Beautiful lake

Shoot Report – NFAS National Championships

Beautiful lake

Beautiful lake

This shoot report is a little different to others, as though I did shoot this years NFAS National Championships in September,  it wasn’t with my bow, but with my camera. I was lucky enough to be one of the two official photographers for this years event.
This was a wonderful opportunity and allowed me to catch up with lots of friends, but to have a behind-the-scenes view on both courses over the two days.

Background

The National Field Archery Society hosts 2 championships each year, one in May which consists entirely of 3D targets and the National championships run over a weekend in mid September, where all targets are paper faces.
Archers  would compete on two courses, in their chosen style (there are eleven different shooting styles from longbow to sighted compound in the NFAS). Each course consists of 40 targets and as I said are  entirely paper-based, the selection of target faces is massive being  from a variety of suppliers.
This year the two courses were set by Duvelle Archers and a group of volunteers, with Duvelle setting A course and the volunteers B course.
As a new challenge to archers WASP pegs were used for those adults shooting sighted recurves, sighted compounds and crossbows.
Preparation
Long before the archers arrive for the weekend a great deal of work goes in behind the scenes an I feel it only fair to recognise this.  From the entry administration as soon as booking start to arrive weeks before the event, registration on the weekend through to clearing up of the camping site at the end.
Behind the scenes admin team

Behind the scenes admin team

The sheer task of finding suitable woodland to house the event and camping is a massive challenge. Once the site is found, course layers need to be sourced and given access so they can scout out shoots the location, working out routes and paths between targets. The week prior to the event  everything kicks into high gear. The teams will be on site working to move target bosses, clear paths etc.
This year the hosts for the event would be Royle Farm Business Park, Drakelow, Burton upon Trent. This was a new venue to all and provided excellent camping and parking facilities for all attendees.
The grounds themselves were very flat, so the course layers had to work hard at times to make interesting shots. The advantage of this flat ground was to make it much easier to walk round. In addition, the woodlands is quite a young mixed plantation with access paths and open areas, which both course laying teams made use of with shots from the open areas into the darker woods or vice-a-versa.
Shot across the lake

Shot across the lake

A course set by Duvelle were fortunate enough to have a small water feature in the form of a lake which they used too great efficiency. I don’t  know about you but I find judging distance across water always challenging as I think others do. The flip side of this area was it was definitely the muddier part of the wood, especially on Sunday following the heavy rain.
Shoot through to the open

Shoot through to the open

B course on the other hand had more of the plantation aspect.  To their credit they worked hard to cut in a series of steps up to the shooting position for one shot on a steep slope.
Shot between the trees on B course

Shot between the trees on B course

I have to say I found it immensely enjoyable wandering around chatting to people and having the opportunity to take so many photographs. Long before I was into archery I enjoyed photography, something I started in my early teens and it was great to be able to  go round and just shoot more and more photos. I think I came off with about 600 photos of which over 300 are now on the NFAS website.
Compound archer relaxing

Compound archer relaxing – in fact he went on to win it

Back to the shoot report.  Compared to previous events this was quite small championships this year with just over 300 competitors. Past events have seen more than 400 archers and I wonder whether the timing of it, bring in mid-September is part of the problem. Many parents with children will have just seen them returned to school, others like myself who work at a university, struggle to have time off for that time of year.
There is also the fact that some people just don’t like shooting paper faces and prefer 3Ds.
The weather always plays a part in any outdoor event and I think we had everything from bright glorious sunshine of a late summer, early autumn day on Saturday, with archers in t-shirts. Contrasting with torrential downpours on Saturday night and at times Sunday.
Before the rain

Before the rain

The rain made getting round parts of A course a challenge, despite the best efforts of the marshals who put matting out and even built a bridge in one area.
After the rain

After the rain

As I said I saw behind the scenes a lot more this year. A few years ago I’d been fortunate enough to lead a group of volunteers who set a 3D championships course, which provided great sense of achievement. The thing being, we had to focus on one course, this year I got to see far more. With the early starts; I was out with my camera from just after 7 a.m. each day through until arches coming in 6:00 p.m. at night. Then back to the motorhome to grab some food, download the pictures, charge camera batteries oh and get some sleep.

Even the bows need a rest

Registration was from 8 am to 9 am Saturday and 7 am to 8 am Sunday, so pretty early starts on both days especially Sunday. To me there felt like there were fewer archers on Sunday, possibly due to the poor weather forecast or due to them not enjoying the first days shooting. Either way there were more than enough to make the event work, even in the heavy showers.
Open field shot on A course

Open field shot on A course

Saturday morning would see me walking round A course and then swapping to B course in the afternoon. Saturday was definitely the better day for photography and archery as it was warm and more importantly dry. Sunday I spent the day focusing on A course and trying to capture photos between the rain showers.
From my perspective the courses felt different with one having longer shots overall than the other. I’m aware that some archers voiced their concerns over some shots and I believe the course was modified on Saturday night by the course team.
It is very easy to criticise course layers by saying a shot is stretched or bad. A stretched shot being when the distance to the target from the shooting peg is felt to be too far for the size of the animal.
I think everyone, myself included could learn to provide more constructive criticism or constructive comments to courses layers rather than just saying it was poor or  bad shot.
Many of the shots were long and I think were good shots but personally I felt the choice of target face was inappropriate,  being possibly too small all for the distance. Then again it is something about my view of course laying and how I set shots compared to others. I prefer a shorter more technical shot  or closer shot where the top archers will get the 24s and the less able are likely to get a 16 or second arrow. I know on one course there were a lot of second and third arrows shot.
Please remember this is a personal view and and it’s up to you whether you agree, as at the end of the day I wasn’t shooting the course with a bow, l was out shooting with a camera.
One fun thing was spotting all the toy trolls that appeared on A course. I’m not sure how many there were but I know they just appeared from time to time watching us.
Trolls on A course

Trolls on A course

Being able to walk round, chat with people, take photos and generally engage with everyone was great. Also to have the opportunity to see the woodlands, not just as the archer see it when they’re walking through but having  the opportunity to stop for 10-15 minutes or longer in one location and see groups on A  course going through was a great privilege which I really really enjoyed.
Saturday I was able to get round most of both courses, taking advantage of the glorious late summer day. Sunday would see me mostly on A course.

WASP Pegs

I feel the use of wasp pegs or the introduction of them was a good idea. The execution of them or positioning of them didn’t always work. Having a shot with a wasp peg further back, doesn’t always make a more interesting shot or indeed a challenging shot. Greater challenge can be achieved by changing the angle or framing of the shot so the archer has a narrow window to view and shoot through.
Wasp pegs

Wasp pegs

Whether they will be used in future I don’t know I hope so and I think they offer the ability to to give some classes a greater challenge. At the club I shoot for Briar Rose, we use wasp pegs and I think in general we get them right. I hope other clubs will adopt this policy as it allows you to set a challenging shot for sighted compounds and crossbows, while keeping the red peg suitable for other styles.
Thats one thing we do different as we don’t have freestyle shoot from Wasp pegs.
I personally don’t believe that sighted recurve archers, i.e those shooting in the freestyle class should have to shoot from off wasp pegs, because at the end of the day their arrows do not have the same flat trajectory that compounds or crossbow do.
Pretty arrows

Pretty arrows

You can see the full set of photos that myself and Derek shot over the weekend at the NFAS site, along with a listing of the winners.
Congratulations to all those who were placed and who attended, some for the first time. I hope you enjoyed it and will be returning again.
If I had the opportunity to do it all again, I think I would do things a little differently but yes I would give it a go.
Thanks for reading.
Some of the wood carving in the fort area

Shoot Report – NFAS National Championships – September 2017

Some of the wood carving in the fort area

Some of the wood carving in the fort area

Sorry this shoot report is so late in appearing, works been pretty mad, with long hours and a restructuring, but enough of that it is an archery blog after all. So the NFAS National championships has come and gone in what seems like a blink of an eye last September. Has it really been that long ago?

The weekend long competition this year was held in the Usk area of South Wales and if you would like to, you can read a review from last year’s event here.

I have to say I wasn’t approaching the weekend with a great deal of confidence and yes this will probably sound like me making excuses. I’d not had time to do much practice due to long hours at work and not having the opportunity to practice at weekends. I’m not as disciplined as Sharon, who gets up early and practices before starting work. Guess that is an advantage she has of working from home at times.

Archers on the shooting line

Archers on the shooting line

I don’t know about you but I know the lack of practise and associated lack of confidence really affects me as I tend to doubt myself and second guess my shooting. It also tends to affect my muscles as I don’t feel as fluid in the draw up and release sequence. Not to mention the stamina required to shoot two full days of competition.

Archers massing for the start

Archers massing for the start

Anyway time would tell and more importantly onto the interesting bit, the shoot report. The NFAS National championship is an annual event, attracting archers from all over the country shooting under the NFAS banner. Unlike the 3D Championships held on the late May bank holiday, where all targets are 3Ds, the Nationals are a mixed competition meaning you will shoot both paper faces and 3D targets (approximately 60/40 split respectively) on each course.

This year we were lucky enough to find a very nice local hotel Llangeview Lodge only a five minute drive from the courses, so no need to pack the tent or have a long drive to and from the event.

As is the norm, competitors shoot two courses, one each day. Saturday would see us shoot B and Sunday A, with the courses having been set by Hawk archers club (B) and a group of volunteers (A).

So day one saw us shooting B course. This course’s woodland was quite dense in areas making for some quite dark shots. The woodland hosting the course also had a number of small ponds, which Hawk course layers used on a number of shots, such as the crocodile and brown bear.

Ian shooting 3D bear on B course across pond

Ian shooting 3D bear on B course across pond

It felt like I started in the hardest area of this course as our first shot was a 3D Velociraptor, followed by the infamous JVD artic wolf paper face that I tend to call the Chihuahua wolf as it is all fur, this was followed by then JVD deer all over pretty open ground along a path. Three longish shots one after another, but it wasn’t just me who would struggle.

Crocodile 3D across pond on B course

Crocodile 3D across pond on B course

Ian shooting turkey face on B course

Ian shooting turkey face on B course

I felt sorry for the young junior archer who I was shooting with who blanked several of the early targets and was getting quite despondent when we got to catering. An upside of the day though was that it was good to shoot with Ian from Artemis Archers who I’d not chatted with for ages.

Ian shooting 3D frog on B course

Ian shooting 3D frog on B course

I think it would be fair to say I didn’t gel with this course overall. I felt many of the shot’s difficulties or challenges were really based on distance rather than framing. If you could judge the distance then you were more than likely to be successful, but since at times I couldn’t make out if I was in or not I was often second and third arrows.

To be fair to the course layers, I spoke to some archers who loved B course, having to judge the distance and dead ground was right up their street, but to me it felt like most of the challenge was in judging the distance. Of course if I’d done more preparation I might have felt differently. I personally find it difficult to recover from a bad start and wonder in hindsight if that has affected my view of B course.

Well Sunday would be another day; my hope was my shoulders would be ok. The several second and third arrows I had been taking was tiring it, causing occasional spasms during the day. We left the venue and retired to the hotel for a hot shower, very enjoyable meal and early night.

Day two would see an early start for all, with Admin opening at 7 am to get archers out on the courses as early as possible. I have to say I was feeling a bit guilty not helping out in some way on Sunday morning. Saturday I had been able to do my bit in marshalling the practise bosses, but we didn’t get to the site until about 7:30 and by the time we’d gone through arrow checks and picked up score cards, there was just enough time to shoot a few arrows and grab some breakfast before we were off onto the course.

A course woodland - 3D deer by the tree

A course woodland – 3D deer by the tree

The woodland that hosted A course was very different to that of B course, being more open and situated in and around an ancient hill fort.

A course - in and around ancient fort

A course – in and around ancient fort

This offered some beautifully laid shots with a mix of open and framed targets.

Paper face fox target on A course

Paper face fox target on A course

I feel I engaged more with this course and I think that helped, the only problem was my shoulder. In fact this would be the biggest problem I had on the Sunday that of fatigue or rather muscle spasms in my shoulder. It resulted in my arm flinching on a couple of targets in the morning and more in the afternoon, with my shoulder gradually getting worse as the day progressed.

A course - 3D bobcat on the log

A course – 3D bobcat on the log

Those are the breaks I guess and I at least finished the day, though it is incredibly annoying to see an arrows fly at exactly the right height landing just left or right of the target due to arm twitching, which was the case on the big white Ram 3D.

3D frog target hidden in the undergrowth

3D frog target hidden in the undergrowth

I think the one target I really did not get on with was a brown deer/ mouse paper face round the back of the hillside. None of us in the group could make it out and even when we were up close it was hard to identify.

Quick general comment to make here is I’d like to express our thanks as always to the course layers on both A and B course, admin teams, site organisers and estate owners.

I found out on the day that the volunteers who set A course had never set a course before, which did surprise me as I think they did a grand job, as did the guys on B course. Thanks to all that work so hard on setting the course, running the admin and organising the site.

I think the archer of the weekend must have been Richard Davies, who put in a truly amazing score to win Gents longbow.  Congrats to Lee Ankers, fellow Briar Rose club member on his medal winning placing in Gents Primitive.

The full breakdown of the results and collection of photos from them event can be found on the NFAS website (http://www.nfas.net/home.asp).

Sharon - Ladies NFAS National Champion in American Flatbow

Sharon – Ladies NFAS National Champion in American Flatbow

Sharon did really well despite not feeling she was on form, improving on her second place last year to win Ladies American Flat Bow. As for me, well despite having a collapsing shoulder and not shooting much this year I manage to come in with a 3rd place in Gents American Flatbow, third year in a row.

My 3rd place medal for 3rd year on the run

My 3rd place medal for 3rd year on the run

More importantly for Sharon and I, we managed to retain the Nearest and Dearest trophy for the fourth year.

Thanks for reading.