Session 11 – taster session

Storm clouds were brewing tonight and I decided to attend the session without my bow or arrows. This wasn’t a completely arbitrary decision. I had signed up to help a few of the coaches with a taster session for beginners. Rather than having people go straight into a paid-for archery beginners’ course, they were invited to come and shoot a few ends at 10 yards to see if they liked it. We had the new club gazebo out, which looked smart and kept the drizzle off. As it happened, the rain subsided and the threatening clouds never unloaded their contents.

Not being a coach, I wasn’t in a position to do much else than chat to the newcomers as they waited for their turns. We had little idea how many would come, but in the end I counted 19, which was great. And they’d heard about it from a poster in a supermarket and from our website, not from the paid-for advert in the newspaper, so that’s a lesson learned. My role was mostly ball boy, collecting club arrows every so often and sorting them back into matching sets. But I enjoyed seeing the enthusiasm of the beginners and talking to them. It was good tonic. I was glad not to have brought my kit and been sucked off into the normal swing of the club. Seeing everything through their fresh eyes reminded me about how incredible archery is and what I love about it. It reminded me how fun it is, how exciting new bows are, how enjoyable it was learning all the terms and techniques and equipment, how much enjoyment can be got from just flinging arrows.

One newcomer paid for their entry onto the course tonight. All round, the experience was positive and good for the club. I was glad to have been there to help.

I think I’d been taking things too seriously, probably because I shoot with folks who’ve been shooting for 7+ years and feel the need to ‘catch up’. Also, it doesn’t help having a work colleague who professes to be exceptionally good (but has yet to prove it while I’m around). I’m not much fond of non-evidenced one-up-manship!

Anyway, the other positive outcomes of the night were that I ordered a hoodie for the private venue that I’ve been shooting at, which will have my nickname “Spag Bol” on it, and booked into their field shoot for Sunday, which will hopefully get me back into the swing of things.

Session 10

Not getting much time to shoot at the moment, and it has taken me a week to write up this session. Basically, confidence was a bit low after the last shoot where everything had gone wrong, so I decided just to stick to the 20 yard target this time. I was definitely rusty! Nowhere near as good as my shooting during my attempts to get the 252 badges a few sessions before,

I found that every end, I got my first arrow right in the gold, and then everything else veered off to the right. It was very odd.

After a while I missed a shot and that was when I packed up, because I thought: I missed at 20 yards, must be getting tired, time to go before I break arrows.

I also had a little play at shooting with both eyes open, and at first it seemed to make no difference but then I got steadily worse. No idea what that tells me, really. Didn’t get much from this session.

Work was busy, home life was busy… probably my mind just wasn’t on it.

Session 9

Little bit late writing this up, but it’s been a busy week. 

Terrible session, really. Stuck to 30 yards target the whole time. Had a couple of good ends, but mostly the evening was a disaster. No two shots were the same. Endless arrows sailed past the boss. Smashed an arrow on the boss’s feet. 

I also had an aching bow arm elbow, possibly from pulling so many deeply embedded field tips out of the boss.
It would be nice to offer some redeeming element or lesson taken away, but there is none. It was a dispiriting session. And the field shoot I was meant to go on the day after? I had to cancel. And I missed another session because it was just too damn hot and after a day at work in the heat I’d had enough.

I also think I’m going to have to reduce how many session I attend. The initial impetus has been exciting but as real life gets in the way, there’s other priorities that can’t be left ignored.

Hopefully the next post will be a bit more positive!

Field shoot

Went to a private field shoot this morning. Just 18 targets and finished by lunch. Weather had been wet but dried up nicely as we started, although remained boggy underfoot.

Here was one of the shots, between tree branches… 

Which resulted in this kind of thing…

A lot of the targets were fun to shoot. 

On this one, whatever was scored on the picture of the fox was doubled by hitting the dangling roundel with a fourth arrow. 

It was a fun morning out, but I was also pleased with my progress. I scored more highly than last time I did this shoot, missed an awful lot less, didn’t lose any arrows, and, wonderfully, didn’t smash any. More than anything recently, this has shown me that I am making progress, and having that confirmation is very encouraging.

I was also advised that the brace length of my newish bow had decreased, so by winding the string a few times this was fixed and, in theory, will make it easier to shoot. Presumably this narrowing of the distance between the bow and the string has been happening for some time, hopefully it’s one less thing going wrong from now on. Another lesson learned.

I also had an archer talk me through his method of making arrows. I can’t remember it all, but it didn’t seem too difficult. I’m definitely going to give this a go at some point.

Session 8

Decided to try the 252 challenge at 30 yards this time. 

It took me 49 of the possible 72 shots, which isn’t particularly impressive, and slightly worse than it could have been due to some blustery wind during a couple of ends, but I’m pleased to have done it. 

I should have stopped there. I thought I’d practice on the 40 yard, but after a couple of late nights (last night watching the election), I was shattered and a twinge in my back muscle was telling me to give it up. I fired off a few ends of terrible shots and shattered two arrows. Fortunately,  that was the sign it took to tell me I’d had enough and I stopped.

Two more arrows bite the dust.

Session 7

Tonight I decided to score my shots and see if I could get the necessary score of 252 on the 20 yard target to qualify for the first badge available.

I had not shot for a week due to a holiday, although I’ve come back to find the session I missed was cancelled due to rain anyway. In fact, tonight’s session was quite short because rain eventually stopped play, but fortunately not before I had a chance to do my scoring. 

I’d made myself a little scoresheet knowing that each end was 6 arrows. Potentially I could shoot 12 ends like this. That’s 72 arrows to score 252 points. Shooting at the target, gold is 9 points, red is 7, blue is 5, etc. 

I adopted my stance. I tried to emulate the relaxed technique from last week. Bow arm not too stretched, fingers somewhere just short of a deep hook on the string, anchor point being my index finger at side of mouth, and I shot off my first few practice rounds. It all went well, but the arrows were all a bit high, hitting the black and white above the gold. I realised my anchor point, when connected with me aiming the arrow point at the gold, works at 30 yards not 20. I was going to do the 252 challenge at 20 yards because it’s the first of the badges and I didn’t want to attempt something too much in advance of my abilities at this stage. So, I briefly considered facewalking but it seemed unnecessary and too risky a strategy, so I just aimed for the black ring below the gold. Sure enough, this got me 3 straight golds at one point. And it worked. On the whole, it worked. But I still had the odd wonky end, and the odd errant arrow. I felt something was developing this week, though, and it was a sense of knowing what I was doing wrong. A lot of arrows died on the shooting line and I let the string down gently and then set my position a second time before shooting. I still occasionally twisted the string, or overextended my bow arm, but it was the odd shot where I had no idea what I’d done wrong that was really annoying. On the other hand, there were times when the bow felt like air and the string just disappeared and I knew the shot would be true as I released.

First end, I scored 9, 7, 7, 7, 7, 5. Looking at the scores for each end, this is typical for me. First shot is great, then they get worse over time. (Obviously it looks like this when I score, because I score from the inside of the target face outward, but genuinely this is the pattern for what happens unless I really pull it together somehow near the end.) I think either my conviction or my energy or my confidence flags. Not sure which, or why. I’m hoping practice and more practice is the solution to this. 

Anyway, I got to 252 in 40 shots, so well clear of the potential 72 available. Not a stunning achievement, of course, but another small step in the right direction for me. And it was fun doing it. Next time, I might try 30 yards.

All this didn’t actually take very long. It was only 7 ends, after all. So, I took myself off to join a couple of the guys who were shooting at 80 yards for a bit of fun. One of them was shooting compound, one same as me: barebow –  hybrid longbow. I watched him shoot at the sky and decided I was going to try facewalking again, since I would need to shoot above the target anyway, but felt shooting as high as he was was unnecessary. I held the anchor under my chin which is what worked for 50 yards (I think) a while back, then went above the target, using a nearby rugby goal post in the distance to measure how high I was going and whether this had a positive result on where the arrows landed. Basically, I missed completely with ten arrows on the first end, then got one in the blue on the second, one in the red on the third, then three in the white/black on my last end. Then rain stopped play.

I actually felt like, given time, I could just as easily get good at 80 yards as at any other distance. It was just a bit of fun, though, and although some people say it’s a bad idea to try this (“don’t go home on a low”) I actually really enjoyed it and, also, how can one fear 30 or 40 yards when you know you can hit 80 yards on your first ever attempt roughly as well as at least one person who has been shooting for years and makes their own arrows?

Here’s my three at 80 yards. I’m only slightly ashamed to say that the one in the leg is also mine!

Session 6

Fortunately this felt like a continuation of the progress made in session 5.

Relaxing into a stance where I’m lined up with the boss, pressing forward with the bow while drawing to my anchor point and, particularly, concentrating on not twisting the string – this made a huge difference and I can see it is a mistake that has accounted for a lot of my errant arrows. Release seems naturally a bit better because of it. 

I shot quite well on the 30 yard boss, so because it was busy moved to 40 yards. Quite a lot of arrows were going under, so adjusting for distance is still an issue and I plan to go back to shorter distances next week.

40 yards. Starting to get some sort of control over what’s happening using my hybrid and the wooden arrows.

What’s amazing is the feeling that you’ve got it just right. It’s true that you can sense it the moment you release. You just know everything came together correctly on that shot and you witness the arrow strike the middle of the gold. 

40 yards.

The trouble is replicating those shots. It’s nigh on impossible to remember every little choice made during the set up. I guess that’s why I’m trying to find a way to make each part of the process work for me, then I can adjust as necessary. The problem is being such a beginner that some things don’t work at all and I watch an arrow sail off in some unpredictable way over, under or to the side of the boss.

When it doesn’t go to plan.

After a while the 40 yard boss started to get busy so I moved to 50 yards, which was more a miss than hit affair at times, but usually looked a bit like this. 

50 yards (45.72 metres). Note that both colours of fletching are my arrows.

I just need more practice. Again, 2 hour club session seemed too short. I’m missing a session but back again next week. Also got a field shoot or two coming up.

What was of interest tonight was meeting a new member of the club’s committee and being told about the 252 scheme. This is basically a badge scheme where you get a coloured badge if you score 252 within a set amount of shots. For barebow, if you shoot 252 in under 72 (six dozen) arrows at 20 yards you get a badge. You get a different coloured badge if you do 30 yards, etc. And for recurve there’s less shots and for compound less again. Scoring is done with gold being 9, red 7, blue 5, black 3, white 1.

Some quick calculations: 252/7=36 or 252/5=50.4

So, if I just hit red 36 times out of 72, I’d get the badge. Or, blue 51 times. Surely this can’t be too hard at 20 or 30 yards? (Famous last words?) 

Apparently getting this score is a good indicator that you are ready to move to the next distance up. No idea if I can do this or not, but it’ll be fun finding out.