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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.


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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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




Why worry about alleged cheating?

On April 16th I posted an article describing cheaters. For the most part I rarely notice cheating. Sometimes I do, but honestly it seldom concerns me. On July 5th, one of the archery-focused groups on Facebook where I’m a member went crazy regarding an alleged cheat.

When I have noticed or suspected liberal scoring I’ve sometimes confronted it on the range. Once, during an indoor shoot I knew a 10 was a 9 but in that case said nothing – even though it happened a few times. What I did was “suggest” the shooter get a new target. He’d shot out the center ring, which made accurate scoring impossible. Let me emphasize, “He’d shot out the center ring on all three targets.” Not a bad strategy if you can pull it off.


This is how I look at competition: If I am not hitting 10s or higher, in 3D, I am off. I’m off from time to time. But, those times are becoming less frequent. Indoor shooting if I hit a 7 I’m off, when shooting a 3-spot. If someone has to cheat to keep up, it is unlikely they’re someone that worries me. Actually, on the range no one worries me. Off the range I do keep up with how the guys I shoot against are performing.

Of those archers, no one cheats. Their scores are too good and everyone sees their shots. If you are not shooting in a competition where key archers are being closely watched, not for cheating but to admire their performance, then you are shooting for fun.

So, shoot for fun. If your attention is on a trophy, you’ve probably lost that award before you started. That said, the Gold Medalist shooter (rifle) in the 1976 Olympics had an attitude regarding the medal. Before he fired his first shot he knew the Gold Medal was his, so he shot relaxed, in his mind he’d already won, and consequently he walked away with the Gold. When you walk onto a range and you’re worried about winning the trophy or that someone allegedly cheated you out of a trophy, especially a local shoot, well you were never really in the competition.


Needing arrows

I am running low on arrows. When I get this short on projectiles the pressure is on not to lose an arrow, break a nock, or lose fletching.

Losing an arrow doesn’t necessary mean missing a target and watching an arrow vanish. Of the dozen Black Eagle Challengers I bought about a month ago I have 5 I can shoot. Two were broken hitting something inside a target. The points jammed into the shaft and the arrows were trashed. One got lost in a tournament where I under shot a target. Goodbye Black Eagle – you’re free. Four have a combination of broken nocks and liberated fletching. That leaves me with 5 shootable arrows.

The little nock I use needed to be ordered and haven’t arrived. The dozen new Black Eagle arrows I ordered haven’t arrived. Five arrows are enough, but I like a cushion. I like a dozen on hand with unused in kept a tube kept cool and stored.

We’re heading to Brevard, NC, Tignal, GA and Savannah, GA. You can bet I’ll be shooting at all three stops. You can also bet I’ll not be making any “experimental” shots with only 5 arrows for a 10 day trip.

Shooting in Brevard

Being on vacation doesn’t preclude archery from the fun things to do while on vacation. For this leg of the trip, the Brevard – western NC – stay, I brought several toys with which to play including my archery ‘toys’.  Even though I will not be able to compete in a tournament on this trip, I did get to shoot.

Brevard is known for its waterfalls

With me I brought my bow and the five arrows I own that can be currently used for shooting. I also brought a block target that can only be shot using the smaller sides. The large sides barely slow down an arrow.

In Brevard the canopy of leaves that surround the property we’ve rented makes judging yardage a new game. Ambient light is minimal and there isn’t level ground to be found. On the east coast of the state, my home,  I shoot on level ground in very bright light toward shadows, or at brightly illuminated targets, or from shadow to shadow. In the woods here it is just dark or darker and hilly.

Miss a target in this jungle and forget about finding the arrow

Having only 5 arrows and a small target, considering the light and hills, I was very conservative while practicing. I used one arrow only, shot for the middle of the target, and limited my distance to 40 yards.

At 35 yards, this is a tough shot at a small target. Miss and goodbye arrow. (The target is in the center of this picture)

The result was I didn’t lose or break the arrow. I got some decent practice in lighting to which I am unaccustomed and gave myself an hour* each day to get a feel for hilly terrain. One nice thing about a small target is that it’s easy to move around.(*I am on vacation, so I limited my practice time to an hour per day. )

Here’s a closer look at the target and what’s behind it.

The other toys that will be used on this trip, bikes, kayaks, and running gear have yet to make it into the game.