Down to Eight

I start getting nervous when the arrow count falls below nine. I had a dozen. Two of them got cracked hitting something hard inside a 3D target. One was wasted on a Robin Hood. This morning another was ruined with a Robin Hood. I am now down to eight heading into two more days of practice before the ASA Pro/Am in Augusta.

The most recent ruined arrow happened at 25 yards. I was getting a bit worried about losing an arrow to another accident. There were only ten more shots left on the morning’s practice plan. It was hot, heading up to the low nineties, and I was starting to slow down.

I’d run earlier before the sun was too high, out on hard pack with River. I’d unloaded a truck and it time to practice archery. As the heat had become more intense I was clearly slowing down. Still, shooting three arrows at one point and two at another, I figured with it being hot, having been moving and working for hours it should lower the odds of another Robin Hood. Out of caution I shot at two of the targets my father-in-law keeps on his practice range.

When I heard the sound I thought, “Please just be arrows smacking.” Nope.

During 3D competition one arrow is frequently all that’s needed. Still, someone occasionally breaks another archer’s arrow or fletching gets shot off. I worry about being the guy on the losing end of those types of deals. I rather have more and not need them than have less and need more.

Signing With Black Eagle Arrows

Recently, I entered into an agreement with Black Eagle Arrows. The arrangement means I am considered on of their “Pro-Staffers.” They didn’t contact me, I asked them for the position.

The reason I reached out to Black Eagle Arrows is that I shoot their arrows. I also like their arrows. More importantly the company located in Canton, Georgia impressed me.

A year or so ago I had a problem with a few Black Eagle Arrows I’d ordered. The few arrived broken, obviously damaged during shipping. I was at the ASA in Augusta and marched the damaged arrows to the Black Eagle display booth. It was early and no one was yet at home. I had to get to work, so I found a fragment of paper, wrote a note, taped it to the arrows and figured that was the end of that.

After finishing the shooting for that day, I hiked over the Black Eagle booth. The hike over was more out of curiosity than anything. Having had a few interactions with other archery vendors at tournaments, I figured the arrows would have disappeared leaving behind no note or evidence they ever existed or I might hear a suggestion to take the problem up with the carrier that had delivered the arrows to my door. In the worst case I thought whoever was manning the booth would instruct me to call “Customer Service” whereupon my complaint would most surely vanish in a maze of button presses and awful telephonic music.

It turned out I was wrong. The Black Eagle representative seemed glad that I had returned. It nearly threw me off my game. My experience with archery company representatives at tournaments has mostly been a demonstrated hope that customers gaze in lust at their wares, don’t touch, don’t ask too many questions, and move on so as not to interfere with any celebrity archer that might chance a visit thus illuminating the booth with reflected glory.

Prepared to puff up my complaint, I was squashed before I could get rolling. The Black Eagle representative concurred that the arrows were damaged, likely during the shipping. The Mother Ship, in Canton, Georgia, had been notified and replacement arrows had already been shipped to my home in North Carolina. True to his word, when I returned to North Carolina, the replacement arrows had arrived.

I mentioned to a friend the broken arrow story. He suggested that I might write Black Eagle and request to be on their “Pro-Staff.” So, I did and in doing so made certain I played up that I’m a native Savannahian – they being located in Canton, Ga.

One never knows about mentioning Savannah. Occasionally, you do come across the person who recalls Savannah as one long bad St. Patrick’s Day they’d rather forget. Or you could be writing a person with the still bitter taste left by the speeding ticket earned while cruising Butler Avenue on Tybee. In this instance, being from Savannah didn’t seem to matter on way or the other. Black Eagle accepted my application without prejudice.

While reading their website I did find pictures of other archers being supported by Black Eagle. I also found the fellow that recommended I submit an application, his toothy smile in the spotlight. He never told me he was a big shot for Black Eagle, although he is well known as being a good shot with a bow.

I’ve purchased a pile of Black Eagle arrows. In fact, I don’t yet need any more of their products. They probably wonder why a new member of their “Pro” staff has yet to invoke his benefits. When I run low on arrows I’ll buy more, but until then I’ll try to keep them out of the weeds.

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.

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.

Dark versus Bright Vanes

When I started shooting a bow, 34 months ago, I took a shot a 3D archery. It was early September and I’d just purchased a Mathews Conquest Apex 7. I missed the very first target.

In that event the first shot I took with the bow was from a stand. It had stairs that led to a platform surrounded by railing to help prevent people from falling off the platform. I’d only shot the bow a few times and never from any elevation. My arrow sailed over the target.

Before the day was out I was hitting the foam pretty consistently – no more misses – shooting from the IBO “Hunter” distance at a maximum of 35 yards. Even at that distance using binoculars at times it was hard to see where my arrows hit.

One of the advanced guys shooting from the “Hunter” stake laughed at me when I mentioned it was hard to see arrow placement under the thickly leafed canopy. With the voice of experience and a bit of braggadocio he pointed out that his arrows were fletched with black and blue vanes.

From 45 yards, this is a tough arrow to see

He explained, “That way, when I have g good shot, it’s hard for others to line up on my arrow.” I understood his position of this strategy. After I lost, broke, or damaged the brightly vanned dozen of arrows I’d acquired when I made my Mathews purchase I followed his recommendation. I had black and blue vanes mounted on the arrows’ shafts. Overtime, I’ve come to my own conclusion regarding the camouflaged vanes. That is, I don’t like them.

Granted, if I do have a good shot another archer might end up aiming at my arrow. What I’ve learned is the archers that I shoot against are happy if I have a good shot and they are able to use my arrow as a reference. What I’ve experienced is that unless I shoot first and hit a center shot – the color of my vanes is somewhat irrelevant. See, all the guys I shoot against are so good my arrow has little impact on where they aim. My arrow might help, but probably not much.

Another reason I no longer have an affinity for dark vanes is because I can’t see them. If it was hard to see fletching at 35 yards maximum, at 50 yards maximum (3D) they are pretty much invisible. In field archery, maximum distance of 80 yards, well a spotting scope is better than my binoculars. (But, you aren’t going to haul a spotting scope around)

Arrows are more easily seen on days like this and venues like this

During a 50 meters outdoor shooting, I use my binoculars – I don’t own a spotting scope. But, those tournaments are in the bright sunlight (unless it’s overcast or raining) and then I can see my arrows.

I still have a lot of the dark vanes

When in the woods, using dark vanes, if the sun is bright and there is a break in the leaves and a ray of sunshine is just right there may be a refection off the bushing. Beyond that, there’s little chance that I can identify where my arrow hit when targets are out over 40 yards.

I like knowing where my arrows have landed sooner rather than later. Sure, I take some practice shots before I get on the range – when I can. I’ve been to shots where getting 4 practice shots is the best you can hope for. There have been times when I had no warm up shots. Furthermore, the practice range is often bright and that might have a slight impact on sighting compared to a darkened 3D tournament.

This photo is zoomed in a bit, but the group is clearly visible against this rifle target.  Having bright vanes makes it easier and faster to make fine adjustments.
Yep, you can see this group from a distance

When practicing alone being able to see my arrows is a key element for my improvement. Others may be fine not being able to see their arrows. One fellow once said to me, “It doesn’t matter after I’ve shot my arrow, it’s too late to do anything about it.” I disagree. If I’m off in practice, I can make corrections once I’ve identified exactly where my arrow hit. Granted, I somewhat know where my arrow is going to stick before it lands. But, it’s the small adjustments that can be discriminating.

Shooting today from 50 yards my brightly colored nocks seemed just about right. The group of them seemed to illuminate. If I lose an arrow because someone breaks a nock or Robin Hoods my arrow in a 3D tournament, well I am okay with that. In the meantime, I can see where my arrow lands.

Travel, Practice, Tournaments and Arrows

Between now and the USA Archery Outdoor National Championship there are a lot of 3D tournaments. The championship isn’t until July 12th – 16th. Neither style of archery event is a problem. However, there is a problem. Travel.

The last two weekends in May I travel to grandchildrens’ birthday parties and a social event for Memorial Day. While I look forward to both there will be no archery competitions. The first weekend in June there are two archery tournaments – one local one in Kentucky. I’ll probably compete in the local event. Kentucky means more travel.

There’s a shoot the second weekend of June, but I travel to race in an XTerra Triathlon. I am looking forward to the triathlon. I’ve never done an XTerra triathlon even though I have done a lot of mountain bike racing and a number of trail runs.

The third weekend in June we head back to Georgia to see Cirque du Soleil with one of our daughters and her family. That will be a quick trip. Travel.

I’d planned a 3D shoot in Maryland for the last weekend in June, but now the other daughter is coming for a visit with us on that weekend. We leave to return to Georgia on the 28th of May.

We’ll stay in Georgia for 15 days before heading to Decatur, Alabama for the Outdoor Nationals. For that trip we’ll bring the Winnebago and camp along the way. I’ll still be able to practice in Georgia.

All of the travel has led me toward a path of focus for the Outdoor Nationals. Any 3D along the way, now most of them derailed, will be for fun only. So, I began a new training plan with a primary object to shoot well at 50 meters.

Shooting well at 50 meters means changing arrows. With that in mind I’ve began a training plan that I hope will help me do well at the Nationals. First off was calibrating my sight and nocking point for skinny arrows.

In 3D and indoor shooting I use slightly fat arrows. Not the fattest one’s available. But, for cutting a line or pulling a line on foam fat is good. On the other hand, fat arrows are probably not the best choice for shooting over long distances in wind. Here on the coast of North Carolina, it is almost always windy and I need to practice out to 60 yards.

The only skinny arrows I own are Bemen. I bought them over a year ago, before I began shooting Black Eagle Challengers for 3D. The Challengers are a bit fatter than the Bemen ICS Hunter arrows. Checking on the Bemen website, it seems the model Bemen I am shooting is out of production since 2015. No problem, I have twelve of them, or I did.

While working my nocking point and sight to accommodate the Bemen arrows I was careful. That is, as my arrows began landing in the center of the target to stopped shooting the arrows and pulled them. Twelve arrows are not a lot.

I began at 20 yards and worked my way back to sixty. I didn’t do this in 5-yard increments since I had somewhat of an idea of where the yardages would be on the scope. Checking in 10-yard increments seemed okay. I’d kept notes on the Bemen arrows from the last time I’d shot them. My notes and my arrows hits indicated that I was close.

At sixty yards I put up a new target and got down to business. A new target is easier to see with my binoculars than on that’s full of holes.

My first shot was a bit high to the left. A click or two and the next arrow was closer. Since it was close there didn’t seem to be a need to adjust the sight. Another arrow would help determine whether the miss was me or was it how the bow was set.

That next arrow did clear-up the matter, it was not me, it was how I’d set the sight. A little high, a little to the left. Eleven Bemen arrows remaining.


I’m not certain I’ll use Bemen arrows for the Nationals, I might. I have eleven remaining. If I decide to use them I’ll need some more before July. I thought about trying the Black Eagle skinny arrows, but have no idea what to choose. With all the traveling, I think I’ll just stick with what I do know. It would be awful to get on the road and discover I’d made a mistake in ordering.

Better Than Expected – Thanks Black Eagle

Last week I discovered two arrows that had cracks in them. They’d never been shot. They were kept in a tube. They were without a doubt broken. The were Black Eagle Challengers.


They were two of a brand new dozen. I was disappointed. It turned out the discovery was made during the ASA in Augusta. Black Eagle had a booth there so I brought the arrows to their representative.

He promised the company would replace the arrows. He suggested the damge may have occurred in shipping since the cracks were in the same place on each arrow. Before I walked away he told me to send a message to their office regarding this matter. He had already altered the home office of the problem. I left him the arrows and to be honest figured that would be the last I’d ever hear about the broken arrows.

Once home I sent an email to the folks at Black Eagle explaining what had occurred in Augusta. Today, via priotiy mail I received the two replacement arrows and an additional ten arrows.


I’ve been debating a new dozen arrows for the USA Outdoor National Championships. When I order my arrows they will be one of the Black Eagle models.

You know, there is something to be said about a company that treats customers the way Black Eagle has treated me. Thanks!

More Busted Arrows

There was a time when I considered a Robin Hood and rare and cool event. Now, they are not so cool and expensive. In fact, I shoot to avoid them. The greatest risk of hitting one arrow with another, for me, is when I’m adjusting my sight.

When I’m aligning my sight I’ll shoot an arrow. If it misses the X I give my sight a twist or two and take another shot. Typically a second or third shot is all it takes. The risk here is I am aiming for the same X.

The arrows I am currently shooting are not the ones I’d requested. The ones I requested had nice little pin nocks and a nice solid stem in the bushing onto which the nock is placed. When I hit one of those, thus fair, all I’ve lost is the nock. But, when I picked up my new – expensive – arrows the builder had used a standard nock. I wasn’t happy, didn’t want the arrows, knowing that the nock and bushing might one day lead to a Robin Hood. Being in a hurry I accepted the arrows even with the wrong fletching, bushings, and nock. It was inevitable one day I’d bust one or more of those arrows.

Today was that day. I only needed a centimeter or so for a dead center shot. My first shoot was in the 10 ring  but wanted to be a tad closer to the center. I got lazy and didn’t retrieve the arrow. I thought I could slide the second arrow in next to the first. Nope.

There goes $25.00.

I knew better but still took a short cut. It ended up costing me two arrows. Seriously, the cool is gone.


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.