Arrows role in overcoming target panic

Forest of arrows

Forest of arrows

In the previous posts, I talked about personal confidence and your mindset. In the next couple of articles, I am going to look at the role of equipment setup and how these can affect your confidence in both positive and negative ways. As ever if you have any questions or queries drop me a line.
How can we build self-confidence?
Well, that is not an easy question as there are so many different potential answers. From my perspective, I’m going to use something I call the Archer’s triangle, to help break this down into manageable elements.

archers triangle graphic

The archers triangle

The triangle is what I see as the three key elements that are relevant for all archers, whether you are a target archer, hunter or field shooter. It consists of three components, Archer, Arrow and Bow. These three need to work together successfully for the best outcome. I am not saying they all have to be perfect, but they do have to work together. Since there are three I have always thought of them as the three sides of a triangle.

Arrow – all elements from shaft construction, spinning, point weight, length, etc.
Bow – covering bow mass weight, draw weight, length, brace height, etc.
Archer –  cover draw dynamic, shot sequence, mindset, draw length, release, etc.

Building personal confidence i.e. the Archer element takes time and practise, but we can build confidence via the other two sides, slightly more quickly. So I’m going to summaries some ideas on the Arrow and Bow aspects initially.
Don’t worry I’m not ignoring the Archer element or how we build the archers confidence. I will cover this. but initially I want to focus on the kit aspects and provide a few ideas on how you can develop confidence through your kit set up.

Building confidence with arrows

So we are going to start with our projectiles, whether wood, carbon or aluminium. Arrows are a vital component for all archers. For this reason, I want to offer you a thought “If you don’t have confidence in how your equipment will behave, then you will find every shot doubly challenging?

Think about this for a moment. If your quiver is full of arrows of different lengths, weights, spines then do you think each arrow is likely to perform in the same way?

A quick Google search will provide you with a bewildering amount of information on arrows, how-to guides on construction techniques, what works, what doesn’t work, etc. So I’m not going to cover that. What I am going to outline is how making my arrows helped me build confidence in their performance and behaviour. This, in turn, gave me confidence when shooting them.
You could argue that this is from the perspective of a traditional archer, making mostly wooden arrows, with feather fletchings, but I feel it is just as applicable for all archers, whether you are shooting Easton X7, XX75 or Easton Carbon Ones. So here goes.
Over the years I’ve probably spent hours making and tuning my wooden arrows to the different bows I shoot. Trying different combinations of arrow spine, arrow length, pile weight, fletching size and shape, matching total arrow weight, etc. I would document all this in various notebooks so I could refer back to them. Then I would shoot the combinations for a couple of weeks to properly test them at different distances and in varying weather conditions. If they worked fantastic, if not back to the drawing board and start again with the next set of variable until I found a combination that worked.
Sure I made mistakes along the way, that’s part of learning. I firmly believe that making mistakes should not be viewed as a failure. It can provide a great learning experience if we let it. Too many times I’ve seen people not learn from mistakes only to repeat them.

I found the process of making the arrows strangely relaxing after a day spent in front of a computer screen. The ability to focus on the single task of construction and stages involved in construction brought an element of mindfulness.
I also feel all this work paid dividends in two ways. I developed skills in making arrows, which I have been able to apply and teach to others. Secondly and more importantly, it meant I developed confidence in the arrow set up and how they would behave.

I may have told you this story before, but I believe it is worth another outing and helps to highlight how not being aware of your kits variances can affect your anxiety.

An archer came to me for some coaching. Their goal was to increase their consistency, especially at longer distances where they struggled most. They felt a lack of confidence shooting at distance and couldn’t understand why sometimes things worked and others times they would go high and next time low.

Reviewing their form and shot execution showed them to have a strong and consistent routine. It was only when I reviewed their equipment did an answer appear as to why they were struggling. Their arrows had a huge variance in mass weight, with the heaviest being over 100 grains more than the lightest. This would explain why over longer distances, 35 yards plus, the archer would see completely different results depending on which arrow they used. This leads them to believe it was something they were doing wrong, which had the effect of causing anxiety and loss of confidence.

Top Tip – pickup a digital grain scale so you can weigh your arrows easily. They are quite inexpensive and can be easily picked up off the internet or local archery shop. I wrote an article a while back on my use of them. Make sure they will weigh items in grains.

Digital grain scales

Grain scales with sponge

Obviously, there are far more potential variations in shaft weight, arrow spinning etc when making wooden arrows due to the nature of the materials. When compared with constructing arrows from machined aluminium or carbon, where the manufacturing tolerances are far more predictable. Gaining consistency in your arrow set up is vital and is one reason so many people use carbon.

You might feel you don’t have the skills to build your own arrows, but everyone can develop these skills. If nothing else you can review and check the length and weight of your arrows to ensure a level of consistency.

Grouping by weight

I group my arrows into batches by weight so all the ones I shoot are closely matched, whether they are used for first, second or thirds. So 12 of my arrows might weigh in at 460 to 480 grains. I would group all the ones from 460 to 470 grains together and have a separate grouping of 470 to 480 grains.
Unlike some archers, I don’t use my lightest arrows for my first arrows (normally the longest shots), working down to my third arrows being the heaviest (normally the closest). I prefer to know they are all in the same weight range and hence will perform consistently.


The thing to remember is that arrows wear out over time, especially wooden arrows. Eventually, the fibres in the shaft will no longer keep their strength, following constantly impacting targets or the ground. This is sometimes called shooting the heart out of the arrow. This can have an effect on the archer as you can quickly lose confidence in yourself if you feel you are doing everything right but your arrows aren’t flying well.
For this reason, I suggest you monitor your arrows and check they are remaining straight and undamaged. This is vital for all archers to consider, especially when shooting carbon arrows as these too can fail and sometimes in quite dramatic manners. I’ve seen some carbon arrows explode when released from the bow due to the archer not being aware the arrow is damaged and the stresses involved at the point of release caused a catastrophic failure.
Like wooden arrows, aluminium shafts can become damaged and dented over time; resulting in less than ideal flight trajectory, so it’s worth keeping track of them too. Sharon used to find the Easton X7 a great arrow when shooting barebow as they could take a hit or two without deforming. Which provided her with confidence in their performance.

Thanks for reading and as I have said previously, feel free to drop me a line with any questions or thoughts you might have on topics I am covering.

Shoot report – NFAS National Championship 2013

2013 NFAS National Championships

2013 NFAS National Championships

Last weekend (21st-22nd September) saw the annual NFAS National championships, which this year was held just outside of Hemel Hempsted, Hertfordshire a little over a 2 hour drive from home. This was the second time the Gaddesden Estate had hosted the event in the last 3 years, though this time we were only using one area of the woodland.
The estate grounds are a lovely mix of old mix leaf deciduous woodland, crisscrossed with paths and hollows, some of which were used by the course layers exceedingly well.
Unlike other champs we decided not to camp being unsure of the weather and went for a bit of luxury, well sort of limited luxury, as we and a few others booked in at a Premier Inn about 20 minutes drive from the site. It was a novelty being able to have a hot shower, a proper bed and not too bad food from the restaurant next door.  We were joined by a few others from Severn Valley and Paget de Vesey club making it a social evening on both Friday and Saturday night.
2013 NFAS Nationals

2013 NFAS Nationals

The two clubs who put all the effort in to set the courses, clear paths and marshal were Cloth of Gold (Course A) and Westcott Archers (Course B). This would result in 2 very different courses of 40 targets one shot each day over the weekend. With over 400 archers present the courses were packed, with 5-6 on a peg, top marks to Admin though for all their hard work and organising.
Personally I think the society should have gone with 3 courses, as it would have spread the archers out and wouldn’t have resulted in as many hold ups on pegs which was a real problem for us on Sunday.
Delays result in a lack of flow to the day and I suffer from this in the form of a loss of concentration and focus. Combine this with a more challenging course, Sunday would prove to be a tough and long day. With only 2 courses it would see us shooting in mixed groups, which was great as it meant I got to shoot with Sharon on both days.
The first day we would shoot A course with Pug (who we had shot with before at Thornbury and would go on to be placed in compound limited) Robin and Norm with B course on Sunday with Rob Cook, Vickie, Lesley (Rob would go on to win gents bare bow)

Downhill boar

Downhill boar, probably the best shot on A course

Saturday A course

A course was laid by Cloth of Gold and would prove to be the easier of the two and I think this was partly due to them having less woodland. There were a few lovely set targets like the boa in the hollow which you shot from the top of the slope. The thing I liked was that there weren’t many silly long shots.

Only two targets spring to mind and both were small ones. The JVD red squirrel which was just after the food stop and the JVD ermine. The ermine is a small target and doesn’t need to be put on an angled boss. The squirrel was too far and it didn’t help that we had an hour long enforced lunch break just before it due to hold ups with groups in front of us. In contrast on B course the Ermine was set up really well.

Ermine target on B course

Ermine target on B course

In all though the day was okay and made better by the good company.

Sunday Course B

Sunday saw us on B course set by Westcott Archers which was far more challenging and demanding for all.

2013 NFAS Nationals B course sunday first target

2013 NFAS Nationals B course Sunday first target

The problem was this meant archers were taking more arrows and with the number of archers present it slowed down the day especially at the longer shots or those 3d targets with no backstops.

At one target when we arrived there were two groups in front of us still waiting to shoot it. I spoke to a few people who like me thought it  would have been a good idea to station a couple of marshals there during the day to help search for missing arrows.

2013 NFAS Nationals 3d deer

2013 NFAS Nationals 3d deer

This was the first time there had been a mix of 3d and paper faces at the championship. Traditionally it had always been solely paper faces.

2013 NFAS Nationals red squirrel

2013 NFAS Nationals red squirrel on B course

Big thanks to Merlin Archery who donated the paper faces for the event.

Tight shot between trees Nationals B course sunday

Tight shot between trees Nationals B course Sunday

Whilst it was good to shoot a mix of faces I think the lack of back stops on some of the longer distance 3d targets resulted in delays as people searched for missing arrows. Having said that there were some great shots on B course including a very deceptive 3D crocodile which had been hidden in a slight dip, which saw many archers arrows go high.

I would like to say a big thanks to Alex for all her stunning pictures of the weekend some of which she’s kindly allowed me to share on this site. Love this one of Sharon.

2013 NFAS Nationals Sharon

2013 NFAS Nationals Sharon

I manage to get one of Alex, whilst she was getting ready for end of shoot awards.

Alex hiding behind camera

Alex hiding behind camera

Waiting for results

Everyone waiting for results

SVYF came away with team trophies in bare bow, longbow and instinctive along with placing in the individual gents bare bow, crossbow and junior girls hunting tackle.

2013 NFAS Nationals - Barebow team

2013 NFAS Nationals – Barebow team Sharon and Robin, the rest of the team (Ivor & Steve) were a bit camera shy.

Sharon missed out on placing by 20 points coming under 3rd place. As for me I came in 8th, not bad I guess but I dropped 3 places on Sunday, I think due to the delays and waits for shots. Full results are available on the NFAS website, or click here .

Thanks for reading.