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.

 

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.

Bodnik – Phantom 

In October to celebrate my birthday my wife bought me a new bow. I’d been dropping hints for a few weeks so the decision came down to what bow I would like. I’ve been shooting my self-yew English longbow for a year now and I really love it, it has a draw weight of 55# at 28″ and is a pleasure to shoot.

My choice came down to getting a new English Longbow and increasing the draw weight as a step to building up to warbow poundage or try a field bow. I decided against the warbow option as I’d need more space and shooting time to get used to the poundage than I currently have. Once that decision was made it came down to what field bow to get.

After watching lots of YouTube videos and reading up I decided to go with the Bodnik bows by Bearpaw as everything I had seen and them about them was really positive.

After I’d narrowed the bowyer down it then led me to my next question, which Bodnik bow would I buy? Everything I’d heard about the Quickstick, Slickstick, Mohawk and co was excellent, there was a lot of reviews and alot of information so I knew that if I bought one of these i’d have an excellent bow.

The problem, however, was that everytime I browsed the bows on the Bodnik site I was always drawn to the Phantom. It looked gorgeous but there was very little third party information about it to be found on the net. I did find two third party reviews that although were positive made me feel a little apprehensive as there are so many reviews out there for the Slickstick and Quickstick that it was a worry that there was a derth of information about the Phantom.

I mulled my choice over for a few days and decided to just dive in and order the Phantom, I was already in love with how it looked and I knew that if I didn’t buy it I’d regret it. So what follows are my thoughts on the Phantom.

wp-image-414536201jpg.jpg

Stats
Bow Length: 54 inches

Draw Weight: 20 – 55 lbs

Handle: Black Mycarta

Limbs: Bamboo with white Curly Birch

Grip: Locator Grip

String: Whisper String

Brace Height: 6 3/4 inches

Warranty: 30 years Bodnik

I ordered my Phantom from the Longbow Shop which with the strength of the pound at the moment worked out being a cheaper than ordering direct from Bodnik. I placed my order for a 55# Phantom and was told that it may take upto eight weeks to make. I was therefore a little surprised that around three weeks after order my bow is was made and sent from Germany to England.

Out the box.

wp-image-103819381jpg.jpgThe bow out the box comes with a Bodnik Whisper string which has a copper nocking point pre fitted. I’d have preferred the nocking point to have not been fitted as it was really out when I was setting up the brace height of the bow. Another slight disappointment was that the bow didn’t come with a bow bag, naively I expected it too.

The bow handle is made from black mycarta with the limbs being bamboo and curly birch which makes the Phantom extremely light. Aesthetically I think the bow looks amazing with the contrast of white from the curly birch and the black/brown of the mycarta.

wp-image-1921796794jpg.jpg

I’ve been using the Phantom for a few months now which has given me the time to get a real feel for the bow and how it handles. The first thing that immediately hit me was how short the bow was. At only 54″ it’s light and small enough to shoot in tight spaces without catching your limbs on branches or bushes – or the bow limbs of the person next to you if you’re stood on the shooting line. As the bow is light and short it’s not surprising that it’s relatively thin as well. I haven’t found this to be a problem but it does mean that the arrow shelf is smaller than you may expect.

The Phantom is also a very quick shooting bow, arrows leave this bow like bolts of lightening with zero hand-shock, it’s an absolute pleasure to shoot. The bow is also fitted with a Bodnik Whisper string which makes the bow super quiet. If I’m honest I could have probably got away without fitting the beaver balls to the string as it’s quiet enough but beaver balls are ace so I fitted them anyway.

The one thing that I didn’t really get a long with on the bow was the grip. Firstly, it wasn’t on tight enough so the bow twisted at full draw and then when I tightened it the leather string snapped. After this I removed the grip totally which isn’t an issue for me as I normally don’t use a grip anyway.

In closing I really love this bow as it encapsulates what traditional archery is to me. For me traditional archery is about you, your bow, your arrows and the moment, everything else just gets in the way. The Phantom is light, short, quick and powerful meaning that you can just grab it along with your arrows and go. With the Phantom you’re not compromising portability for quality, the bow looks stunning and like all Bodnik bows it comes with a 30 year warranty.

wp-image-1364707760jpg.jpg