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.

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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.

Useful video form Merlin archery

Grizzly Jim at Merlin have been putting out a few videos on YouTube recently and this one on How to Anchor and Release is well worth looking at.

I agree about the statement on consistent and form, I know a few archers that have what some see as poor form but are consistent, self included. Have a good weekend.

Thanks for reading

Course and Target laying – Target code ARROWS

First view from Red peg

First view from Red peg

When I started trying to setup targets and shots I realised there was a lot to remember, from setting up the target, to how you get the archers to the shooting peg, whilst not forgetting about the overshoot for the shot and always remembering the safety elements.
For this reason I tried to analyse the process and come up with something that would help me remember all of these steps. My answer to this was using an acronym  ARROWS – somehow this seemed appropriate. So these are my thoughts on target positioning and locations . Please remember I’m no expert at laying courses or targets but I hope you find it useful.

Before starting here are a few things to familiarise yourself with. Consider your society rules. Do you have to have clear shooting lanes, marked or unmarked distances.

Style or Class of bow. Are you setting for an open where any and every bow styles might compete or maybe a wooden Arrow only.
Useful Tip – When scouting for a new shot I will often use my camera phone to record the view or angel of prospective shots so I can discuss it with others. I know others have used a gps system to track the target position on to a map of the course.
Anyway back to the acronym.

A – You can read this as approach or arrival at the first shooting peg.  It covers the  route to the first shooting peg and standing area when there. Is the route clear? Where possible at no point should the archer walk forward of the shooting peg as this might give them an advantage in distance judgement.  What do the archers see as they arrive? Is there space for a group or maybe two to stand safely without endangering themselves or causing distraction to other archers. Are the paths to the peg clear of obstructions? Brambles are a course layers worst enemy and  I’m sure the wood elves go out at night and lay bramble trip hazards across every path.
The idea is that as they approach they shouldn’t get a clue as to distances etc from peg to target.

View from the red peg

View from the red peg

R-Red peg (the first shooting peg for an adult in NFAS field archery courses)- but really this covers all the  other peg positions too. We have mentioned the approach to the first peg but archers will need to get from one peg to another.
Think of the route they will have to take. A straight path to the  boss makes a corridor for distance judgement or do you set a twisted path so harder to judge distance?
Pegs need to be driven in well as longbow and afb archers won’t thank you if their lower limbs catch the peg.
R – range – not just ranges to boss from each peg, but range of height of archers,  range of bow weight and dynamics.
Longbows need overhead clearance of branches etc.
Think target size here too. Don’t spoil a shot by putting too small a target face on. Remember juniors pegs too, if placed too close to the target boss they run the risk of bounce back.

First view from Red peg

Consider the tree cover and branches

O – overshoot – What is behind the target location or to the side etc in the event of a glance off from trees.
Do you need a back stop or netting? Are there trees or bushes behind the target that arrows could bury themselves in?
Please remember that simply putting up safety netting does NOT make an unsafe shot safe! 
Over shoot with netting

Over shoot with netting

W – walk off – safe route out. When the archers have collected their arrows how do they leave the boss and make their way to the next target?
Is it a walk back  to the original shooting pegs or heading to a path. Is it clear to see navigation or are direction arrows needed?

S – Safety – last but not least. Review the shot completely and in respect of the entire course. There are times when a shot can look perfect but when looked at in respect to the entire course safety issues could appear with overshoot, waiting groups or access.
Foot paths for the general public. Are there any bridal paths or public rights of way that effect the shot or the course. In the NFAS you can’t place any shot that is considered to be close to or has an overshoot towards a footpath.
Do you need special signs on the course or possibly on the course boundaries for the general public?
Target Boss

Target Boss

Some target bosses have strip binding and care must be taken with the metal fastening. These metal bindings should never face the archer as if arrow hits them it is likely to bounce back and has the potential of causing injury. (See setting up a target boss)

Once this is done for one target you need to repeat the process for all the remaining ones.  A normal nfas course is 36 or 40 targets.
Hope you find this of use and as always thanks for reading.

Literature Review – Idiot Proof Archery-How to Shoot Like a Pro

I recently bought this book (Idiot Proof Archery-How to Shoot Like a Pro) on a trip to Wales Archery.  But I had first seen a copy about a year ago whilst competing at the Scottish championships. Some of my club members from Artemis had a copy and were promoting its content.

Idiot proof archery

Idiot proof archery

I like the style of writing, as it makes the book an easy read. It also means you can easily put it down and pick it up or flick through.

I think it gives good advice for those wanting to improve and I found the Dos and Don’t chapter particularly informative and insightful. Another thing is if you are a coach or interested in developing coaching skills there is some good advice and tips throughout the book on things to look out for in your students.

I particularly like the quick key points tips in the margins.

I would classify myself as a traditional archer in many ways, in so far as I shoot mostly wooden arrows from bows without sights. I have a compound and carbon arrows for my recurve, sights etc but prefer instinctive shooting, which means some of the material and subject matter covered is not as relevant. Having said that I still found this very insightful and in short a good read.

Images can be a little small but they succeed in getting the messages across. the one thing I think is lacking is an index of content to aid in finding topics.

I’ve included a link to Amazon below but as I said I bought my copy from Wales Archery, which is a great little shop in Crick, Monmouthshire.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Idiot-Proof-Archery-How-Shoot-Pro-Step/dp/0971281211

ISBN-10: 0971281211

ISBN-13: 978-0971281219