Stay on Target, Stay on Target!

When I approach any target it’s reminiscent of the Rebel Alliance’s attack on the Death Star at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope. In the film a small band of seasoned veterans, accompanied by one green rookie, make a suicidal attack on the most feared battle station in the galaxy whose only weakness is a thermal exhaust port the size of a “womp rat” (whatever the hell one of those is!).

So the veteran guys get the first crack at the exhaust port. They’re in pioliting heavy Y-wing bombers, they have their targeting computers turned on, they follow the mantra of “stay on target”, they make their shot only for it to just miss and then to add insult to injury they’re shot down unceremoniously by Darth Vader as he mutters ‘all too easy’. In my archery life I’m these guys. I’m constantly checking and trying to improve my form, when I approach the target I break my shot sequence down and go through each element from the ground up. When i’m at full draw my mind is saying “stay on target” over and over then I release and it’s not the perfect shot, the arrow hasn’t hit the pro kill, it’s scored but it’s not perfect. After a while of being shot down it can start to get disheartening.

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Then I occasionally have a moment of brilliance, my Luke Skywalker moment, where I turn off my targeting computer, I draw and aim without the “stay on target” mantra playing in my mind, I trust in the force, everything is calm, the shot just feels right as the arrow leaves the bow and it goes exactly where I want it to. Perfection.

I wish I could trust in the force all the time but unfortunately archery isn’t like Star Wars, there’s no force that can make you instantly successful. Sure, some people will have a natural talent for archery but that’s just a good base to build off. I’m a firm believer that for those “Luke Skywalker moments” to become the norm you have to put the arrows and hours in. Those arrows however, have to be quality arrows. I see so many people moving to nock their next arrow before their first arrow has even hit the target. It’s hard but I always try and let my body and mind remember the shot before I move onto the next one. I believe this is as important for the shots you mess up as it is for those perfect shots. If you can remember the bad shots you’ll, hopefully, not make the same mistakes again and if you can remember the good shots you can replicate that again and again.

Like all worthwhile things in life, it takes time, and a lot of bad shots, for your mind and body to learn how to make the good ones. This is at least what I tell myself when I’m a few hours into shooting badly and it’s starting to get to me but then it’s all worthwhile as it all comes together and I bullseye a womp rat right in the exhaust port.

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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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