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.

Striker \ New Breed RK1

I haven’t picked up a recurve since I completed my beginner’s archery course. As soon as I got my hands on my course completion certificate the club recurve was unceremoniously cast away in favour of the English Longbow and I haven’t looked back since… until recently that is. You see, over the last few months I’ve really got myself into traditional shaped rut. My form, I felt and was told, was good but I was struggling, and I mean really struggling, to hit anything that wasn’t bigger than Big Bird in anyway that even resembled consistency. I was crap and it was getting me down. Archery for me has always been about losing myself in the moment, to relax and forget about my troubles, to simply loose some arrows. Now I’m not competitive with others but I have expectations of myself which boil down to “if I’m going to do something, then I do it well” and recently I haven’t been shooting well.

As I wasn’t feeling “it” with my longbow I thought I’d try and shake things up, cleanse my pallet, and go right back to the start of my archery journey by picking up a recurve. The last and only recurve I’d shot was a beginners recurve, the type that get dished out to all beginners that all have the same characteristics of big thick risers with sloooooooooooooooow low poundage limbs that are in short god awful to shoot. Now I obviously didn’t want to recreate this experience but I did want to try a recurve again.

So after lots of research, review readings, bowyer bothering (where you bother the bowyer with questions), archery bothering (like bowyer bothering but you bother archers who have a bow that’s in your shortlist), archery stockist bothering (you bother the bow stockist using the same method as bowyer and archer bothering) and youtube video watching, I decided I’d pick up the Striker/New Breed co-laboration bow the RK1.

So why the RK1?

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The foremost reason was that I wanted a pallet cleanser, something as different from my English Longbow that I could get whilst still maintaining a strand of “traditional” DNA. The RK1 ticked that box for me, the “traditional” DNA is supplied by Striker whilst ultimate pallet cleaner comes from the New Breed compound inspired aluminium riser. The second reason was that everyone who I’ve spoken to and reviews that I’ve read have all been positive and not just positive… really positive. The third reason, which is probably just as important as the others, is that the the RK1 looks absolutely stunning, it’s a work of art.

After several emails to Lale at Silver Archery – which involved me asking lots of questions and Lale replying with informative answers – I ordered the RK1 with recurve limbs. The bow took a couple of weeks to come from Striker in the States to Silver Archery in the UK and then to my door but overall the delivery time was very quick! So if you want an RK1 then get one from Lale at Silver Archery.

I’ve had the RK1 now for two weeks and I’ve shot it several times which is enough to get an initial impression and feel for the bow and to start to understand it’s character. It’s obviously not enough to really get to know the bows character but I’m in that happy place at moment of still discovering and being surprised by the bow whilst not knowing everything about it.

The RK1 comes with either the Striker made 60″ recurve or 60″ longbow limbs, both sets are glass and bamboo core laminates with a black hydrographic carbon fibre finish. If the finish doesn’t float your boat then you can get some custom limbs which have an exotic wood veneer, yum. The limbs are interchangeable with all Striker limbs so you can swap and change them to your heart desire. I went for the recurve limbs.

The 16″, fully machined aircraft grade 6061-T6 aluminium riser is made by New Breed archery. The riser comes in either black or dissolved camo as standard, again you can get custom colouring so if you have cash and the imagination you can customise the colouring to your hearts desire. My hearts desire was to go dissolved camo, for a standard finish it’s still very distinctive and noticeable without being covered in bright pink unicorns. I suspect that if you ask for bright pink unicorns then New Breed/Striker will be able to accommodate your request….. I now really hope that someone does get a custom unicorn RK1! You can also attach a quiver, sight mount, stablizer/bow fishing rig, side plate or arrow rest to this as the correct holes are where they need to be.

The bow also comes with an 18 strand fast flight string, string silencers (these are bees knees), a side plate, striker broucher and a Striker baseball cap (well at least mine did!).

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Striker’s latest male model

 

The initial bow set up was relatively straight forward, however, when connecting the limbs, I did experience my first, of two minor, niggles with the RK1. Niggle one was that there was no Allen key include in the bag of bits to connect limbs to the bow. This wasn’t a major issue, as I just raided the toolbox and found one, but it would have been nice to have the key included. When you get a new bow and set it up for the first time, it is, for me a least, a really immersive experience and breaking off to go and find an Allen key pulls you out of that experience. Like I said this is just a minor issue.

 

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So what are my impressions of actually shooting this bow? In short I love it, I mean really love it. My brain is still getting used to working out constantly where my bow arm needs to be in order to put my arrow in the right place. I’ve shot off my hand for so long that this may take a few weeks to get right but even after only a few sessions my groupings are tighter and consistent. The sight window on the RK1 is also really big which is very helpful and with the riser being so slim and the shelf so deep your arrows are pretty much sitting in the centre of the riser.

Speaking of the riser the grip is perfect, it sits and balances in your hand like it was meant to be there. The grip and the bow weight gave me the confidence to really relax my hold on the bow and open my grip up. I’ve never had that instant confidence and relaxation from a bow before and if I’m honest it did take me by surprise. My grip has opened so much that I’ve been using a finger sling when shooting the RK1 in order to get the most out of the push of the draw and flow of the release. The draw is also amazingly smooth at 28″ there’s no stacking at all, it’s an absolute pleasure to draw and shoot and to do that repeatedly.

As I’ve been opening my grip up and allowing the bow to follow through I thought it would be sensible to add a little weight to the riser to stop the top limb smashing me in my face during the follow through. I picked up a Trophy Ridge 6″ static stabiliser and attached that to the RK1 and …….wow! I actually didn’t think that the bow could feel any better but that little extra weight and stabilisation just improves the whole process from draw, to the release, to the arrow hitting…. which leads me to my second niggle about the bow. Include a hunting rod with the bow as a standard package. Again, that comes down to archers preference and I’m probably just picking holes here but including a stabiliser  would be the ultimate package.

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In terms of arrows I’ve been shooting the Goldtip Traditional 400 carbons with a 100g point. These seem to fly straight but I may have a tinker with them. I suspect I’ll also try the RK1 with a bow quiver to see how that feels on the bow and I’m also going to pair it up Grizzly String Pro because they’re simply excellent strings!

In conclusion, this is a truly outstanding bow. I love it and I can’t see myself wanting to pick anything else up for a long time. It shoots exceptional well and it stands out, everyone wants to have a look at it and other archers have commented on the grip, the weight and the draw, and the comments have all been very complimentary. I was speaking to one of my English Longbow buddies the other night and he said “you look very at ease with that bow […] you’ve found your bow” which coming from someone who sees me shoot every week must mean something.

Target Panic?

Over the last few weeks I’ve felt that my accuracy has taken a massive nose dive. I’ll have some good shots followed by some truly awful ones. If I’m honest it’s starting to frustrate me.

In an attempt to rectify this I’ve asked the club coach to look at my form and shoot routine. The only thing he could see was that I need to relax my grip on the bow. I’ve even asked the coach to go through the basics of aiming with me just in case I’m missing something obvious (this request received a raised eye brow).

I suspect that I’m doing something small that’s wrong which has thrown me off ever so slightly, this will, I suspect, have caused me to unconsciously expect to be off which just amplifies the issue, but how do I break the cycle?!

Tips, hints and tricks will be greatly received.

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.

Cup Meet Arrow

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. 

The Courtesy Cup Challenge

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

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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?

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Holding On

The last two times that I’ve picked up my bow and gone shooting I’ve come away feeling great. My groupings are getting tighter and I’m more or less placing the arrows where I want them to go. All in all I feel like I’m progressing.

I have a problem though and it’s that I’ll shoot a few good arrows and then I’ll shoot a truly awful one that will hit an area where I never expected it to. This happens fairly regularly, as well, which means that it dramatically affects my scoring. What makes it even more frustrating is that I know that when everything is right I can string togeather some really good shots, so in my mind I have the ability but I just need to nail the consistency. 

As you can see below the first two arrows were all of the place and the third and last of end was perfect.

Last night after shooting a Portsmouth and being afflicted by the same issue I decided that I needed go back to basics and look at my shoot sequence to find the problem. My shoot sequence is as follows.

  1. Approach the target.
  2. Get comfortable.
  3. Look at my target and start to concentrate on my breathing to clear my mind.
  4. Nock an arrow.
  5. Stare the shit out of where I want to put the arrow whilst not to braking eye contact.
  6. Start the draw.
  7. Once my hand gets to my anchor point release.
  8. Hold everything in place until a second or so after the arrow hits.
  9. Reflect.
  10. Go back to step one.

When I started analysing the shoot sequence I realised that as soon as my hand got to the anchor point – step 7 – I was holding at full draw for a second or so longer than what I should be. This I feel was adding a few seconds where my hand could unconsciously move or more worryingly give my conscious mind the opportunity to take over my aiming. 

My shoot sequence is the way it is so that I can give my mind the time and space needed to work the aiming out before I draw, but by holding at full draw for a prolonged period I was effectively robbing myself of the preperation that had taken place before that point. On top of that I was tiring myself needlessly as I was holding the bow for too long at full draw which made the shots taken at the end of the shoot shoddy.

With this in my mind I made the conscious decision to release as soon as I’d settled at my anchor point. Adding a conscious motion and thought back into my shoot sequence wasn’t ideal as it gave my conscious mind time to try and take over the aiming. This wasn’t something I wanted but until the anchor and release section of my sequence is nailed and becomes routine it will have to be something I put up with.

By eliminating the hold I ended up shooting some really tight arrow groups. They were slightly off target but I think that’s down to putting the conscious thought of ‘anchor and relase’ into my sequence. So for the next few shoots I’ll be concentrating on this which will hopefully improve my groups and arrow placement. Time will tell if it works!