[Teddy] Bear Hunting

My local club is a traditional target archery club where arrows are shot at big white, black, blue, red and gold target faces. If I’m honest the colourful target faces really put me off and I seem to shoot a lot better with both my Longbow and field bow when I’m aiming at a smaller target. As ‘Grizzly’ Jim Kent often says ‘aim small, miss small’ and he’s defiantly right about that! From my own experience I’ve found that targets that have a lot going on are difficult to shoot at which is an obvious hindrance when you’re shooting at targets resembling a massive rainbow.

My attempt at getting around this is to shoot at the black and white Worcester faces or the smaller but still colourful Bray targets. Again both are smaller targets and my groupings tend to be tighter but not as tight as what I’d like.
This changed the other night when one of my longbow shooting buddies rocked up at the club with two stuffed teddy bears and promptly whizzed them down the shooting line. To the scorn of the Olympic recurve archers the three longbow archers abandoned shooting at the massive rainbow targets and instead spent the evening raining arrows of death down at our would be cuddly attackers. In short it was a lot of fun as you can see from my happy little face below.

Although shooting toys was a lot of fun I did notice that my grouping were really close and when I did miss it wasn’t by much. Another thing that I noticed was that as I shooting at the teddy at ground level I was unconsciously canting my bow and leaning slightly into the shot which I don’t normally do. It was only after I’d shot and was analysing my shoot sequence that I realised that I was doing this. This position seemed more natural when I was shooting at a teddy on the ground at 30yards away then it does when I’m shooting at a boss face at the same distance.

After a shoot I always try and take a little lesson away from it. I may not have shot great or improved, but if I can point at something and get insight from it then its been a worthwhile shoot. So my main take-a-way from the [teddy] bear hunt is that if you’re frustrated with your archery because you’re not ‘getting’ something then stop flogging the dead horse and do something fun; it may be shooting at softoys – or even doing a real 3D shoot – it may even be shooting some clout. Either way have some fun, smile, relax and maybe the block you’ve had will go away and if it doesn’t you will have at least had some fun.

Shooting Gloves and Releasing the Pain

One of the things I’ve found whilst shooting with a glove is that my fingers, especially the tendons that connect my finger tips to the rest of my hand, the ones that go over the interphalangael joints, become tender. The longer I shoot the more painful it becomes.

This happens because I have a habit of cradling the string as I draw in the corner of the joint which leads to the string cutting into the tendons. As an added bonus because I’m cradling the string in my joint as I release the string rolls across the tendon and then across my full finger tip which adds to further discomfort.

To try and remove this discomfort I’ve done a few things. The first is to fit a thicker string on my bow. My orginal string was 10 strands and I’ve added a few more so it’s now at 12. As the string is now thicker it’s less likely, I hope, to cause finger pinch. This however, comes at a cost as a thicker string leads to a slower bow which in turn will effect the flight of the arrow, this isn’t ideal. 

The second thing that I’ve done is purchase a thicker shooting glove so that my fingers are better protected. The issue I found with this is that with a thicker glove you loose dexterity in your fingers. Now for me the main reason why I shoot with a glove and not a tab is that I like the added agility a glove gives me, it brings me closer to a more intimate shooting experience and I don’t want to loose this by shooting with a thicker clumsy glove. I tried a number of different gloves that weren’t quite right but eventually I found the Bodnik Speed Glove that gave me an ideal balance between protection and dexterity. The speed glove does this by placing a fine layer of canvas material over the fingers. This canvas layer is soft enough that you can bend your fingers easily yet thick enough to protect you fingers from the string pinch. It’s a really excellent glove and seems to have helped eliminate the pain I was experiencing. As an added bonus it’s also very smooth so my release seems to be a little more consistent.

The third, and last thing, that I’m trying to do is change the area of my fingers that I’m using to draw the string. So instead of the string resting on my joint and tendons I’m now trying to rest it just above them on the bottom of my fingertip pads. This, like all technique changes, is a work in progress as thinking about where my hand holds the string when I draw puts a conscious thought into my shoot sequence that can and has thrown everything else out. This will go eventually as it just a matter of making that conscious action a subconscious one.

A combination of a thicker string, new glove and a change of technique has removed all of the discomfort I had when drawing and shooting for a prolonged period. This in turn has allowed me to get more out of my shooting as I can easily lose myself in the moment of the shot and not be “pulled back” to reality with a physical discomfort. Losing myself in the shot where everything else just drops away is the heart of archery and hopefully, one day I’ll be able to achieve that state everytime I shoot.