Shoot Report – Spirit of Sherwood – December 2015

Spirit of Sherwood Wooden Arrow shoot

Spirit of Sherwood Wooden Arrow shoot

So last shoot of the year and our thanks to all at Spirit of Sherwood for making it a good one.  They hosted a wooden arrow only shoot which unsurprisingly was well attended with an excess of 100 archers. Spirit ground is a long drive for us and knowing they wanted an early start along with the weather not looking great  we decided to stop over in Worksop the night before. For those overseas readers, parts of the UK have been battered by high winds and heavy rain resulting in serious flooding in Cumbria and southern Scotland, with the rest of the country experiencing high winds.
As it was the choice of motel was good as it was a 10 minute drive to spirits grounds and an easy walk to a local bar for an evening meal on Saturday.
3D baboon in the morning sun light

3D baboon in the morning sun light

So Sunday morning saw us packing up and heading down the road to Spirit. As I’ve said the shoot would be wooden arrow only meaning reduced number of classes, with there being Longbow, Amerian Flatbow, Hunting tackle and Primitive, all shooting wooden arrows with feather fletchings and no sights. Here is a link to last years shoot report.

It would be a 36 target course with a majority of 3d targets and only a few paper faces.
3d beaver complete with sawdust

3d beaver complete with sawdust

Our group would include Jackie and Charlie from Castle Bowmen both shooting hunting tackle. This would be the first time Sharon would be shooting her new Blackbrook American flatbow at a shoot, though she had had a little practise down at the club woods.

Sharon Shooting off the tree stump at 3d

Sharon Shooting off the tree stump at 3d

The course included one moving target a festive 3d turkey along with a predator prey.
Throughout the course Spirit had distributed boxes of sweets as festive treats for archers to help themselves,  a very kind and generous touch.

Spirit of Sherwood gift to archers

Spirit of Sherwood gift to archers

The shoot flowed well with no hold ups or apparent problems with the whole thing being completed by 3 pm allowing for all to set off home while there was still light.

3D bedded dear

3D bedded dear

There were some nice new 3d targets I hadn’t seen before including a 3D boar and bear.

Nice 3D bear target I hadn't seen before

Nice 3D bear target I hadn’t seen before

3D Boar hidden behind the tree

3D Boar hidden behind the tree

Being a  pretty flat ground spirit made use of a couple of tree stumps for elevated shots along with a few nicely framed shots between trees including one of a climbing cat 3d I’d not seen before.

Shooting off the tree stump at 3d

Shooting off the tree stump at 3d

3D car climbing the tree

3D car climbing the tree

Overall it was a really relaxed enjoyable shoot with good company and great atmosphere. There we no stretched targets just well set course at sensible distances, well done guys. We were lucky with the weather too as it was mostly dry except for the briefest of showers.  It was nice to chat with friends and fellow stick throwers along with other Fellowship of the Bow Facebook group members.
Sharon shot well and she came away with first in ladies American flatbow sadly I only managed third missing out on first by 8 points.
Thanks for reading and have a safe and enjoyable festive season.

Shoot Report – SVYF – April 2015

SVYF - archers waiting to go out on course

SVYF – archers waiting to go out on course

The weather stayed dry but the wind was ever so present.
SVYF is our club and this means this shoot report will be from the view of the organisers rather than competitors. You can read some earlier reports here Autumn 2014, Spring 2014.
Helping to run a shoot is a lot more tiring than shooting and it gives you a great insight into the work involved in setting courses.
The course this time comprised of 40 targets mostly 3Ds with a few paper faces. I’ve loaded some pictures on my Tumblr site (http://offthearrowshelf.tumblr.com/) already but here are a few more. Sorry there aren’t any action shots was a bit busy.
Predator prey shot

Predator prey shot

3D boar

3D boar

We delayed the start from 10 due to an accident on the motorway that delayed many archers’ arrival. As it was we only had 3 no shows, resulting in over 180 archers attending. It was great to catch up with so many fellow archers, friends and a few readers of this blog. It is always great to meet up with readers of this site so please if you do see us a t a shoot pop over and say hi. (Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for the shoulder)
Ever present tiger 3D

Ever present tiger 3D

The wood surrounds a couple of over grown ponds and is quite sheltered except on one side where the edge of the wood is exposed to open fields. Archers on this side would be battered by exceedingly strong winds, making the archery challenging to say the least. I think the compound archers suffered the most as their arrows were flicked off their rests.
Frog 3D between the trees

Frog 3D between the trees

Besides the high winds the only other problem which was partly under our control was the running repairs on bridges.
Can you spot the 3D Cobra

Can you spot the 3D Cobra

In SVYF we have over 13 bridges ranging from only a few feet in length to over 100 feet. We run regular checks on the bridges, replacing planks etc, but with over 180 archers trekking across them, plus organisers we had a few planks break. The only problem was they seemed to all go on one bridge, we had seven go on one bridge in the space of 20 minutes. Added to this was that target was 40 shot was across the bridge so we had our work cut out for us, cutting new planks, removing old ones and replacing them.
Bedded deer 3D

Bedded deer 3D

Overall the day seemed to run well, with archers enjoying themselves. Sadly not everyones day went as well due to delays on the course, we finally traced these delays to one group that were being very slow in shooting and scoring.
SVYF next shoot is in early October, hopefully it won’t be so windy.
Thanks for reading

Question from a reader – Aiming without sights

Recently I had a couple of questions sent to the blog by one of my readers.
It’s always good to have feedback and if I can help I will.  The subject matter of the questions posed are ones I think many would find interesting as one concerns the concepts of aiming and the other is on reducing the size of your grouping in the target.
I will try and answer each in turn over the next few weeks. Firstly I will discuss focus and aiming. The question was
“When you place your concentration on a small point at the target or animal, while you are pulling and about to get to your anchor point, do you take your eyes off the target for a second, and look at  the aliment of arrow with it ,or simply never see nothing else but the target point…”

There are a couple of things to consider here. One is focus on target with the other being arrow alignment.

Arrow alignment

When I first started archery I was very aware of the arrow. Sighting down the arrow to ensure it was pointing the right way.
This is what is taught to most archers to ensure they are lined up with the target.
I find now that I only do this when using a new bow or one I’m unfamiliar with. The rest of the time it is purely subconscious.
I try to fix my focus on a spot on the target where I want my arrow to hit.

Focus

So the simple answer to this question is no I don’t let my focus wander. I try to keep my point of focus set on where I want to hit. This is far easier said than done and takes practice and concentration. I  find if my eyes wander, then the arrow will follow where I am looking and not where I wanted it to go. Sharon and I both use this technique.
It takes discipline and practice, a lot of practise and I  don’t think I have fully mastered the technique yet.

The only problem is when you can’t pick a point on the target due to poor lighting. Something that can happen on shoots or at the end of the day as the shadows increase and light begins to fade.
Some of you will be aware that I’m not a gap shooter and consider myself as instinctive archer. Subconsciously my brain or should that read brain cell ☺is calculating the distance and telling my limbs when to release when i have where drawn up to. Great in theory but requires constant practice to maintain that awareness and internal sight map. It is also very fatiguing as it takes concentration of all things to relax and not second guess yourself.

Obviously this method doesn’t work for those archers using scopes or sights as they have to calculate the distance to be able to adjust the sights accordingly.

One book I have found resonates with me is Beginners guide to traditional archery by Brian Sorrells (book review here)
 Beginner's guide to tradional archery

The mindset of the author and style of writing is one I have found easy to follow and explain to others.
The concept of one arrow shooting I find  beneficial for developing focus. Here the author explains how you shoot only one arrow and then retrieve it and shoot again. This helps you focus on the individual shot and your form.

Another useful article is this one on various forms of aiming. It covers different forms of aiming from instinctive to gap shooters.

In the next post I will try to answer the question on improving grouping.
Thanks for reading.

Shoot Report – HaySmith – February 2015

Hay Smith  Shoot just before start.

HaySmith Shoot just before start.

So this is my first shot report of the new year and it sees us heading north to Leicestershire to try out a brand new club and ground. The “HaySmith and Spares” club was set up following the success of the course they laid at last year’s 3d championship course.
So on a cold frosty Sunday morning we headed up the motorway. I approached the shoot with some trepidation as it was to be the first time out for several years with my American flat bow (AFB). I’ve been trying to build up my strength to cope with shooting it for last couple of weeks but this would be the first real test.

Cold and frosty  start to the day

Cold and frosty start to the day

The club’s grounds are quite a small deciduous woodland with a few streams running through, but generally a flat course and easy to navigate.

To say the shoot was popular is an understatement with it being fully booked within 24 hours of registration opening.  The shoot itself was to be a twice round 20 targets with five archers to a peg and all pegs being filled.

Being a new club there were a few 3d targets with  the majority being paper faces. Having said this they did have some new 2d foam targets: a wolf and rabbit which I hadn’t seen previously. Maybe in hindsight reducing the numbers on the shoot to 4 a peg with a couple of empty pegs might have made the day flow more quickly but you live and learn. Having said that it was great to catch up with so many people many of whom we hadn’t seen since last year. It was also good to meet up with Jim Grizzly Kent from Merlin Archery Adventures and have a chat.
One thing the organisers did right at the beginning before the shoot started, which I though was a great idea, was have every archer check the arrows of the archer next to them. After which they announced that anyone found with unmarked arrows would be escorted off the course.
I think it is fair to say the club members put a lot of effort in to making access around the wood easy with numerous bridges across the brooks and secure steps cut into the banks.
We started on target 7 and were joined by Alan and Neil from Pines Park and Josh from Centaura.

Target 7 - first target of day

Target 7 – first target of day

One interesting thing they did was take some standard faces and change the scoring zone and to ensure all archers were aware of the new zones they provided copies at administration and catering. One of these was to be our first target which fortunately I managed to hit.
There were some lovely set shots including one of a 3D wolf across the small pond, thought the reflection looked great.

3D wolf shot - target 20

3D wolf shot – target 20

There were some lovely framed shots which unfortunately suffered due to the low sun and shadows making them not only hard to hit but also hard to see.

Hard to see target

Hard to see target

They had the space to put on a particularly long shot to a 2d hessian tiger which was over 50 yards and probably closer to 65.

Long Tiger shot

Long Tiger shot

In all there were good shots but I  didn’t feel they knitted together as a course as well as they could.

Unfortunately not all things went well for them, which was a shame considering the effort they had put in. There were a couple of issues with targets where the overshoots were close to the next peg so when archers on one target missed the boss the arrows were heard to land near the group in front. This perception of danger often unsettles archers. A ricochet off the ground by one target landed near Administration, resulting in the shoot stopping until the organisers rectified the issue, which they did quickly.

Like many clubs HaySmith relied on outside catering and unfortunately they weren’t the fastest which resulted in delays as groups waited for food. In fairness the food was good and it was the first time the caterers had done such a large event.
Sadly these issues and delays resulted in a long and at times slow day and for this reason the organisers decided to reduce the number of targets that the archers were to shoot from 40 to 30.
It was a brave move by the organisers on the day and I think given the delays they were encountering it was probably a good idea. It meant people could get off the ground and set off home before it got dark.

 They are running a second shoot this weekend due to the initial demand and speed at which their first was booked up.

I’m sure they will review and develop the course over time addressing any issues.
Sharon did well winning ladies Hunting Tackle and being only a few points behind the top gent archers. As for me I didn’t do well and need a lot of practise to get my head in the right place with the AFB. I did have one very lucky shot on a 3D standing bear that was a lot smaller than I expected.

Lucky shot of the day

Lucky shot of the day

I think the mark of a course and shoot is whether people would go back. Despite all the problems I know we will and I hope others do too. Yes there were problems on the day but they reacted to them and will know for the future. Not all clubs learn from their mistakes.

Thanks for reading.

PS I still say the club colours are pink and not salmon Chris.

Coaching very young children – some thoughts

Balloons as a target can make it fun

Balloons as a target can make it fun

 Recently I was asked to give two young children both 6, (though if you ask them they will say 6 and 3/4 and 6 and a half) a session in archery. These are some thoughts and observations, I hope you find it useful.

Normally I coach adults or children slightly older as I believe they have a better grasp of the concepts. Also at this early age their muscles and coordination is still developing so you shouldn’t start any earlier in my opinion.
One thing is for sure. Coaching young children is very different to coaching adults. I think it is far more tiring for the coach, but can be very rewarding for both coach and them, as to the young kids even missing is good.
They have no expectations of success but just enjoy the moment.

Maybe that is something we can all learn from.

Equipment requirements 

Though I have basic beginners take down bows I decided to use a simple fibre glass bow which is easier to use and more importantly lighter in the hand for young people. I picked it up from Merlin Archery but am sure other retailers would have something similar. Details are below.
http://www.merlinarchery.co.uk/sherwood-archery-bow-kit-44.html

Ground rules 

As with adults you must set the ground rules long before they get near a bow.

  • No running at any point.
  • If I say stop we stop.
  • Remember to talk to them, not at them.
  • Its vital to make parents aware of their responsibilities of care and behaviour.

Find out from the parents if the kids have any health issues, maybe they are just getting over a cold which might make them tire quickly.

Smile

One tip I’ve found is to always smile when talking to children ensuring you make eye contact, as children love this form of engagement.
Even if they miss, smile and tell them what they have done well, it is very easy to hit their confidence and you want them to enjoy the occasion.
The thing I have discovered with teaching kids is to make it fun, so I have found showing the basics then breaking it into two sessions and having something like balloons on the target in the second half makes it fun and keeps their attention.

Small steps

As an adult or experienced archer you might shoot 4/6 or more arrows when practising.
Children have a shorter attention span so have them shoot only a couple at a time.
This keeps their attention and doesn’t tire them out. Speaking of tiring them make sure to give them plenty of breaks. If they get tired they make mistakes and can get grumpy (just like adults )
I  took the kids in turn to shoot and had the other sat in a  chair watching. This means they can be relaxing watching and you as a coach have a safe place where they are located.

Couple of other  things to consider.
They don’t have a clear concept of aiming so tend to be instinctive in their approach.
Light is right – use the lightest bow possible and I don’t just mean draw weight but also light physical weight.
Children can get cold quickly as well as tired so keep an eye on this. I was running the session on a winter’s day so the cold was a potential problem but equally in the summer heat can be a problem with sunburn or heat exhaustion.
Childrens coats tend to be quite bulky so make sure arm bracers fit and hold the sleeve back.
Don’t locate the shooting line too close to the targets as arrows can bounce back due to not having enough energy to penetrate some target bosses.
Kneel at their side as this helps to keep eye contact, don’t tower over them as this can be intimidating.

Keep the fun.

One way of making it  fun can be to put a few balloons on target boss and have them try and burst them. This is a good activity for them after a long break say after lunch.
Likewise having some comic target faces can make it fun.

Parents and guardians role

I feel it is vital to engage the parents too and get them shooting so they know what the kids are having to do.
Ideally get the kids to use their parents phones to either photograph or film them shooting. Kids love using modern tech and recording themselves or parents can give them a great buzz. (Please be careful here as filming or photographing kids can cause issues so always ensure its the parents or guardians who are using the cameras when the children are the subject.)
I have the parents or guardians present at all times too,  as archery is not a creche and you as a coach should not be used as one. It also introduces archery as a family experience which they can share.
I hope you have found this useful and no doubt there are other tips you can pick up from other more experienced archers and coaches.

I’m sure there are other coaches out that that can offer some thoughts or add their advice.

Thanks for reading.