Some thoughts on the first bits and pieces a new archer should buy

Quick break from my series on target panic to revisit a topic which I think will be of interest to many.

Several years ago I wrote a post offering advice on what equipment newbies should consider purchasing, before buying their first bow. Since I have been working with several new archers in the recent months I thought it a good time to revisit this post and update it where necessary.

As a coach I often get asked by my students about buying a bow. How much do they cost? What should I got for?  Where do you recommend I go?  I’ve seen one on E-Bay is it any good? I always reply by saying wait a few weeks or even a couple of months before you buy one. In that time use the club equipment for until you have a better idea of what is suitable for you.
But sooner or later your students will want to purchase their own bow (which is great don’t get me wrong) but there are a few things that might be worth getting first. So I have put this post together to offer some thoughts.

First things for any new archer to buy (before a bow) should be
Whistle – What a whistle? What’s that got to do with archery? Well put simply it’s for safety calls and is a necessity for insurance on some club sites including ours. All members of the NFAS should have a whistle on them so they can signal if necessary.

A tab or glove of their own. Normally I recommend a beginner starts with using a tab to protect their fingers. As they progress I have them trying both a tab and glove, along with trying different sizes and shapes until they find something they prefer. Recently I’ve found several students opting for a glove which I think is partly due to the colder weather.

This is the single thickness tab

This is the single thickness tab

 

Personally I think a tab is best, though it took me ages to find one that I was completely comfortable with. I feel tabs are easier on their fingers and promotes good finger position on the string.

Quiver, you can pay a small fortune for some quivers, but when you are starting out go for something simple. So long as it will hold 4-6 arrows and is comfortable to carry on your belt it’s a winner. Quick note about back quivers here. I’ve tried back quivers, several in fact and never found one I was happy with so have stuck with a field quiver. I know some people  love them but for your first quiver, keep it simple.

simple quiver image

simple quiver

Some quivers will have a pocket or pouch on them which can very be useful for holder a whistle, stringer, spare string.

Top Top – pick up an arrow tube to store arrows when not in quiver. I carry 3 or 4 arrows in my quiver and the rest are in an arrow tube on my back. Safe, dry and there if I need them. You can use an extendable poster tube, which are cheaper, just make sure you drop some foam in the bottom of the tube to protect it and stop arrows puncturing the plastic. 

Rob trying to judge distance to a shot

Rob trying to judge distance to a shot

An arm bracer or arm guard that fits. What I mean is it doesn’t fall down the arm or is so tight it cuts off circulation to your arm. Like quivers there are loads of different designs, some that go all the way up the arm, others that only cover the forearm. Some are plain others are covered in intricate designs carved into the leather. At the end of the day function is more important, so get one that fits, works and you like.

Arrow puller, while not the most glamorous of archery elements they do makes life easier for drawing arrows, allowing you to grip the shaft more easily, especially on cold days.
Arrow rake – no matter how good you are, sooner or later you will be needing one for finding those arrows that fall short (a cheap decorating roller can be used, once modified for the purpose )

What kind of bow should I buy?

I will cover this in more detail in a separate post but what I will say is in my opinion for a first bow the most sensible option is the take down recurve practise bow.
They are relatively cheap (£55-£75 depending on where you get them), so if they don’t stick with the hobby it’s not such a huge investment. Also you might be able to pick one up from club member who has progressed. The advantage of a takedown is the limbs can be upgraded to heavier poundage as archer develop their strength and skill (I did this after a few months myself, with some shops giving a discount if you trade your old limbs in). Worth noting that not all limbs fit all bows, but I will go into more details in a future post about fittings and ILF bows (International Limb Fittings).
I have found the bows are forgiving to use which is what you want as a beginner.
Such bows come in a vast variety of sizes, shapes, poundage so good for all abilities, heights, draw lengths etc. so are easy to find one suitable for all shapes and sizes of archer.
As I said I will cover this in more details in the next post.

Thanks for reading

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.