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.
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.
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.
Last week I changed my anchor point from the corner of my mouth to behind my ear. You often see medieval depictions of archers drawing their bow behind their ear and it is these depictions that the modern warbow archer has looked at for guidancance.
Luttrell Psalter f.147v – British Library
At the moment I am no where near a warbow draw weight but it is something that I aspire to. So whilst I save up for a heavier bow, at 80# @31, I thought I’d try and nail down the drawing technique with my lighter 55# bow.
Now, I don’t know anybody in person who shoots from behind the ear or for that matter shoots a heavy bow so I’ve been watching videos of warbow archers on youtube and bothering @keoghnick on instagram.
From my online observations it looks like the archer has a much narrower stance than the modern stance, to the point where the front leg is placed slight further forward than the back. As you place your arrow on the bow you learn forwards at the hips and as you move back into an up right position you stretch your back, push with your bow arm and pull with the draw arm and then slightly lean into the draw. This allows you to use your back muscles and not just rely on those in our arms. No movement is wasted in the draw process as it all helps get the bow back. Leaning into the shot also seems to allow your back to bear more of the weight much like a weight lifter would have an arch in their back as they do a deadlift.
I decided to try and video myself drawing this way so that I could see what my form was like. I didn’t knock am arrow as I don’t have the space to loose in my garden but it did give me a good guide to what I was or wasn’t doing. The video can be found here, I tired embedding the video but I gave up after a few attempts.
One of the things I found strange was the feel of the bow when I drew without an arrow nocked, it was probably physiological, as I was concentrating on the draw, but the bow felt really heavy. Another thing I noticed was that I was bringing my draw arm up and over leading to a rotation of my shoulder. This is something I’ve never consciously done before so I need to stop doing it before I overload my shoulder.
I’ve now been shooting from the ear for a few sessions and I can honestly say that it’s really comfortable. It does take a while to get used to the motion and the anchor but after a while it started to feel really natural. As an added bonus that extra inch or so added to my draw is leading to the arrows traveling quicker and faster. All in all I’m happy with my progress and as the weeks go on I’m hoping my technique will become more refined.
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?
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.
- Approach the target.
- Get comfortable.
- Look at my target and start to concentrate on my breathing to clear my mind.
- Nock an arrow.
- Stare the shit out of where I want to put the arrow whilst not to braking eye contact.
- Start the draw.
- Once my hand gets to my anchor point release.
- Hold everything in place until a second or so after the arrow hits.
- 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!