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.

Insight into Shires Archery

Some of you may recall a while back, me writing about a development with this site.

The idea is to create an opportunity for shops and businesses to offer an insight into the business, more so than they might be able to glean from a website. More of a light hearted overview than a dry news story. This is the first.

Action shot

Action shot

Rob – So where is Shire Archery based?

Trevor  – We are exclusively online at the moment but are looking to change that in the near future. I am a few miles north of my home town- Chesterfield famed for its bustling market and Church Spire which is both twisted and bent! It is a good spot to live being close to the Peak District National Park and having the ‘Dukeries’ on my door step, which are contiguous and include Sherwood Forest- famed for a certain Mr. Hood. All in all I feel rather lucky to live here, so the opportunity to welcome customers to the area I am enthusiastic about.

Rob – So readers might like to know about you or the business in general? How long have you been doing what you do?

Trevor  – About 13 years now including the official opening. I had shot and had some experience early on but my first real taste of Traditional archery came in the summer of 2003. I was living and working with a blacksmith just outside of Budapest. He had four Hungarian bows made totally out of wood, horn & sinew laminate. He had made them himself as a deep interest in his cultural heritage. As you can imagine being English and romancing the Longbow we had a lot to talk about. One warm evening whilst he was tending to the fruit trees beside his workshop, he went inside and along with two beers, brought the bows for us to shoot… I was hooked.

Rob – What a great way to start a journey into archery.

Rob – How did the business get started? Was it a hobby that grew into a business or maybe, a family business?

Trevor  – I had worked as a blacksmith in Wales after University for about 5 years traveling back and forth around Europe and the UK, I met some amazing people, skilled and incredibly welcoming. So I took the idea of operating a ‘craft business’ seriously from 1st hand experience of its highs and lows. With a wealth of knowledge and contacts I did not realize i had at the time I started to lay the foundations for my own endeavour in 2008 whilst working for a local engineering company.

Local archers and people from all over had contacted me throughout that time on recommendation to make arrows or source hard to find materials, so I took the plunge with Shire Archery opening as a business in March 2012. It took everything I had and then some, but it has been worth it.

Rob – I always think that launching your own business is incredibly brave but if it’s something you love and feel passionate about then go for it.

Trevor  – I will tell you a little secret- made the phone call to register on a windy day in Edinburgh from The Doric Tavern, a pint of Ale in front of me, with the realization of the enormity of what I was about to do.

Rob – If that had been me I think it would have been a large single malt. Please carry on.

Trevor  – I wanted to create a workshop space to carry on making, with a specialist web shop & physical sales space, all for the traditional archer from the ground up.

Rob – So is it a one man show or a team of archery enthusiastic people behind the scenes?

Trevor  – It’s just me at the moment but I have a really good team around me I can call upon, whom I trust in their own specialisms be it technical, photography or administrative support, they have been absolutely essential to the business as it quickly grew beyond my original plan and expectations. I am always doing something so it certainly keeps me busy; I can only dream of a day spent chewing the fat with customers and drinking more coffee than is good for me.

Resting in the woods

Resting in the woods

Rob – Sounds great. It might be worth explaining the range of products you sell, whether you manufacture them yourself? The hobby or sport of archery is incredibly diverse, from target to field, traditional to very technical Olympic set ups.

Trevor  – The product side of things is pure Trad and I have no plans to change that. It has expanded in range and scope to well over 200 core items with more expected. The choice goes beyond the usual stock of wooden shafts, fletchings, arrow heads and equipment for the archer. Although this is an essential solid base we also stock many archery related items of kit, gifts, supply hard to find natural materials and make arrows on request.We also take a lot of pre-orders and special requests which I am happy to see if we can help with.

I am always searching for interesting products or crafts people who would like mutual support- I would like to expand the bow side of things next.

Rob – Do you see yourself as a specialist in one area and if so why did you specialize?

Trevor  – I do yes my personal interest and background is in the Trad and crafts side of things, so I lean heavily in that direction, product quality is paramount to me so I don’t sell anything I am not happy to use myself. It is not that I am not interested in the modern stuff its amazing to be honest and the technical side of it astonishing. It’s just not ‘my cup of tea’ and as a business I want to be concise in what we offer and what we do.

Rob – Where do you see yourself fitting in?

Trevor  – We aren’t the biggest but we are certainly trying hard to be up there with the best in our niche. No one, not even the big pro-shops can stock everything in every conceivable variation there is just to much choice and its always changing. I have no interest in expanding so much so that it becomes ‘just a job’ or that I feel like I have become a slave to it. I love archery and that is something shared by our customers. The support out there from the traditional archery community has been amazing and I can only say thank you, as without it we would not exist.

Rob – What’s the appeal to you?

Trevor  – The modern notion that items which are made by hand are cruder, quaint, expensive or inferior compared to those that are mass manufactured or branded I find utterly bizarre.

Action shot

Thinking man

Rob – Where’s the Love! The time! The passion!

Trevor  – The real appeal beyond working for myself is ‘seein folk rayt’ as they say around here, our customers span the whole gambit of traditional d archery (http://shirearchery.co.uk/traditional-archery) and are international, being able to either help them out or supply them with something they value in our shared passion is the driver for me

If I had to have a simple mission statement for ‘Shire Archery’ that summarizes all this it would be-

Trevor  – “Raising the Profile of Trad-Archery”

Rob – thanks Trevor

I sincerely hope you find continuing success with both the business and your archery. I’m sure this article will help to increase people’s awareness of Shire Archery.

For those wanting to to contact Trevor Lilley at Shires Archery here are their details.

Website – http://www.shirearchery.co.uk/

Email – shirearchery@hotmail.co.uk Telephone – 01246 477119 / 07581726161

Thanks for reading

 

Shoot Report – Harlequin Archers – July 2016

Ken Adams - birthday boy

Ken Adams – birthday boy

We are nearly at the end of August and I’m only just getting to finish this shoot report from July.  Where does the time go?
Anyway onto this long awaited shoot report. The last day of July saw us head up to the Leicestershire / Derbyshire borders for the Harlequin Archers shoot and unlike other summer days in July,  it was dry and even sunny at times.
As I write this, yes I tend to write these reports up in note form before typing them up, so yes you can call me old fashioned and explains why they sometimes take so long. I remembered that I promised a shoot report for Harlequin Archers previous shoot but never published it. I know one keen follower picked up on this and asked why only recently. Apologies for this, I did start writing it but it didn’t come together as well as I’d hoped so it never got past the draft stage. So I’m going to combine some of my thoughts on that shoot with this report.

Before I start on the shoot report I’d like to wish a very belated happy birthday to a great man, who was celebrating his 70th that Sunday. Happy birthday Ken Adams of Spirit of Sherwood fame,  may you have many more archery filled days.

 Anyway on to the shoot report.
As we pulled up to park, one of the marshals tapped on the car window asking “is that Rob?” To my shock and delight it was an old university and house mate from over 20 years ago! Stuart had recently taken up field archery with his son, having joined Harlequin club only a few months ago. We’d lost touch some 15 years ago as so often you do. Guess it really is a small world.
Our shooting group for the day would be Roger and Julie from Long Eaton both shooting barebow. This is becoming somewhat of a regular thing at Harlequins (not a complaint).
Clever use of foliage on 2D bear

Clever use of foliage on 2D bear

The course was a shoot through with two food stops, one either end of the woodland, with both serving hot and cold food and drinks. I can testify to the quality of the lemon drizzle cake which was lovely and yes I had a couple of pieces to check the quality. Having the two feeding stations was a very good idea for Harlequin as it gives the archers chance to grab a drink and relax. It also means the club doesn’t have to route all the course round one central point which could limit the ground used. Something that can be very hard for some clubs whose woodland doesn’t allow for multiple easy routes to and from one central location.
Harlequins ground is pretty flat consisting of broad leaf woodland  with an area of dense scrub and rhododendron bushes.
Sharon photographing me on the peg before missing a 3D bedded deer.

Sharon photographing me on the peg before missing a 3D bedded deer.

Harlequin have purchased some new 2d targets of various sizes including a gorilla, tiger, huge moose, kangaroo (yes you read that right a kangaroo), bear on all fours and standing bear. Of them all I think the tiger looked the best as you could see distinguishing features clearly something that wasn’t possible on some of the others.
Tiger 2D

Tiger 2D

In fairness to the suppliers I thought the silver back gorilla artwork was amazing up close making it probably my favourite.
The one down side of these new targets was the degree of effort required to draw arrows, as it normally required two of us to extract them. I witnessed several of the compound archers struggle extracting their arrows. Guess the upside is the targets are likely to last well and some have replaceable inserts for the kill or higher scoring zones.
Julie shooting 2D bear

Julie shooting 2D bear

One shot I thought was really good was an owl 3D. This was positioned in the V of a tree branch and shot through a gap in bracken over a small mound. It worked because of the framing of the owl through the undergrowth, proving you don’t need distance to make a technical shot.
3D owl in the tree through the bracken

3D owl in the tree through the bracken

There were some familiar shots too which had been used in the previous shoot. These, I thought worked well as the extra summer growth and leaf cover made them again nicely framed. The white goat shot returned which I think was one of the cleverest shots from their previous shoot and was again a challenge as it is set in such a way as to give an optical illusion thanks to the supporting trees making the distance hard to judge. I don’t want to give too much away as I think its a very clever shot.
Paper face turkey across marsh

Paper face turkey across marsh

I found this course a marked difference to the previous shoot they hosted which I attended but never finished the shoot report for.  The most recent course was I feel a better course with a better mix of targets and distances. The previous course had used a new areas of the woodland and I felt it was a lot tougher course, with what felt like several long shots  (around 40 yards or more). My personal feeling was there were a few targets at the limit of what I feel is appropriate distance for the size of target. I wouldn’t use the phrase stretched as I don’t think this would be fair or entirely accurate. I also felt this latest course felt like it flowed better and more rounded or balanced overall. Though it flowed well as a course progress on the day was quite slow initially, I think the organisers didn’t quite get the balance of groups quite right, as  in front of us there was a group of 6 people and then 5, while behind us there were groups of 3 or 4. The balancing of a group list is very hard though and when we along with others raised the delays with a couple of marshals they did their best to improve the situation by tweaking the groups (possible because they had left free pegs and there was nothing to be brought in). Some of the free pegs may have been due to the lower number of attendees at this shoot.
Sharon on the peg

Sharon on the peg

Overall it was a good day, with Sharon shooting well and winning ladies AFB. I believe it is worth noting that a few archers have commented that they had been put off shooting at Harlequins ground having shot their previous shoot and not enjoying it for one reason or another. I would suggest to them that based on the latest course I think they are worth a visit.
Thanks for reading.

Shoot Report – Draig Goch – Welsh NFAS Championships – July 2016

Archers massing for start of Welsh Championships

Archers massing for start of Welsh Championships

July this year saw the Draig Goch club hosting a two day shoot, billed as the NFAS Welsh Championships. Their hope is to make this an annual event in the NFAS calendar. Apparently there used to be such an event years ago but not recently and it is hoped that this event might rekindle that flame of interest. Let’s hope so.
So this was to be the first NFAS Welsh Championships we’d been to and we were looking forward to it. Partly because of it being a new club that Sharon and I hadn’t visited and partly because of liking the idea of there being a Welsh Championships, on par with the Scottish, 3D and National Championships.
The Draig Goch club is situated in the North Wales countryside not far from the coastal town of Rhyl. The club grounds consist of what appeared to be a beautiful woodland consisting of a mix of broadleaf mature woodland along with some densely packed coppice area.
Sadly the heavy rain over the previous few days caused organisers to rethink the parking arrangements; the original plan was to use a local farmers field. Unfortunately this didn’t work as one marshal discovered when he drove on and promptly became stuck fast in the Welsh mud. Apparently it took them several hours at the end of day one to get his car out. The only solution was to park along the country lane by the shoot ground which didn’t go down well with some locals.
Cars parked down lane.

Cars parked down lane.

Unlike some of the other attendees who were camping or staying along the coast, we were staying a short drive away at my Mam’s house.
Considering it was the first Welsh champs, the event was well attended with approximately 150 archers from all over the country making the trip.

Day one

Saturday would be a long day partly due to the weather and partly due to the holdups on shots, as we waited for the group in front. The day started dry and with the customary booking in and waiting for the start.
If, like me you are Welsh then you expect it to rain, liquid sunshine as I’ve heard it called on several occasions. Saturday this liquid sunshine was present from about midday until the late afternoon. The effect this had was to make a very challenging course even harder. It also slowed the shoot for many, ourselves included. as people took more second or in some cases third arrows.
Sadly it also meant I didn’t get to take as many photos as I’d have liked. So apologies for that, but my phone’s not waterproof. (Note to self, next phone I get needs to be waterproof).
First target on day 1 - small 3D rabbit

First target on day 1 – small 3D rabbit

The course consisted of 40 targets, 38 3Ds and a couple of 2D hessian targets. The shoot didn’t start until quite late in the morning compared to other shoots, being past 11am before we actually commenced shooting our first target. I think they may have been waiting for some late arrivals.
Sharon shooting the large 2D bear

Sharon shooting the large 2D bear from the white peg.

We would start the championships on target 15 a small 3D rabbit set under tree canopy. Our shooting group would be quite small, with just Sharon, myself and a father and son team of Nathan and Harry, shooting freestyle and compound limited.
I’d like to say how much of a pleasure it was to shoot round with these two. Harry should have been shooting form the junior pegs, but instead wanted to test himself and shot every target as an adult. What’s more he got quite a few despite the distance.
After only a few shots we were at catering for our first stop of the day just before mid-day, little did we know that due to delays on the course we wouldn’t get to have lunch until nearly 4 in the afternoon.
very small 3D bat

very small 3D bat

Despite the woodland being pretty flat, it would prove to be a tiring day which I think was partly due to the number walk backs on each shot and partly due to the number of shots you were taking. Due to the distances and target sizes you were often taking 2 or 3 arrows.

Fortunately in late afternoon the weather improved and the liquid sunshine departed and we even saw some clearer weather.
We would eventually finish shooting by 5:45 and I know others were still to come off the course. We headed back to my Mam’s house, taking over her airing room to dry our boots and outer layers in readiness for Sunday.

Day two

Sunday would see actual sunny weather with it being fine and dry all day.
One observation I made on the Sunday morning when watching archers warming up on the practice bosses was that none of them were aiming for the closer targets. All were going for the two furthest bosses whilst on Saturday morning archers were shooting at all of them. Maybe this was an indication of how archers perceived the shoot and there were no short targets. I commented on this to a few and they agreed with my observation and conclusion.
Sharon shooting 3D tortoise from white peg

Sharon shooting 3D tortoise from white peg

The placing from the previous day were posted up by admin for those interested to see how they had fared compared to others.
The course shots didn’t change that noticeably on Sunday with a few peg changes, though the organisers reversed the route round the woods. Not sure if that worked as well as they thought or hoped for.

Harry didn't hit with every shot.

Harry didn’t hit with every shot.

Our shooting group would be the same as the previous day though we started on a different peg.

Nathan shooting 3D crocodile on Saturday across pond

Nathan shooting 3D crocodile on Saturday across pond

Our second shot of the day would be the big bear which was a little closer than the previous day so about 65 yards.

General comments

This was the club’s first attempt at running an event on this scale and I know they put a lot of effort into it. I’ve shared the following feedback directly to the club and event organisers.
Overall I feel there were way too many walk backs on the course; of the 40 targets we shot I think 39 were walk backs on each day (people who were wearing FitBits commented on walking around 7 miles each day). True, there are times you need walk backs due to the access to the shot or for safety, but I didn’t feel it was needed on many of the targets as there appeared to be space for some to accommodate a different walk off. I am guessing they may have done this to make it easier to reverse the course direction on the second day. Having since communicated with the organiser, they confirmed this had been their plan, but it didn’t flow as well they’d hoped.
Group drawing arrows from a black 3D wolf on black background

Group drawing arrows from a black 3D wolf on black background

Secondly would be the use of target bosses behind the 3d targets to catch wayward arrows. Their presence should be applauded and I would love to see them at 3D championships to speed the recovery of arrows. It needs to be remembered that if you are going to use them to catch arrows, they must be secured or staked to the ground, with the wood to the side not the top and bottom.  I know on the second day we spent 15 minutes on one target extracting 2 arrows that had embedded into the wood frame after going under the 3d target. I did hear other archers comment how bosses had fallen when trying to draw arrows. Again this is a learning curve that many clubs go through and can be easily solved in the future.
Probably most importantly were the distances targets were set at. I know it was a championships course so it should be challenging but there is a difference between challenging and stretched for those shooting traditional style bows.
Sunday and dry weather

Sunday and dry weather

Ok so those are my thoughts and feelings on the matter. Agree or disagree as you see fit.  I offer them in support of the event, an event that I feel has so much potential to become an annual championships in a beautiful woodland. As I have said I have written to the organisers directly and given them this feedback and to their credit they have responded, hence more comments.
Sharons arrow in a tree stump, yes she does sometimes miss

Sharons arrow in a tree stump, yes she does sometimes miss

I think it is important to remember that there were many things that worked well so please don’t read this and think it is all negative, because it wasn’t. We got to shoot with a couple of  lovely people and meet up with friends. Catering on both days was effective, very friendly and not overpriced which you sometimes see at shoot. The woods are quite simply beautiful and they have great facilities.

Routes and paths were clear to follow though I didn’t feel swapping directions on the second day resulted in the perceived change they wanted. Maybe in future keeping the direction the same would prove better as the archers would be more familiar with the course route and less likely to become lost or stray.
Sharon on red peg shooting 3D boar

Sharon on red peg shooting 3D boar

All of the marshals we spoke to were friendly and helpful, willing to stop and chat. I really liked the simple slate trophies, maybe that’s the Welsh man in me.

On a very personal and probably patriotic note, I would love to see a Welsh championships thrive in the field archery calendar. Draid Goch have the grounds and I hope the capability to produce a great event in the future.  Ok there are a few things they might want to work on, but that can be said of many shoots. No one gets it perfect first time, that’s why we have a second and third arrow in our quiver.
Sharon shot well, winning ladies AFB and I managed to scrape a 2nd place in gents AFB.
Thanks for reading.

Shoot Report – Forest of Arden – July 2016

Forest of Arden shoot

Forest of Arden shoot

It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been to the Forest of Arden club for a shoot, which is ironic as it’s one of the closest shoot grounds to where we live. So the other weekend we took the short drive up the motorway to their grounds. For those interested here is a link back to that shoot report.
We were very fortunate with the weather with it being dry if a little windy at times. The sun even made an appearance though the trees, making a pleasant change to the previous few days. Early July is has not proved to be a particularly warm or sunny month at present here in the UK. Quick piece of advice for any archers thinking of visiting the Forest grounds, there is a bit of a walk from car park to woods, so you best not leave anything behind.

one of our first target

one of our first target

Our Sunday shooting group that weekend, would see Sharon and I being joined by Sandra and David both of whom were shooting barebow. It was only David’s fourth open shoot and I think he did really well, nailing some targets and only really struggling on longer ones.

Down hill turkey 3d

Down hill turkey 3d that David got with a first arrow.

 

3D big cat

3D big cat shot off a bank

I discovered that Sandra is an avid reader of this blog and has recently subscribed to receive email updates. Thanks Sandra for all the feedback and I’m glad you enjoy reading it. If anyone of you do have feedback or questions please drop me a line.

The ladies hitting a 24 each on one target

The ladies hitting a 24 each on one target

The Forest of Arden course layers had set us a 40 target course consisting of 3d targets, though there weren’t many back stops which meant if you missed you were searching for arrows.
For those that have shot there before, you’ll recognise some familiar shots from the hillsides down into the small valley or gully, ones that I recall from our last trip.

Large 3D white goat

Large 3D white goat

There were a few shots where I’d have preferred to see some more space between the previous target and the next shooting peg as we felt very close or in line with the previous target. This can make people feel a bit uncomfortable.

Small 3D target before lunch

Small 3D target before lunch

Catering is split in two locations, the main hut and one smaller station at the opposite side of the wood.
Forests wood is a mix of broadleaf established trees and younger plantation that has been opened up by tree felling last year. The result of this land management was in areas where the tree canopy was less we were surrounded in a forests of foxgloves of over five feet tall in some spot. You couldn’t see the wood for the foxgloves as it were.

Giant foxgloves cover the grounds

Giant foxgloves cover the grounds

The only downside to these areas were if you missed the target, finding you arrow took a while as you had to pick your way through the broken branches covering the plantation floor, but it made for a beautiful backdrop.

There were some nicely framed shots and nothing that could be thought of as stretched, with some good use of dead ground to mask and confuse distance judgement.

Bedded 3D target behind the undergrowth

Bedded 3D target behind the undergrowth

The day started late, delayed due to some archers getting lost on the way to the ground. Having said this it flowed reasonably well, though there were times we were waiting. I think this was down to some shots been tougher than archers expected and wanting to give the group plenty of space to move away from the next peg as they were in line of sight.

3D target

3D target

Sharon shot well winning ladies AFB and scoring high enough to be second in the gents class (apparently this resulted in audible gasp from some male archers there when they heard her score.) Though she did get one very lucky shot.

Sharon gets a lucky shot

Sharon gets a lucky shot

Thanks for reading.