What a brilliant day! Bright warm sunshine, lush green forest, 18 polystyrene animals, and a swathe of archers from different clubs. It may only be two days since my first club session, and four days since my last beginners’ lesson, but I’d got myself invited to this 3D field shoot and absolutely loved it. Hard to imagine a better day out. £5 for the event, including free tea and biscuits, and £2 for a bacon bap. That was the cost of a whole day running around the forest shooting at entertaining animal targets (triceratops, anybody?) and loosing 108 arrows.

An ecologically dubious polar bear, and then again from the shooting line.

I was still using the 26lb recurve from the club. I had my five fat Easton aluminium arrows from the club and quickly got given one out of an “unclaimed” bin full of arrows so I had a full complement of six. Just as well because someone shot through the middle of one of mine that was stuck in the target. At lunchtime I grabbed a load more. The mish-mash of arrows didn’t do much for my accuracy, but they did give me a fighting chance where a lack of arrows wouldn’t have.

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The first shot I had to take was 40 yards. I’d only just managed two ends on 30 yards at the club last time, so this was a bit worrying. But my first shot hit the turkey and I got a cheer. I knew I’d be OK after that.

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Can you see the turkey and the coyote?

We shot from coloured markers. The two juniors with us shot from a closer yellow marker. We worked our way around the 18 animals. This was just the most fun day out you can have.

Lunch was a bacon bap and then we went round the same course again. There was a patch of rain for a couple of targets and I was tiring, so my afternoon scores weren’t so good. It was 5 points for a wound, 10 points for a kill shot. I scored 220, which I was told was pretty good for a first timer, especially one who had literally just started archery. (The men’s barebow winner got over 500).

The score sheet shows the first column (the morning) and the second column (the afternoon). You can see I missed more in the afternoon. There was a couple of targets I couldn’t hit because with a 26lb draw weight I just couldn’t reach them. If I’d been able to aim high I might have managed it, but I’m not used to that and there was generally tree branches in the way, so I just aimed for the target and watched as the arrow sank, fell short, and landed in the mud.

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Speaking of mud, there’s always something new you learn that you wouldn’t have thought of if not for having the experience first hand at these things. One of the best bits of kit was a small square towel hanging from a person’s belt by the metal hoop in it. What use was this small towel? Ideal for cleaning arrows that have missed and become embedded in the mud or boggy ground before they go back in your quiver.

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Crocodile in boggy mud.

I accidentally left my tab in my pocket and shot with bare fingers in the morning. I found this alright and I think it made me more accurate. In the afternoon I shot with a glove, which made me less accurate, I felt, but did give my fingers a break. I tried going back to bare fingers but it felt a lot tougher than in the morning, so I stuck with the glove.

At the end, I realised that a lot of people could win medals simply by being pretty good but also in a category where there’s very little competition. For example, female traditional archers would have had a lot less competition than male barebow shooters. Not that I expected to win anything first time out, but after some reflection I think I decided that I’d rather just keep shooting for myself, with a view to the long term goal of becoming a better archer, than worrying about sidling into a category with few opponents where I might win a medal.

It’s true what they say: you’ve got to get the bow that you want, one that makes you happy. I just don’t think you’d stick to any sport if you’re not really doing what you want to be doing. There can be no point in picking a bow just to end up in a less competitive category.

I met a guy who had bought a 35lb bow a year ago when he started shooting. It was too heavy for him. So he bought a 30lb bow and now, a year later, having got stronger, is able to use the 35lb one properly. I tried his 35lb one and held it comfortably at full draw for 10 seconds or more, prompting the coaches I was grouped with to suggest I get a 40lb bow but no higher. So, now I know what to get. I’d be quite happy with a 40lb bow for six months at least, I’m sure. There’s a new hybrid bow just become available at our local archery shop and perhaps that, at about £135, might serve as an alternative to the Buck Trail. He seemed to think a person increased their draw strength by about 5lb a year, but obviously this must be highly subjective. Everyone is different and their practise schedule will also be different. But the point is, I can buy a Slick Stick in 6 months or a year if I want to, or just wait. The only rush is that I’m eager to move away from the club equipment and have a decent number of arrows, matched to me and my bow, to try shooting properly with.

Everything else being said, what I really learnt today was that I’ve found a fantastic and enjoyable way to spend a day out in beautiful scenery with great people. The archery almost comes second to that.

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