Today training was a 6.2-mile run and an easy day of shooting. Neither session was difficult and would have been simple minus the cold and wind. The temperature during my run wasn’t that horrendous. At 30° F (-1° C) while wearing warm clothes this is not a difficult run. In the afternoon I’d have a short workout with my bow. Both sessions, would not have been a problem except for the wind.
All day we had white caps coming off the river. After running all I wanted was a hot tub in which to thaw. The wind had cut through my running apparel as if it weren’t there giving my convective heat loss a very personal impression.
Along the run, River, my dog heedless to the cold broke through iced covered creeks in order to play in the water. Following the run she even jumped into the river. I suppose it is a Labrador thing.
Shooting was another matter. I’d only be shooting for only 15 to 20 minutes. Like all sports, archery needs recover time. For this workout I’d be shooting from unknown distances into a foam deer. It also meant I’d have the house to help block the wind.
Despite the house’s blockade the wind was a chilling factor. Unlike my home in Maryland I don’t have access to an indoor range here in North Carolina. There is an advantage to being able to step outside and shoot. On cold and windy days – well I take the good with the bad.
In December I contacted Mathews about their ProStaff requirements. Their advice was to establish a relationship with my Mathews dealer and enter their ProStaff program through their archery dealer program.
This presented a bit of a problem for me. Eager to find sponsors but living in two states and spending a lot of time in three, Maryland, North Carolina, and Georgia, means I dealt with a number of bow shops. Fortunately, one of my favorite shops, a Mathews dealer, is Terry’s Archery Plus in Ernul, NC.
I’d only been to Terry’s a few times. There I met Terry Lewis and found him humorous, pleasant, and extremely knowledgeable. As a matter of fact, one my first trip to his Archery Pro Shop, he took a phone call while we were talking. Apparently, the caller had questions because his response into the phone was, “Well, you’ve called the right place, I have lots of answers.” His wit was not lost on me. Since then, I learned Terry has a big heart and a bad hip.
Back to December and my Mathews dilemma – I called Terry from my home in Maryland and explained the situation. When I was in law school I learned a number of things and one is to be direct with questions. I asked Terry if he knew about the Mathews program and if so could be help. His response to me was similar to the one he’d given to another caller months ago, yes he knew and he had answers. One of his answers was that he’d be happy to help me.
On Thursday, we met at his shop for the first time in over a month. When I arrived Terry had several customers. Since we last spoken we’d gone through holidays, hunting, fishing, 4 archery tournaments and the ATA. At his shop in Ernul we visited for nearly two hours. I really didn’t want to leave, but I felt I was using up his time.
While talking with Terry I’d learned about local tournaments, contingency money, the Mathews No-cam bows, large vs. small diameter arrows, peep diameters and metal roof chicken coops. When I left I took a foam deer, loaded in my truck, for practice. I am happy to write that I will be shooting for Terry’s Archery Plus along with my other sponsors. Thanks, Terry!
I do my best not to break arrows. It still happens. There are precautions I take to help prolonging the life of my arrows. A dozen new Bemans doesn’t last long.
Recently I bought a dozen Beman arrows from Cypress Creek Archery in Maryland. The arrows were Beman ICS Hunter 500s. These are the arrows I’ve been shooting for the past year. They aren’t very pricy and I decided to use them exclusively after shooting up a half dozen Easton Fat Boys.
The shiny new dozen Beman arrows have been reduced to a mere eight. I lost two to a Robin Hood. It was an unlikely shot. Typically, I don’t aim for the same spot twice in order to protect any arrow that has hot the mark. In this case I shot an X at 35 yards. Then, I backed up to 50 yards. Even though I was aiming at the same X the 15 yard difference ought to have made hitting a Robin Hood unlikely.
I heard it before I saw it. Two arrows gone.
When I practice on a 30 target 3D range in Maryland I shoot once from the hunter class stake and once from the open class stake. Still, I’ve lost arrows in this fashion.
Several weeks ago, I shot a foam pig. It was a good shot, a “pin-wheel”. When I pulled the arrow from the foam, the insert and tip became dislodged inside the pig. A day later, shooting on the same range and on that pig, I hit the hidden insert, Robin Hooding it with another doomed arrow. The odds of that are so remote to seem nearly impossible. The impact was enough to create creaks in the carbon fiber of the unfortunate arrow making it unusable.
In North Carolina I have one 3D target. While practicing on it today I moved from around trying to create random distances from which to judge yardage and practice. Moving around means different angles for arrows and hopefully reducing my odds of breaking them.
Shooting from the left of the animal, I moved center, then right. I shot from about 23 to around 34 yards. The arrows were crossed meaning no chance of a Robin Hood. But, as I pulled an arrow it felt funny. The first arrow had gone in from the left. The third arrow from the right. The arrow shot from the right hit the arrow shot in from the left piecing it.
It is frustrating being down to eight arrows. In February I have three tournaments. Between now and then I am likely to break at least 2 more arrows. At this rate I could enter 3 tournaments with only six arrows. Plus, I have to practice with those arrows.
I’ll need to buy another dozen. Worse case is I end up with 4 arrows before the month is out unless I make the purchase. What is tough is no one near me sales the Bemans I shoot. I look forward to the day when I have an arrow sponsor.
In February I have three tournaments. One is 3D and the other two are shooting dots on paper. The paper shoots will be against 3-spots. When we left Georgia to return to North Carolina a couple of weeks ago, I forgot to pack my few 3-spot papers targets, and they remain in Tignall. I needed to practice shooting a 3-spot and didn’t have a one here in Hertford. But, I had a lot of rifle targets.
It has been raining here since yesterday. When the rain lifted I aimed to go outside and practice. Finally, the weather eased and I took my shot. I grabbed three rifle targets from my shed and created my Red Neck 3-Spot. I consider Red Neck ingenuity as ‘where there is a will there is a way.’
There was one tiny problem. The orange center of the rifle targets, which is fine when shooting pins, was a problem with my target bow. My target bow has a SA Scope with a small black dot in the center of a lens. The orange of the targets is surrounded by black. There was no contrast to set the scope’s black dot apart.
What I’d do was put the black dot on a segment of white. Then, move that dot, which disappeared while crossing the black segment of the target, toward the orange. When the orange went black I held and tried to make the shot. The field of vision had to be entirely black to hit the center. That worked fairly well but I did hit a lot of nines and eights.
Out of curiosity and because the returned rain began to pick up, I grabbed my hunting bow that has an Axcel ArmorTech sight with pins. I wanted to see how pins would fair against this three spot. Yep, as I expected, it was easier to find the orange.
The rain finally forced me inside. Tomorrow is supposed to be a better day for shooting. For now, I’ll rest my shoulders and try to figure out another way to make a 3-spot.
Yesterday morning I shot from 20 to 60 yards. From 45 yards and further I removed my yardage stakes and practiced judging the distance. At 60 yards I was a tad off.On my first two shots I hit high. I’d seen through my binoculars the first arrow was up. To make sure it wasn’t my sway I fired off a second, which smacked into the first. Two shots too high.
So, I did was anyone would consider, I raised my sight. The first shot was a bit low. To verify, once again, whether or not it was sway I shot a second. The second smacked into the first. Two shots too low.
In 3D so much depends on getting the distance right. After 50 or 60 arrows I stopped for lunch. If the rain holds I’ll practice some more in the afternoon following a bit of recovery for my arms. Hopefully the afternoon shots will be just right.
Shooting, like other sports, requires practice. Practice isn’t simply heading to a range and firing away at the target. For each session there should be specific goals, physical as well as mental. Then, there are those days where mental breakdown leads to really dumb shots. When that happens, it is best done during practice not in a tournament.
Last summer, in a 3D tournament, I had a momentary lapse in brain. Seriously, my brain seemed to have been totally elsewhere. I’d approached a target. It was a shot I felt, I knew I had the 12 (it was an ASA tournament), and my confidence was overwhelming. I went through my form, alignment, drew, aimed, and then dry fired by bow. I’d never in my life dry fired my bow. I didn’t even know what had happened until my brain returned.
Yesterday, I had a very specific mental exercise I’d planned for practice. I was excited to give this technique, as explained by sports psychologist Gary Mack, a try. I’d gathered my bow, the target was set, quiver and arrows on my hip, binoculars hanging over my neck, baseball cap on, and my Rudy Project shooting glasses donned. I looked the part and felt the part.
Setting up for the shot, I worked through establishing my form, added the mental bit from Mack’s lecture, found the X and fired. The arrow went high. Not a little high – HIGH. It sailed over the target. Obviously, something was wrong. I repeated the process with another arrow. Exactly as before the arrow went high. Again, not a little high but over the entire target. It was like deja-vu all over again. Then, my brain caught up with my body.
The day before, I’d been shooting longer distances. My last round was at 50 yards. The two high shots were from 20 yards. My brain decided let me know I’d not adjusted the sight for 20 yards and had been aiming for a 50-yard distance.
As most often the case my day began with a run. It was followed by archery practice, lunch, a boat ride, more archery and finally grilling fish for dinner. When the weather is as nice as it was yesterday, it is nearly impossible to stay indoors.
In the morning, running with my dog River we have two agendas. I run for fitness as much for pleasure. For River running is all pleasure and is followed by a swim. Before she hit the water she was already soaked having run through every creek, puddle and ditch we passed.
My morning archery practice was devoted to a 5-spot at 20 yards. In that morning session I worked on form and mental relaxation. As the day warmed, I put down the bow and readied my boat for time on the water.
There was little wind so the river was very flat. Flat water is great in a Carolina Skiff. Rather than head out to the Albemarle Sound we, Brenda my wife and I, took a cruise of the more swampy parts of Little River. The clear sky and bright sun gave us an inspirational view of nature in in North Carolina.
The boat ride over I began my afternoon archery session, this time working at longer distances and odd angles. I didn’t shoot any further than 50 yards. Because my bow is slow (thanks in part to a short draw) it is as much fun waiting to hear the arrow strike the target, as it is shooting from further away. Because we live in such seclusion the main sound we hear are those of birds and animals. It isn’t difficult to hear the pop of an arrow at even 60 yards.
It was dark by the time we began dinner. Today it was grilled perch and striper, cheese grits and green beans. The fish was cooked slowly over lump coal and wood – pretty incredible.
In the past, I’ve mentioned keeping records of my shooting. I keep scores, where I trained or competed, the bow, arrows, tips and other bits of data. The other data often includes physiological and nutritional data. The physiological and nutritional data remains a bit too sparse to draw conclusions. The equipment data is more enlightening.
One of the most frequent paper targets I shoot is a 5-spot. The data on this target spans twelve months, January 2014 until January 2015. The earlier data scores are lower than the scores recorded later in the year. There is a clear progression of improving scores. However, the improvement is not statically significant.
Statistical significant is important when determining whether or not a test method difference is meaningful. In sports, data that isn’t statistically significant doesn’t mean that something important has or has not occurred.
A great example are data that were collected during my cycling career. For months I repeated a 10-mile time trial to measure the effect of a training technique. The data wasn’t statistically significant. The improvement in time to complete the trial was a major improvement – about 2 minutes. Two minutes could be the difference between 1st place and 10th place.
In archery, the data collected revealed that over the course of the year I had a 6% improvement in my scores, which leveled out after a few months. What is interesting is that over the second half of the year, my average is a 1% below a consistent 300 (100%), or an average score of 298. Is it me, or is it the equipment?
Scoring a 300 every time I practice on a 5-spot isn’t likely. Still, improving my 5-spot average is possible. So, where do I make minor improvements that can defeat one or two poorly placed shots?
There are little adjustments that must be made in the physiological (form) of my shooting. These seem somewhat apparent when I lose form. In the meantime is there anything else missing?
In all sports, there is the equipment. In cycling there was a time I competed on a mid-level racing bike. Not the best bike and certainly not the worst. Then, I was given a bike that had been ridden by one of the professional cyclists in the Tour de France. Not a replica, the very same bike ridden by Rodolfo Massi before he was disqualified for using performance-enhancing drugs. When I rode the bike, it was nearly 3 pounds lighter than my previous one; it felt like I was cheating. I wasn’t taking performance-enhancing drugs, but in this case, the change in my equipment was significant, especially during climbs.
In archery very minor adjustments have an impact. My bow is a Mathews Apex 7, a bow with a good track record in tournaments. My sight is a top end Axcel with a high end SA Scope. My release is a Scott Pro Advantage. My arrow rest is a mid-range model that has raised eyebrows and earned questions.
Thus far I have been fairly pleased with the arrow rest barring a time or two when it didn’t drop and once when it broke. But, a bow technician asked way did I have such nice equipment and still used a mid-range rest. Does my rest account for a very slight variance in accuracy?
If it does, that occurrence might only happen less than 1% of the time. Maybe it is that 1% of time when a very slight “arrow rest” variance led to a less than perfect shot. If so, maybe it accounts for the 1% gap recorded from my average to perfection. (I do occasionally shot a 300)
In practice today, I used my mid-range arrow rest. I shot a 5-spot for training this morning. Later, today I’ll work on yardage. Later this week, I’ll investigate changing my arrow rest to a top end model. Today, I shot a 298. The lessor shots where entirely not the fault of the arrow rest.
During indoor competition I’ve used the Axcel Achieve CX for the past year. It is pretty simple to use when there is only one distance to shoot. For 3D tournaments, things become a bit more complex – at least for me. With a 4X magnification on the sight it seemed likely that if I could use it properly it would be better than pins alone – this came home to me during the last two 3D tournaments.
In Georgia, I shot in the Open class with pins. Only once (or twice) did I seriously misjudge the distance. You can’t misjudge by 5 (or more) yards and expect to do well.
In Georgia, the others, in the Open Class, all had adjustable sights and magnification. The longest shot was only 47 yards and I hit it well. Nevertheless, there were many targets beyond 35 yards where magnification might have helped.
The next tournament was an indoor 3D competition where, in the bow hunter class, archers were prohibited the use of binoculars. The furthest foam animal was only out 34 yards, but the lighting led me to believe a 4X magnification would have helped.
The Axcel CX sight is fairly easy to set. First, take a couple of reference shots then match a yardage tape to the graduated scale on the sight. For this exercise I took numerous shots from 20 to 60 yards in 5-yard increments. (I have that kind of time.)
Next, choose the yardage tape that most matches the graduated scale values. My bow is slow (50 lbs, 26 inch draw – you can see the arch on my shots with ease) so the corresponding tape was the largest in the adhesive backed yardage scales included with the sight. It was a relief that the yardage on the tape matched so well with the graduations on the sight for all tested increments.
In practice using the Axcel sight and 4X magnification has been fun. My pins are best at distances of 50 yards and less (really best at 35 or at least that is where I am best). Beyond 50 yards, with pins, it is as much instinct as skill because the center ring is impossible to visualize. (One reason we archers have the best ‘working memory’ around). While an eight or ten hit on an animal will kill it, those scores won’t win tournaments (especially when summed with the 5 that occasionally pops up).
The past few days practicing with the Axcel CX and 4X magnification were rather cool. The additional confidence, at known yardage, and clearly seeing the center of the target is a treat. I am looking forward to giving the rig a try in my next tournament.