Session 18

Thought I’d try my new arrows and further-cut-down tab on the 40 yard 252 challenge tonight. I scored 185. This was actually a bit worse than I scored last time. Crazy! I had a mixed bag of arrows last time.

I scored 199 last time. I guess anyone can accidentally strike a lucky once-off though. 

The other time, when ill, I got 120.

In truth, I only had about two hours sleep last night so I guess that affected performance. At least, I’m pinning my excuses on that.

I’m running out of time to get the 40 yard badge before we go indoors, but I guess it’s not that important. I’ll get a lot of practice and hopefully coaching during the indoor season at under 25 yards. 

My most spectacular shot tonight was through the rope… 

After my failed 252 attempt, I shot a last few ends at the 20 yards before the sun vanished behind dark clouds and the rain started.

Here’s a few pictures. 11 arrows in each.

So, here I have a sort of column of arrows:

Then a gold group, a higher group, and a few lower stragglers:

And here, erm, someone placed a repellent magnet behind the gold, so my perfectly aimed arrows all diverted away to the red. 

I think the last was an ‘I’m tired and I give up’ end. What I’m getting from the other two ends is that my left to right accuracy isn’t too bad, but my draw length is not consistent. I think.

One thing I did notice, though, was that I’d not worn a bracer all night. No need. So, as measures of progress go, I’m past the ‘chopped liver bicep’ stage. That’s something.

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Renewed optimism

Another night in a garden shooting a boss, this time with all my new arrows.

Some of the points had been badly machined and didn’t fit the 5/16″ taper but I was given replacements, no problem, by the seller in our club. So, now I have 11 arrows that are cut to fly straight for me, and with bright orange fletching and nocks I’ll be able to find them (although we’re going indoors soon at the club as the nights have drawn in fast). (The twelfth arrow was the very weak bareshaft one I broke before we cut any down, it just vibrated and snapped.) 

I’d taken a pair of scissors to my tab. I shoot 3 fingers under but my release has always been bad, twanging the arrow, etc. Partly this is from over-extending, but I always felt the tab was sabotaging me, but didn’t want to fall into that old thing of a bad workman blaming his tools. Anyway, when my friend/coach realised there was too much leather and I bunched it up between the pads of my hand and the string, he said that was wrong. I did this so the tab only just came past the string, to reduce flappiness (you know what I mean) but this left a load of wasted leather bunched up in my hand. Anyway, I cut it down and suddenly things are a lot better. After an hour and a half shooting, I could lock my anchor, pause to focus the shot, then release and I could feel the release was clean and the arrow would go where I shot it. Incredible feeling.

My friend stuck an A5 sheet of paper on the boss’s centre and I aimed for that. At the start of the night I had two of eleven arrows in it, if I was lucky, and the rest were spread out. By the end of the night I’d have all but four in it, and the four errant ones would still be close. Even I could see the significant improvement in my grouping. 

He did something else, too. I had a little brass nocking point that was put on by the shopkeeper when I bought the bow. He did it by sight. My friend took it off, used a bracing tool to measure where it should be (it was a little low) and then made a new one using thread, which he waxed, tied round the string a few times, and then lit with a lighter to solidify it and burn off stray ends. But he also gave me a second nocking point just below it to help avoid those odd occasions when the arrow might slip. I learnt to hold my drawing fingers together and wedged right under the lower nocking point. It made a difference alright!

Winter is coming (where have I heard that phrase before?) and I’m looking forward to going indoors and shooting without the inevitable ‘lost arrow’ delays, plus hoping for some more coaching during that time. I feel that now I have the equipment set right, it’s going to be easier to improve myself. (And I know the equipment is right not just because of the effect on my own shooting, but because at the end of the night my friend had a go and placed 6 of my arrows together in the centre of the boss within a diameter about the size of a tennis ball.)

Feeling: renewed optimism. 

Bareshaft Tuning 

Instead of going to the field for a session, I went instead to a friend’s garden to shoot.

Ostensibly, we were going to do bareshaft tuning with the twelve cedar shafts I’d bought. I got them from a guy at the club who told me they we 40/41 spines, which should mean they’re more consistent with each other than the 40/45 bundling offered by most local archery shops.

Now, obviously my shooting isn’t consistent enough to really make true bareshaft tuning work properly, but what we did do was shoot a couple of bareshafts and prove they were weak and see how they went. Couple of mishaps: lost a point that wasn’t screwed on tight enough in the boss and snapped a weak bareshaft.

We trimmed back the bareshaft, shooting it multiple times, until it was angled just slightly with the nock to the left of the point, meaning just a tad weak. Once this was happening consistently, we cut down three arrows to this length and seeing they were flying consistently well and only slightly weak, we fletched two. 

We shot the fletched couple alongside a bareshaft and the fetched ones flew totally straight, having the slight weakness righted by the feathers.

So, not exactly arrow-by-arrow bareshaft tuning, but the result is my now having arrows that are well-suited to me and my bow, and shot repeatedly enough to know that when I shoot them well, they’re spot on, they’re straight. Which is a huge step up from shop bought ones.

Unfortunately, some of the points I was given were a tiny bit slimmer than the others, so it’ll be a few days before I have the full compliment of arrows, but meanwhile should soon have 7 to work with, which is better than the mixed bag of 2 remaining greens and 3 remaining yellows which is just the disastrous end of the shop-bought ones.

(As for the twelve arrows that I’d bought for the countywide tournament recently, which I sent back to the shop for flying 20 yards off to the left every time – I did eventually get my money back on those, although not the postage, but you can’t have everything.)

I leant more about making arrows tonight too. 

Step 1 – use a taper tool (glorified pencil sharpener) to make an end for the nock

Step 2 – identify the grain pattern (rift) on the shaft to determine the rotation of the nock, the rift should be on top and pointing to what will be the pointy end. 

Step 3 – add cement to tapered shaft, insert and orient the nock (outside edge of nock in line with the grain pattern) 

Step 4 – next, sharpen/taper the point’s end

Step 5 – screw on point with pliers, later to be superglued on. 

I also got to watch the fletching being done on a £30 Bearpaw jig. 

Steps: insert arrow in jig, clamp feather, superglue length of feather, put clamp in jig, lower clamp so feather attaches to shaft, spray with activator. When all 3 done, put a bit of superglue on end of each fletching and smooth to help prevent feather coming off in grass.

We decided there was no point me worrying about using Danish oil on the shafts because I’ll probably have smashed them all before I know it. 

He explained that he uses wraps to crest his own carbon arrows because if the fletching gets damaged you can remove a wrap from a carbon arrow and then re-crest and re-fletch. This wouldn’t work with a wooden arrow.

So, I ended up with a few good arrows. I’d bought bright orange nocks and bright orange fletching. I figure I’ll spend less time hunting in the grass this way. All 3 feathers are orange. I’d thought of buying a different colour for the index vane / cockfeather but he pointed out there’s no need. I hadn’t thought about it before, but there’s only two ways a nock will clip on to the string and only one way that looks remotely right, so the index feather is of limited help really. And actually, if everyone else uses one, not having one just makes it all the easier to identify your arrows.

I’d known to buy parabolic, left wing, 3″ goose feathers from Merlin. This is what his jig was set for, so made things quick and simple. Not sure what’s involved in that initial set-up if I were to buy my own jig! 

The ‘bareshaft tuning’ also showed up the inconsistency in my shooting and, with a bit of tuition, I could see how often I was overextending my draw, or as I called it: pinging the arrow. I was told my drawing hand was doing too much. It needs to be simple, and it needs to lock into place. Simple mistakes, simple fixes. Things got better quickly. I’ve known for a while my release was bad, but this short-range shooting made it really easy to see where it was going wrong and how to fix it. The feel and sound of a good release and solid impact are very different to the twang and shudder of a bad one. I wish I had space for a boss in my own garden!

All in all, an informative night, and quite enthralling from my viewpoint. Injected some excitement – as having mixed arrows and a bad experience buying new ones was a bit of a downer. Making my own is within my grasp now!

Session 16 and 17

Nothing to see here!

Basically thought I’d try the 252 challenge on 40 yards. The rules have changed recently, so I’m allowed 54 shots with barebow to get to 252.

Session 16.  I had my five green arrows and 1 yellow arrow. Bit ridiculous. Thought I’d try anyway. Got 199 in those 9 ends of 6 arrows.

(Also tried shooting a friend’s carbon arrows for one end. Really didn’t tell me or show me anything useful, in truth. At least I can now say I’ve shot carbons.)

Session 17. Sick with a stomach bug all day. Went anyway.  Somehow two nocks got broken in transit to the club. Down to three green arrows and three yellow ones. Totally pointless attempt. Scored 120.

(Also shot some fatter arrows a friend prompted me to try. Flew alright. Again, really didn’t tell me or show me anything useful.)

Picked up my bareshafts, nocks and points that I’d ordered from a club member. Went home and ordered some fletching feathers from the Merlin website. 

As I said, nothing to see here!

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.

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.