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 (www.hodder.co.uk) 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

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Shoot Report – Centaura – September 2016

Centaura shoot - archers waiting for start

Centaura shoot – archers waiting for start

On a early September Sunday morning we loaded the car to set off to Centaura shoot ground near Derby.
On arriving we discovered that sadly the club suffered from vandalism a few days before the shoot, which resulted in the course layers having to adjust some targets and use backup faces they had to hand, rather than those they had hoped to use. This vandalism was reported to the police, with the local press running an article on the damage complete with images of the culprits, as they managed to capture cctv images of the individuals they believe to be responsible. Let’s hope this helps identify those responsible and brings them to justice. I have included a link to the news article here. (http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/just-look-what-morons-have-been-doing-to-aston-archery-club/story-29710480-detail/story.html#)

If you are interested in reading a previous shoot report, you can find one here.
The shoot was slightly delayed due to the number of no shows, 17 in all and this is a lot for a small club to cope with, not just in the loss in earnings for entrance fees but also the cost in food bought based on expected numbers. There were still over a 100 archers in attendance in a variety of classes.

Small paper face between the trees

Small paper face between the trees

Despite the vandalism the club managed to set a 36 target course with a mix of paper and 3D targets, some of the papers are of their own design. There did seem to be a number of small faces but I think this might have been due to the vandalism and them using what they had rather than what they might have wanted to.
Sharon and I would shoot with John from Wolverine who was shooting longbow. I must say John was really good company and great to shoot round with, with conversation flowing freely on different topics from archery to other outdoor hobbies.

target 35 paper face puma

target 35 paper face puma

There were some familiar shots along with some new ones. We started on the club’s signature shot the Polo, this time on Target peg 1 with a small paper face red squirrel.

The now famous polo shot

The now famous polo shot

I particularly liked the bomb hole shot, which saw a change to the norm of shooting straight down.

Bear 3D from the red peg

Bear 3D from the red peg

3D bear shoot, zoomed in from the red peg

3D bear shoot, zoomed in from the red peg

This time they had managed to secure a 3D bear part way up a tree, making for a deceptive shot.

Close up of the bear 3d shot

Close up of the bear 3d shot

They also lengthened the very short shot they have had for the last few shoots, which I think worked much better.
The day flowed well, with no major hold-ups or issues we were aware of.
As always Centaura operates a lunch break 12:30 -1:15 and of course as luck would have it we were on the furthest target when the horn was blown to stop. I think my only critical comment might be that a few of the shooting pegs could do with being hammered in a bit further as anyone with long length bows could encounter problems catching their lower bow limbs. Also moving the target 36 shooting peg so it’s not on the main path, as it’s quite hard to concentrate on your shot when there are archers walking off the course.

Sharon shooting at paper face fox

Sharon shooting at paper face fox

Sharon did suffer from what can be best described as a slight wardrobe malfunction when stepping over a branch. The result was a ripping sound as her trousers ripped from knee to waist. Fortunately a role of micropore tape was to hand to save her embarrassment, allowing her to finish the course, with a pair of waterproof over-trousers being used when we got back to the car. Despite this Sharon shot well winning Ladies american flatbow.
Thanks for reading

Shoot Report – Lyme Valley – August 2016

Lyme Valley shoot - August 2016

Lyme Valley shoot – August 2016

So a few Sunday’s back saw us headed north up the motorway to revisit Lyme Valley shooting grounds. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that this is one of Sharon’s favourite club grounds and if you are interested you can read a previous shoot report here.
The weather was kind being both dry and warm, making for good conditions under foot; an important factor to remember as Lyme Valley course is along either side of a steep valley and it can be very, very slippery conditions if wet.
The course would be 36 targets, two being paper faces and the remaining being 3ds. One weird announcement at the start was for those shooting bare bow. They were told they MUST remove the screws on their bows that are for holding clickers. Why? Because they could be used as a sighting aid which is not permitted in that class. This resulted in a flurry of activity as people tried to find suitable hex keys or screw drivers which would release the screws.
Starting on peg 7 there would be three others joining us Terry who we had shot with previously at South Cheshire and a couple from Centaura Elaine and Stan.

First target of the day - Lyme Valley shoot

First target of the day – 3d Fish across stream Lyme Valley shoot

Our first target would be a 3D fish across the stream which flows at the base of the valley and a shot that Lyme Valley have used a few times but still works well and looks good. Though maybe they could disguise a backing boss so any arrows that miss don’t run the risk of breaking when embedding themselves in the stony river bank.

Down hill 3D crocodile on the river bank

Down hill 3D crocodile on the river bank

By the fourth target we’d caught the group in front at a small 3d rabbit under a fallen tree with the next shot being a small 3d deer across the stream. This would be the norm for the day. In hindsight it might have been better to space these two shots out a bit more as it was a bit crowded.

Sorry bit out of focus - first target after lunch small down hill 3D

Sorry bit out of focus – first target after lunch small down hill 3D

Lyme operates a lunch break from 12:30 – 1:15 and as luck would have it we were at one of the further points on the course when the lunch horn sounded.
Following the lunch break we would return to a long downhill 3d capercaillie. Sadly Stan had to retire at this point due to his arrow rest breaking and he was not able to replace it.
Overall the day didn’t flow well with a number of hold ups on targets while we awaited our turn to shoot. From what I understand I think this might have been due to a number of reasons, some being associated with the course and others with archers.

3D bear - the tree branch forces you to change stance

3D bear – the tree branch forces you to change stance

As a course it didn’t feel it knitted together as other courses have at Lyme Valley. Don’t get me wrong there were some nicely laid shots such as the 3d bedded elk, which i wish I’d got a better picture of. Unfortunately that same shoot saw us waiting over 30 minutes to shoot it. Coping with that long a break and keeping concentration and focus can be very difficult.
There were a couple of sections of the course where the shooting pegs for two targets were very close leaving little space for the two groups to stand. I’ve mentioned the 3d rabbit and 3d deer already. This made people feel a bit uncomfortable as they tried to find somewhere to stand without being in sight of the archer shooting.

Up hill 3D standing bear

Up hill 3D standing bear

I don’t feel the delays can be all attributed to the course though as by some reports there were a few slower groups who let’s say took their time to shoot and retrieve arrows, enjoying a bit of a prolonged chat in the process.
I have little doubt that Lyme Valley course layers will take this on board for future shoots.
Despite the delays Sharon shot well with her winning Ladies AFB. I had far too many second and third arrows. I think I coped better on this course and shoot psychology speaking than on past shoots when dealing with the delays and my poor shooting. When I go to a second or third arrow I tend to let it affect me for the next few shots. That day I tried to focus on just the basics of form and breathing, reminding myself I can do this hobby of ours. Maybe it’s slowly sinking into this thick Welsh skull of mine. Stranger things have happened, I think.
Thanks for reading.

Do any of you find motivation in song lyrics?

I know I used to have a playlist of rock tracks for when I’d be at the gym to keep me upbeat through the workout.
There are other tracks that make you think or possibly remind you of childhood. Maybe it’s a title track of a TV show or the first single you bought. So what has this to do with archery?
I was browsing YouTube as you do and came across the title music to The Flashing Blade. This was a kids TV show shown in UK back in the 1970s dubbed into English (I think it was French originally https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-ZEDNkZ2L4).

It followed a small band of heroes in the musketeers theme, think sword fights and flintlock pistols. It wasn’t a big budget show or that good but it was Saturday morning and summer holidays tv which you watched on a rainy summers day. The thing is that the lyrics to the titles have stuck with me for years.
As long as we have done our best
Then no one can do more
This got me thinking about archery and how I’ve been struggling with confidence.
If you’re doing your best then great, you might not achieve your goals but you’ve done all you can. The key is you’ve done your best, you’ve made the effort.
I took the shot as well as I could at that time. Okay so you may have dropped short or thrown your arm, messed up the release but you tried. You set out to do your best and make the best shot you can.

Often there is the doubt that creeps in as to whether you have done your best. This brings me on to the next segment of lyrics I remember.

And we should never count the cost
Or worry that we’ll fall

Many of us worry about falling or failing whether it be at work, home or on a shoot. If that becomes the focus of our thoughts it is very self damaging, believe me I know. I’ve been there and still trying to find a consistent way out.

It’s better to have fought and lost
Than not have fought at all.

 If you don’t try then you’ve already lost. Yes it’s hard, read very hard, at times to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start again. There is one thing I can guarantee,  you will miss the opportunity of every shot or arrow you don’t take.
The interesting thing about this was that I tried to apply some of these lyrics at the 3D championships last weekend. (Yes I will be writing a full review of this event in the next week or so). I hadn’t been feeling confident and due to work and life commitments hadn’t been doing enough positive practise. Yes I had been shooting but not accomplishing the results I wanted in grouping or distance judgement. So when the inevitable missed shot came in I wasn’t surprised, I started the feeling of self doubt and its at this point I thought back to the reading I had been reviewing.
I realised I had to approach each shot as a new start, far easier said than actually done. I forced myself to focus on form and that I was doing the best I could, if I hit or missed it was the best I could have done at the time.
Well it seemed to have worked. I shot two days at a champs and didn’t fall apart. I didn’t win any medals but I did better than I thought. In short there is hope out there for all of us.
Thanks for reading.

Shoot report – Severn Valley – April 2016

SVYF shoot 2016

SVYF shoot April 2016 – archers gathering

Normally I would give you a detailed description of how our NFAS shoot went at the weekend. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to be there for the entire day due to being called by the police to tell us we’d been broken into.
Those who follow the tumblr blog associated with off the arrow shelf will have seen some photos of the damage. Fortunately it was our garden shed which had been smashed into and ransacked and not our house.

Sadly this is the second time in 6 months and we think it’s probably the same thieves returning. We weren’t the only victims as it appears they worked along the backs of people’s gardens. So in total we’ve lost approximately  £600 worth of tools and a couple of hundred pounds in damages over the two incidents. Since excess on our insurance is £200 each time we are at a considerable loss.
There’s also the feeling of anger, frustration and fear of leaving the property and wondering what we might find on our return.

Bluebells in the wood

Bluebells in the wood

As for the shoot it seemed to go well with a mix of 3d and paper faces making up the  36 targets.
I don’t think there were any hold ups on the day but as I said I wasn’t there for much of it. I think there were around 170 archers with a dozen no shows, which was a real shame as I know we had a waiting list.

Cobra 3D target

Cobra 3D target

We were lucky with the weather, as it stayed dry and sunny for most of the day.

3D standing bear

3D standing bear

It was good to have the positive feedback as a large portion of the 36 target course had been set by archers new to setting up courses and it was good for them to gain both the experience and feedback.

3D bear target

3D bear target

Well done Marcus, Jamie and Andy for your first foray into course laying.

3D fox - this was set by Marcus and Jamie

3D fox – this was set by Marcus and Jamie

It was nice to chat with a few archers and to catch up with Patrick a coach who qualified at the same time as me. We had a chat about our experiences of coaching since qualifying along with developments we’d seen etc. Good to see you mate and glad you made the trip.
Anyway thanks for reading this very short write up.