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.

snowy field

Seasons are changing and its getting colder, tips on staying warm

snowy lane

snowy lane

Winter is coming. No I’m not talking about the Game of Thrones TV series which I’ve still not watched any of. I’m talking about the change of seasons. It seems almost overnight the trees have become bare, with their leaves now carpeting the woodland floor, whilst temperatures have started to dip further.

Recently there was a post on the NFAS Facebook site about suitable clothing for cold weather and that got me thinking and revisiting an article I wrote a few years back on the subject of staying warm in the winter months. I thought I would update it now, but focus a bit more on the base layers we have been using for a few years and a few other bits that might prove useful or even early Christmas gifts.

Sharon shooting in the snow

Sharon shooting in the snow

Being cold can really distract from your enjoyment of shooting, whether you are out hunting for your Christmas turkey or in our case at a field shoot. Cold hands make having an effective release hard, wet feet makes the body feel cold and day long. So here are a few tips and clothing advice we’ve found useful over the years.

Layer up – Merino wool base layers have served Sharon and I for years and I do mean years. Whether we are out shooting, hiking or skiing they are what we reach for to keep us warm. Ok, so ours are getting a bit worn now, but when you consider the number of years we’ve worn them I think they have been well worth the money.

Merino wool base layer

Merino wool base layer

Ours are Icebreakers and come in two weights 200 and a heavier 260. They work by keeping you warm when you need to be and doesn’t develop that synthetic feel other base layers do. The 260 weight have thumb holes and long sleeves that work really well for archery and for that matter skiing too as they keep your wrist warm. I think they are now sold at a 280 weight.

Heavier weight Base layer

Heavier weight Base layer

So what is Merino wool and why does it make it so well?
Here is a link to Icebreakers website and goes http://uk.icebreaker.com/en/why-icebreaker-merino/what-is-icebreaker-merino.html
I tend to avoid synthetic base layers as I find whilst they do keep you warm, then tend to hold body odours and result in getting a bit smelly quickly.

Don’t get too hot. This may sound strange when talking about shooting in cold weather, but if you get too warm you start to sweat. If this sweat doesn’t wick away from your body, you can very easily get cold when you stop moving round and that can in turn lead to hypothermia. You don’t have to out in in 3 ft snow to catch hypothermia, it can set in at just above freezing point as it is based on your body temperature dropping. So please take care.

Billy Connolly once said on one of his TV shows “there is no such thing as bad weather just wrong clothing

Disposable hand warmer are useful to carry in a pocket to warm you up and they are quite inexpensive, if like us you buy them in bulk on-line.

Handwarmers

Handwarmers

There are various reusable ones that use charcoal sticks or lighter fuel too, but I don’t have any personal experience of the latter. The charcoal ones are a bit of a pain to get started and stay warm so we stick with the disposable ones. I know some people find the lighter fuel ones very useful. The disposable ones last for a few hours and I tend to have a few spare in the car or back pocket when skiing and hiking. One thing I have learnt is that they need air / oxygen to work so if they are buried under lots of layers they don’t work that well.

Decent waterproof boots are essential, wet feet equal cold feet, cold feet makes for uncomfortable day. You can read a review of mine here. I’m not a fan of wellington books as don’t find them that warm

Survivor Man – Les Stroud tweeted dry feet = happy feet

and he is so right there. I also keep a change of shoes in the car that will be dry and warm to change into after shooting, along a towel to dry your bow and you if you get wet. There are a few blankets in the car just in case. While talking about feet it is worth spending a bit more on decent socks too or to have a spare pair in the car to change into.

Decent windproof / water proof jacket. Ideally a breathable gore-tex jacket that you can move and shoot in. Finding one you can shoot in is a lot harder than you might think though, as the biggest problem is finding one that doesn’t have baggy sleeves to catch on the bow string. Fleece shirt and body warmer (Ideally windproof) which just acts as another layer is a good addition. You have to be careful that you don’t end up so restricted in moving due to heavy coats etc that you can’t move.

Keeping your legs warm. Again we have some Merino wool base layer leggings for when it is really cold. We never wear jeans. If jeans get wet, body warmth will leach out of you as jeans take an eternity to dry.

Lined walking trousers

Lined walking trousers

I use a pair of Craghopper Kiwi lined trousers and have for several years. They dry pretty quickly and keep you warm. The only downside I have found to them is don’t get too close to naked flame as they are synthetic. They do have a couple of zip pockets that means keeping keys safe is easy.

Lined walking trousers

Lined walking trousers

I do have some breathable waterproof over trousers too by Northface which I can put on if the weather turns wet. They can work well as an extra layer over lighter trousers like the Bear Grylls one I reviewed a while back on this site.

Warm hat and neck scarf or ideally neck buff will keep you warm. One thing I’ve not mentioned yet are gloves. It can be hard to find suitable gloves when shooting, especially if you are using a tab. Flip over mittens can work well. Sharon uses a pair and has for a couple years. Hers are fingerless gloves with a loop of fabric that fits over the fingers so making them into mittens when needs it.

Thermal mug by lifeventure

Thermal mug by lifeventure

Snacks energy bars and liquid – ideally a warm drink in a small thermos flask will serve you well. I tend to have a mug flask with hot fruit cordial on my belt and a flask of spicy soup in the car. The advantage of having a fruit cordial is if it goes cold its still drinkable. Thermal mug by Lifeventure http://www.cotswoldoutdoor.com/lifeventure-thermal-mug-d3432028 have worked well for us for a few years and keep the drink warm for a few hours.

Thermos mug

Thermos mug

Last thing is to consider of how you are getting home. I’ve been to a few of shoots over the years, where the biggest challenge wasn’t the course but getting off the car park, field or track. The fields and tracks had been churned up by all the archers’ cars or snow has changed to hard packed ice. The resulting quagmire or skating rink makes getting home a challenge.

There is a layer of compacted snow into sheet ice

There is a layer of compacted snow into sheet ice

For this reason I carry a tow rope, small spade, length of old carpet and jump leads just in case and I’ve used them all at shoots. A relative recent addition have been plastic tracks, sometimes called mud tracks or grips. They are about 6 inches wide and 12 inches long, made of a deep honeycomb structure and allow the tyres to gain a grip on the soft ground. These have proved really useful and helped more than a few people who have become stuck.

Ok, so all this may sound a little over the top but better to be prepared than cold.
Hope you find this useful and thanks for reading.

Message to all readers and followers – Thank you

Thank you

Thank you

Just wanted to say thank you to all the followers and readers of this blog. I’ve been quite humbled over recent months when archers at shoots have come up to me and say “Are you Rob? I read your blog
Or as was the case a few days ago I received a a lovely email saying thank you for all the work that goes into writing the articles and editing the photos. So thanks, it’s great to know that people find my ramblings enjoyable and useful.
I will apologise to all of you if I don’t have the time at shoots to chat at length but please know I’m really grateful. I felt quite guilty at the Paget de Vasey shoot when in the food que the person next to me said he read the blog and got into field archery because of it. I would have loved to chat further but has to take Sharon her drink or I’d have been in real trouble.
Thank you all for reading and contributions.

Some new ideas from off the arrow shelf site

walk in park

Hi everyone

This is a quick message to say that there are a few new developments here in the near future. I hope to be launching a couple of new sections or categories of articles for this site.

A walk with… will cover informal interviews with archers I’ve met, giving an insight into their love of archery, how they got into it initially and so on. It is based on the idea of chatting with them as they walk round the woods shooting.

Behind the counter… is aimed at businesses associated with archery, whether these produce bows, custom leather worked quivers, or whatever, giving them the opportunity to provide some insight for readers.

So why am I doing this?

This is a new development for the Off the arrow shelf blog so I hope you all enjoy it. The reasoning about this is pretty simple really, like all good ideas. Quite often I am being asked about archery suppliers, where you can get the arrow shafts from or which bow to go for. So I thought I would create a series of articles on different archery related shops, suppliers etc.

Before I start I’d like to make a couple of things clear. I have no company sponsorship or formal connection to these businesses. Yes I may have bought products from them in the past and even written review on some products, but I am not sponsored.

I’ve also met loads of people over the past few years I’ve been doing this hobby and running this site. Some have become good friends and nearly all have a wealth of stories or advice that I feel would be great to share.

I will still be writing shoot reports, equipment reviews and linking to other useful resources for archers.

Let me know what you think and thanks fro reading.

Shoot report – South Cheshire – May 2016

Traffic jam on motorway

Traffic jam on motorway

Sunday morning we were packed and on our way to South Cheshire shoot early as it’s one of the further shoots and takes about an hour and a half journey time. The problem was the motorway north was down to 1 lane instead of 4 due to an accident so that made for a very stressful drive as we sat in the traffic for 30 minutes waiting our turn. As it was we made the shoot in time to register and by all accounts several others had been delayed in the same incident. Let’s hope the passengers in the van that had crashed and flipped onto it’s side are okay.
South Cheshire

South Cheshire

The weather on Sunday was unseasonably warm with temperatures in the low 20 degree centigrade a complete contrast to recent weeks, this meant I was able to get a few photos.
Second target of the day 3D antelope

Second target of the day 3D antelope

This would be the first outing with my new Black Brook flatbow.
3D fox between the trees

3D fox between the trees

The course was entirely 3d targets and they had painted small pink dots in the centre of the kill zone for every target.
I’m unsure if I like the idea or not. In some ways it means all archers know where the highest scoring zones note just those with sights or access to listing of 3ds, also there are no arguments as to which scoring zones count.
The downside was it appeared to wear off as the day went on so not all archers were as clearly visible later in the day. Possibly the use of different paint would solve this.
3D boar

3D boar

There were some new 3ds including a sea lion and big cat which we hadn’t seen on previous shoots at South Cheshire or other shoots.
Small 3D cat in the sun

Small 3D cat in the sun

Another 3D between trees

Another 3D between trees

There were a number of shots framed between trees and branches making them hard to judge.
3D Turkey shot between trees

3D Turkey shot between trees

I think a few well placed catching nets would have sped the search for arrows up on a couple of targets, especially the ones near the water.
Very long shot at 3D Deer

Very long shot at 3D Deer

My thanks to the two marshals who helped retrieve the wayward arrows in the lake. Glad I could help launch and retrieve the boat, though I think a couple oars might be useful next time.
Discovered that the arrow sock labels I’d put on the night before don’t cope with being in water.
Sharon shot well winning ladies afb and actually scoring higher than the gents did too. Unfortunately my first outing wasn’t a very auspicious one, I really need more practice.
Sharon shooting 3D

Sharon shooting 3D

The journey home was less eventful but looks like we’ve developed an issue with the cars rear breaks, so no doubt that will be pricey to solve. So all in all was not the best day for car journeys.
Thanks for reading.