Session 12

Decided to spend the evening shooting at the 40 yard boss with a vague view towards doing the 252 challenge on it sometime. 

I still feel like I’m not shooting as well as I did before I slacked off the sessions a bit. Real life gets in the way. 

One of the club’s coaches offered some advice, saying I was shooting fine but for my release which was lazy, dropping, and not following through. We also had a discussion about tuning arrows again. Definitely something I’d like to do. It’d involve buying all the bits I need, and I’m not eager to spend more than I have to on archery at the moment, especially after forking out for some clothing. But, mostly, it’s a matter of time and opportunity.

Anyway, tonight the grass was a little longer than usual and much of my evening was spent with this view… I am an arrow hunter (someone who hunts for arrows, not hunts with them). I like to joke that I have two hobbies: archery and metal detecting. It’s unclear which is the dominant one.

Going back to my sloppy release, another comment my coach made was that he thought my 40lb bow could do with being a bit heavier now. I had noticed the symptoms myself. Just like the club’s 26lb recurve I’d used at first, I find myself standing at full draw and aiming for a while, until my draw length eventually starts to reduce, or I’ve wobbled out of all possible chance to aim properly (reminiscent of my beginner nickname: spag bol, because inner body strength of a wet noodle). Same problem. Different bow.

There was also some discussion about stance. As the bow is canted clockwise slightly, why not lean forward at the waist slightly and tilt your head that way too, so the bow and your body and head line up? Works for barebow shooters, but not so much for me trying it yesterday. Hence the metal detector. 

In other news, I got given a free club polo shirt, with the club logo on, by a fellow member. Pretty chuffed about this, as there’s a heritage shoot coming up and I want to be recognisably from my club. 

I also paid for a club hoodie and also a hoodie for the private shooting club I’m part of (see last blog post). It’s an inclusivity thing.

Also know now my first two 252 badges are on their way. Baby steps, eh? 

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 5

Gorgeous weather this evening, great for outdoor shooting, and I had a much, much better night’s shooting. 

I had my long arm guard on to prevent the bow string hitting my arm. Tonight, I didn’t need it. The string didn’t slap me once.

I also had a glove instead of my tab. This left my fingers numb for about an hour afterward, but I could feel much more while shooting and it definitely made me shoot better, just as shooting with bare fingers seemed to work for me on my first 3D shoot. 

As a note to myself, I think having a bottle of water with me made a difference. Last week I was flagging terribly by the two hour mark. Today, despite the heat, I felt I could happily have kept going. 

I realised,  though, that the club takes about ten minutes per end on average. By the time all the archers are done, and usually the compound shooters take longest, and we all collect arrows, and hunt for missing ones, it’s about ten minutes. In a two hour session, with 20 minutes for set up, that’s only  10 ends. On that basis, you’re doing a lot more shooting if you have ten arrows with you, than just three the club gave you.

On the whole, I shot much better today. That said, there were a few dodgy shots, like the one pictured, and a lot of misses. And one more broken arrow. But…

I started shooting on the 30 yard boss. My very first shot was in the gold and that set me off on the right foot. But then I started to struggle a bit, like last week. So, I decided to start from scratch and reassess each stage of what I was doing.

I’d been leaning forward as part of my stance because my coach does it and because KiSik Lee described 70 per cent weight on the front of the foot in his book. But he also said sink your weight like a martial artist. I used to do karate, so I adopted a neutral stance and sank my weight. I could feel myself anchor to the ground. And I shot better. My bow arm was fine, I decided, because it just wasn’t in the way or causing a problem tonight. My grip was relaxed, and that was fine. 

I can’t explain it, but something I read in Bow International magazine earlier today struck home. I can’t remember what article it was, but it mentioned relaxing. I suddenly decided that relaxing was key. And here I had relaxed into my stance, relaxed my bow arm, my grip, but also relaxed mentally. I’d decided my stance and those things were right. They weren’t the problem.  I was doing them right. I relaxed mentally. I’d been over analysing. And then I realised I needed to relax everything. 

I  had been trying to put all the weight in my shoulders, then ‘load’ more weight. This just made me not shoot straight. So, I relaxed my draw. I just drew it, to the anchor point, and I decided that was right. The anchor point, I decided was right. And I’ve been worrying about it a lot, but now, after a few golds, I’m realising it’s not the problem. 

I shot some good arrows. Can’t say grouping was great, but took the advice of those who’ve commented on my blog here and just tried to enjoy it and find what worked for me, but moreover try to accept that this is OK, and to relax about it. 

So, having filled up the 30 yards boss with arrows, I made a joke about it being too close and moved to 40 yards. Believing this was being a bit daft for a total beginner, I relaxed even more. About half my arrows hit the boss, but the more I relaxed, the more I hit. 

There was a lad who I hadn’t spoken to before and he was shooting the 40 yards with me, but using a recurve with accessories. He missed slightly less than me, but not by much, and he hit the gold the same amount of times. He’d been shooting for a year. I told him I’d been shooting two weeks and he did a double-take, “That’s good. Wow. That’s very good.” I don’t have a lot of other people to compare my beginner state to, but, hey, that made me feel good. 

Shooting at 40 yards, I realised that my release was still messing up a lot of shots. I didn’t let myself get stressed about it. Instead, I relaxed it. And it improved. 

Not too bad at 40 yards, especially compared to last session’s disaster.

Sure, I didn’t hit with every arrow, but I was getting there. 9 out of 10 on some ends. 

So, for fun, I moved up to 50 yards. I hit about half. 

50 yards

But I enjoyed it, and each shot I expected to hit.

Only landed one arrow on the 60 yards, but partly that was pressure as I was the only one still shooting, and partly it was because the facewalking wasn’t working. (Still trying facewalking just because that’s what I’ve been taught.)

This is what did and didn’t work:

30 yards – corner of mouth. 

40 yards – slide it down to top of chin. 

50 yards – slide it down to under jaw.

60 yards – I’ve run out of face. 

At some future point, I’ll figure out what do do at 60. Perhaps a split finger draw will provide the answer. Dunno. 

I feel that I’ve got it now. As long as I do what I did tonight then I can hit the bosses and it becomes just a matter of aiming. Currently,  I find coming up from beneath the gold, pointing with the arrow tip, and releasing as it gets to center, works best.

The biggest problem tonight was arrows falling short or just missing. But tonight that was a facewalking and aiming problem, not a cack-handed archer problem.

And I just feel the love for it all over again.

Edit: I’ve just looked back at Traditional Jester’s and Steve Ruis’s comments on my last session and realised I’ve basically not discovered anything by myself here but just done what they suggested. Clearly their advice had sunk into my subconscious (or whatever) and had just been waiting for the next session to make itself known. Thanks guys!

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. 

 

Session 4

It’s very hard to take a particular lesson away from tonight’s session. I just feel I shot badly from start to finish, with a glimmer of hope in the middle. There was a few good shots where I felt I was starting to progress, but then I’d lose a few arrows past the side of the boss and not really know why. 

I was shooting a target at 30 yards with my eight remaining arrows. I pulled one out of the boss at a bit of an angle and then I had seven arrows. 

At least my stand works nicely. Here it is next to my broken arrow. 

Coach said not to worry too much about if the arrows were too high or low, but concentrate on trying to group them and getting them centred on the horizontal plane (so not too far left or right). I understand the logic, but they were very rarely going where I wanted anyway. 

I started to make a little progress at one point. You can see some horizontal consistency in this end here:

But I guess that was the peak, and not a very impressive peak at that. I probably started getting tired at that point because it all went to pot and then I twanged the string off my upper arm a few times (current bracer only covers lower arm). I’m going to need to get a longer arm guard until I stop making the odd sloppy shot and letting my elbow over-extend. There was a definite bell curve to my shooting tonight. It got better as time went on, then just as I felt I was getting to grips with it, it started slipping again and got worse and worse. Probably I’m still getting used to the 40lb bow. 

Self reflection: I haven’t got a good anchor yet. My release is sometimes poor and I pluck the string. My bow arm is still not always positioned rightly. And my aim ain’t great. That’s what I’m sure of. And I only have 7 arrows left.

However, I’m still enjoying it for all that. Glorious weather tonight and good company.

Guide to the basics

Just finished reading Guide to the Longbow by Brian Sorrells and thought I’d gather my thoughts about it. On the whole, there’s nothing wrong with it. There’s a potted history of the longbow, he talks about the American longbow, the shelf, types of string. There’s some basic information about choosing the right bow. There’s some information about arrows that’s quite interesting. It’s all very basic though, the ideas are there but its hardly a How To manual. Next, he looks at accessories, like quivers, then setting up a bow. Really fundamental stuff. Silencers. A vague outline of instinctive shooting but certainly no amazing insights. The usual accuracy exercises. Some decent stuff about tuning a bow. Then a bit of a chat about hunting and bow maintenance. 

If I was a compound shooter who’d somehow never seen a longbow nor spoken to an instinctive archer, or knew nothing about archery, I think this would be fascinating. But, having read his other book Beginners Guide to Traditional Archery and also the book Archery Fundamentals there’s not much new here at all. And for someone of such expertise, you’d expect more than what any guy down the club could teach you.

I don’t want to be totally down about it. It’s adequate. Hell, if I was a famous archer I’d probably write a couple of books about it and make some cash to fund my hobby. But I’d hope to pass on some amazing insights that I’d gleaned from years of experience, not just regurgitate the basics.