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. 

Suffering for my sport

When I bought my bow, I wasn’t offered an arm guard, even after misfiring it a few times and twanging my arm while trying it on the shop’s range. Obviously those who are more expert than me don’t need them, but with a new bow, a heavier bow, an unusual environment… well, it’s clear I needed one. And at the time, I just sucked it up. A week later and I still know about it though… 

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.

Session 3

I thought rain might put an end to any hope I had of trying out my new bow on the range tonight, but fortunately it dried up just in time.

I started on the 20 yards target and after a few ends I wasn’t shooting quite as well as with the 26lb recurve I’d been using, but it wasn’t far off.

I tried the 30 yards and I was on a par with how I’d been with the recurve at this distance. I’m already finding it a lot easier pulling the 40lb hybrid longbow now I’ve had a chance to play with it a bit. 

So, I tried the 40 yard target for the first time and, although I missed one or two shots, by and large I hit it regularly. I won’t pretend there was any accuracy or particular grouping. I was just keen to see if I could shoot these farther distances now I had a heavier bow. 

So, I tried the 50 yard target and I missed a few shots, but a lot of them hit. Quite pleased with that. 

So, I tried the 60 yard target and some of them hit and more than 50% of them didn’t. One sailed way past to what must have been 80 yards. 

The picture shows the one end I shot at 60 yards. What you can’t see is all the ones in the ground next to the boss. 

What did I get from this? Confidence that I can draw this weight comfortably. Confidence I can hit the farther-away targets now. Confidence that with practice and improved aim I will hit those targets where I want to.

Comfortably might be pushing it. I can pull it no problem, but with up to 12 arrows an end I’m firing a heck of a lot more arrows than I was previously and in the same amount of time. After practice, I could (and still can) really feel it in my right shoulder muscles, in a way I haven’t before. It’s a familiar feeling to when I used to do a bit of weight lifting, years ago. I can feel the burn. 

Partly this is thanks to the advice of a regular who said near the beginning of the lesson that I have a good T shape, but my drawing hand was withering away to the side after the shot. I suspect I am still using arm strength instead of shoulder strength a lot of the time.

So, he showed me a thing he’d been taught. You grip one set of fingers around your other set of fingers under your chin, each hand pulling against the other. If you do it enough you can feel your shoulders clenching together and this helps you feel which muscles you should be using, but also when you relax the right hand fingers you get a proper release and the hand slides back as a result of the tension in the shoulder muscles. Once I’d tried this a few times, it really helped me identify when I was using my shoulders and,  for the first time, I found myself  doing a proper and automatic follow-through after release.

Weather permitting, I’ve got a field shoot tomorrow. I just hope I don’t wake up with an aching shoulder. Suddenly I wish I knew more stretches and cool down techniques.