Burning Strings

When I bought my first compound bow in August of 2013 I asked, “How long will this strings last?” The string looked complex and expensive compared to the string on my recurve. The salesman, with all the confidence and authority he could muster said, “These strings last a year or two.”

That seemed to be a reasonable amount of time until the string needed replacing. I bought a Mission Riot expecting to go back to a recurve bow with a few months. Since that day, nearly two years ago, I’ve not shot a recurve. The Mission Riot has been replaced. And I’ve burned though six bow strings.

Strings don’t last as long as promised by the confident salesman. In the “Coach’s Corner” of the second quarter 2015 issue of Archery Magazine Bernie Pellerite answers the question: When should I replace my string?

Coach Pellerite writes that a string should be replaced every two years or when it is starting to fray. The string on my bow is beginning to fray. The bow is new – about 6 weeks old.

Coach Pellerite further mentioned that a bowstring is good for, on average, 3000 – 5000 shots. This means that a string should last me about two to three months months.

Coach Pellerite’s answer certainly makes more sense than “These strings last a year or two.” His answer also means I am probably not changing string as often as I should.

Yardage, Practice Performance, Measurements, and Shooting Class: An Objective Review

At the IBO World Championship the maximum distance from the target in the Pro Hunter Class is 45 yards. The equipment is the same as for the hunter class. In this class there is no distinction for age.

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Yep, this about sums it up

Other classes allow for age separation. The pro senior class has no restriction on sights, stabilizers or style of release. The maximum distance is 50 yards and the age to shot in this class is 50 years or older.

There is a category for archers that are 60 – 69 years old, is the Master Class. My age would put me in that class. In the Master Class the maximum distance is 45 yards, while the senior hunter needs only shoot from 35 yards and has an entry age beginning at 50 years old.

It is all somewhat confusing. To reduce the confusion and meet a personal goal I began shooting in the Pro Class. This means shooting further from the target – simple; not confusing. Generally speaking it means shooting against a more skilled archer.

The more skilled archer is a generalization. In the amateur class I’ve seen scores that suggested an archer should be in the pro class. Their reasoning for remaining an amateur could range from the added expense to shoot pro to simply not wanting to fool with that class. For me, shooting in the pro class meant working faster to become better at competing against archers who, at a minimum, figure they are professionals.

Shooting from the stake furthest away from the target, even a few yards, does make a difference. That difference, however, isn’t too outrageous. For example, at a recent ASA State Qualifier the average distance for the men’s bow hunter class was 29 yards and the average distance for the pro class was 36 yards. I’ve considered that difference as part of a study to determine where I should be focusing my practice.

When I shoot where the average distance to the target is 42 yards my average score (over 20 shots) is 8. The difference between my estimation of the yardage and the measured yardage to the target was 1.2 yards during this experiment. The maximum distance was 52 yards for this set of values.

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It’s just this easy

When the average distance to the target is 24 yards, my average score was 10 points per target. Not a perfect score (all 11s would be perfect) but the shots were not easy. By that I mean 45% of the shots (for both the long sample and the short distance sample) were aimed at a turkey or a wolverine. Both of these are smaller targets with smaller center shots. Judging distance when closer to the target was slightly better with a variance of 1 yard per target or 0.2 yards better than when aiming against the target further away. (For these data only, 40 targets)

In all cases my equipment remains a short stabilizer and fixed pins on my sight.

The data I’ve collected over the past several days of shooting led me to a better understanding of my current performance level. As a full time archer working to earn a living shooting a bow and arrow it is important to evaluate performance though a detail statistical analysis. This type of review can provide objective information that can be used to focus practice.

Using stats to set a goal

I like studying number and I enjoy statistics. In all sports, athletes, coaches and fans measure performance. However, in archery a number of shooters have advised me not to look at my scores.

That advice hasn’t taken hold. Some say, “The score will get into your head and make you miss your shot.” In my brief experience with competitive shooting there’s not been a tournament where I didn’t either know my exact current score of had a really good idea of my score.

I think it is useful to practice knowing my points total. This way in real competition I will be accustom to dealing with my numbers.

Stats give me a solid reference to gauge my shooting. Over the past few days I’ve been recording detailed evaluations of my shooting and analyzing the data. What I observed is improvement based on a general understanding of where I was weak.

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This suggests (also this isn’t one of my worst shots) I needed work on longer distances

In three days I’ve brought a falling score up by two points while increasing the mean distance per shot. My goal is to increase the mean value by one more point over the next week and hold it there.

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Two days later, further away and a better shot.

All athletes study their performance. Looking at the fine details of scoring and where the numbers indicate work is needed is done by 100% of professional athletes. Personally, I see the value in making mathematical measures then setting numeric goals for performance based on the results.

Day Two of Analyzing 3D Stats

A statistical analysis of my scores during practice on Wednesday revealed, as anyone might expect, that the further away from the target the lower the score. So, on Thursday, again,  I increased the overall distance for practice.

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This buck is at 50 yards

Judging yardage isn’t a problem. The difference between what my range finder measured and my eyeball was only 1.6 yards. This was slightly better than Wednesday’s difference of 1.8 yards per target. However, today’s score over 20 targets dropped 5 points to 165 or down to an average of 8.25 points per target. That is a decrease of 0.25 pointers per target.

The primary variable that seems to be associated with the decrease is score is distance. The average distance per target was 35 yards on Thursday, where the average distance on Wednesday was 31.8 yards.

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Mountain lion at 45 yards

Essentially, the further away from the target the lower my score. However, at a maximum distance of 50 yards, center shots are not all that difficult. In fact, if I exclude the two fives for distance greater than forty yards; my average is 8.8 (including an 11 – IBO center shot score – at 48 yards).

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These shots were from 28 (front – 11) and 24 (side – 10) yards.

Interestingly, the average score per target at a distance not greater than 35 yards is 10.3; my early summer average when the maximum distance I shot was 40 yards. Since I’ve begun competing at distance out to 50 yards max there has been a drop in points. With practice and patience and that too will improve.

(All shots using a 7-pin sight and short stabilizer)

Working on improvements

I took a brief warm-up of 21 arrows at 20 yards before moving onto my 3D range this morning. The plan is to focus on 3D with increasing difficulty over longer yardage. I was able to set myself up for some tough shots. My final score proved I’d succeeded with the plan. The intent of the session was to analyze why my 3D scores have dropped over the past six weeks.

The IBO World Championships are only a few of weeks away. During the past several weeks my average score per target has continued to drop. I was at 10.4 points per shot in the early summer and as of today’s morning practice down to 8.5 points per target. Something has changed.

Shooting in the woods I carried a note pad and recorded distance, score, and type of faux animal target.  Returning from practice I did an analysis of the shots and review of each.

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The targets included a bear, wolverine, coyote, turkey (shot from two sides), a buck, and a mountain lion. Since the turkey set-up had two presentations (front and side shot) that gave me 7 targets. I shot twenty arrows in a series, hitting one target then moving to the next, recording the data, until I’d completed 20 shots.

The distance varied from 11 yards to 50 yards. I added the 11-yard shot because short shots seem to be popping in competition. The average for distance for all shots was 31.8 yards with 8 targets over 35 yards. The average distance for the shots over 35 yards was 41.6 yards. Six targets were at 40 yards or greater, max at 50 yards, for an average of 43.5 yards.

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Mountain lion at 50 yards.

Prior to each shot I judged the yardage then compared my distance to that measured using a Simmons range finder. The values were within a maximum variance of 5 yards – one target had that large of a variance. When there was a variance I used the distance I’d guessed rather than the range finder when aiming. On the target yielding a 5-yard difference between my estimation and the Simmons measurement (40 yards my guess, 35 using the Simmons) I shot an 8 the arrow hitting low left an few centimeters out of the 10 ring. The general variance between my eye and the electronic eye was 1.8 yards.

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I ended the session with three fives, a clusters of eights and a fair number of tens and elevens. The higher scores were insufficient to significantly improve the overall score. (It is hard to fix a five)

Review of the fives exposed one major error where I aimed with the wrong pin and shot high. That was a careless mistake that has been plaguing me for months; I’ve done it twice in competition, both times earning a goose egg. There was one clear yardage error where the shot was low but inline with the center 11 (IBO scoring). The third 5 was wide to the right and a poorly executed shot ( I knew it the second the arrow released, all shots using a hinge style release). The average distance for a 5 score was 43 yards.

There were also three 11s and 5 tens. The average distance for these shots was 27.3 yards with a maximum of 42 yards (10 scored). The remainder of 8s led to an average of 8.5 points per targets and a final score of 170. The percentage from perfect, based on a maximum score of 220, is 23% (77% scored),

Overall accuracy seems distance dependent. Right and left error weren’t a significant problem. Up and down was the issue, primarily when judging yardage over longer distances.

Having a Blast On My Bike

Over the months I’ve mentioned that aside from archery other exercise is important. For decades I’ve enjoyed competing in cycling, running, duathlons and triathlons. Of those sports what I like most is cycling.

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Cycling gives me a since of freedom. I’ve always felt it is the closest humans can come to flying under our own power. Then, there is the benefit of being able to see so much of the land and scenery while cursing on a bicycle.

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Worth the stop for this picture

Today’s ride was no exception. I carry my cell phone with me in case of an emergency. That phone is also my camera. Using it I recorded a fun encounter from today’s ride.

Dogs are frequently running after me when I ride. Most of the time this  isn’t a problem since I can see or hear them well in advance of their approach. Dogs typically can’t run at a 30-mile per hour pace for long. When I see them, I crank it up and hope I can outlast their sprint. As a rule – I win.

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Hey – Wait up!

Most of the dogs I met along my rides are friendly. Having be chased by them for decades I’ve learned to recognize the happy ‘I’m glad to see you’ bark versus the ‘here comes a bite’ bark.

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I found a stick

Ten miles into this ride at a dead end road I heard the happy bark. Sure enough, this golden retriever was out for a sniff and offered to play. Naturally, I stopped to join the fun.

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Of course, I stayed and played (and for those that know bikes that is an 11 – 19 cluster)

It is tough to beat a good bike ride topped off with meeting a nice dog along the route. The bonus is that cycling is a great form of exercise.

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Back home on Little River

Picked Up a Dozen New Arrows

On Wednesday, I picked up the Black Eagle Challenger arrows I ordered a few weeks ago. These arrows aren’t the $5.00 Wal-Mart “ThunderStorm” arrows I used when I began shooting a Mission Riot less than 2 years ago.

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The longer arrow is the “ThunderStorm”

I’ve gone through a lot of arrows during that since August 2013. I’ve also got a pile of arrows I don’t shoot any longer. Black Eagle is the brand that was recommended to me and I accepted the suggestion. One of my friends, Brian Coles, wears a Black Eagle ProStaff shirt during competition. I hope he’s getting his arrows for free. I don’t.

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Brian Coles with another podium finish

Granted, these arrows aren’t  the most expensive on the market. But, fletching, inserts, tips, nocks and shafts add up to a pricey purchase.

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New arrows.

When I raced I got lots of free stuff. In archery, for the moment, I get a few free things, and mostly I get discounts from sponsors.

I suppose many of you archers get major discounts and loads of free products. Since I have to pay; I need to be careful with my purchase. Obviously, I don’t have money to waste on inferior equipment or supplies.

So, unless I find myself in a jam – like running very low on arrows – I’ll do more research on products before I make a purchase and post the results. I did product evaluations on medical devices for decades. It could be interesting what I discover when using a scientific eye to measure products used in this sport.

Stressful day on the range

On Saturday, July 11th the Fountain of Life Soul Hunters Sportsmen’s Ministries sponsored another outdoor 3D shoot. They’ve conducted several indoor shoots and recently moved their targets to an outdoor venue. Aside from the good folks that manage and compete in their shoots, there is major bonus in that all their events are within 30 minutes of my home. There is little that will keep me away from these tournaments.

One of the things that might keep me away is an illness. My dog, River, have been extremely ill. She’s been struggling with a bug bite. That bite introduced a neurotoxin that eventually paralyzed her rear legs.

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River’s recovery is a top priority

There are two well-established causes for such a paralytic condition, a tick-borne toxin and Coonhound paralysis. The Coonhound version is related to raccoon bites or raccoon salvia. It can be more serious and takes longer for recovery. River’s paralysis is rapidly decreasing and she’s back on her feet, albeit wobbly. Considering her progress I headed to the Soul Hunters shoot, despite a lack of sleep and near exhaustion.

Prior to reaching the range I stopped at the New Hope Country Store for a bottle of water. The store is 3 miles from my home and is what you’d expect in a local small country store. Their shelves are stocked with the essentials: bread, eggs (fresh from the owner’s chickens), milk, and other staples. They also sell worms and minnows for fishing.

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At this friendly country store they have a small flat screen television. The establishment is frequented by a collection of locals talking about their day, getting started with their day, and at times pausing to watch the little TV. Saturday morning I was surprised to see what was being watched, in our extremely rural community, it was the Tour de France. Having once been a competitive cyclist, racing in the US and Europe, I’ll be the first to admit, seeing hard core overall wearing, tobacco chewing, rebel flag and deer tattooed good ole boys watching the Tour was a surprise. While I’d have enjoyed staying for a while and watching the race I had an archery tournament to shoot and my water.

I wanted to finish the archery competition as fast as possible. I was worried about River. Even though my wife, Brenda, had things under control I felt remiss being away.

When I arrived the first archers of the day were heading onto the course. After I checked-in and paid my registration fee I began looking for a group where I could be the 3rd or 4th shooter.  Near the registration desk, under a tent, was my friend Norman. I asked if he had some folks to shoot with, if so was room for another, and were they ready.

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Retired Chief Petty Officer Norman

On all accounts the answer was yes. We immediately headed onto the course; I took my first warm up shot on target number 1. It was a five.

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The rest of my shoot resulted in an abundance of 8’s, a fair share of 10’s with a sprinkling of 12’s. My final score wasn’t close to my recent scores being a full point per target lower than average. It wasn’t an unsetting score and neither was I in the top 3. Considering I wanted to leave at target 7 to get back to River, shooting wasn’t all that was on my mind.

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Archers waiting their turn at the stake

This is way I stayed – the stress. I was under a huge amount of personal stress. There will be a time when I’ll need to shoot under a lot of stress.  Saturday was a way to evaluate how I’d perform under adverse personal strain – not too good.

You might think – man she is only a dog, you can get another. Not true. River has been at my side pretty much non-stop everyday since she was 6-weeks old. Granted, there are other dogs and good ones, too. But, like my Mama says, “River is a once in a lifetime dog.” I agree and it was difficult shooting and not being at her side for a few hours.

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Jeremiah, Hoyt ProStaff, in our group made this great pin wheel shot from about 37 yards.

After the last shot I didn’t even turn in my scorecard  – I signed it and asked Bubba, the scorekeeper in our group to please return it. He said he would, so I jumped in my truck and headed home.

In the truck I called home immediately and asked Brenda about River. She said, River was doing better and getting up on her own. That was a relief. We’d been helping her up then supporting her while she walked. I was anxious to be home and measure the progress she’d made during the past several hours.

On the drive home I noticed a group of cyclists in the parking lot at the Ruritan Club about 11 miles from my house. I knew the group; they’d invited me to join this particular ride earlier in the week. (Before River become ill.) I’d declined out of preference to archery. These days, I do most of my cycling alone.

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River City Cycling Club

Despite my eagerness to get home I stopped to say hello. Driving away I thought it strange that Saturday’s  archery tournament was sandwiched by the Tour de France and the Elizabeth City Cycling Club.

Since Saturday, River has continued her rapid improvement. She’s swimming, trotting a bit, and fully capable of getting around on her own. Throughout it all, she never lost her appetite. When I gave it a thought I realized I’d spent a morning surrounded by things I love: my wife, my dog, cycling and archery.

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River enjoying the company of archers and their food

The Comforts of Home

One of the good things about living in the country and having my own ranges for practice is the convenience. I can walk outside and shoot paper or 3D. When I finish a session it is a short walk home. It really is very nice.

When I lived in Maryland getting to Schrader’s Outdoors for 3D practice wasn’t too bad. It was only a 30-minute drive to their 30 targets in the woods. Shooting field style meant another 30 minute drive to Mid-Del Archers or the Tuckahoe Bowman ranges. Indoor shooting was a longer drive, an hour, to shoot at Cypress Creek Archery in Millington, Maryland. Here in North Carolina the only thing that prevents me from easy access to targets is bad weather. But, one of the biggest advantages is the bathroom.

Granted, there’s plenty of forested secluded natural cover for those pick pit stops where I live. Still, there are times when snake free and tick free comforts are greatly appreciated.

Spending hours on the range can lead to a time when those comforts and  security from reptiles or insects is paramount.

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Photograph taken under less rushed circumstances.

Getting a New Sight and Setting the Pins

We’ve just returned from a 10-day road trip. During the excursion we stayed in Brevard, NC, Tignall, GA and Savannah, GA. Brevard was a true vacation and we enjoyed 5 days of adventures and festivities. Tignall was to celebrate the 4th of July with family, and we made an overnight jaunt to Savannah to see my mother. During all of this I didn’t get to practice as much as usual.

To compound the lack of practice the day before I left I changed sights on my bow. The pin sight I’d been using was fine, however, I wanted to change to a sight that was easily removed. I selected one the same company’s products only this sight slides on and off making it easy to switch to a scope.

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35 Yards

Setting a new sight is a tedious process, at least for me. In Brevard I shot a bit on the block target I carried on vacation, but wasn’t yet on par with the pins. In Tignall I did more practice more adjustments and still wasn’t right where I wanted to be with the alignment.

Twenty yards was fine, twenty-five even better than before. Thirty yards was making me crazy. Thirty-five yards was only exacerbating my craziness. Forty was fine but 45 wasn’t so fine.

Today, the clicks and twists were beginning to make a bit more sense. The short shots, 20 to 30 yards were clicked in so I backed up. Thirty-five yards worked fine. But the better test would begin at 40 yards.

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View at 40 yards

The first short at 40 yards was low to my right. The second was acceptable, as was 45 yards. Fifty yards felt great and my second shot at 55 was on the money.

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First shoot was a little off at 40 yards, the second was good
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View at 50 yards

Tomorrow, I’ll head back out to re-test my adjustments. Next, I’ve got to re-set my scope. These activities take time and I’d rather just shoot. But, it has to be done.