Dealing with Light and the Lack of It.

Previously, I’ve written about light absorption, how our eyes gather light, and archery. Occasionally, I end up on an indoor range where I can’t see a thing. This is a reality and it is going to continue to happen.

I often wear shooting glasses. Mostly I wear them for outdoor shooting, well exclusively for outdoor shooting. But, some articles I’ve read suggest the correctly tinted lens might be helpful regarding light absorption.

I don’t wear shooting glasses on every shot, primarily when the sun is a problem. I’d like to wear them all the time, but the light on every shoot is not always the same.  Even though I have multiple shades of lens, I can’t worry with changing them to match every level of illumination. It’s too much to worry with in competition. So, I keep the dark shades installed.

Outdoors they have saved me more than once. Indoors is another matter.

Many of the indoor tournaments where I shot the lighting has been good. Some are better than others. Lately, all my practice has been outside. I went indoors this week and was shocked.

I know I need to practice on the range where I trained yesterday simply because of the poor lighting. The targets are arranged beyond the overhead lights and they have a bit of shadow cast upon them. I can’t see squat in there. It good training for the day I end up in competition and the lights are poorly situated. But, it is frustrating.

As we age we have a disadvantage in that our eyes don’t gather light as well as they did in our youth. I understand that some tinted lenses can help with light gathering. I think I’ll begin experimenting with the tinted lenses I own to see of it helps.

Running: That Was Gross

It was time to break down and purchase a new pair of running shoes. Generally, I keep a half dozen on hand and I rotate them. Plus, when they get really beaten down, they feel better to me. The rotating isn’t so much to prolong the life of the shoe as it is to prevent stink.  In addition, running in the morning my feet frequently get wet.  Wet shoes suck.

That’s probably not how you should treat shoes. That is, running the tread off. Shoe manufactures have all sorts of recommendations on the wear of the sole of a shoe and when to replace them. Those recommendations have not taken hold on me.

Once, back in the ‘80s I had a pair of Nike Pegasus that fell apart after about six weeks. I called Nike and complained. The product manager I spoke with asked how many miles I was running a week. When I told him he laughed and said be was surprised they lasted that long. The laughter was my only reward for the complaint. (I don’t run that much any longer)

Getting new running shoes is a treat. These new shoes are Newtons. I’ve been running in them as well as Nike, Asics and Zoots. To add to that list I have a pair of the Five-Finger running by Vibram. All of them are pretty much pounded to pulp. Hence, new shoes.

I selected the replacement pair, the Newtons, because I think they idea for archery. Whether they are or not is only a guess. But the toe box cushion on the shoe does, seemingly, help me feel my feet as I am preparing to shoot. Too much heel and I feel like I’m rocking backwards. But, as far as that goes, I’ve got work boots that seem to feel just as good.

At any rate, this rant isn’t so much about footwear and shooting. It’s about what happened while running this morning.

Running down the road, Coco (a Labrador retriever that joins the run nearly every morning) was headed out the door. Her owner was saying good morning to me and I was calling back the greeting. As such, I was not watching the road. While calling to Coco’s owner and waving I stepped on something. It felt unfamiliar.

Now, I run a good bit and do so nearly every day. As such, I’ve stepped into a lot of crap. (Crap in general, not necessarily specific, but that too is true) This foot contact was unusual and unknown.

When I looked back to see what it was I’d stepped on – it was a snake. My stepping on the snake had not immediately killed it; certainly it didn’t improve its health.

What are the odds? Thankfully, it was not poisonous and only about a foot long. But – damn.

Dot-less in NC

Among my problems, specific to shooting a bow, is a lack if vision. No, not the sports psychology commandment to visualize yourself as a 60X Champion. Nope, it’s a matter of not being able to line up the pin I use for aiming under low-light conditions.

Outside a single pin using ambient light absorption to illuminate a monofilament is fine. In 3D, should ambient light fail battery operated light is an excellent back up. But, for 18-meter indoor under, as I understand the USA Archery rules, supplemental light is barred from competition.

At times, for me too many times, indoor ranges where I’ve shot are poorly lighted. Many times, the targets are walled up distal to the overhead fluorescent bulbs humming above leaving them dimly luminous. The result for me is that my aiming pin is a mere shadow. For an experiment, I decided to go back to a dot and see how that worked.

All my dots are orange. I have no idea why I ordered orange. The black dots I once owned have been swallowed into the abyss of missing archery, cycling, running and swimming gear. There’s also a pile of nice sunglasses in that void. I wanted black dots.

During my last trip to Georgia, Steve, the bow technician at Social Circle’s Ace hardware had me shoot one of his bows. His scope was equipped with black dots. Those dots seemed very crisp. The range also had great lighting. Hence, I wanted to try block dots on my scope.

I ordered a package of Precision Archery Scope dots from Lancaster Archery Supply. These are the same brand I’d used in the past. In this package, however, I received dots that refused to adhere to the lens. So, it was back to the single pin and praying for a little luck with light.

(New Black Dots are in the mail!)

Releases

I shoot with three difference releases. Using those releases my anchor point has nearly limitless possibilities. Therein lays a multitude of problems.

Whether I’m shooting a hinge or thumb trigger makes no difference in my scoring. Where I anchor does make a difference. To complicate that variance the shifts in scoring advantage of specific anchor points is inconsistent. It isn’t so much the anchor point rather it seems to be the angle of my hand at that point.

Some archers shoot with their hand nearly vertical palm out against their anchor point. Others shoot at a somewhat 45° angle while some choose a nearly level hand position. I’ve played around with all of those angles and many in between.

With a thumb I am slightly more consistent when my hand is at a 45°. Shooting a hinge the more vertical aspect seems to produce more consistent shots. What I find most comfortable is a thumb release. Plainly it is easier to draw, hold, aim and release the arrow using the thumb release I own. The problem with the thumb release I own is the travel before it triggers. Both of my hinge releases are free of that issue.

In searching for a new more target archery specific thumb release I landed on a TruBall product that seems a more representative device to answer my needs. Then, there’s the price.

Tru-Ball Blade Pro

I continue to pull up the TruBall Blade for an online purchase. When I consider the price that is where I can’t pull the trigger.

Where Did My Mojo Go?

Six weeks ago my average on 3-spot had been 564. During the past six weeks it has dropped rather than increase. My current average is 556.

I predicted by now I’d be approaching a higher average. Out of desperation I changed over to a hinge release thinking that might help. It didn’t.

I’ve added more weight to my bow and had it balanced. No improvement.

I changed my sight from a 4X to a 6X. Nope, still the same.

For the most part the nines are not wild. They’re just not tens.

Out of 180 arrows today, less than half were tens – 60 tens. There were four eights and all others were nines. This count excludes 18 unscored arrows used as warm-up shots between practice sessions.

On the positive side, I shot my best on the last 60 arrows – 562. But, I needed to go back to a thumb release to hit that score. Still a long way from where I am aiming.

Lots of Changes

There are a number of changes I am working through at the moment. Mechanically the major process change is how I’ve been drawing and loading. My friend, Big John Chandler, a USA Archery Level 4 Coach, worked with me at his location in Social Circle, Georgia this past week, and made a few recommendations on my mechanics.

Big John working with one of his students at the indoor range located in the Ace Hardware, Social Circle, GA.

Among the earlier changes I’ve, once again, switched from a thumb to hinge. The hinge I’m am practicing with is an old Scott Black Hole Three. I’ve used it as my primary release before changing to a thumb on the suggestion of a coach. His belief was that the advances in a thumb release surpassed the current state of development with hinge releases. I have no idea which release is best, I shoot about the same scores with either release – most of the time. There are days where one release seems to be working for me better than the other.

What Big John noticed was how I worked my scapula into its final position. So, I am modifying my draw and loading sequences based on his recommendations.

John also noticed my bow was out of balance. It had been balanced using the hit or miss technique and never placed into an official balancing scale. Balancing included adding another 8.2 ounces of weights. In addition, I increased the lens strength on my scope from a 4X to a 6X.

Those changes are a lot to work on all at once. It seems I was pretty far off on having me gear and technique on a proper path.

The X-Count is Killing Me

A five spot seems like an easy target. The X-ring is huge. Shooting a five is practically a no brainer. A 300 score is a given.

Compared to the NFAA Indoor Nationals in the Professional Men’s Division, my 300 scores don’t mean a thing. Even a 60 X, in the case of the mentioned tournament, hitting the X 120 times means you are competitive. You need to drop down 16 places among the pro men before you find the first missed X out of 120 arrows per archer. My averages over the past few months lands me around 106th place in the men’s professional class.

5-Spot scores since January 2014

You simply can’t miss the X on a 5-spot be remain competitive at a National level among the top professional archers.

And on a personal level, it doesn’t matter. It is the 60Xs I want and as yet haven’t mastered archery to the point where I’ve obtained the mark. Over 120 arrows I’ll score 600 points, but only hit on the mid-80s when it comes to X-count.

X-count over the past few months

Occasionally, an arrow misses the X that for all over indicators, I think, it should have been an X. I walk  up to the 5-spot to pull arrows and see a shot that has missed the line. Not off by a mile, just off. Certainly, a blown shot could easily lead to a blueberry, 4 points rather than 5. That’s rare, but it can still happen. It can happen to anyone. A momentary brain-fart and there’s an arrow smack in the middle of the blue rings.

There are times on poorly illuminated ranges were my single pin does not pick of enough light to radiate. During those shoots I rely on the shadow of the pin to take aim. Not a good way to go.  Makes me wonder whether I’ve chosen the best dot (in my case a single mono-filament pin) to use for lining up my sight. The sight issue extends to my other gear.

I honestly don’t now what is best for me. Partly because during the past four years, four weeks and 10 days of trying to become a competitive archer I’ve probably not gotten the best technical advice available.  Some advice has been good, some has been seriously bad to down right wrong. Too often advice seems more like a sales lead toward a purchase starting with a new bow.  I don’t think I’ve ever walked into a bow shop where someone didn’t try to sale me a new bow.

There is a point where equipment does become a factor in success. Maybe, I’m at that point. For example, the bow I use isn’t exactly a target bow, or a 3D bow, or a hunting bow. It’s a very good general-purpose bow.

It’s a bit short axil-to-axil for targets, kind of slow for 3D and a little too long axil-to-axil for hunting. But, it shoots nice. The let off might be too much for optimal stability. Honestly, I don’t know. What I do know, it is time to look into equipment changes or adjustments that might improve accuracy beyond the archer.

There are certainly better releases than what I use.  The “better” releases must be better, they cost about twice as much as what I paid for mine.  But, mine feels good in my hand.  The trigger is so lethargic that I can put pressure on it, move it, change my mind, stop and start over without the arrow releasing. This obviously is a reference to a release other than my hinge releases.

I really enjoy shooting with a hinge.  I’d do it all the time if there was only a way to set the release point so that it is just right.  Mind hinge release does not have any calibration marker for setting the release point.

Currently, the hinge release is too hot.  You may have the temperament to fidget with a release to get it just right.  If so, good for you.  Mine has been so frustrating I sent it back to the manufacturer begging for help.

I’ve got all sorts of questions about arrows. The last ones I had made for 18-meter shooting were changed by the builder and I was sent a different spine and tip weight.  When I asked about the changes, he said, “Oh, I changed that because I thought it would be better?” Really? How did you come up with that thought? I had to pay before I got the arrows.  He had my money. I had something I hadn’t ordered because the builder had a thought.  He assured me he was an expert.  Months later, without refreshing his memory we spoke again.  His opinion of himself had expanded, my opinion of him diminished.

Frankly, I know what I am shooting is not the best.  I am shooting what I is probably the best I could come up with. But, I know, from decades of competition in other sports, I am at a point where equipment is becoming a factor. Maybe some equipment tweaking will bring that X count up a few points. Or maybe, not.

(To my good friend Bumper – The arrows mentioned above are NOT ones you built. This is about those arrows build by someone else and you had to replace 100% of the vanes.  To the reader, a dozen arrows 36 vanes fell off upon arrival. Caveat emptor.)

Wishing for more than one bow.

I had to switch arrows the other day. With only one bow, switching arrows means re-sighting the bow for the different arrows. Which, in turn for me, means shooting a block from various yardages from 20 to 50 yards in order to select a yardage tape that most closely interacts with the sight calibrations and the pre-printed yardage tape. It is a royal pain in the ass.

The process eats away at practice time.  It is slow and tedious.  There are  athletes that love fidgeting with their gear.  I stand apart from that crowd.

Some archers select 3 known yardages to measure against a tape. I use 7: 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50. It can be done with three or so I’ve been told. Even better it can be done using a computer program to customize the yardage tape if you have access. I don’t have access to such technology.

The reason for the switch was an indoor 2D event in Elizabeth City, North Carolina at PGF Outdoors and Archery. Not knowing what they’d planned, whether they’d have all the paper animals pinned up at 20 yards or whether they’d have targets from 10 to 25 yards, I figured I might want to make some sight adjustment during the event. As it turned out, I missed the competition in order to attend a funeral.

Honestly, I could have probably done just as well having left the bow set up for indoor 18-meters and using slight elevation adjustments aiming the pin to compensate for any yardage variance.

When I raced bikes I had plenty of bikes. Two for mountain biking, two for track, three for triathlons, and seven road bikes. These bikes weren’t cheap. Heck, some of the wheels (or in the case of a single rear disk wheel) cost more than any compound bow on the market. My top end tri-bike, with its super components and racing wheels is a $10,000 rig. The thing is, I didn’t pay nearly that much for it. My most expensive bike, at today’s price of $12, 499.00, listed for $7000.00 in 2001 when I got it from Trek. I was on one of their racing teams so the price didn’t apply to me. Yet, I have only the one bow.

To be fair, there are two bows in my shed. One is the first real bow I bought. In my opinion it is un-shootable. It’s a Mathews Conquest Apex-7 now out of production. I understand a lot of archers were very successful with it. For some reason, that success never filtered over to me. I even sold that bow once and the new owner kept for a few months before returning it to me. His experience with the bow no better than mine. In fact, his time trying to shoot that bow led to enough frustration that he gave up the sport for a while. When he began shooting again he was using a traditional bow.

I’ve always maintained, from the day I bought that Mathews Conquest Apex 7, at full price, that it didn’t shoot right. To this day, I believe there is something not right with the bow. I frequently pull it down, shoot with it, and have some limited success.  It never lasts.  It was the only bow I had for competition for years. But, it never felt right. I took it to shop after shop seeking a remedy.  Most shops had little to offer.  Eventually I got a lukewarm confirmation from a Mathews dealer that the bow was somehow fouled, it was too late to return the bow to Mathews. The dealer was less interested in helping me with the Apex-7 than selling me a new Mathews bow in order to improve my game.

“Yes, this bow isn’t right”, shop’s technician.

“So, can you fix it,” me.

“No, Mathews has to do it and your bow is outside the warranty. You are better off buying this new Mathews bow.”

I did buy another bow, from a different shop.  My scores improved immediately.

After years of getting bikes for free or at cost it is hard to pay full price for any sports gear. I’ve still got cycling clothing in the original packaging that it was in when shipped to me. Teams gave me more than I’d ever use. But, it would be nice to have more than one bow.

Ideally, there would be one bow for field archery and 50-meters, one for indoor, and one for 3D and hunting. Ideally, they’d all stay sighted for the arrows used for each venue. All bows, of course, with the corresponding stabilizers and sights. That way, I could just grab one and shoot whatever venue I wanted or needed. You know, like hopping on the right bike for the occasion.

Perhaps, one day I’ll shoot a bow as well as I once peddled a bicycle. On that day, just maybe some bow manufacturer will take notice and who knows, I could end up with more than one bow. But, forking out money for more archery equipment simply rubs me the wrong way.

Personally, I think people who change their bow every six months are people wasting their money. That opinion is less likely to endear a bow manufacturer to my cause. Heck, I suffered with a somehow fouled bow for two years before I decided the poor scores couldn’t be entirely me. The new bow and immediate improvement was the validation to that 24-month debacle.

I’ve heard that the top professionals can shoot any bow. Sure I can shoot any bow. I suppose it has a lot to do with knowing your form and release. Either way, I’d still like more than one bow. But, remain tight fisted on my cash. As so, I’ll be frequently adjusting my sight to deal with a change in venue and arrow.

 

Buttermilk Creek Archery, Burlington, NC

I travel a lot to attend archery tournaments. During those travels it is often necessary to stop at a local archery shop. You can image, not all archery shop’s staffs are created equally.

Certainly, any archery shop where you might stop will be happy to sale you something. There are times, however, when it is just fun to go in and look around. Who knows, you might even find something that you can’t live without.

A couple of months ago I was on the road preparing for a competition. Loading up my gear in the dark I made a mistake and left my quiver, loaded with arrows, leaning against the side of my truck when I backed it away. I heard a crunch. I needed more arrows in a hurry.

The closest archery supply shop had arrows. I bought them. The person I bought them from was so full of himself that I had to bite my tongue, get the arrows and get out before I said anything that might lead to problems.

Other times the experience of a new archery shop and it’s employees or owners is fun. That was my experience in Burlington, North Carolina at Buttermilk Creek Archery.

I was there for the NC State 50-Meter State Championship. Buttermilk Creek has an outdoor range and was hosting the event.

One of the first impressions I had was ‘this place is big.’ It was also cool, I mean it was hot outside and they had great air conditioning. I wasn’t there for the AC. In fact, I was there the day before the tournament. I wanted to be certain I could find then range before I needed to be there.

The shop was a shooter’s paradise. Their products were well displayed so that you didn’t need to rummage about to find things. They are a complete outfitters store.

I was also impressed with the bows on display. Not just compound bows, but also they had a large display of recurve bows. If the bow shop where I bought my first bow, a compound, had had recurves, I’d be shooting a recurve today.

Buttermilk Creek had recurves. There were several clearly not new recurves hanging on a wall next to their indoor range. On the second day of the tournament I asked if those bows were for sale, they weren’t. The bows all had owners. Still I wanted to try out a recurve. All I had to do was ask.

CJ

CJ, one of the store’s staff, had one of the bows hanging on the wall in my hand before I knew it. He might have been trying to sale me a bow. It seemed more like he was happy to let me shoot. Before long CJ was shooting as well. Nathan, another shop employee was providing instruction and I was enjoying the shooting. Remember, I’m there for a tournament, I’ve got more shooting planned and not with a recurve. It did not matter, it was too much fun.

Nathan

Finally, I put down the recurve. Shooting is still shooting and well shooting so I figured I might need to stay focused. In the long run it didn’t matter. In the short run I nearly left with a recurve in my hand. It was seriously tempting to buy one. In fact, I’ll probably buy one soon. When I do, I’ll likely call Buttermilk Creek and order one from them.

I left Buttermilk Creek wishing I could have stayed longer. I made one purchase, Viper arrow lubricant. Thus far, of the dozens of archery shops I’ve visited they are one of the friendliest in addition to having a nice range of equipment and supplies.

Well, all seems right in the Universe

It’s exciting! Brand new fresh arrows. Not a single tip flattened. No cut or shot through vanes. No paint scrapes. Shinny new. You can’t wait to shoot them.

After the first end you go to retrieve your new arrows. This seems to happen every time. At least the arrow wasn’t ruined.

Never fails. All is right in the universe.