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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.