New Toys

A jaunt down to the archery shop and I’ve got myself a Gomby long arm guard and a Buck Trail glove. These should do the trick for the meantime… the arm guard should help my butchered left arm repair itself, and the glove should, with luck, resolve the problems I’ve been having with the tab.

Also got myself a few replacement arrows. Different colour fletching to the ones I have, but when you’re buying £5 arrows without notice I guess you just take what you can get. The rate I’m going through them, I’ll need new ones in a month anyway. 

I asked about cresting and was told the best masking tape to use is Frogtape, which is what I had been using, so that was good. I asked how to get the edges sharper and was told this was done by covering them with a thin line made using a pen, like this one:

And the trick to getting those covering/border lines to look sharp is to attach the pen to something fixed, like a workbench, then rotate the arrow when in contact with the pen nib. The way to stop it wobbling is to make sure the arrow point is touching something steady as you rotate the arrow.

To anyone with any crafting skill this might seem like an obvious solution, but I’m not that person, and pleased with having learnt something.

I was also advised that I could using sanding sealer on the arrow, to clog the pores before applying varnish to finish it off, or Danish oil.

Eventually, I’ll try these things.

Now to read the latest Bow International magazine, which I also picked up. No archery today, next session is tomorrow.

Suffering for my sport – part 2

So, having used a forearm bracer last night and, towards the end, had a few sloppy, bad shots that caught my inner elbow and upper arm, I now have an arm that looks like chopped liver.

Fortunately, I have the day off work so I am going to go and try to get a longer arm guard. 

 I’ll maybe get some more arrows. And a glove for my string fingers, since I still feel the tab is affecting my release. At first, it was the knackered club tab, but my new one is just a bit long in the finger pad and also causing problems just by being an inconsistent length over the end of my fingers. 


Field Shoot

Got to try my new 40lb hybrid longbow out today at a field shoot. It was the inaugural shoot of a new private enterprise and great fun, around 18 of us trying out a new course in a new place. The course will change each time and hopefully it will grow and develop and acquire all the creature comforts one might want, not least hot tea and coffee dispensers for the lunch break.

Here was quite a tricky shot, not because of the big horizontal branch but because of the thin one across the centre of the target. I hit that en route to the target and my arrow ricocheted off and into a tree.

Here’s another shot…

Didn’t too well there…

I started the day with 12 arrows and ended it with 8. I’m told that’s not unnormal for a beginner doing field archery, and I am still only 9 days after finishing the beginners’ course. I forget this sometimes! Was reminded today when my coach scored over 800 to my score of 270, despite several people saying that was good considering my lack of experience. Also, I didn’t come last in the adult male category, amazingly! (And I forgot to score two ends, although there’s a chance that’s because I was looking for arrows and they’d have been blanks anyway.) Anyway, I lost a couple and broke a couple more.

Of course, the important thing is to have fun, and it certainly was. There were some tricky shots and it’s surprisingly fun just trying to hit a thing strapped to a tree 40 or 50 yards away.

For me, I found that the shoulder burn of last night’s club session was gone and pulling the 40lb was easy and my release is a lot better using it. I almost wish I’d gone heavier, but remembering that everything advises that a lighter weight is better for developing form, I’ve probably got the right thing. The bow shoots well, and sometimes I get some great shots. Unfortunately, I’m inconsistent. As with the last field shoot, I was worse in the afternoon. I’m not used to these day-long events out in open air! I was definitely tiring after lunch and probably my draw was weaker.

But the main problem is now anchoring and aiming. I can aim, but I think I mess it up by altering my anchor, but I also don’t feel my anchor works all the time. Or maybe they both work but I’m not holding my head the same way each time. I feel like only a lot of target shooting on the range can solve this, because I need to just keep shooting the same distance until I work out what the effect of each alteration I make is, such as where my anchor is, how I attach my anchor to my face, how I look down the arrow, and so on.

What did I learn today? In truth, what I learnt was that I love my bow and it’s right for me, even if I can’t shoot it perfectly yet.

Also, I got a stick. Inordinately pleased with this. Hopefully the next time you see it, it’ll be a bow rest and I’ll have saved £50.

Also, the other bow rest I found on eBay arrived. I might do this up and make it a bit smarter. Very pleased with it though. Ideal for balancing my bow on when it’s got to sit behind the line on the range repeatedly.

Closed for travel…

Open for use…

And one piece of advice was shared with me today: bracers are for strapping back loose clothing, not to stop the string twanging your arm. Possibly said tongue in cheek.

My bow

The worst thing about being a beginner is: the cack-handedness you display in front of a professional when testing a bow you’re completely unfamiliar with, in a range that’s shorter than you’re familiar with. Like, in the shop where you’re buying your first bow.

Good news, though. I can ditch the club’s 26lb recurve and dodgy arrows, as I now have my own. 

So, I went to the shop and already knew what bow I wanted. More on this later. I tried it out with some arrows and shot pretty badly. As I said, bit of an unusual high pressure situation compared to usual, and a poundage much higher than I was used to. It didn’t help that the three finger (not split) tab only arrived this morning so it was literally the first time I’d used it and, I realise tonight, I wasn’t holding it optimally as it’s slightly too long in the finger for me. I might need to cut it back. 

I then held a measuring arrow in place a couple of times and determined a draw length of 27″, and then tried again with a very light bow and it was the same. Interesting to learn this about myself. It’s a bit weird thinking if I hadn’t taken up archery I’d never have learnt my draw length. It’d be like going through life and never knowing your shoe size, or something. 

I then chose some cheap wooden arrows. £5 a pop and I asked for field tips. I bought 12.

I also got some blue Goblin Snot, which is paint for cresting the arrows, with a view to having a go at that. I wanted to personalise them just enough to identify them as mine. My thinking was, if I make a mess of it then, well, who cares? They’re my first set, pretty cheap and I can chalk it up to experience.

I also bought a leather quiver which can be worn on the hip or back and a matching leather bracer. To some extent these are fashion accessories, since cheap plastic and nylon alternatives are readily available and perfectly functional, but… what can I say? They look great. 

Of course, I also had to buy some wax for the bow string, a bag for my bow and a stringer. I had prepared a shopping list and it included a bow hand glove but I was advised this was unnecessary because the bow had a shelf. Of course, the new shape of the bow meant I held it incorrectly and a vane caught my knuckle and sliced a cut in it. I won’t even go into the forearm bruise I have from shooting without an arm bracer under these circumstances!

It was a successful trip and I’m delighted with the bow and the gear. Anyway, back to the bow. To save me the effort of coming up with my own, here’s a description from the Merlin website:

One piece 64″ hybrid bow available from 25lbs to 60lbs increasing by 5lbs with a 7″ brace height. The riser is made of dymond wood with maple limbs and black fiberglass. Comes with a Flemish Dyneema bowstring. The shelf and rest plate are included.

I took a not very good picture, but here it is:

It’s a hybrid longbow, enjoying a shelf and slight reflex-deflex. And… 

And there’s not a lot more to say about that, really. One small step for any archer, one giant leap for this novice toxophilite. It actually felt like Christmas had come early when I left the shop with my first bow. I can’t wait to shoot it tomorrow, weather permitting.

I decided this evening that the stock arrows were a bit too much like a lot of the arrows in the club so decided to give them a one inch blue stripe with my Goblin Snot. 

The first couple weren’t great because I applied too much paint and the masking tape was rubbish and allowed paint to leak through. I switched to Frogtape which worked much better. The lines aren’t as clear as I’d like, but the job is done and I’m happy enough that they’re easily identifiable. And all the better for being personalised in some way.

Despite a few dodgy ones at the start, like the one pictured, by arrow three or four they were looking semi-respectable.

All that’s left now is for me to learn to shoot the bloody things.

Session 2

OK, so this was my second session in the club and shooting outdoors. Really looking forward to having my own bow and arrows.  Tonight I just had the four remaining club arrows, fat aluminium Eastons, two of which were missing one or two vanes. It took me a while to find my rhythm, for some reason, but after planting a few in the gold at 20 yards I decided to have a go at 30 again. 

30 yards seemed at lot harder against a boss on a flat field than it did on the 3D shoot, but then that had largely involved shooting downhill.

I discussed this with my coach and he explained about face walking – moving the anchor point down the face to raise the arrow tip, whilst still aiming the arrow at the same point on the target, to make the arrow fly farther. This led to some wildly high shots and my first experience using the club’s metal detector. However, by the last end I had the right position with the tip of my index finger about 4mm under my lip and my first arrow in the 30 yard target was dead centre, right on the crosshair, and this happened just as my coach and the club chairman decide to watch! Great stuff. Of course, needs a lot more practice. 

All this was in the same session as I decided to change my anchor point from being the top of my hand lodged into my cheek bone, to a more normal one where I hook my index finger into the corner of my mouth. It took a bit of adjustment but in the end this was working fine.

I’d also read today (in a little book about Archery in the Know the Game series) to push forward with the bow hand as you draw, and I found this quite helpful. It seemed to fit the idea of stepping into the bow. And the more I concentrate on anything but the release, the better I do – although, I still think much of that is to do with the low poundage on the 26lb club bow. I think the club tab is hindering me too. It’s a split tab with a large chunk of metal, meant for shooting recurves split-fingered and under the chin, not with  three fingers and touching the face.

I ordered a Timber Creek tab from Merlin a while back but I’m still waiting! At least the order says it’s been processed and is completed now. I hope to get my slender, leather,three-finger tab through the post tomorrow. 

Along with a Win & Win arrow puller. And… 

…I’m hoping – fingers crossed – to buy a bow tomorrow. With this in mind, I asked my coach about draw lengths. I was afraid I’d buy a 40lb bow, discover I have an abnormally long draw length, and end up trying to pull more than I could handle. Anyway, at a rough estimation, using a measuring tape against an arrow I’d drawn, it seems I’m about 28″ which is convenient since that’s the length at which  many of the bows’ poundages are recorded anyway.

More on the bow if and when I get it. 

I had planned to buy some carbon arrows with bullet tips for outdoor practice and some cheaper wooden ones with field tips for 3D shoots. Coach advised to get wooden arrows with field tips only. He said you need to use the bow for a bit to sort of wear it in, and to wait for that to happen before spending on carbon arrows. And not to bother with bullet tips because the field tips are better anyway, even if they ain’t as pretty. 

Above: field tip. Below: bullet tip

It amazes me how much I’m still learning every session. I’ve read about a lot of these things, but they seem so totally different when taught person-to-person and applied.
One slight disappointment tonight was that the session only lasted two hours. I could have shot all evening. The time had flown. But it does rather require enough people to pack away all the equipment and the right people (key holders) to remain to the end, so it’ll be interesting over the coming months to see how long sessions last and if it varies. Will they be longer and busier when the weather improves? Will they decrease because the better archers will be spending their time at heritage shoots and the like?

I know there’s a club an hour away that has their bosses set up permanently and members can go day or night, but sadly we’re not in that situation and my garden is too small and not secluded enough to contemplate setting up a sack target or something like that. At the moment, I just have an insatiable desire to shoot all the time. Can’t help it. Thrill of a new hobby and a past time I’m finding absorbing, fun and addictive.