Muddy Paths and Bow Grip

After a weekend of sunny weather I decided that I was well overdue a visit to the woods.  I sent my buddy a message and we arranged an evening of shooting. Unfortunately, on the day of the shoot it rained all day which led to the track that leads up to the wood becoming a challenge in itself to navigate. I didn’t get the car stuck – much – but it definitely needed a wash before I took it home.

After successfully navigating the mud track of death I met my buddy at the edge of the wood, we got our kit ready – including wellies – and started our shoot. I really love just wandering around the forest and having a chat about life and archery, I don’t even have to shoot well (but I’d lie if I said that didn’t help), there’s just something about being outside with a bow that instantly recharges the batteries.

In terms of the shoot, I felt that I shot okay, all my arrows hit the target but I need to pull my groupings together. I’m still getting used to the recurve and shooting from a shelf that is so central – the bow however, feels amazing. Whilst shooting I took a few pictures and my buddy took a few of me whilst at full draw. It’s not often that I get to see a picture of myself shooting but I did notice, when I went through the pictures at home, that my bow hand is in totally the wrong position.

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As you can see I’m holding the weight of my bow in the gap between my thumb and finger which means that the weight of the bow is held in my wrist. I need to push my palm into the bow which will help me engage my back tension which in turn will make my release smoother (hopefully). In my minds eye I was already doing this so it came as a bit of a shock seeing the evidence that I wasn’t. It’s something I’ll start working on correcting the next time I pick up my bow but it goes to show how easy bad form can creep up on you.

 

Picking up the tab

Archery is never far from my mind. In those moments of the day where I have a spare few seconds I often imagine how I’d make a shot hit something I’ve seen or go through my shoot routine in my mind. I probably do more archery in my head then I physically get to do.

In one of these “archery ponders” I was thinking of the advantages of using a glove and why I use one. Here’s my list.

  • I can select and nock my arrows easier.
  • Once I’ve shot I don’t need to remove my glove when I collect my arrows.

And that is pretty much the list, I can’t think of anything else…. can you?

When I initially saw my short list of advantages I was surprised that none of the advantages actually impact on the shot itself. Once the arrow is nocked and on the string then that’s, as far as I can see, all the advantages of shooting with a glove over with.

Then I started thinking about how much time I put into selecting the right string, the right shelf material, the right arrows, the right bow and the constant reassessment of my form, all in an attempt to get my arrows to go where I want them to go.

At this point it seemed like madness that I’m knowingly adding something into the mix that could detract from all the work and pain I’ve done just to give me some advantages that don’t impact on the actual shot.

With this in mind I thought I’d pick up a tab in the hope that it has a noticeable impact on the end result of my shot and to see if I can live with or adapt to the lack of instant mobility in my shooting hand.

It may make no difference, it may make a negligible difference that isn’t worth the mobility sacrifice or it may make a world of difference. Either way it surely has be worth a go! I’ll report back after a few weeks to see if I’m a convert……or not.

2017 – A Retrospective

It’s the closing days of the year which is a natural time to look back over the my archery year.

For the first part of the year – the second half of the winter season and most of the summer season – I spent at my old target archery club. Although I’ve been shooting for a few years now I never attempted to get my 252 badges, the club had just revised their scheme so I thought it was the ideally time to work on my badges. The 252 scheme is where you need to get 3 scores of 252 or over at a set distance – 15, 20, 30, 40 and 50yrds – once accomplished you receive a badge. It was a nice way to pass the summer season and it was a good marker to see how I progressed.

In the closing stages of the summer season I made the decision to change clubs from the target archery club to a field archery club. At the time this was a big step but one that I feel has ultimately paid off. At the target club I was one of only a few traditional English Longbow archers which meant that I was pretty much left to my own devices. Overall, I had no issue with this at the time but retrospectively I feel this hindered my progression as I had nobody willing to point out my errors and give me pointers. On the other hand the majority of the archers at the field club are traditional archers who are more than happy to pass on their knowledge and observations, which I feel has helped me progress.

This year I’ve also tried my hand at arrow making which has been a lot of fun. If I’m honest, I struggled with the fletching wrapping as it was difficult to get the spacing the same between the threads. This will come with time and practice so I hope my next batch will be a little tidier.

In 2018 I’m really looking forward to getting out into the forest on a weekly basis and challenging myself to some difficult shots. I’m also hoping to improve the quality and finish of the arrows I’m making. Like everything in life this will come from practice and dedication.

That’s not Cricket!

As I was reading through the BCC News site this morning I came across this headline ‘Surrey v Middlesex: Play abandoned after crossbow arrow lands on pitch‘. In short, a cricket match was abandoned after a crossbow bolt was shot into the ground from around 160 yrds away, the players left the pitch, armed police carried out a controlled evacuation and investigations continue.

Common sense dictates you that can’t shoot a crossbow or bow in an area where the public would be at risk but what does the British Law say on the matter. Luckily, for us the use of a crossbow is covered specifically in the aptly named ‘Crossbow Act 1987’. The Act is a riveting read and if you fancy trawling through it then it’s available for your viewing pleasure here.

However, i’ll summaries it here.

  • You need to be aged 18 years or older to own a crossbow. If you are not and you purchase or hire a crossbow or parts of it you’re committing an offence.
  • If a crossbow is hired or sold to a person under the age of 18 then the seller is committing an offence unless they believed the individual was above 18 and has reasonable ground for that belief.
  • If a person is under 18 years of age and in the possession of a crossbow then they must be under the supervision of someone who is 21 or older.
  • If a police officer suspects that a person under the age of 18 in possession of a crossbow then they can be searched, as can their vehicle and property. If a crossbow is found it can be seized.
  • If crossbow has a draw weight of less than 1.4kilograms (a hefty 3lbs) then it’s exempt from the Act.
  • The maximum sentence under this Act is six months imprisonment and/or a level 5 fine which was a maximum of £2000 when the Act was introduced but is now an unlimited amount.

As you can see the Crossbow Act 1987 covers the ownership and sale of crossbows, so if one carried or  shot in a public place, as was the case here then section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 would be used which makes it an offence to possess any offensive weapon in a public place.  Maximum sentence for under the Prevention of Crime Act would be four years if sentenced at a Crown Court or four months at a magistrates court.

Now I suspect that if anybody is ever arrested for this the sentence will be dependant on external factors such as age and intent.

No matter the outcome it’s very lucky that nobody was injured or worse.

Clubs

I’ve been shooting at my current target archery club for three outdoor seasons and two indoor. It’s the club that taught me the basics of archery and because of that it will always hold a special place in my heart but I feel that it’s now time to move on.

The motivation behind this decision boils down to three things: personal development, style and cost.

Personal Development.

At my current club I’ve always gone against the grain choosing to shoot traditional bows over the Olympic recurve, that were enthusiastically offered, wanting to shoot instinctive instead of adding a sight or using other methods and anchoring behind the ear instead of my chin. This has led to me being left to my own devices by the club coaches with my personal development coming from attending external courses, reading books and watching videos on YouTube. Personally, the coaching element is only a small factor for me but my bow choice seems to have impacted on any extra coaching I may have received.

Style.

Shooting multicoloured targets at set distances is the ultimate test for refined, precise technique and the archer’s ability to duplicate each shot again and again with the only variables being the weather and the archer but after three years of doing this I’ve come to realise that it’s not for me.

The elements of archery that I enjoy the most are the shooting, being outdoors and the chance to unwind and relax. I do get these things from target archery but I’ve found that I get all this and more when I’m tromping around a forest with my bow. Nothing can beat being in a forest with the earthy smells, hearing the birds, feeling the weather whilst loosing and even lose a few arrows.

Cost.

This one is a minor issue but if I feel it’s worth mentioning as everything boils down to money.

The target archery club costs

£107 per year membership. This includes the insurance and governing body fees. It also covers access to the field in the summer season which is two weekday evening and one weekend afternoon.

In the winter we shoot indoors and that is available one weekday evening and at the weekend. For the weekday shoot it costs £5 per session and £6 for the weekend session.

So if I went one evening a week on winter I be looking at £20 a month. The winter season is from October until March so that’s six months with a total of £120. So this coupled with my membership fees means I’m paying £227 a year and that’s if I don’t shoot at the weekends.

The field archery costs

£12 per year membership fees.

£25 per year governing body fees.

£5 per month club fee.

This gives you access to the indoor range for 3 evenings a week as well as the field next to indoor range. It also includes 24/7 access to the clubs 25 acre forest. If my maths are correct then the field club will cost £97 a year which is a difference of £130.

Hopefully, I’ve made the right decision. It feels right and the members of the club I’ve met seem friendly enough and there’s not a long rod in sight.

Forest Adventure 

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.

 

Stacking on the Pounds

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?