Shooting More?

I thought I was doing enough practice. Including rest days (when I don’t pick up a bow – about one day every 7 to 10 days) I shoot about 100 arrows per day. When I practice I break it up so that I shoot in the morning then in the afternoon. I try to get no less that 125 arrows each day that I actually shoot (rest days excluded). I have long days where I shoot more and tapering days when I shoot less.

Last week, I watched a 15 year old that has been shooting almost exactly the same number of months I have – around 55 months. He was nearly perfect on a 3D course that was pretty tough. He was shooting known 45 and ended up with a 220 for 20 targets. During conversation he mentioned he’d only been shooting 3D for a year.

Granted, he’s ranked number one in the US in his age group outside of 3D. But, he finished last weeks 3D course with the highest overall score. He also mentioned in conversation that he shoots about 200 arrows per day.

Each vertical check equals 6 arrows, The first column is warm up and the second at animals on my 3D range.

That got me to wondering. Maybe I should increase the arrows I fire off to around 200 per day.

3D in Shady Dale

There were only two shots out of twenty under 30 yards. One target at 22 yards and the other at 26 yards. They were my worst two shots of the day. Aside from those two shots, ones I wanted back immediately, it was a long day. By long I don’t mean time spent shooting.

In a recent post I noted that in the bowhunter class 3D targets seem to be stretched. My comments didn’t sit well with some folks that seemed to feel affronted by my review of that particular range. Of course, no offense was intended. Like mama taught me,”It is not what you say, it is how you said it.” Perhaps I wrote the prior summary without the correct finesse. In that post I’d noted that faux animals in the bowhunter class seem to be getting further away from the stakes.

I’ve competed in the Pro Bowhunter Division at an IBO World Championship. The equipment in that class was limited to pins, short stabilizer, and no magnification on the sight. The maximum distance was 50 yards. Essentially, what I’m saying is that I am not afraid of long shots. The absence of fear doesn’t equate to accuracy of an arrow.

To be fair I’ve shot 3D using a target bow rig with all the fancy thingamajigs allowed on a bow. But, last year I switched back to pins and a hunting rig to shoot 3D. Why? Because that’s how I hunt with a bow. I thought it might be fun to shoot 3D with a hunting bow set up for hunting. And it is. I got to test the rig again on Saturday in Shady Dale, Georgia at an ASA State Qualifier.

Met a new friend on the range

I got lucky and was able to hitch a range ride in a group where I knew everyone. There were three excellent shooters using target bows from known distances, Steve, Butch, and Austin. Butch’s son Luke was in the group and he was using a bowhunter rig.

Easy prey at 37 yards

Luke may be all of eight years old. He was tearing it up on the range. His bow doesn’t have a whole lot of speed or power but he was smacking mostly tens with a few twelves and a few eights. For a little guy he did have a quick wit.

On one shot his arrow hit high and bounced off the target. We all saw the shot and knew his score for that target. However, when one of the scorekeepers, Steve, asked, “What was it” referring to the score, it was Luke who spoke up first. As straight-faced and serious sounding as he’d been all day, he replied, “Oh, that was a twelve.” He knew as we all did it wasn’t a twelve. The entire group caught the intended humor. “Yep, “ someone replied, “he’s an archer.”

The most impressive shooting of the day was by a 15 year old in our group, Austin. With one target to go he was 20 up shooting from known 45. On the last target he scored a 10 and it was the highest score on that 26-yard target.

This was 38 yards for the fellows shooting known 45. For me is was a very reachable 32 yards. (Steve here at the stake)

That target was a hyena sitting in a completely dark hole and simply could not be seen. Of the adults we scored a 10, an 8 and two 5s (including Austin as an adult – he had the 10). It was a difficult shot simply because it was too dark to see the target and one I’d have never taken hunting. I was uncomfortable shooting it on the range.

There’s an old rule that for me is hard to ignore, “Never shoot at anything you can’t see.”

There’s a hyena in that bamboo thicket

Aside from that one target all others were well placed even if no real estate remained left behind. I think I’ll finish the year with a bowhunter rig and change back to a target bow and shoot some known yardage for 2019.  Seems that’s where everyone is shooting.

Practicing Shots You’ll See in Competition

You’re facing a coyote that is positioned 40 yards away on a small hill. Between you and that target are trees obscuring the view. Your 3D rig is hunting with a shorter axel-to-axel length, sporting a short stabilizer and you’re aiming using pins.

We’ve all been right here

A coyote is not a large target. At 40 yards firing off an arrow a little hot or a little cold and you’ll find yourself excavating behind your intended mark for an arrow that’s gone astray. There’s no easy way to avoid this type of mishap. The way to best avoid it is to practice it over and over before you encounter it in a tournament.

This sad ole dog hasn’t got much left in him. There’s one of my arrows yet to be reclaimed in those woods behind it.

The same holds true for that small black bear sitting in a black hole down range at 40 yards. Or the javelina perched on a log below a crest with a tree branch over its back and leaves blocking your view. A slight error and you again are taking a pause to hunt down an arrow. Be confident when you will see these targets. Confidence that practice and exposure to competition and knowing you can hit the mark.

There always a black target in an abyss. For a 40 yard shot I need to open the back get on this little bear.

Taking aim on a black target in a dark hole using pins need not be an exercise in “wing and a prayer” archery (that approach has been known to work). Another way is to perfect your aim on this type of target is to practice it over and over.

Multiple shots from different location into the abyss can help prepare for that tough shot ahead

You need to prepare for all sorts of target conditions during a 3D tournament. Even when you think you have all contingencies rehearsed there will a target that might throw you for a loop.

Travel, Travel and Archery Practice

The last competitive 3D tournament I shot was last years Virginia IBO State Championship. I won. Then, I put down my 3D rig and concentrated on 18 meters. Since then, we’ve moved and I’ve shot in a number of tournaments all of which were not 3D. Last week I shot on a 3D course other than mine for fun. I shot a 198. Not spectacular.

Flooding near the house we rented in Woodstock, VA. By near I mean about 300 feet away
On the beach at Watch Hill, RI

The past two weeks we’ve traveled as far north as Watch Hill, RI. During that trip we drove through pasts of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginal, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. It was a long trip. This week we spent 3 days at Brenda’s dad’s lake house in Tignal, Georgia.

We heard this is the home of a big time country singer.

Needless to say, archery has taken a hit. Practice while we were on the road ‘up north’ didn’t happen. Once we returned to Good Hope and before heading to Tignal I got practice in at home. At Ray’s house, Brenda’s dad (my-father-in-law), I got plenty of practice on his range.

Practice range at Ray’s

His range is simple, one set of targets he uses for practicing with his crossbow. I used it to work on yardage. When we left Ray’s and returned home I went to my 3D range to take a practice run at a 20-target ASA style tournament.

Last year I went back to a hunter class rig. That means pins and a short stabilizer like I’d use when actually hunting. While top 3D shooters all seem to prefer field target style rigs I like a hunting arrangement for 3D. At some point I may switch back to long stabilizers and a scope for now I am happy with my Elite 35 set up for hunting.

Mt Elite 35 hunting set-up

What I wanted to measure today is how I am fairing at unknown distances. Prior practices have included a range finder. Today I estimated yardage that ranged from 14 yards (mosquito target) to 42 yards (a standing deer). The average yardage was 27, which included several small targets shot from 14 to 18 yards (mosquito, bobcat sizes). If I removed the small target short shots the average distance was 33 yards.

At most ASA style tournaments I don’t expect to see a lot of backyard type targets. Oh, there will be a javelina at 35 to 40 yards and I have a javelina that I practice shooting at that distance. There’s also a badger that I shoot from 20 to 40 yards because it is likely to appear during competition. What I don’t have are the newer spotted cats or very large targets. Hopefully, my target sponsor will send me a few of those soon. (Wait, I don’t have a target sponsor. Guess those free targets aren’t heading my way after all.)

When I finished practice and tallied my points I’d failed to maintain a 10-point per target average. I shot an average of 9.5. I botched a coyote landing a 5 at 30 yards. It happens.

The short shots helped with my average. If I removed them my average dropped to 9.01 points per arrow. There is work to do before next weekends ASA State Qualifier.

A Few Pearls You Already Know

Don’t Blow It

You’ve practiced, you’re ready, but during 3D competition you blow it. Here are a few pearls that may help you to not blow it.

We’ve all been there. That place where we botch a shot. From time to time I revisit ‘there.’ So, rather than return to ‘there’ more often than necessary set up practices to find the mistakes that could that lead you back ‘there.’

For those of you that left ‘there’ and never returned my hat is off to you. Some of us make mistakes when shooting 3D that result in lost points or lost arrows.

About losing arrows – don’t be afraid to lose them during practice. While practicing it isn’t a bad idea to push your limits. Doing so is going to cause a miss. Better to miss while in practice than during competition. When you do find a particular shot that is off course do it over and over until you get it. Then, do it some more.

Working long shots. Practicing at 50 yards (known) may help me do better at 40 yards.

Aside from judging yardage, which is another matter, there are things than you can do to help make that shot. For baseline, we’ll pretend you always judge yardage smack on. We’ll also agree that you are a practiced and proficient archer that on occasion messes up a little.

Practicing from 50 yards then moving up to 40 yards. (Known distance practice)

Here are a few pearls that are simple things to remember that can help you 3D competition.

First, unless you’re one of those top gun archery celebrities, almost no one is watching you shoot. Sure, you’re at the stake standing isolated at the stake for everyone to see, but they are either watching the target, eating a Little Debbie snack, talking, daydreaming, or worrying about their own score. Relax and don’t let your egocentric imagination go wild. Stay calm, relax and shoot an arrow.

When you’re not shooting take that time to study the shot. Before you reach the stake have a mental plan of how to solve the shot. Say, for example, your target is half of a javelina exposed from behind a tree at 40 yards. Of course, the center shot for a 10 (ASA scoring) is inches away from the tree.

First off the tree is a bonus. It provides a linear boarder. Aim so that the tree provides a black line, the part of the javelina exposed, between the tree and the X. The shoot the X.

Next, make certain you don’t screw up your shot. If you push or pull and arrow, depending on whether you are right or left handed you are going to hit the tree next to that javelina.

To avoid that catastrophe remain clam, take you time (you of plenty) and do what so many neglect, follow through with the shot. You’d be surprised at how often archers get rushed and don’t follow through. Heck, don’t take your aim off the target until you hear your arrow hit and then hold some. If you got the yardage right you’ll be fine. If your elevation is good but your arrow landed right or left, well you messed up your shot. You probably didn’t follow though or rushed the shot and pushed your arrow. (Assuming your form is good most of the time and your not torqueing your bow and punching your release. Oh, you can punch a hinge. Just try snapping your wrist back to activate the hinge.)

Don’t rush. Take your allotted time. That doesn’t mean walk up to the stake and fire up a cigarette (I’ve seen it). Start taking time before you approach the target. Take time to judge yardage. Notice where the other arrows have hit (if you are not the first shooter) and see if the other arrows are going to highlight the point where you want to place your shot. In archery, slow is good.

This is an easy pearl for archers – eat. So much of archery is governed by the brain that keeping it supplied with energy is critical for a long tournament. The brain’s primary source of energy is carbohydrates. Take sometime to eat, beef jerky is not a carbohydrates, to provide the carbs your brain wants and stay hydrated. (I have nearly bonked during long tournaments. I know on those times I lost points by not paying attention on my calorie needs. Archery has demands other than those experienced in long distance running, cycling or triathlon. Nevertheless, if you get hungry during a tournament your shooting will suffer.)

The ‘lesser’ practice range at the lake.

None of these little pearls should be new to you. You know them and sometimes you (and I) forget them. When you practice pay attention to these little pearls and your scores will reflect the effort you made to improve your shooting.

Face it, Shooting Pins, a Short Stabilizer, and Judging Yardage Takes Practice

3D is a tough discipline for anyone in archery. Not only does the archer need to perform a flawlessly formed shot, the archer must contend with unknown distances (unless shooting in a known class), shooting a variety of targets, having various colors, with changing lighting,  on unleveled ground, and during inconsistent weather. It is judging yardage that is my Achilles Heel. The other issues that confound shots are conditions where I hope luck can remedy.

I’ve listened to all sorts of advice when it comes to finding a reliable method to judge distance. One is the 20 yard method where 20 yards is guessed and excess yardages are estimated by rolling that 20 yard distance over in one’s mind’s eye. Then adding the rolled over distance to adjust the mental image of the actual distance.

Another is to look at trees lining the shooting lane. Select a tree about 10 yards away allowing that you now know 10 yards. From that tree to the next judge the yardage then combine the prior tree’s 10-yard distance with the subsequent trees distance for a total. If the trees zigzag subtract a bit of yardage. Continue this approach until the target is reached, mentally hopping from tree to tree and zig to zag.

There’s the know 30 yards really well or the know 40 yards really well approach where the archer becomes an expert at those distances and sizes up each target based on its proximity to the 30 or 40 yard comfort zone. (My comfort zone is at 20 yards).

The target size is a popular method. That is where distance is guessed depending on how large or small the target appears. The smaller the target seems the further away it is positioned. (Duh)

A favorite of mine is measuring distance with your thumb. The idea is that by holding out your thumb to measure angles, you can tell your distance to things (people, cars, buildings, planes, clouds, etc.).

Quick example:

Hold out your arm, look at your thumb, and see a distant car half as high. Cars are about 5 feet (1.5 meters) high. So your thumb may appear 10 feet (3 meters) wide. And since you know your thumb is x30 times as far as it seems tall… you know the car is something like 300 feet (90 meters) away! (I’ve never tried this one. Maybe if foam Ford Focus landed on a 3D range I might give it a whirl.)

Sadly, none of those techniques has been much help to me. Maybe I started archery too late in life to have mastered the distance estimating methods that yield others their success. All I can do is head out to 3D practice and shoot arrow after arrow after arrow over a range is distances. Hopefully, something will sink in. On a good day that something sinking in is an arrow in the 12 ring. (Or 11 if you’re an IBO fan)

Raining Again

This little badger from 35 yards

It is raining again here in Good Hope, Georgia. The plants are loving it. For humans seeking outdoor fun the rain isn’t as welcome. On the bright side it wasn’t a hard rain when I went for a run then practiced archery.

If you are an athlete who competes you know that sooner or later you’ll be playing in the rain. It is easy to postpone outdoor training when it is raining. Unless the rain is simply unbearable I don’t let it stop me. This morning was one of those where I headed out and got wet.

Coyote on a mound from 40 yards

Over the years I’ve raced bicycles, run races, done triathlons and shot in the rain. During the Tokyo Marathon a few years back it was both cold and pouring rain. It was miserable. But, there I was in Japan and there was no turning back.

This mountain lion at 45 yards

In 2017 at the ASA in Augusta it rained, I shot poorly. The second day of the tournament the weather was fine and I shot great. After that decided to not let rain keep me away from archery practice.

Bear at 43 yards
At 43 yards this group was a little low resulting in 3 tens and one 8. That is not a score to settle on.

If you can manage it, it is a good idea to practice under adverse conditions. You can’t control the weather, but you can learn how to deal with it. Raining falling on your bow while you’re trying to shoot can affect how you perform. Having experience in rain before a competition can help you understand the feel of your equipment when it’s wet and give you confidence knowing you’ve practiced this and are prepared.

So, it is a do-over. I was able to bring the arrow enough so that all arrows were 10s or 12s. The center is so shot out it is hard to know where the 12 ring is. But, the ten ring is still easy to see.

First 3D Shoot in Nearly One Year

I was at the range fifteen minutes before the start time. It was last year at the Virginia IBO State Championship where I’d last competed at 3D. Arriving early I hoped there would be other archers at the range with a similar plan. That plan was to get onto the course before too many other folks showed up and the pace slowed.

In North Carolina I shot with two friends that liked to shoot first, shoot pretty fast, finish and go home. If you’ve every spent 6 hours on a 20-target 3D course you understand the reasoning.

Being new to the area here I don’t have a group with whom to attend 3D events. In North Carolina when I began shooting there it was the same. Over time I developed friendships with a coupe of guys that like me wanted to not spend their entire day waiting to get through 20 targets. As it turned out, I waited the self-imposed maximum wait around time and when no one arrived I headed into the woods for a fun shoot.

Before I started I was told I could turn my scorecard in and that no one would care that I shot alone and scored my shots. That maybe the case but I wasn’t going to test those waters.

I don’t mind shooting alone. For ten bucks I got to practice on a course other than mine and at some targets I don’t own.

This is one of my favorite targets. If I recall correctly this shot was from 37 yards.

When it comes to 3D I prefer using a hunting rig. In the ASA format it seems that target or field rigs are the bow set-ups of choice. That’s fine and I have shot 3D using long stabilizers and a scope. I may do it again considering how 3D ranges are being laid out.

When the Open Class stake and the hunter stake were not touching they were close to each other

What I’ve noticed is that the designers of this 3D range (fancy way of presenting the people that go out and set up targets and stakes) leaned toward distance. That seems to be a trend.

For example, in the hunter class the maximum distance is 40 yards. Of the 20 targets up on Saturday for the hunter class I think two were under 30 yards, both around 27 yards. Many of the hunter stakes were next to the Open class stakes or within a few feet of those, which in theory, are the longer distance stakes. As you might guess, yesterday’s hunter class scores were on average significantly lower than the Open or Known 45 (shooting at the same distance as the Open Class) classes. It only makes sense that a group of archers using pins will have less accuracy than archers using a scope.

This is becoming common.

Yesterday’s archers in the known/open classes had an average score of around 198. At nearly the same distances, without knowing the distance, and using pins the hunter class had an average score of 163. My score is not included with the other hunter class archers’ scores. For the unofficial record I shot a 198, five 12s, 6 eights and nine 10s.

What I take an issue with on the course lay out was that “hard” shots translated to just long shots.

Being curious, I did a random number generation for 20 3D targets set up for hunter class versus Open. The results were an average distance of 31 yards for hunter class and 34 yards for the Open class. Not much difference. However, when I looked for average distances where archers claimed they’d shot an animal while hunting the average distance was 23 yards with a range of 6 yards to 37 yards. (1)

Personally, I don’t care whether the targets are stretched out or not. We all, in each class, shoot the same target. What I am saying is that having the hunter class so closely match the Open class in distance can be discouraging for archers competing in the hunter class.

Another 37 to 38 yard shot. I placed my pins so that the 35 yard was at the top of the 10 ring and 40 was at the bottom of the 10 ring. The arrow dropped just right.

Making the hunter class distances more realistic will improve the scores for that class. Shorter distances can be interesting when natural obstacles are used to arrange targets. For example having a foam animal partially obstructed by a tree.

I understand that setting up a range is a fair amount of work. I’ve done it many times. It is easier just to stick targets ‘out there’ and pound some stake into the ground. I also know that archers should come to a 3D event expecting to compete under similar conditions to hunting especially when competing in a hunting class. Shooting at a javelina at 40 yards, for me, will generally result in a 10 so long as I get the distance correct. But, in real life, if I were to shoot at a javelina, I’d probably skip a 40-yard attempt.

Reference:

(1) http://forums.bowsite.com/tf/bgforums/thread.cfm?threadid=356206&forum=36

Going Down the Line

3D is more of a challenge for me that target shooting. That’s not to suggest that at either discipline there isn’t a great deal of hardship. Hitting the X ring whether it’s at 18 meters, 50 meters, 80 yards or hitting a 12 ring on a deer at 40 yards, each target offers unique requirements for a good shot. I don’t say a perfect shot. You don’t need a perfect shot to hit an X. A really good shot can hit the X. A perfect shot is a rare occurrence in my experience. So, to prepare for an upcoming 3D tournament I’ve been focused on foam animals.

Today, rather than practice on my targets I headed over to the Walton Public Dove and Field Archery Range near Social Circle, Georgia. There I could practice on targets I don’t own.

Because the targets are set up in a line, I started with a bison and worked my way down the line. Each target I shot at 40 yards. I shot each until all shots were in the 10 ring. The exception was the last target in the line, a turkey.

Shooting with pins and without magnification made the turkey a really tough bird.* I adjusted my practice for that target and shortened the distance to 35 yards. At 40 yards there was always at least one arrow in the 8 ring.

 

Of course, as part of my archery training, I did cardio as in running and riding. The morning trial run was uneventful. Riding brought me into close proximity with a dead deer and a feast on the dead.

*When it comes to 3D i prefer pins and a hunting rig.