Last night myself and an archery buddy were lucky enough to go on a guided shoot around the Muttley Crew’s forest. In the time I’ve been shooting I’ve never had the opportunity to go on a field shoot but it’s something that I’ve wanted to try as it seems a more natural fit to the traditional and instinctive side of archery that appeals to me.
We arrived at the forest at six and were met by our guide for the evening, Geoff, who warmly welcomed us to the forest. As we got kitted up Geoff give us a quick talk about the history of the club, the forest, the types of targets that we’d expect to see and how the scoring worked.
After that we were taken into the forest were we met our first 3D target, which I belive was a wolverine. Geoff then talked us through how he’d approach the shot and then hr took a shot. We then had a go and shooting and surprisingly hit Logan several times.
This was the format for the rest of the evening. Geoff guiding us around the forest, he’d tell us how he’d never hit a particular target before and then he’d nail it with his first arrow! As we weren’t scoring myself and my buddy took several shots at all the targets, but we changed the angle and the distance so that we could get a feel of how the shot changed depending on the angle, elevation and distance.
The course itself was varied as it used the characteristics of the forest well, there where a few distance targets, elevation shots, half hidden and small targets and some targets hidden in darker areas whilst the archer stood in the light. My particular favourite was a target that was placed next to a stream, the shot was relatively simple but the setting was perfect, deep in the forest with just the sound of the stream and the birds singing in the background, it was serene. The whole shoot provided a unique but natural feeling challenge that ultimately was very rewarding.
My favourite part of archery has always been shooting outdoors. I enjoy being outside and seeing and hearing nature. However, I’ve found that when I’m shooting target archery nature has been controlled. The grass is cut short, the ground is marked for distance and whistles inform me when to shoot and when to stop. It’s these man made interventions that pull me away from truly losing myself in the shoot when I’m shooting target. In my first experience of field archery these controls where removed, the distances are unmarked, the path was a small trail and the only whistle comes from the birds. It was so much easier to immediately immerse myself in the shoot, in short it was perfect.
The English Longbow was what first drew me to archery as it’s relatively accessible and has a tangible link to the past. For me, at least, my interest in the historical side of the longbow is as important as the shooting side so this one object encapsulates two of my great interests, history and archery.
When I first picked up the Longbow I was extremely fortunate to have as my first instructor – albeit for only two hours – a man named Kevin Hicks who is the embodiment of history and archery. Kevin does some amazing work by bringing history to life for both children and adults and he’s also a fantastic story teller and a great archer. His knowledge of both the history of the bow, his skill as an instructor and as an archer really energised me to get out there and bring archery into my life.
My aim, after joining a club, was to shoot a bow as close to a modern equivalent of a medieval longbow, especially those we’ve now labelled as ‘warbows’, as I could. However, as things tend to happen in life complacency settled and I’ve been happily shooting at 55# for nearly three years now.
This isn’t a bad thing as I can easily manage the weight which means my form and aiming have had the chance to develop. Recently, however, I’ve felt the need to increase my draw weight to go a little heavier and try to creep closer to the 100# mark.
If I’m honest, I have a few obstacles in my way that although won’t stop me outright I know they will slow me down. The first of these obstacles is the lack of a group of similar minded people. I shoot at a club where longbow archers are a small minority and on top of that, I’m already shooting a bow, at #55, that others consider to be heavy. So learning the technique of drawing a heavy bow will have to be one of constant self-evaluation and research, which is fine as that’s pretty much how I’ve developed so far. The biggest hindrance, I feel, is that I can’t just try another archers bow to get a feel for the draw weight so that means I’m pretty much guessing at what I can handle.
This then leads to the next issue in that I don’t want to keep forking out for new bows in 10lbs increments as that will get really expensive, really quick. So my solution is to save my pennies and then buy a bow at 80# @30. Whilst the coffers are being filled I’ve been working on strengthening my back muscles with daily weight exercises as well as practice my draw using several tension bands. Once I’ve got my bow then it will be a case of taking it slowly by shooting a few dozen arrows with the 80# and then dropping back to the 55#. After a while, I should be shooting the bow without issues apart from moving my knocking point to behind my ear.
That’s the plan anyway. Does anyone have any bowyers they can recommend that won’t cost the earth?
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.
The tension last night was palpable as it was the second ‘courtesy cup challenge’ and after last week’s rollover the jackpot had risen to a hefty £16, an amount that could change lives.
I lost the coin toss, again, and Robyn my longbow buddy opted to go first. He approached the line drew and released but his shot was just underneath the cup. It was my turn, I approached the line, stared at the cup like a dog stares at a stake, nocked my arrow, drew and released. The arrow flew through the air like a gracefull flying phallus straight into the cup!
As it landed, I went ape shit! The crowd may or may not have started chanting my name either way it didn’t matter as the arrow was in the cup. I was rich… and then I heard ‘I think it went through the side’ which by the ancient rules of our forebears, that I made up in last week’s blog, meant that the hit didn’t count. I may as well have shot my arrow into the air conditioning unit. Defeat hit me like a week old wet fish in the face. My last two arrows after that didn’t even bother the cup and luckily neither did Robyn’s.
The pot rolls over as I live with the knowledge that I was so close to life changing jackpot.
My last was a good shoot I scored a new personal best on Worcester with my Bodnik Phantom flatbow and then competed in the inaugural ‘Courtesy Cup Challenge’ which is so prestigious that two archers have only ever competed for it.
‘So what is the Courtesy Cup?!’ I hear you all shout in fevered anticipation followed by ‘tell us more for we desire this knowledge over everything’; so in my aim to not disappoint you, my dear reader, I will tell you a story, a story of high adventure, loss and woe and then ultimately a story of redemption. It sounds good, doesn’t it? So here goes….
Each week I always end up, as you do, shooting with the same archer, we both shoot an English Longbow and over time we’ve seen each other go through the peaks and troughs of our archery journey. As a big bonus we also end up chatting and gently ribbing the compound and recurve archers. It was from one of these chats that the idea of the ‘Courtesy Cup Challenge’ arose. The ‘Courtesy Cup Challenge’ is a simple idea which boils down to at the end of each shoot we’d pin a small drinks cup to the target and shooting only an English Longbow try and get an arrow into the cup with, as ABBA advised, the winner taking it all and the loser having to fall. The agreed rules are as follows.
- English Longbow only
- No sighters
- Target at 20yrds
- Arrows that pass through the side of the cup don’t count
- 3 arrows only
- Coin toss to decided who shoots first
- Shoot one arrow at a time then leave the line and then the next person goes
- After 3 arrows the person with most arrows in the cup wins
Now to make this a little more exciting we decided to put a little wager on the outcome so each week we put in £3 each, so between us that’s a lofty £6 a week with the winner taking all. If no one wins outright or if it’s a draw after 3 arrows then the pot rolls over to next week, I suspect the pot will roll over a lot!
Archery for me has always been about relaxation and fun, I want to shoot well but I also love shooting – even when I’m shooting bad. The ‘Courtesy Cup Challenge’ is just another way, that may get expensive, of having a little fun whilst shooting a bow. Are there any little games you guys play when you’re out and about with your bow?
Welcome all, to this my inaugural blog, of the Archer’s Parody. This blog is intended to catalogue my trials, tribulations and, hopefully, the odd triumphs in my journey through the world of traditional archery. It will include my musing around my technique, my thoughts on the equipment I use and the books I read. Hopefully, it will also capture the rare moments of clarity where everything aligns perfectly (the moon, the stars and the universe) and I get it! My hope is that this blog will be an area where I can reflect upon my experiences whilst at the same time provide a little insight or at the very least be entertaining.
So why the title? Well first, there’s the wordplay with the archer’s paradox. The paradox that can only happen on traditional bows such as an English Longbow or a bow where the shelf is off centre and this blog will be solely concerned with traditional archery. Secondly, I called the blog Archer’s Parody as I’m still very much an apprentice archer so my skills are a mere parody of my archery heroes that I try to emulate.
In closing, I would really appreciate your thoughts and feedback.Thank you for reading and enjoy your shooting.