Shed Shooting

It was cold and windy this morning. Not real cold and not real windy. The combination, however, was enough to hurt.

Of course, in the cold, we can bundle up. The problem I have with the bundling is that it makes for weird shooting.

The solution, when there’s not indoor range open, is to do ‘Shed Shooting.’

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‘Shed Shooting’ is pretty darn nice. Its name is an apt description. I shoot from a shed out toward the target. The shed is really nice. It blocks the wind and has heat.

Progress at 18-Meters

I keep extensive records of my archery practice. Today, I looked back over the past 3 years to evaluate the changes at 18-meters.

In October of 2013, a month after I’d purchased a Mathews Conquest Apex 7; I scored a 447 shooting a 3-spot. At the time the score was based on the larger inner ring being 10 points. (The old USA Archery Scoring)

That is the scoring system I used until switching to the current USA scoring where the former X ring and the next ring where both valued a 10. Today only the smallest ring is a 10.

With the old scoring method in October 2014 I shot a 539. That turned out to be my largest increase in score; consistent with advancement in a new sports disciple. The following October (2015 for non-math folks) my score was 551, still using the old scoring system.

The new scoring system makes hitting 10 a little more difficult. It further complicates data analysis – trying to monitor new versus old scoring methods and improvement. Nevertheless, for November 5, 2016 the score is 570 or 30Xs and 30 nines. It’s not my best score under the new rules, the best score was 584. I don’t include that score because it remains an outlier.

The jumps in annual score between the 1st and 2nd year was 90 points, between years two and three there was a 12 point gain, and the current jump is 19 points.

The final 30 points, 570 to 600, don’t seem impossible. The percentage difference is 5%. When I measure size of the groups, the holes left my arrows, they are getting tighter. In other words there are less wide nines and more nines that are closer to the penny-sized 10 rings. Equipment has made a difference as well as 36 more months of practice.

Until recently I had been shooting an improperly set stabilizer system. Believe me when I say don’t trust the sales person to set up your equipment unless you’re totally confident. I was so naïve I trusted everyone that spoke the archery language.

A new coach during our first lesson pointed out I had an incorrect stablilizing system.

The stabilizers, the same brand – Bee Stinger, where switched to more appropriate length and weight. The average scores since the change is 6 points higher than the last corresponding scores. That comes to a 2% improvement.

I am still shooting 3D arrows at 18-meters. I have new ones ordered. Aside from practice where I can gain another percentage point or two, I am looking for changes in equipment that might add a percentage point or two. I am trying to reduce my need from 5% to 0%.

I think there is another 2% can be gained from equipment adjustments. (Arrows specific for 18-meters and a target arrow rest versus a hunting 3D style arrow rest) This could mean an average score of 581.4. More practice with those changes (and the strictly back tension hinge) needs to reach the remaining 3% improvement.

Wind Chases Me Into the Woods

The past couple of days have been models for archery. The sun was just right, warm but not too warm, and the wind was totally absent. Last night  that changed. A cold front brought in heavy rain and wind that reeked vengeance on the reminder of what had been an otherwise calm week.

There was no time to drive into Elizabeth City to practice on the indoor range at PGF Outdoors. See, my wife, Brenda, has been out of town visiting friends on Mystic Island, Connecticut. Before she returned it seemed like a good idea to restore the house from a temporary bachelor pad back to the home she’d left.

In addition, she’d been eating seafood a lot, you know lobster and such, while on northern coast and I wanted to prepare for her a delicious red meat meal. I’d decided on beef bourguignon, wild rice, Brussels sprouts and fresh baked bread.

So, I cleaned, prepped food and began cooking. Those activities meant staying home and dealing with the wind.

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Ready to go

It was obvious that shooting at 18-meters would be futile. Instead, I headed to the 3D range where I hoped the remaining Fall leaves would help block the worst of the gale.

I don’t shoot the same arrows for 18-meters as I do for 3D. That meant re-sighting my Elite Energy 35 for the shorter lighter arrows. I made a quick twist of the windage and took a shot aimed at a point on a block target. The arrow landed within a millimeter of where I’d aimed. Figuring that was a good sign I headed over a path that led to my 3D targets.

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Shoot 3 arrows, pull, repeat, then back up 5 yards

The 3D exercise was not as much fun as shooting and moving. The revised training plan was to shoot individual targets at 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 yards. At each yardage increment shoot 3 arrows, retrieve them and repeat at the same distance then move to the next point. Essentially, this is yardage practice.

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This target sits on the edge of the woods. To the right it’s open to the river. This is the least protected part of the range.

Even in the woods the wind made shooting a challenge. No doubt, it was not as frustrating, as shooting in the open would have been.

Mental Error

I was ready to practice this morning.  I was shooting outdoors at 18-meters.  The was little wind.  The light was perfect.

I lined up for the first warm-up shot. I went through my mental process.  I drew back an arrow. I put the dot in the middle and it was holding steady.

The hinge released and I felt a perfect follow through.

My ear told me milliseconds before my eyes confirmed it.  I heard the arrow sailing away.  Not a poor shot.  The shot was great. But, I knew I’d never find that arrow.

The last arrow I shot the evening before was at a target 85-yards away.  The first shot of the morning 18-meters.

Not for the first time, I did everything except check the yardage on my sight. Opps.

A Rare Day Without Wind

There was no wind. Not even a puff of it. That usually only happens when it is about 100°F. Not today, the temperature this morning was around 70°F. An ideal temperature for running three miles. The lack of wind made it perfect for shooting.

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No white caps today

The next event on my schedule is an 18-meter indoor competition. It starts at 10:00 AM. A 10:00 AM start means shooting through lunch and impacting naptime. You know the first scoring arrows aren’t going off until 10:30 AM. It will take three and a half to four hours to finish shooting. That means by the midpoint of the tournament it is lunchtime. Shortly after lunch is naptime.

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Barely a hint of a breeze

So, I’ve been moving slower in the morning to adjust my body to the cycle of the upcoming shoot. As such, I run a little later. River, my four-legged running partner, doesn’t seem to mind the delay. The issue is that running later means that there is a greater chance the winds will have picked up a bit off the river. Today, at 10:00 AM there was still no wind off the river.

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River is good to run on any schedule or hang out and eat a stick. Either way, no problem.

Not wanting to push my luck I didn’t even change from my running clothes before shooting. There aren’t too many wind-free days here and I enjoyed this one. Once the morning exercise and training were complete I had a nice lunch and took a short nap.   A short 15 to 30 break after eating is a good way to break up a day of training. The break resets the day. Following the break it is time to begin the afternoon training schedule.

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Hurry, hurry, hurry. (I’ve been trail running hence the orange cap.)

At the upcoming competition I will bring a small lunch. The sandwich will be quartered. I’ll eat a quarter every 15 minutes or so starting around 11:30 AM. The idea is not to put a large bolus of food into my gut at once. What that does is shifts blood flow to the stomach to aid digestion and is one of the reasons we might get sleepy after a meal. The tournament judges don’t offer a break for nap time. So, small bites are best.

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Shoot and pull

Once I commented to a judge that we were shooting during naptime. He didn’t respond with a snide remark. He concurred and seemed saddened by the reminder. We both soldiered on.

By shifting my training schedule I hope to get ready to reach peak performance during a specific time of day. There are days where I shoot indoors to best replicate the competitive environment. Travel to and from an indoor range kills about an hour of time that could be otherwise used to train. A day without wind is a pretty good deal when is comes to saving time. Shooting at roughly the same time of a scheduled tournament helps get the body ready to perform at a specific time.

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A problem with running shorts is that the quiver wants to slip down.

As John Kessel of USA Volley said, “The Game Teaches the Game.”

Practicing Form

A little bit high, a little bit low, a tad to the right and a tad to the left. That’s how this morning’s 18-meter practice went.

It was a prefect morning for practice. The temperature was 68°F and no wind. Excellent conditions to work on form.

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During the past week a lot has changed. The bow has new limbs, a new string, new stabilizer and more weight with which to deal. To complicate it more, the practice arrows are shorter and lighter than the usual indoor target arrows and my PEEP aperture reducer fell out. (I ordered a new one, but selected the wrong size. A phone call to Lancaster Archery, a RMA number received and the correct size on the way.)

The session this morning focused on form more so than hitting the X. Almost like blind bailing except with open eyes and 18-meters from the target. Of course, hitting the X would have been nice.

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Occasionally, an arrow ended up in the X, about 25% of the shots hit home. All the others landed close, all just a little off the mark, all nines.

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After 90 minutes, during which very few shots felt right, it was time to give if up for a while and watch the Washington Redskins vs. Cincinnati live from London. Hopefully, this afternoon things will fall in place.

Addendum: The afternoon practice was moving along much like the mornings. Have you ever been shooting and think, “Damn, I shoot better than that!”? You know something is slightly off. Then, you feel where the screw-ups originated, make an adjustment (for me the culprit was the thumb of my release hand) and things begin to return to par or better.

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.

Practicing with an Archery Target Thief

 

img_5673The weather report indicated we’d have a windy weekend. Today, Saturday, proved the advance notice correct. Sunrise was nice and calm. The calm did not last.

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The river looked calm as we headed out for a run
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No Coco today

River and I enjoyed a run before archery. Coco, River’s Labrador friend from down the road didn’t join us this morning. Too bad for Coco, I’d brought extra treats to share. When they run together River comes home ready for a nap. Today, she wasn’t ready to nap and hung around me while I practiced.

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Running was less frantic without Coco

Preparing for archery I surveyed the conditions then considered making the drive into Elizabeth City to practice indoors at PGF Archery. The calm of dawn was gone and the river was covered with white caps. Being Saturday I couldn’t be sure who would be on the range in town. Saturday is often a team practice day for the JOAD groups. So I decided to stay home and deal with the wind.

My fall back to adverse conditions is to shoot from inside a shed. It is a last resort when there is simply too much wind. When I started practice, outside of the shed, it only took a few shots to realize that was not going to work.

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River intent on watching for that moment to begin her theft of targets.

River seemed calm while I focused on my target from inside the shed. She walked around and didn’t offer suggestions to play rather than work. Often we play ‘shoot three arrows – throw and stick.’ It didn’t take long until I discovered the reason for her silent prowling.

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Getting caught

There’s a trash bin in my shed where I deposit used targets. River had been sneaking to the bin, stealing the balled up targets then slipping outside to shred them. I caught her, well into her activity, with a mouth full of wadded up paper targets. Her response was, naturally, to run for it. For River, this was game time. For me, it was chasing time to retrieve bits of targets dancing away on the wind.

Some 3D to Break Up an 18-Meter Routine

Since August the focus of archery practice has been 18-meters. Morning, noon and night it has been 18-meters. Thousands of arrows shot into targets 18-meters away.

Across the way, a few can be seen in the distance; foam 3D targets stand unmolested by arrows for months.

Part of the reason for the 3D range’s reprieve from use has been hurricanes. Hurricanes come past, knock down trees, limbs, and blow debris everywhere – the animal practice field no exception. The mess created by an ocean born cyclone can take weeks to clear. Hurricanes Julia, Hermine and Mathews kept the range cluttered and under repair for a long stretch of the end of summer and early fall.

This past week, the last of triple crown of storms cleared, I took a break of 18-meters and shot some 3D.

I used a range finder to verify distance. It figured I’d be a bit rusty judging yardage and didn’t want to chance a miss. With the confidence of know yardage I shot out to 50 yards. The long shot yielded a five and an eight. The shorter yardage, 25 – 40 yards resulted in better marks.

What was best was getting into the woods to shoot 3D. It was a nice break from 18-meters. And now that the hurricane downed debris has been cleared, for the third time this year, I can get back to a 3D routine.

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.