Tournament Day

The day before the countywide tournament I had entered, I decided to go to a local archery shop and get some new arrows. It was last thing, after work, and obviously I wouldn’t get to use them until the 6 sighters (practice shots) at the tournament. No sane archer would do that, of course, but having bought two sets of almost identical arrows at my nearest store I couldn’t really see it would be a problem, and as I was down to 5 arrows with green fletching and 3 with yellow fletching, I thought it’d be nice to have one matching set for the competition.

I went to the new store and said exactly what I normally say, basically: “I have an Oak Ridge Ash of 40lb at 28″ but I have a 27″ draw length.” The young lad decided I needed 40/45 shafts with 100g field tips and cut it to 28″. I accepted this wisdom and chatted to the other shop attendant about jigs and fletching.

I bought the arrows (¬£80 for 12) and noticed they sold bow stands. Having failed twice to make a decent one, I thought I’d buy one. I did. It’s great. Such a relief to finally have one. Here it is holding my bow at the tournament. 

Except the point came out the first time I pulled it out of the ground. Since then, I’ve fixed this with some Araldite, but this was to be the least of my problems.

So, on the day of the tournament, I was on site at 9am and helping to set out the perimeter rope, the targets, and latterly the tables and chairs in the function room. It didn’t actually take long. Everyone worked together well and efficiently, as a good club should. I was filled with optimism.

People turned up, about 80 archers and many more attendees, and we all got started. 

I shot my six sighters with the new arrows. 

I was shooting at target 11. The arrows flew towards target 9.

I shot at target 13. The arrows landed near target 11.

They were, if I have this right, way too stiff and were flying wildly off to the left. Adjusting massively simply wasn’t a good option. My six sighters were wasted. I went back to my five green arrows and extra yellow one for the start of the competition and, sure enough, they flew straight. 
Now, I’d only shot at 60 yards on two nights last week as preparation, so I was never going to be great, but as the arrows fell on or around the 60 yard target I at least knew I was in the right ball park, so to speak. Unfortunately, I always missed with the yellow arrow, which was marginally different to the green ones. And then I lost a green one for four ends. So I had two yellow arrows that I always missed with.

So, I was effectively one or two arrows down, and missing plenty of shots anyway. But mostly I was just annoyed about spending money on arrows that were no use and placing my trust in the kid serving me who I felt at the time (hindsight being a wonderful thing) wasn’t really paying much attention or wasn’t sure what he was doing. And this annoyance certainly affected my shooting, although, in truth, not my enjoyment of the day. The sun was shining, people were in a good mood, and I was here to learn what it was all about, not to win or worry about my score. This was the last competition in the tournament (and the one hosted by my club) and it meant that I got to try out this sort of competition surrounded by friends and without any worry. Next year, hopefully, I’ll be able to join in more county shoots without any anxiety about what’s expected of me (in terms of how to behave, timing of shooting, who to speak to, order of shooting, how much cash to bring, etc.). In fact, it was a very relaxed environment. And I stayed until 7.30pm to help with all the clearing up and returning equipment to the usual club lock up.

How did I actually do? (I’ll put aside all the comments about having fun and new experiences.) I shot a ‘national’ round with a bare bow, so that was 8 ends of six arrows at 60 yards then 4 ends at 50 yards. I was awful at sixty. Excuses: mixed arrows and thrown emotionally by my bad purchase, plus only one week’s practice at 60 yards. But I was better at 50 yards and, on the last end, only missed with the yellow arrow. That said, this picture here  was my first shot at the 50… I hadn’t compensated for the lost 10 yards at all!

I scored 101, a fairly pitiful result, although some beginners scored around the thirty mark which makes it less bad, sort of. The worst ever was a mere 8. This year, the winner of my category scored around the 440 mark, so I need to quadruple my score if I want to win one day! If I missed less, this actually wouldn’t be too difficult. I missed on no less than 43 of my shots. That’s 43 arrows that didn’t hit the boss, or if they did they landed right on the edge. I can definitely improve on that with better arrows, a better mindset due to better preparation and having working equipment, and some practice at this distance. (It’s a far cry from the ~30 yard field stuff I’ve been concentrating on.)

Warts and all.

It was a real beginner’s experience. I loved it.

I’ve written to the shop about the arrows. I’ll let you know the result.

But a good thing has come out of that. I’ve been invited to get some bareshafts and try making my own arrows with a really experienced archer. This could be the first step towards me making my own.

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Field shoot and barbecue 

Another private field shoot. Some new faces for this site and a lot of good company. This is what it’s about: being out in the fresh air, in amongst the trees, good company, no pressure, and lots of tricky targets to have fun with.

I shot the course worse than ever before. At the end, while waiting for the barbecue, I found a target and just shot at it. And kept shooting on my own. Somehow, I suddenly got my eye in. It just happened. Partly it was because I suddenly noticed how bad my string picture was. It sounds crazy, but I’d forgotten all about it and so had developed bad habits. Suddenly everything did what I wanted and when a group of us went for the swinging roundel, my first shot looked like this.

I’m still really enjoying field shooting and am looking forward to it all starting up again across the county in October for the winter season. That said, I’m also looking forward to shooting endless ends at 20 yards indoors because I feel the consistency and more rapid frequency of it will help me work on technique.

Managed not to lose any arrows. That’s always a bonus. But I later discovered one had a hairline fracture down it, so I snapped it to take it out of circulation. First time I’ve done that. Felt like ripping a fiver in half. 

I have plans to buy new arrows before the countywide shoot coming up. I have 5 that are the same, and 3 that are the same but not as straight as they could be. Definitely time for some new ones.

Sessions 13, 14, 15

I’m grouping these together as they were somewhat uneventful. Session 13 I shot 40 yards for a bit, then, for fun, had a go at the 100 yards just to see if I could. I shot ten arrows and hit with the tenth (to a cheers from the line of watching archers, not without a sense of humour). Here’s one that sailed on past to about 140 yards, which is encouraging because at least if a clout session comes round I’ll feel I can have a go. 

Sailed past the 100 yards

The good thing about the longer distances is that the arrows are easier to find. At 40 yards they bury themselves flat in the short grass and are a bugger to find. 

[At this point, before session 14, there was a field shoot, but that’s to be another post.]

So, session 14 was all about 60 yards. There’s a countywide competition coming up hosted by my club and I’m taking part for the fun of it. Most of it is about shooting 60 yards, I’m told. So, I thought I’d try this distance again. I did give 60 yards a go a while back but at the time it seemed like the hundred yards does now – some comical distance to be shot only for fun and left to the compound and recurve shooters.

I might have hit the boss once or twice, which ain’t great in an hour of shooting ends of nine arrows (why nine? That’s all I have left after losing and smashing the rest!) 

So, session 15 I was back and earlier. An hour and a half on the 60 yards. This time, a bit better. Getting used to it. 

Advice from person A: don’t point at the sky, you’ve no reference point, move your anchor from the side of your mouth to under your chin. 

Person B: You need to split fingers, three under will make you shoot low. Use a glove, not your tab. 

Person C: But some people say… 

And I tried all their variations and decided to stick with what I knew. Three under. My tab. But actually the anchor under the chin does work for me just to get the height I need with the 40lb bow at 60 yards. 

Person D watched my shooting. Still a bad release but in part because I hold the string too close to the arrow and sometimes touch it. I hadn’t realised. I was doing that back during my beginner course. Have I learned nothing? Also my release is sometimes sloppy and sometimes fine. Need to concentrate on using back muscles, which I suspect I don’t as much as I should. Obviously a heinous error. As is adjusting my bow grip during the drawing process – how did I get so many bad habits after just a few weeks of less practice? 

He also talked me through bending at the waist, not angling the bow or my arms differently. The others points were error correction, but this was the first time I was really understanding this. It made the whole thing easier and my accuracy improved. But also I relaxed. He pointed out I was straining my neck at times before doing this. 

Probably fluke, but it’s great when one goes where you want it to (60 yards)

One of the things I’d realised in a previous week was that when I just relaxed I shot much better. Somehow, finally, I had got back to where I was when things were going alright. Sure, I’m not as good at 60 as 30, but I’m getting better. 

Unfortunately, no more practice before the competition. Not that it matters. I’m going mostly to experience it as a new thing, help out where I can, and fling a few arrows in the process. Apparently there’s cake.

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? 

July field shoot

Having not properly shot in a while, I was apprehensive about this field shoot. However, I knew, at the same time, it would be good fun. There was just six of us and we set out about ten targets and enjoyed the morning, shooting in the sunshine.

I lost two arrows on the first end, but found them later. After that I got back in the swing of it and shot much better. Although, I did lose one arrow completely in a bog. While I was looking for it, the others were shooting a target spinning from a rope. It was a block with one side – the scoring side – painted white. Unfortunately, they were filming and when I joined them and I managed to shoot just about the worst I ever have. Forever my wildly shot arrows ricocheting off tree trunks will be preserved for posterity. 

One particularly amusing home made target… 

The experience reignited my enjoyment of archery. Can’t wait for the next one, which should also include a barbecue! 

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.