Working the Short Shot

In archery moving from 70 meters to 7 meters is quite a change in distance. A 70-meter shot is exciting. A 7-meter shot is practically grabbing an arrow out of your quiver, leaning forward and poking it into the target. But, a new distance is in the forecast and a new training plan means practice shots have changed.

Outdoor archery season is done for 2018. The next tournament is an indoor competition being held at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA. That is the Georgia Archery Association’s State 25-meter championship being held on December 8th. Following the 25-meter shoot comes the USA Archery National Indoor tournament in February 2019. This means shooting at tiny dime sized dots from 18-meters.

I’m shooting well. My current 18-meter average is better than how I scored in 2018. With our move back to Georgia behind us I’ve been able to get back to a routine and my scores have returned to an ascending slope on my data graphs. I am not, however, where I need to be for 2019. Last night, on the Ace Apache range located in Social Circle, Georgia conjoined with Ace Hardware I got a tip on how to make improvements.

Big John Chandler, a USA Archery Level 4 NTS Coach, Steve, Robbie and I were practicing at 18-meters on the Ace indoor range. In fact, all four of us are archery coaches.  But, when I am around them I am all ears. In this pack I am a rookie coach and primarily a student.

I was already in for 120 arrows from my morning’s practice. I didn’t feel weak but was fatigued. Between the two practices I’d cut another loop through the woods behind my house adding to my trail running course.

I find when I’m a bit fatigued I can get sloppy with a bow. I, mean it wasn’t like I was shooting 8s but I was finding more nines than I’d located earlier in the day. “Big John” pointed out I was relaxing my follow through. As he put it, “You’re not following through.”   When I paid attention to what I was doing arrows would land in the 10. A little mental drift and nine was the prize. And so the evening practice went.

Before leaving I said my goodbyes to Robbie and Steve. John was in his office working and I stepped in to let him know I was done for the day. Before I could offer a goodbye he had coaching tips coming my way.

“You can’t shoot a perfect score at 18-meters if you can’t do it from 5-meters” where about the first words out of his mouth. No argument from me on that point.

What he told me to do was to go home and practice at 5 to 7 meters. “Don’t move any further back until you score 60x at that distance” explained John. When you shoot 60X at that distance, move back 3 to 4 meters then do it  again. Keep that up until you are at 18-meters.

I knew the drill but honestly had never done it. The idea is, as John explained, to train your brain to see the x and put the arrow into it with each shot. This morning’s practice was done according to the prescription.

Starting at 7-meters I landed 60x using the first 60 arrows. That is after I adjusted the elevation on my sight. During those 60, elevation corrected arrows, it began to rain. Shooting in the rain isn’t bad and it was only a light rain. The thing about rain is that paper targets are allergic to it. I shot about 120 arrows during the practice and ended up needing 6 targets. Usually I can get through a day using two targets before the center is gone.  I buy them in bulk; still that’s a lot of money getting shot to pieces – 6 was making my eyes spin in dollar signs. Back to the short distance practice..

After the 7-meter distance I moved to 12 meters. On ends 18 and 19, at 12-meters, I scored two tens and a nine for each. John said, “If you miss a ten, finish all your shots before you start over.” In other words, had the misses been on ends 11 and 12 I’d have continued through to the last end. The final score would still have been a 598, but I’d have to repeat the 12-meter distance until I had a 600.  This afternoon, when I practice, I’ll pick-up at 12 meters and stay there until I score 600.

This type of practice is tedious. It is deliberate practice, which means it isn’t necessary fun.  It is kind of like practicing scales on a musical instrument for hours before ever moving to composed music. The composed music is more fun, but mastering scales helps create masterful music.

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