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.

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Yosemite National Park - article

National Geographic – old magazine, new memories

National Geographic January 1985

National Geographic January 1985

Ok so apologies first as this has very little if anything to do with archery, but I wanted to share it with readers.

So firstly here is a little bit of background history. When I was growing up I wasn’t what you could call the healthiest of children. In fact I think I spent more time in and out of the doctors’ surgery or hospital than at school. The up side of this was I got to spend a lot of time with two wonderful people while my mam was out at work, these being my maternal grandparents. During this prolonged absence from school, I developed a love for old black and white TV shows and movies that were shown on British afternoon TV. The downside of my absence from school, was my schooling suffered and I was bullied a lot when I did go back to school.

So what brought on this trip down memory lane and insight into my childhood?

Well my Mam has been clearing out some stuff from my family home and she has given me a few boxes to sort through, actually quite a few boxes. You know the sort of thing, old books, school reports and numerous magazines. I’m sure those of you that may have gone through something similar would agree that the process can bring back a whole lot of memories, some good and some bad, a few happy and a few sad ones. I found a folding penknife my grandfather gave me when I was about eight, he had an identical one. In the same box I found his penknife too, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, RCMP emblazoned on them both. I’ve given one to my Mam and kept the other.

pen knife

pen knife

In another one of the boxes was a collection of National Geographic magazines from the early 1980s. My Mam had been buying them for me as a child to try to encourage my reading and interest in nature and the outdoors. The first one of these I found had an article on Yosemite National Park in the USA and how it was trying to cope with the increasing numbers of tourists, whilst maintaining its natural beauty.

Yosemite National Park - snowy image

Yosemite National Park – snowy image

I found this kind of ironic since only a couple of years ago Sharon and I visited the national park when we were doing a short road trip in the USA. Who would have thought that 30 years after the article was published I’d find the magazine in a dusty old box.

Yosemite National Park Map

Yosemite National Park Map

Of course my clearing and sorting for the night stopped there and then as I sat and read the article.

So there I was reading the article but now I was remembering walking some of the routes pictured, having visited it, seeing the views and knowing first-hand the beauty of the land.

View form the top

View form the top

One memory it triggered was of all places based on the Parking areas, where we’d parked up and photographed deer grazing in the early morning long before many visitors arrived.

Yosemite valley deer in early morning

Yosemite valley deer in early morning

I recalled the sound of the thunder storm as it rolled through the valley, having just climbed down from the falls.

Yosemite Falls, seen from the valley

Yosemite Falls, seen from the valley floor

Life is strange as I have to say that when I first read this all those years ago I might have thought how great it would be to visit but doubted I ever would. I guess that finding this and reading this again, what it has showed me was a sick kid growing up on a council estate in North Wales can not only develop a love for the outdoors but also travel. So enjoy your travels and reading, you never know where it might take you.

Thanks for reading

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.

3D deer from the tower at LEFA

Shoot Report – Long Eaton Field Archers – Solstice Shoot June 2017

Lone Eaton shoot briefing

Lone Eaton shoot briefing

Sorry it’s taken so long to write this up but life seems to be delaying my writing recently.

It had been a while since Sharon and I had been to a Long Eaton Field Archers (LEFA) shoot and I have to say it was good to be back and catch up with people. As always if you are interested in reading a previous shoot report a link to one is here. It’s a relatively short drive for us being around an hour depending on traffic on the motorway, which wasn’t too bad. This would be their Summer Solstice shoot and LEFA always put in even more effort for this.

On this Sunday we would shoot with Tim and Martin both shooting compound unlimited. Have to say we had a really good laugh all day, with it proving to be a really friendly group with chats about the course, bow styles and the recent 3D champs. I know some traditional archers find shooting with compound archers not their thing, but I’ve never had a problem with it and that Sunday was a good example of how different archers can mix and enjoy the same event.

Interesting 3D spider on the web

Interesting 3D spider on the web

On that Sunday LEFA set up a few shots with WASP pegs, these are used as the first peg as opposed to the red peg, for adults shooting crossbow and sighted compounds. I think Wasp pegs can work quite well, offering normally a longer or more technical shot for those bow styles, though it I didn’t think it worked as well as LEFA course layers had hoped. Shame as I think it could prove quiet a good idea, offering a slightly different shot.

3D fox

3D fox

Overall I think it was a very challenging course that used the dead ground well, probably a bit harder than I remember previous solstice shoots but still achievable. I think we would both like to go back and shoot it again and see if we could improve our performance.

Sharon shooting 3D deer between trees

Sharon shooting 3D deer between trees

We were pretty luck with the weather as the few heavy showers arrived whilst we were having lunch  and were under cover enjoying some of the excellent catering that Long Eaton are renowned for.

Sharon thinking - she does this a lot

Sharon thinking – she does this a lot

LEFA like a few other clubs go to the trouble of camouflaging the target bosses so they are less obvious and effectively disappear into the undergrowth when shooting the 3ds in front. This adds to the natural look of the shot and is something I know a few archers commented.

3D deer from the tower at LEFA

3D deer from the tower at LEFA

Raising boar 3d

Raising boar 3D

One of the many nice shots was the large deer in the bracken. You shot it off a low tower and this made for a nicely deceptive shot as you tried to judge the distance. The course layers also worked hard on setting some nicely framed shots between trees or using the uneven ground to make for dead ground.

Small rabbit 3D between the trees

Small rabbit 3D between the trees

The course was a shoot through and seemed to flow well, with only a couple of hold ups near the end of the day, which is normal as archers get tired, having been on their feet all day. It felt a little quieter than previous visits, with a few less archers, though still had a very relaxed feel. It was good to see Dixie Leather there selling their ware.

Despite feeling we didn’t shoot well, Sharon and I both won our classes (ladies and gents American flat bow), with a slight mistake when the results were announced added to Sharon’s reputation as her score was announced as 644. It was actually 464, yet no-one was really surprised at the higher score, guess they know what she is capable of.

Thanks for reading.

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.