Shoot report – NFAS National Championships – September 2015

Saturday morning at National Championships

Saturday morning at National Championships

I can truthfully say I think this year’s NFAS National Championships was probably the toughest I’ve shot over the last few years. Not due to poor weather, but simply the demands of the course and terrain. I also think that the weeks of practice shooting 80-120 arrows every other day built up my stamina and helped me cope with shooting so many arrows over 2 days. If you are interested you can check out a review of last year’s championships here.
The location of the championships was stunning, with it taking place on the banks of Windermere lake in the Lake District, which we were able to enjoy in fine dry weather. Yes, dry weather in September in the Lake District, we were shocked too.
The location offered some stunning views as we headed up and down the slopes and through beautiful mature oak woodlands of the Graithwaite estate.
Sharon and I had decided not to camp this year and Sharon had managed to book  a two bedroom apartment in Near Sawrey which proved an excellent find with a fabulous local pub 200 yards away. This accommodation we would share with fellow SVYF member Steve.
Having been able to get the Friday off work we headed up the motorway  Friday morning meeting Stephen at the apartment shortly after 2 pm. We unloaded the cars and popped down to the camp site and venue  to check we knew the route down the country lanes for the following day. As it was our accommodation was about 10-15 minutes drive from the venue.
This years Nationals would see 400 archers spread over two courses, the courses having been set by Lakeland (B) and Kendal (A) clubs.
Traditionally the nationals had been solely paper faces but a couple of years ago they started to introduce a few 3d targets. This year would see over a quarter of the 40 targets being 3d targets. This year they imposed a time limit of 8 hours, stating all archers had to stop shooting after 8 hours from the start, even if they hadn’t shot all the targets.
General observations

 I’m going to make a few general observations.

Peg positions varied and I know a few archers have commented on this. By all means make the red challenging, but please ensure that other pegs are at reasonable distances especially for juniors.
It is my view that some targets were at their maximum range, possibly even beyond. You don’t have to stretch shots just because it is a championships, especially with the quality of the grounds the championships was on. The challenge is in what you score not whether you score.
When you have a long shot and then put a face which may have a large scoring kill zone but wound lines are unforgiving I personally don’t think it is fair.  It slows down the day as archers are forced to take three arrows.
There was some discussion on some new target faces produced by ProKill (http://prokill24.com/), which people hadn’t seen before. The problem with them was they had been stapled to the card rather than glued which meant the face was pulled off when arrows were extracted. That meant they were only used on the first day. I hope to write a review of these faces in the near future.
We must give top marks to the catering van that was providing food on the camp site and relocated during the day to provide food for A course. The guys were fantastic starting serving at 7 and going on into the evening. They also have a very cool Star Wars themed catering van.
Saturday

The weather, initially misty, soon turned into a beautiful autumnal day of no breeze and bright sunshine.We were on site shortly after 7:30 am with registration opening at 8 am.The shoot starting just after 10.

A course - 3D crocodile - seen from the side

A course – 3D crocodile – seen from the side

Day one would see me shooting A course, set by Kendal Archery Club and Sharon would be on B course. With only two courses the groups would be of mixed styles.
A course was located nearest admin so was a short walk. The group would be Helen shooting compound, Sandra who I’d shot with at the 3d championships this year shooting longbow, Lionel and another Rob, both shooting primitive. We started on target 24 which was a longish paper face small deer.
A course - target 24 - first target

A course – target 24 – first target

One beautifully set shot was a long shot on a bedded 3D elk, that looked fantastic.
A course - bedded elk 3D from the blue peg

A course – bedded elk 3D from the blue peg

Another was a shot across a small pond to a 3d crocodile.
A course - 3D crocodile - seen from the side

A course – 3D crocodile – seen from the side

A course - view back from 3D crocodile

A course – view back from 3D crocodile

I think it is fair to say A course felt as though it had been set by two teams.
Targets 1-20 proved slower and longer distances, with several waits or hold ups on the peg. Whilst 20-40 flowed well, the only holdup being the long bedded deer , which both looked great and was a technical shot.
A course - 3D Javelina

A course – 3D Javelina

The worst delays of the day were at a downhill skinny turkey followed by an uphill paper face wolf. We were waiting 10-15 minutes to shoot the turkey and another 20 minutes on the wolf, while we waited for the groups in front to shoot. These delays broke up the flow of the day noticeably in those 20 targets and I  think we had two clear targets in those 20.
A course - long paper face small deer and me Robin hooding fellow archers arrow

A course – long paper face small deer and me Robin hooding fellow archers arrow

We were off course by about 4:30 and headed back to the apartment and then to a local pub for food and then an early night.

Sunday

Sunday morning dawned a little cooler than Saturday with a slight breeze. Again we were on site from about 7:30 am for a breakfast roll and registration.

The scores and placing from the first day were posted at administration tent. Sharon was in a slim lead in ladies hunting tackle and somehow I was in second in American flatbow. It is a weird feeling having so many people congratulate you on placing when you felt you hadn’t shot well.
Unlike A course, B course would see us having a mile walkout to the assembly point.
B course - long 3D dinosaur

B course – long 3D dinosaur

I would start on peg 4 an uphill paper face leopard, my group comprising of 2 compound archers Dave and Alan, along with Ken Adams shooting longbow. We were also joined by Joan Adams who wasn’t shooting this year.
B Course - uphill turkey 3d

B Course – uphill turkey 3d

I didn’t feel Sunday flowed well with a few hold ups whilst we waited for the group or groups in front to shoot the target. On one target there  was over 30 minutes while we waited with other groups to shoot a long paper face moose.

B Course - downhill 3D crocodile

B Course – downhill 3D crocodile

One thing Lakeland did was have a marshal checking arrows whilst archers were on course to make sure the arrows were correctly marked.
B course - paper face puma between the tree bough

B course – paper face puma between the tree bough

I knew I’d not shot well on Sunday and think I can put that down to a loss of confidence. I broke one arrow quite early on and a second a couple of targets later and I think this got into my head. Unlike A course, B didn’t have as many backstops for the 3ds so if you did miss there was a chance of breaking an arrow, as David, one of the compound archers in the group can testify to; when he misjudged a long downhill shot on a 3D ram and the carbon arrow exploded as it hit the tree behind. I was very lucky on this target, with my arrow just staying in the top of the animal.

B course - lucky shot of the day

B course – lucky shot of the day

There were a few targets with trees or banks behind that were unforgiving on arrows.
The only advantage of all the delays was being able to chat with Jim Pierce from Artemis and also a fellow ex-Black Arrow member who was in the group in front. He did a grand job trying to keep my spirits up, cheers mate.
I walked back to the parking area on my own thinking over my shots, feeling pretty low. I need to work on coping with delays and not letting it effect my performance.
As the award ceremony approached I met up with Sharon and other archers patiently waiting for the results. The first to be called was Gents AFB and the first name was mine. By some miracle I had managed a third place. According to Sharon my face was a picture when it was announced. I was so touched by the number of people that came up afterwards to congratulate me.
Bronze medal from Nationals

Bronze medal from Nationals

Sharon retained her title as Ladies Hunting Tackle champion. Sharon and I  also won the Nearest and Dearest trophy for the second year running.
Our fellow SVYF member Robin won Gents Barebow, which helped the club towards winning the Instinctive Team trophy. Congrats to Colin who won 3rd in Crossbow too. Here is a link to the full results (http://www.nfas.net/downloads/champs/2015%20Sept%20Nationals%20Reults.pdf).
well done to all that managed to make it round the courses and congrats to all medal winners on what I think were a very tough couple of courses.
Thanks for reading.

Question from a reader – Improving grouping

Last week I posted a response to a readers question concerning aiming and focus. This is  the second part of my response and in this I will try and address another question
I practice very very much and I can not reduce the diameter of my groups
I know this feeling all too well and I used to spend hours quietly practicing at the range at Black Arrow and now at home.

Reducing the diameter of the group comes with practice. Lots of practice in my case. It takes time and consistency in equipment and techniques.
Here are a  few tips I’ve picked up along the way. I  hope they help.

Know your Equipment

If your equipment is not consistent then you have a constantly changing variable to any practice you undertake.

If you shoot a takedown recurve each time you dismantle and reassemble your bow you run the risk of accidentally changing settings. Whether this be the bracing height or dropping twists in the string. So take care and time to make sure everything is right. I have found a camera phone invaluable aid for checking brace height or nock position. Set the bow up, making sure everything is right  and then take a few photos of the bracing height, nocking point etc. It provides you with a quick easy to check reference.

Photo of recurve set up

Photo of recurve set up

If you do change anything make sure you change one thing at a time. However if you change bracing height you might need to immediately change your nocking point as well.

Weather can play a part on equipment too. Traditional English longbow archers will tell you that in warm weather the bow will behave differently to when it’s cool.

Arrow weight and quality

  • Are all the arrows you are using straight and in good condition re nocks and fletching wear?
  • Do they weigh the same?
  • Do they really have the same spine?

I had one student who was struggling with grouping and when we weighed his arrows we found a huge weight variation which explained his issue at longer distances. Additionally, the spine shown on the boxes of wooden shafts  can vary, (in some cases we have found a 20lb variation in a single box that is theoretically ranged within 5lb.) This can be caused for a number of reasons from storage to temperature.

A good idea is to number the arrows and note where they hit. That way if you find one that always goes left or drops short you know it’s the arrow not the archer. I also make a note on each arrow how much they weigh in grains and match shooting sets of the same weight. (Definition of Grain)

This is obviously more of a problem with wooden arrows than with carbon or aluminium arrows.

Equipment consistency is easy compared to archers.

Are you consistent in draw, anchor and release?
If you aren’t being consistent here then getting a good group is impossible.
Light is right and going back sometimes to a lightweight bow means you can focus on draw, release and overall technique.

Take your time between shots don’t rush to shoot as your muscles take time to recover after each shot.  A rushed shot is seldom on target but can often infuriate you.

One technique I use is to start at short distance say 5 yards. And focus on bringing the group in. I then move back 2-3 yards and work on grouping at that distance.  Gradually you move further back. This builds an image bank in your brain of where you should be at different distances. I would practice at, 5,7,10,13,15,17,20,23 and  25 yards shooting 3-6 arrows. Not until I would get at least 5 arrows constantly in a group of 3 inch diameter would I move to next distance. This took months of practice and patience, lots of patience and quite a few replacement nocks. Some days I would shoot 40 arrows others 120 depending on how I was feeling and whether I could focus on the practice. no good practicing if you aren’t focused.

Jim Grizzly Kent recorded a video for YouTube a while back on cup shooting which is another good practice technique.
 Finally, if you can get a friend to video you shooting this might help identify any inconsistencies that you have (once you get past being self concious of being recorded). I am thinking of doing an article on the use of video in the near future.

I hope this helps once again thanks for reading.