First Hard 3D Practice in A While

The local gossip suggested there was an indoor 3D tournament in Elizabeth City on Friday night.  I picked that bit of trivia up on Thursday afternoon. It seemed like a reasonable rumor. Naturally, I was in and would need to prepare.  Lately, the focus of practice has been 18-meters.

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First 2 warm-up shots; I stopped while I was ahead.

I figured on Friday I’d get ready for 3D.  A few minutes of warming up and out to the 3D range for a days work.

The 3D tune-up started with short shots then working to a maximum distance of 50 yards with a concentration on 20 to 35 yards.  The greatest distance on a target for the alleged Friday competition is around 32 yards. At least that was the case when I last shot there.

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First arrow at 20 yards.

I started practice on a bear at 20 yards and backed it up to 50 yards.  There would be no 50 yard shots on Friday night, but 50 yards is such a fun shot.

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Nope that second arrow is only 35 yards.

The range where the event was going to be held has a lot of smaller targets.  So, I spent ample time on my small targets. There are a few turkeys on every 3D range and it is likely two would appear for the main event later in the evening.

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This turkey at 35 yards is a nice shot with enough stuff between the stake and bird to make it interesting.
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I’ll take these whenever I can get them

Focusing on small targets, I have my fair share – they’re inexpensive – I spent extra time on a bobcat.  The bobcat’s rings are impossible to see.  Trying to figure out the geometric arrangement of the rings, spots and rocks is a brain buster.

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The 12 is just below the 2nd and 3rd dot, closer to the 3rd, about 6 inches down and 4 inches above the rock. Or, X= [(D2 / D3 – 6) + 4]/r
The truly exciting target was a new one – saved for the last. I’ve been wanting a javelina to add to my foam menagerie. The perfect spot had been prepared on a downed tree to await its mount.  In 2016 javelinas standing on trees 40 – 50 yards from the stake seemed to be standard.  The issue with a javelina is the price.  It is really expensive.

I found a small pig instead.  It was about a third the price and almost the exact same size.  Maybe I’ll get some paint and touch up this small black pig up to make it look more like a javelina.

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My javelina/pig standing on a tree in the shadows. (All black targets suck light from their surroundings. It’s a law of physics. If you stick a black target on an open field it will create a small black hole.)
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A closer view of the pig. If you look just right it is almost a javelina.
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Inaugural shot – a 12. I was thinking javelina (It’s one of my favorite targets)

It was a good day on the 3D range.  Three hours in the morning 2 hours in the afternoon.  I was done by 4PM with time to rest before the tournament.

Then, I got a feeling that perhaps I should double check the facts regarding the shoot.  Sadly, I couldn’t confirm the event so I did not drive into Elizabeth City. I’m not a gambler.  Plus, I’d be embarrassed showing up at a private event having not been invited. No worries, I’d probably left all my good shots on the practice range.

On the practice range I did have some good shots.  The distances were from 15 yards to 50 yards.  At each target I guessed the distance then verified it with a rangefinder. As I mentioned I’d not done serious 3D practice in a while and didn’t want to play hunt the arrow.

In most cases the rangefinder closely matched my estimate for yardage.  To be fair, it’s my range and I’ve been shooting on it for over a year, so I know the distances.  When there was a variance, it was close enough that I leaned toward my estimation.

The result was pleasing with an average score of 10.53 per shot.

New Limbs and String for my Elite

I got new limbs for my Elite 35. The old upper limb began to split. Elite was quick to respond. Bumper Williams, owner of PGF Outdoor in Elizabeth City, sent an email and in a little over a week Elite replaced the limbs.

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While the bow was at the shop they replaced my old string, with a new 60X Custom String. This string was red and black. My new arrows, when they arrive, will be silver (Easton 2314) and have red and black vanes, a University of Georgia theme.

None of my degrees came from UGA. Even though I attended a college in Georgia (before I transferred) I never made it to the University of Georgia. My undergraduate degree and graduate degrees are the end result of universities in California. But, my heart was always at UGA.

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Taking my red and back inspired bow home I reset my sight for 20 yards then began backing it out to 50 yards to find calibration for my sight tape. There are programs where an archer can enter data about the bow and arrows and the data will provide a computer-customized tape. That would be nice and it would be great for 3D. The tape I used was close but not perfect. The perfect tape is missing, of course.

When the body says rest.

The past few weeks have been hectic. Everyday has been consumed with hours of shooting, running, weight lifting, cycling, and some swimming. Add to that the cleaning up after Hurricane Matthew. Today, it caught up with me.

It’s been coming, that level of physical fatigue where the mind wants to continue but the body screams rest. It is important to rest. I make efforts to find one day in 7 or 10 where I do minimal physical activates. This was that day.

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Time for a short break.

I didn’t run, I did ride my mountain bike, easily. And I only shot about 30 arrows. Throughout even that little bit of “active recovery” I hurt. Even, River, my lab, seemed a bit tired.

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It’s not an unwelcome hurt. It’s that ache of fatigue where if pushed you can do more even if you don’t really mentally want to push. So, after 30 or so shots, I put my bow away and stopped exercising. Tomorrow is another day.

An Eye on Exercise

Archery is not a sport where the athletes involved are going to gain a lot of fitness. ESPN created a method to determine the level whereby sports could be evaluated related to: endurance, strength, power, speed, agility, flexibility, hand-eye coordination, nerve, durability and analytic aptitude. Of the sixty sports measured boxing topped the list of 60. 1 Archery ranked 55th followed by curling, bowling, shooting (non-archery), billiards, and fishing.1 Depending on how you search sports there is some variance in ranking. Archery is never among the most difficult when measuring athletic fitness.

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If you have read the site you may be aware that fitness is a frequent topic. Archers to some degree are not really fit. That is not to suggest that a skilled archer is not a great athlete. It is my opinion that being physically fit is an important adjunct to an archer.

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As a former internationally competitive cyclist and later triathlete I continue to complement archery with the training needed for those sports. In other words, I still run, swim, cycle and lift weights. Occasionally, I log the distances I walk while practicing archery.

Swim Start of the F1 Triathlon in San Diego

On one of those recent occasions I continued to log distances, after running, using my Garmin Forerunner 310XT while I trained against an 18 meter 3-spot. In that session of shooting I walked an additional 1.66 miles.

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Walking less than two miles is not a huge accomplishment. Still not everyone can walk that far. It seems easy, but there a many people who consider 1.66 miles quite a hike. The calories burned per hour, for me, during that session of archery was 238. Obviously, there is more involved with archery than walking, but not much related to physical activity. Without adding archery for the 1.66 miles (walking only) the caloric burn is 203. On average I shoot 4 hours per day and burn 952 calories through archery.

Considering the other exercise I do, I think of it as an adjunct to archery. Being more fit means I can practice longer. It may also help me live longer. Fitness isn’t the sole avenue to longevity but it does help. Fitness and strength training, at least for me, are part of my archery-training program.

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Adding a fitness program to your archery training can be beneficial. If you aren’t already involved in other training systems, it is a good idea to have a physician give you a green light to begin.

Reference: http://www.espn.com/espn/page2/sportSkills

A Little Help From a Friend

It is too easy to waste money on sports equipment. Everyday there’s a new and better product to make athletes run faster, jump higher or go further. Archery, a sport where we don’t need to move a lot, isn’t immune to the gizmos and marketing hype that surrounds gear promising to deliver an almost practice free perfect shot.

Decades to competitive sports taught me a number of lessons. Among those lessons is that it is easy to waste money on the latest new toy. After I began competing in a sport that wasn’t supported by a public school program I began a long career of financing my athletics habit. The most costly was and remains cycling.

Fortunately, when I began racing bicycles I was still in high school meaning I didn’t have much money to waste on new fancy and often pointless innovations. Nevertheless, over decades I’ve ended up wasting a lot of many to replace gear that came on bikes that was simply wrong from the start. Where I am with archery is more bothersome.

When it comes to archery I am a novice, in that I’ve been involved with archery for 37 months. Today I’m a bit more conservative with my cash than I was just 3 years ago before I retired. So, for a large part I do my best to investigate before I purchase. That doesn’t mean that more than once I’ve put trust in a shop’s expert and walked away with pure archery crap. An example would be arrows.

I was on the road and had been for weeks when it became necessary to purchase more arrows. I bought the shop experts recommended product – a recognizable name brand. The arrows sucked.

They had the correct – per the labeling – spine. But, they popped and cracked so badly that I emailed the company to complain. I’d already tossed three of the arrows when the fourth broke. Their return policy was so encumbered that it would have ended up costing nearly the price of a new arrow to complete the transaction.

They offered to send me a new arrow after I completed forms, packaged and shipped the broken arrow. Once they received it and investigated the break my would consider sending me a replacement arrow.  Because I need to improve the specifications on arrows for indoor competition I was concerned that I’d screw up an order and relive the prior experience.

Of course, I went online and searched the top guns to see which arrows they shot. That was a little helpful. But, the real help came from Big John Chandler in Social Circle, GA.

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Big John

John is an expert archer, a Level 4 USA Archery coach, and runs a bow shop. From our brief times together he knew some particulars about my equipment and needs. He sent me an exact detailed list of what I needed to order. We also talked by phone and he provided even more information.

John was a big help and probably saved me some cash and earned me some points on the range. This was an unexpected treat and I really appreciated the help.

Bow Woes

The Apex 7 was my first bow purchase in September 2013. I knew absolutely nothing about compound bows or archery for that matter. I don’t know a whole lot more today.

I shot that Mathews bow for hours everyday. It wasn’t too long before it became a less that common occurrence when I missed the entire target. But, as nice as the Conquest Apex 7 is I felt that something was off.

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Shooting my Mathews Conquest Apex 7 in 2014

In 2015 I bought an Elite Energy 35. The Elite bow is a couple of inches shorter axil to axil. Both bows weight 4.5 pounds. Going from a 65% with the Mathews let off to an 80% with the Elite let off took some adjustments.

Both bows have the same-marketed draw length and both shoot at the same draw weight. When I shoot them I use the same stabilizers, sight and scope. Those items were purchased at Lancaster Archery. I drove up and had them help me with the Mathews bow in 2014. I use the same Scott Pro Advantage release when I shoot either bow. Without fail, I score higher with the Elite.

I like Mathews, a lot. Not because I have any particular knowledge about their bows. I don’t have the technical background to make a judgment about bows. When I bought the Apex 7 I simply requested from the shop where I ordered it, “I want to buy the best bow available for target shooting.” They ordered me the Conquest Apex 7. I like Mathews primary because they were so receptive to helping me when I began shooting.   What I do know is data. I keep data on all my archery shoots whether competitive or practice.

The 2015 Elite Energy 35 has been shot a lot in the past year. When I say a lot, I mean approximately 23,725 times. Last week the top limb began to delaminate. Or what seems to be splitting about at the seams. So far a sliver about 1/8 inch wide and 6 inches long has separated and popped off the limb. It still shoots, so I am shooting it.

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I put the Elite away for a while and shot the Apex 7 as my primary bow. Actually, I’d been going back and forth trying to make a decision which bow to shoot in 2017 until the Elite’s upper limb separated off a part of itself. But, without doubt my shooting suffered with the Apex 7.

I called Elite to describe the problem and, of course, left a message. Elite returned my call during the time we’d left town rather than stay to greet Hurricane Matthew. In my call I explained I’d return the bow to the shop where it was purchased for help.

At that shop the owner took a photograph of the bad limb and emailed it to Elite. That was last week and I am waiting for resolution. In the meantime, I am shooting the Elite and even with a missing piece of the upper limb I shoot better with it than the Apex 7.

I look at sports equipment as tools. In the case of archery the job is to hit the center of the target. I could go a purchase another bow/tool to replace both bows. (I considered the Hoyt Podium for a minute, the price through me off) But, unlike a workman’s drill or saw, any bow takes time for the archer to become acclimated to the tool. For whatever reason, most likely my fault, I can’t shoot the Mathews as well as I can shoot the Elite. So, the Elite is my tool of choice even with the current state of the upper limb.

I Need Stabilizers – Are You Looking to Sale?

The price of new stabilizers is, well – a lot! My stabilizers, Bee Stinger Competition are fine with a minor exception. The front stabilizer is the 27-inch length. Two USA Archery Level 4 coaches have pointed out that I’m using “kid” sized extensions. Both suggested e a 33-inch front and a 14-inch side.

When I bought my Bee Stingers, less than two years ago I didn’t have a clue. Today, I am only marginally more educated when it comes to archery equipment. Last week I tried “Big Boy” stabilizers with a fair amount of weight. There was a difference. The float or drift of my dot noticeably diminished.

Those stabilizers were Donkier. Not that I have any specific appreciation for the brand, I think Bee Stinger are fine. I checked prices on both products and decided to look for used stabilizers.

There are less expensive models. But, from what I’ve gathered you get what you pay for. I’m hoping someone out there has a nice set of top level stabilizers they might need to sale.

If you happen to have some on the market, please let me know.

Learning About Stabilizers

When I purchased stabilizers for my bow I went to the experts in Pennsylvania. Along with the stabilizers I added a sight and scope. I’d been shooting for several months and knew that my Mathews Apex 7, a target bow, needed a bit more than the stubby hunting stabilizer the prior sales expert had sold me. After a few weeks of shooting the stubby stabilizer I learned there were these really long ones for the front of the bow and even a side arm. And with that I was alerted to a need for something else to stabilize my bow.

The heightened awareness warranted a trip to Pennsylvania. As a novice archer I really did not have a clue what I needed. When I arrived in Pennsylvania and walked into the giant archery store it was like a trip to Archery Mecca. I had never seen so much archery gear. It was overwhelming.

I’d brought my Apex 7. I was quickly greeted and provided with a dedicated sale representative. Explaining my need and lack of knowledge the young man assigned to assist me took control.

He took my bow from me then headed into the back room. When he returned the bow was equipped with a front and side stabilizer. “It’s perfectly balanced,” he confidently stated. With no more data available I accepted his proclamations as fact.

Most archers reading this are already laughing. A few of you may be shaking your heads.  But, I honestly didn’t know any better. Today, I don’t know much more than I did twenty-four months ago. Heck, I wasn’t even alerted to any foul until I’d forgotten my bow on a range in Georgia and a Level 4 archery coach discovered my misplaced equipment. He’d said when he returned it to me, “When I saw the stabilizers, I thought this was some kid’s bow.”

Someone that knows archery, Charlie Sneed a Level 4 USA Archery Coach is currently teaching me. I’d guess he’s been polite trying not to embarrassing me regarding my gear. Essentially, I’ve been shooting an Elite hunting bow rigged with a beginner’s, as in a child’s, short lightweight (a total of 4 ounces added) stabilizers. He’s tactfully suggested I consider a ‘tournament’ bow. That would mean more money out of pocket. Being a little conservative on spending I decided to show him my old Mathews Apex 7.

I’d sold the Mathews bow about a year ago but got it back. One thing I knew was that I could not shoot that bow well. Another thing I’d read is the general statement by former Apex 7 owners, “I wish I’d never sold that bow.”

Since I had the Mathews sitting in my shed I decided to bring it to practice along with my Elite. When I showed the Mathews bow to Charlie he said, “I used to have one of those. I wish I’d never sold it.”

Last week, Charlie had diplomatically suggested he would bring to our next practice another set of stabilizers for me to try. He had them with him. Before I could say much he said, “Let’s go ahead and set up the Mathews.” Nice way of saying, “Let’s not bother with the other bow.”

(I have no complaint with the Elite bow. It has served me well.  In fact, I’ll be hunting with it in a few days! But, the rig while ideal for hunting is not my best option for all situations – like 18-meters for example.)

We pulled the sight and scope off the Elite and put them on the Apex 7. Next, we added Charlie’s stabilizers. When I held the bow I was impressed with the addition weight.

Under Charlie’s instruction we adjusted the side stabilizer, removed and added weights, and sighted the bow. Within a few minutes it became apparent my elementary stabilizers had been little beyond decoration.

These days I try to research anything I add that might help with archery performance. Archery equipment isn’t inexpensive. The stabilizers I purchased in Pennsylvania weren’t cheap. They, also, were far from correct.

All I can add is: Caveat emptor

Trying To Find a Zone

img_5523I’ve read about being in a “Zone.” I’m not certain I’ve reached a skill level were I can fully appreciate an archery “Zone.” This morning I shot inside at 18 meters. It was an aggravating “Zoneless” practice. This afternoon I shot outside at 18 meters. The session started about the way the morning practice ended – “Zone-Free.”

One expert coach has written about staying positive, confident and thinking happy thoughts during sports training and competition. He advocates not carry any negative feelings. Another world champion pistol shooter rants and raves when he has a poor shot.

I’ve tried to the keep a song in my heart and think happy thoughts even when I am shooting arrows into the ceiling or bouncing them off the floor. Honestly, I have often failed, gotten angry and let the Dark Side take control.

It’s not that I get angry and stay foul. On occasion and as quietly as a church mouse a rare profanity might be slightly audible from under my breath. But, by the next shot I’ve totally forgotten the prior shot. Then, I am in my 60s and I forget a lot of stuff.

In frustration, today I moved my release deeper into my hand. Probably the wrong way to hold a release. But, immediately the drift reduced and I shot better. In fact, on the next 120 arrows where I scored the points I tied my highest score on the first 60 arrows then exceeded it by 6 points in the second 60 arrows. I finished with a total of 1142 and 62 Xs (out of 120 shots).

While I didn’t find a “Zone” I did shoot better with the slight change in way I held the release. I don’t know what goes through the minds of other expert archers while they shoot. For me it was a near “Zone” Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.