on B course across pond

It felt like I started in the hardest area of this course as our first shot was a 3D Velociraptor, followed by the infamous JVD artic wolf paper face that I tend to call the Chihuahua wolf as it is all fur, this was followed by then JVD deer all over pretty open ground along a path. Three longish shots one after another, but it wasn’t just me who would struggle.

Crocodile 3D across pond on B course

Crocodile 3D across pond on B course

Ian shooting turkey face on B course

Ian shooting turkey face on B course

I felt sorry for the young junior archer who I was shooting with who blanked several of the early targets and was getting quite despondent when we got to catering. An upside of the day though was that it was good to shoot with Ian from Artemis Archers who I’d not chatted with for ages.

Ian shooting 3D frog on B course

Ian shooting 3D frog on B course

I think it would be fair to say I didn’t gel with this course overall. I felt many of the shot’s difficulties or challenges were really based on distance rather than framing. If you could judge the distance then you were more than likely to be successful, but since at times I couldn’t make out if I was in or not I was often second and third arrows.

To be fair to the course layers, I spoke to some archers who loved B course, having to judge the distance and dead ground was right up their street, but to me it felt like most of the challenge was in judging the distance. Of course if I’d done more preparation I might have felt differently. I personally find it difficult to recover from a bad start and wonder in hindsight if that has affected my view of B course.

Well Sunday would be another day; my hope was my shoulders would be ok. The several second and third arrows I had been taking was tiring it, causing occasional spasms during the day. We left the venue and retired to the hotel for a hot shower, very enjoyable meal and early night.

Day two would see an early start for all, with Admin opening at 7 am to get archers out on the courses as early as possible. I have to say I was feeling a bit guilty not helping out in some way on Sunday morning. Saturday I had been able to do my bit in marshalling the practise bosses, but we didn’t get to the site until about 7:30 and by the time we’d gone through arrow checks and picked up score cards, there was just enough time to shoot a few arrows and grab some breakfast before we were off onto the course.

A course woodland - 3D deer by the tree

A course woodland – 3D deer by the tree

The woodland that hosted A course was very different to that of B course, being more open and situated in and around an ancient hill fort.

A course - in and around ancient fort

A course – in and around ancient fort

This offered some beautifully laid shots with a mix of open and framed targets.

Paper face fox target on A course

Paper face fox target on A course

I feel I engaged more with this course and I think that helped, the only problem was my shoulder. In fact this would be the biggest problem I had on the Sunday that of fatigue or rather muscle spasms in my shoulder. It resulted in my arm flinching on a couple of targets in the morning and more in the afternoon, with my shoulder gradually getting worse as the day progressed.

A course - 3D bobcat on the log

A course – 3D bobcat on the log

Those are the breaks I guess and I at least finished the day, though it is incredibly annoying to see an arrows fly at exactly the right height landing just left or right of the target due to arm twitching, which was the case on the big white Ram 3D.

3D frog target hidden in the undergrowth

3D frog target hidden in the undergrowth

I think the one target I really did not get on with was a brown deer/ mouse paper face round the back of the hillside. None of us in the group could make it out and even when we were up close it was hard to identify.

Quick general comment to make here is I’d like to express our thanks as always to the course layers on both A and B course, admin teams, site organisers and estate owners.

I found out on the day that the volunteers who set A course had never set a course before, which did surprise me as I think they did a grand job, as did the guys on B course. Thanks to all that work so hard on setting the course, running the admin and organising the site.

I think the archer of the weekend must have been Richard Davies, who put in a truly amazing score to win Gents longbow.  Congrats to Lee Ankers, fellow Briar Rose club member on his medal winning placing in Gents Primitive.

The full breakdown of the results and collection of photos from them event can be found on the NFAS website (http://www.nfas.net/home.asp).

Sharon - Ladies NFAS National Champion in American Flatbow

Sharon – Ladies NFAS National Champion in American Flatbow

Sharon did really well despite not feeling she was on form, improving on her second place last year to win Ladies American Flat Bow. As for me, well despite having a collapsing shoulder and not shooting much this year I manage to come in with a 3rd place in Gents American Flatbow, third year in a row.

My 3rd place medal for 3rd year on the run

My 3rd place medal for 3rd year on the run

More importantly for Sharon and I, we managed to retain the Nearest and Dearest trophy for the fourth year.

Thanks for reading.

Quick update on Traditional Bowhunter

I thought readers and followers might like an update on the article I wrote recently on the recent NFAS proposal for a new shooting class, that of Traditional Bowhunter.

It looks like it is going to go to the NFAS membership to vote on the proposal following discussion at the society’s meeting, with only a few minor amendments.

So if you are a member of the NFAS you’ll be getting details through, probably in the next newsletter. As it is a new shooting style / class, all members of the society will get to vote on the proposal.

Thanks for reading.

Let’s talk about quivers

Jims bow against the tree

Jims bow against the tree

While I was writing the article on the traditional bowhunters style proposal in the NFAS recently, I got thinking about the different types of quivers that we use. This got me thinking about writing an article on the different types of quivers being used in archery.

There is almost as much variety in quivers as there are in bows, back quivers, bow quivers, field quivers and more. So what’s the appeal of one over another?  We know they come in all shapes and sizes and I got wondering as to what people use and why? To answer this or rather to get more insight I thought I’d turn to the great internet for help and specifically a Facebook group I belong to “Fellowship of the bow” which is mainly for traditional archers and it has a few thousand members. On the site I posted a simple poll and invited members contributions and thoughts on there. The feedback and response was awesome for which I’m very grateful.

The results from the poll are shown below and it is interesting in the sheer diversity of styles . The three most popular are in descending order, back, hip and then field quivers, though bow quivers were also very popular too. I’m also going to mention a mate of mine who has a quiver mounted on a walking stick, which offers both a method of carrying arrows and a useful aid when walking some field courses.

  • Back quivers 62
  • Hip 50
  • Field 47
  • Bow 37
  • Other 9
  • Target 6
  • Arrowbag 4
  • Native style 2
  • Historical 1
  • Walking stick 1
  • Personal caddy 1
  • Mongolian 1

What is very clear is the choice of quiver can be as personal as the choice of bows, some people love back quivers while others hate them and prefer the convenience of the bow quivers.

Often quivers are one of the first things that archers buy when they start shooting. When I first started I made a simple leather quiver, just enough to carry three or four of the arrows I owned.

Shortly after I got more seriously into the hobby I bought a leather field quiver out of a bargain basket at a local archery shop, when I really got hooked and I’ve been using it ever since. It is fairly standard as quivers of that kind go, with four tubes allowing you to carry 10-12 arrows if you ram them in, along with a couple of pockets for spare string, pens etc. and a belt loop. A while back I covered what I carry on a shoot (here is the link to it). Though it can carry more I tend to only carry 3 or 4 arrows in the quiver with the rest being kept in an arrow tube on my back. I have tried using a couple of back quivers, but never found one that has worked for me.

So lets’ have a brief look at the different types of quivers out there, some of the positives and negatives. I’ve drawn on my own experiences, along with feedback from the poll and comments from archers. So in no particular order lets’ start.

Bow quivers – these are quivers which are fitted direct to the bow, hence the name bow quiver and usually house 2-6 arrows.

The appeal of these tends to be associated with the convenience of having everything to hand on the bow, resulting in less to carry. The other thing that many commented on was the lack of noise with this form, with none of the rattling of arrows as you walk round the wood. I have to say that they can look good. What is interesting is that some people seem to use these in conjunction with a field or back quiver to carry spare arrows.

I find it interesting that some people commented on how they add a bit of stability to the bow, while others say it makes no difference. I know that this has been debated on a number of occasions but having never used one I can’t say one way or another.  My only point of concern is the positioning of the quivers. You need to ensure they don’t impede the flex of the limbs.

As I’ve said I’ve never used a bow quiver but I can see the appeal for the convenience, they can look very cool too on the right bow.  Though I wouldn’t fit one on my flat bow I think I would put one on my recurve.

Back quiver – so these are worn on the back, though you might have guessed this by the name, it does kind of give it away. I’m going to group back quivers with those that are small backpacks with integral quivers here too. These small back packs are a bit like camel packs that house arrows along with a few other bits.

The appeal of back quivers appears to be a mix of practicality and looks. As one person said it’s quite a romantic look.  A few people commented on the fact they prefer back quivers as they don’t like stuff hitting their leg or around their waste.

I’ve tried using a couple of different back quivers and never got on with the ones I have used, as they always seemed to move too much on my shoulder. I’d struggle to stop the arrows falling out when I bent over, or catch them on the tree branches.

The big advantage of this style can be it leaves your hands free and all the weight is on your shoulders rather than your waist.

From comments and my own experience 3 point connection seems to work best for comfort, practicality wise too, as comments imply they rest better on the shoulders.

One design feature that was mentioned was having a back quiver made from a material that is sufficiently flexible so when you bend over the material, say leather, flexes holding the arrows so they don’t fall out when you bend. Makes a lot of sense as this is something that puts a lot of people off using them, including myself.

One interesting thing that was mentioned, and I have seen, are some back quivers which have a slit in the side which you draw arrows from, rather than drawing them from over your shoulder.

Target quivers – tend be a little smaller than other quivers and not necessarily designed to accommodate the large numbers of arrows or larger diameter arrow like 11/32 wooden shafts that you tend to use in field archery.

Field quivers  – these allow you to carry a few more bits and pieces, mine has a couple of pouches where I carry spare string, pens, string wax, whistle etc. check out my article on what I carry on a field shoot for more details.

The downside of field quivers tends to be there size and potential weight on one side of your body. This was something that was raised by a couple of people on the poll, along with disliking the way they hit your leg as you are walking. I know for me I tend to have my hand on my quiver when walking to stop it knocking my leg.

I’ve stuck with a field quiver for most of my archery life so far, though I have modified mine slightly by replacing the belt I use and using a Bohning Rigid Shooters Belt for more comfort.

Choice of types of quivers is just one thing, you then have the materials they are constructed from. Though in essence we have traditional leather verse modern materials, its worth remembering other materials have been used for quivers, including cloth ones. But I think that is another area of discussion, some people like the modern materials, others like what they see as the more traditional look and feel of leather.

Many modern material quivers, especially the backpack style offer effective weather proofing and are waterproof. This is really important to remember as I know on a couple of shoots in poor weather where I’ve literally turned my quiver upside down to empty the water out. I also had to empty all the contents of the pouches to let it dry out completely. It’s worth remembering that your quiver encounters the same weather conditions as you, so remember to waterproof them.

Another advantage to modern fabric quivers are they tend to be lighter, something to consider if you are carrying all day around a field course.

One problem you can have with selecting the right quiver is in some ways the same as with bows, i.e. the price. The cost can vary as widely as the designs. Of course you can pick up quivers for a few pounds from most archery shops or the internet, but likewise quivers can be quite expensive, especially if you go for custom leather ones.

For me I think I’ll stick with my field quiver on my belt for now and my arrow tube on my back. It works for me. Much as I would like to have a back quiver, I can’t seem to find one that works for me.

Me at the wood

The choice is such a personal thing, but at the end of the day find something that works for you, so long as it can carry your arrows, does it matter if it’s on your bow, back or attached to your belt.

Thanks for reading.