Shooting Cold

Getting a warm-up before a tournament is possible most of the time. There are those events where the warm-up might happen an hour or more before actual scoring begins. There are, although rare, competitions where getting properly warmed-up simply does not happen.

I’ll take this a 32-yards any day

At the IBO World Championship there are two qualifying rounds before the final 10 shots taken by the top finishers. At the two IBO World Championships I’ve entered warm-up time was pushed, targets were crowded, and the 3D practice (Defense ranges) ranges were backed up and extremely slow.

This morning I decided to take a 20 target 3D practice round with no warm-up shots. The targets would be approached tournament style – no range finder. What I wanted was to establish a baseline of how I might shoot without a warm-up and at difficult targets.

First shot of the day was okay right and left, but a tad high

I tried to make the shots as competitively realistic as I could imagine. One thing I can’t control, the weather, may have been a bit unrealistic for Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, where the IBO contest will be held this year. Here, in New Hope, North Carolina this morning, the temperature was 103°F with the heat index. Hot and humid to say the least.

My score was not great. The maximum I shot in this practice was 47 yards with a range from 20 yards (one shot at a small bobcat) out to 47 yards. The average distance was 35.6 yards with nine shots greater than the average, 37 to 47 yards.

A short shot at 27 yards

My sad score was 173 or 8.65 points per target. Comparing that score to the field of archers from the 2015 IBO World Championship I would have finished 42nd. The winner in 2015 averaged 10.5 points per target.

However, that 27 yard turkey was placed about right to make the shot a challenge

When I compared the first 10 shots to the second 10 it seems that a warm-up helps. The first 10 arrows yielded a score of 8 points per target at an average distance of 33.4 yards. The second ten arrows resulted in an average of 9.3 points per target at an average distance of 37.8 yards. Interestingly, the second set of arrows, targets 11 – 20, had a score that would have jumped me from 42nd place in 2015 to 22nd place.

The shadows at 47 years are a real burden

This exercise tells that in my case I shot better after I’d warmed-up a bit. In 3D, it seems to me, there are two warm-up requirements, one for archery form the other for distance judging. In the worst case, a tournament without any chance to warm-up, it’s likely good practice to develop enough skill so that shooting cold can be done well.

Fireball Archery

retro-cartoon-flaming-arrow-37582673Yesterday the heat index was 115°F. Right now the temperature has dropped to 107°F with the heat index. Early, when I was on the range it was 98°F without the heat index. That’s toasty and I was sweating like the pig that knows its dinner.

When I practice or compete in this heat I pay extra attention to hydration. I’d rather have the heat than the cold, but man it is hot. Add running or cycling (or both) to a couple of hours of shooting and I’ll admit, I am fried. Not too fried to not go out a shoot some more once I cool down.

Deliberate Practice – Yardage Repeats

Most of my practice sessions have a goal, a specific aim for the time spent on a range. Granted, sometimes I simply go out and shoot for fun. Since I shoot a lot I give myself periods of recreational archery.

Because I started archery late in life, less than 3 years ago, and I take it more seriously than a fun hobby, I need to do things that will rapidly improve my performance. As I’ve mentioned in the past there are only two sports where someone over 50 years old can become an elite: shooting and archery.

Some data suggests the process of becoming an elite athlete in any sport can take a decade. Other data indicates that’s not necessary true citing examples of athletes earning Gold Medals at the Olympics after only a few years of training at a specific new sport. Currently, I’m reading a book about a fellow, Rich Roll, an unfit 40 year old that became a World Champion at an Ultra distance triathlon at age 42. That does seem rare and extreme.  In sports, I think there is a practical and achievable middle ground to achieve excellent – that is it is not 10 years and not 2 years for the most part. My best guess is that it takes 4 – 6 years for a novice archer (never have shot a bow) to reach a level of elite status (depending on the archer’s age and physical fitness) if sound training and some science is applied to performance development.

Going out and shooting at targets can make a novice shooter better. It is unlikely that technique is going to turn a novice into a bono fide professional level archer. In order to reach the highest level of archery, aside from good coaching and lots of practice, having a training regime is critical.

At times, as part of a customized training schedule, deliberate practice can be a bit boring. Today’s morning practice fit the criteria for being a tad on the dull side of shooting.

Four arrows shot from 45 yards. Yes, the group is tight, but it’s easier to group them when I’ve been working at 5-yard increments.

Here’s how it went (specific for 3D in this case): First, 30-arrow warm-up on paper from 20 to 40 yards. Next, shoot small 3D targets (badger, bobcat and a turkey). Start at 20 yards and shoot 4 arrows, repeat at 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 yards. Finally repeat that sequence on larger 3D targets (a bear and a deer). In total that’s 170 shots.

What this does, for me, is to provide a feel for the distances I come across in 3D tournaments. This afternoon, I shot only about 40 arrows, 30 at paper to check my sight followed by 10 more shots, one arrow per 3D animal target.  I’ll finish with 3D and having a light workout in the afternoon.  This will allow time for recovery prior to tomorrow’s competition.  It also leaves me with the last targets I’ve seen being 3D.

The key objective for this practice day was working on yardage. I finished the day with over 200 arrows shot.  I don’t always set an arrow count as a goal.  Some of my practice days there is a specific quantity of arrows I’ll shoot. Other days, the practice is based on time.  But, today the focus was on yardage.

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.

Short Shots and a Little Trash Can Ingenuity

It takes a while to mow the field where I shoot here in Tignal. The field was being mowed when I headed out to practice. I ended up working on my short game.

This target is only 21 to 25 yards out depending on where I stand. The target was a rifle target – these are often more easily found at sporting good shops. The center ring and the Xs are a lot smaller than a standard 5-spot.

A little trash can ingenuity needed to level the block

One advantage to shooting short shots is it takes less time to fire 70 to 100 arrows. Walking 42 yards round trip is faster than making a 160-yard round trip trek. But, long shots are so cool.

After around 90 minutes I stopped shooting. I’ll get the long shots in when I come back from mountain bike riding.

Toasty and a Hungry Bird

It’s 97°F, that’s hot. It was hot when I practiced this morning, not yet 97, but close. It’s going to still be hot when I shot again after I finish this post. Typically, I write these posts at night. Today, I’m typing a little earlier to share what happened during the morning practice.

Started off shooting to the right of center

The target I’m shooting sits in a chair in a small dip. Without the chair the target can’t be seen once the distance reaches 43 yards. The ground isn’t level and there’s a hump that makes the target invisible when you start adding yardage if its not on the chair.

This was a drill. I set my sight for the center. Then, walk back 5-6 yards and shoot. The low arrow is the mark when I’m off 5-6 yards. Then, I walk forward, not moving the sight. Finally, I pass the center shot and end up shooting high. Gives me some idea of what happens when I’m off a few yards.

There still isn’t a lot of variance in the topography. To make shots have more of a slope I stand on trailers used to haul tractors.

While standing on one of these flat bed trailers I heard a buzzing sound. I looked down and there was a humming bird searching the nocks on my arrows for nectar. I’ve seen some unusual things outside but that was a first. This little bird was putting its beak into the each nock on the hunt for sweetness. Sadly, it was disappointed and flew off.

Without the chair this target is below the horizon.

Back to the heat:  Brenda just informed me it is 107 with the heat index. Yep, this afternoon is going to be toasty.

Practicing Long Shots in the Heat

Well, it is hot in Georgia. The past few days have been in the mid-90’s. Tomorrow we’ll be shooting outside in Madison and it promises to be a scorcher.

The practice field here in Tignal

The start time for the competition on Saturday is 2:30 PM. After naptime, which is good and reaching peak thermal exposure.

Zoomed photo of the target from 60 yards

On Saturday we’ll be shooting 72 arrows from 50 meters. I’ve been practicing here on a field. I can get a clear shot out to 80 yards. I limited practice to 70 yards and focused on 60 yards. It’s a little further than the distances for Saturday and the USA Outdoor Nationals. My hope is that by practicing a more difficult shot maybe 50 meters will feel easier.

That might do

The other factor I’m practicing in is the weather. Both upcoming events will be hot and there is no doubt practice has been hot.

Putting 3D on a Back Burner for a Few Weeks

If off of 3D for a while.  Back to shooting dots.  Over the next few weeks I’ll do an outdoor tournament in Madison, Georgia before heading over to Decatur, Alabama for the USA Outdoor Nationals.

Brenda is coming with me on this trip.  We’re bringing River and Nixie.  All of us will be packed into our 21-foot long Minnie Winnebago.  It will be an adventure.

On the road – again

Before I hit the road I needed new arrows.  I tried to get the “skinny” arrows similar to those the big boys shoot.  That didn’t quite pan out and I’ll be shooting my old standby Beman ICS Hunter arrows.

I had eight of them and bought another 1/2 dozen at Winks Sporting Goods in Princess Anne, Maryland.  CJ Wink, also changed the tips and vanes so the arrows ‘mostly’ match. Two were older and a different length so they were eliminated from my pile of arrows.

The concern is that these “fatter” arrows may have be a slight detriment over a longer distance outdoors.  Both of these upcoming outdoor competitions are at 50 meters.  But, I can only shoot what I have on hand.

Well, that’s a pretty good start

Before I got on road, I gave the Beman’s a try.  Shooting all the arrows at the exact same point is risky.  Twelve should be fine.

Do this twice in a row and there’s a good change one arrow gets busted.


Back in the woods getting a fix on yardage.

3 shots and one busted nock

I have a range finder. It provides fair estimate of yardage. At times I regret ever using one. It’s probably better to never use the gadget and learn to make the yardage measurement accurately without electronic support.

Well, that little ring is filled

Today, I didn’t use range finder. I think it can become a crutch. Using one all the time makes me feel less confident in my yardage assessment.

This little critter is beginning to show up a lot in 3D

Not using a range finder was a bit more fun than when I use one in practice. To make certain I wouldn’t become tempted, just to take a peek, the range finder wasn’t on the practice field.

I’d rather bust a nock than break a arrow
Dime sized center shots are tough

You know, I think I shot better without the ranger finder.

River pacing the distance for me. Sadly, I could not understand what she was trying to bark. Maybe she was barking, “It’s 47 yards” or “Give me a treat”

Re-tuning on 3D


It was so humid I had dew forming on my arms

The past month or so archery has been focused on shooting known distances while preparing for and competing in the NFAA Sectional. There was one 3D tournament, with unknown distances,  I’d hoped to compete in during this interval, but it was canceled due to weather. So, this morning’s practice was in the woods working on yardage.

A little bit tough
Three positions from 37 to 48 yards

You know what they say; if you don’t use it you lose it. It wasn’t too bad judging yardage. I did, however, lose one arrow shooting at a mountain lion target 50 yards out.

Looking back from the deer towards where I left my bow

Aside from that one shot the others were okay. Even so, I had yardage correct on that missed lion shot. Fifty yards is pretty long and the arch of my arrows is noticeable at that distance. I might have hit a low hanging limb when going for that mountain lion. All the other fifty yarders were on target.

These were pretty tight at 50 yards

IMG_5187In these woods, there is an abundance of snakes. I practiced for three hours and forty-five minutes and didn’t see snakes today. Water moccasins are plentiful this year. As a result we’ve already shot eight if those aggressive vipers hanging around our dock, on the bulkhead and in these woods. When I go into that thicket I bring a little pistol in the event I walk up on a poisonous snake. I leave the harmless ones alone.

This bug is a bugger to hit

Granted, I do have a bow and arrows with me. But, when it comes to a snake that could kill me I’ll take whatever advantage I can get. Plus, when I go to pull arrows, I may not have any more in my quiver or my bow might not be in my hand. I keep the revolver on my hip – just in case.

You know there will be a turkey sitting out at 40 yards
If it’s not a turkey at 40 yards it’s that bobcat at 35

What I wanted to do today was shoot the same target from around 20 yards to 50 yards. I shoot each faux-critter about eight times each at a variety of points near and far. I also changed the angles and positioned myself so that the targets weren’t all straight ahead. There are eleven foam animals on the range, which meant around 88 or so shots excluding my warm-up on a flat paper target.

This afternoon I’ll repeat this practice session and continue with this form of practice until Friday. On Friday I’ll be headed to Maryland for an IBO Qualifier.

And this is why I like pin nocks with those posts. Another arrow saved.