The woods are calling
In my last posting I wrote about the setting of New Year goals and how you could start to monitor your progress as you develop in your archery life. In this post I’d like to take this a little further and explore some general advice along with some metrics beginners or experienced archers may consider suitable.
Poor equipment = poor shooting
First thing you can do is to get your equipment right, your bow, glove, tab, arrows etc. Now this doesn’t mean going out and spending a small fortune on the latest carbon arrows of only 6 grains per inch or new bow limbs that promise to launch your arrows even faster. It is about getting what you have working the best it can. As my old coach told me “Learn to shoot the bow you have.”
Every archers knows that having confidence in your kit helps in your shooting. If you are worried that the bows not performing or just ignorant of possible problems, it’s unlikely you’ll be consistent in your shots.
With my coaching hat I’d like to give you an example of how not knowing your kit can have an effect on your shooting and make you doubt yourself.
Many years ago I was asked by a newly signed off archer why he couldn’t get a grouping at a distance past about 20 yards. So we wondered down to the range and I got him shooting at a few distances, asking him to shoot each arrow exactly the same, adjusting just for the distance but not for the flight of the previous arrow.
His form was fine and his bow set up was correct with the appropriate brace height, etc. I noticed his line was fine but some arrows flew high others low. He’d bought the wooden arrows from a local stockist as he’d not yet started making his own. I asked if he’d checked the mass weight of the arrows. He hadn’t, so we dug out my grain scales and measured them. When we did we discovered that of the 8 he was shooting there was approximately 90 grains difference, with the other 4 talking the range up to over 100.
Grain scales with sponge
You can’t hope to get a consistent grouping if all your arrows are different weights. This is why I spend time matching the arrows I make, I try to match arrows both in mass weight and spinning for mine and Sharon’s bows. (Quick call out to Marc at longbow emporium for a great matching service in arrow shafts)
QUICK TIP – A useful tip when setting up your bow is to use your mobile phone camera, to photograph your brace height or button settings. This way you have a pictorial record you can use when setting up your bow, arrow rest, replacing the string etc.
Photo of recurve set up
Club ground – the Good and Bad points
There is no doubt that practise is important, in fact it is very important. For this reason I think it is worth mentioning the merits and flaws of club practise grounds and trying to use it to judge your progression and development.
So the good part of having a home course is pretty obvious, it gives you a practise area that is relatively static and unchanging day in day out, meaning you can judge your progress, week on week. You can go back to a target again and again until you get it right.
I always remember in my first club, where there was a deer 3D that I always struggled with and I would go back and shoot it again and again.
3D Deer between the trees
The downside of practise on the same ground can be you end up shooting targets on a sort of autopilot as you’ve shot it so many times before you don’t appraise the shot as you would or should if presented for the first time at a competition. In essence you shoot the shot from memory and in turn it becomes too easy, as you don’t spend the time to read the ground or judge the shot.
One technique you can use to keep the course shots fresh is to shoot 3 arrows at all the targets, even if you hit with your first. So for an adult you would shoot, one from the red, white and blue pegs. This is a technique I have used for several years at club grounds and found it works for me. It forces me to keep testing my distance judgement and makes me adapt as I’m moving from one peg to another. It also builds your stamina in your muscles as you are shooting more arrows. I’ll cover more about physical fitness in my next article.
Competition Courses and Base lines
Ok so you have been shooting at your club grounds and you now want to go out to try other clubs and enter a few competitions. Maybe there is a group of you and you’ve been to a few shoots but not sure how you are doing. Thing is how can you judge how you are doing when you are at different courses? Sure you can look at your score and if it’s higher than your last shoot you are improving right? Well maybe, maybe not.
Due to the nature of the NFAS, the club courses you shoot change over time, year on year. In fact this is somewhat expected by archers. A club that doesn’t change its course can often receive negative comments from some like “It’s just the same as last time” or “They haven’t bothered to change the course from last time we shot it”.
On courses that do change you can shoot the course one day and score over 500, but the next time you return to that club, a few months later, it might be a different story with a changed course. There will be different targets and distance, the result is you might score more or less. This means it can be very hard to accurately judge your own progress when you revisit a clubs grounds.
So what can you do, to judge how well you are shooting?
As courses change it can be a good idea to identify some kind a base line for comparison. One method is identifying one or two people, ideally shooting in the same class as you and track their scores in comparison to yours.
A second method is keeping track of the scores of the archers who came in first, second and third in your class, this can help to give you an idea of what is possible. Often the placings and scores are posted on the hosting club or NFAS website.
One very important point to remember here when talking about scores and is equally important, whether you are newbies and experienced archers alike is DON’T get disheartened when you may have scored 300 and the winner scored 600 plus. Check the scores of other people, and the 3 placing. The winner might have got 600+ but the person in second might have just over 500 points. The winner might be on top form and had a personal best, so it is important to try and get the bigger picture. I can assure you this method of tracking can help and Sharon always looks out for the gents scores in American Flatbow when at a competition as there are more male archers in the class than female. She used to track the gents in Hunting Tackle when she shot that style.
A third method is to track your average points score, based on your total score divided by the number of targets. When I first started shooting several years ago my aim was to get an average per target into double figures and being really happy with my average started going up from 8 points to 9 and then 10. When I broke 400 on a 36 target course, it was great. Several years later, with a lot of practise and shooting day in day out, I now have different objectives. I hope to get 16 point average on a course. The advantage of using this method is it can provide you with a baseline comparison of progress for a 36 target or 40 target course.
I have learnt that these averages will vary dependent on the club I’m shooting at, as now with a little more experience I know that some club courses are more challenging than others. Other facts like the weather on the day, or whether it’s a slow day with lots of holdups all plays a part.
The important thing to remember and this will sound a bit corny so sorry in advance. Your life in archery is a journey and it takes time. You will have good days, you’ll have great days and you will have bad days, just don’t rush it or beat yourself up over it.
Don’t worry about what others are scoring. What! You just said for me to track the scores of first, second and thirds! Or work out my averages. Yes I said that, so you can get an idea of how tough the course was, but while you are shooting forget about it.
Go out and do these two things
- Enjoy yourself; you are out in the woods, shooting a bow, hopefully in good weather and company.
- Shoot your shot when on the peg, with your bow. Don’t be thinking about anything else, just your shot.
One of the reasons I love archery is it offers you the opportunity to compete against myself, yes you can compete against others true, but for me I’m there to shoot my bow the best I can and to make the best shot I can. If my arrow lands where I want it to, whether it’s the top scoring area or not, I’ve made my shot.
Ok, so in the last article in this series I am going to be looking at resilience physical and mental, along with shooting form and technique.
Thanks for reading