We’re Here to Play – Right?

River hangs out with near me during archery practice. She walks through the woods during 3D practice or keeps a stoic eye on me while I shoot dots. Throughout it all goes swimming, chews sticks, and at times requests a toss. Usually she is pretty well behaved. This morning she was out of control.

Are you ready for this?

It seemed to her, my impression since she doesn’t speak English, that she was determined to ruin practice. River had only one thing on her mind – play. From her barking, hopping, running, and banging into me River gave the impression that she wanted me to stop shooting.

Throw that stick I just dropped on your foot

River doesn’t have a real grasp on the need to practice at any sport. She measures sports in degree of play. That is, how much fun can she have?

Oh yeah, that was good

Running is fun for both of us. She takes off, we often meet up with her friend Coco and she joins our run. When the run is over it is time for archery practice. Some mornings, River isn’t ready to loosen her grip on the playtime. This was one of those mornings.

I’m going to chew this for a minute then we can start over – you wait right there, don’t even think about touching that bow.

Archery can be a challenge, more so when a 97-pound Labrador retriever has her mind set on playing with the archer. It is difficult to take aim with a big dog essentially barking in your face and dropping sticks on your feet.

I couldn’t handle the temptation and within 45 minutes the bow was put away and the game was in full session. Some days we just have to play.

Finally a day Without Wind

Today was the first day in a week where I wasn’t trying to shoot in wind blowing at 25 mph. This morning – no white caps on the Little River. The sky was clear and the temperature rose to 78°F. Pretty darn nice.

Not a bad start

Per my current training plan I shot paper in the morning. Without the wind it was a pretty decent practice. Then, it was off the swim and lift weights.

Shoot an arrow, throw a stick

Swimming kicked my butt. The pool was crowded and along with other swimmers I was sharing a lane. Every lap became a silent unannounced contest – at least that’s how I perceived it.

River really enjoyed the day.

By the time I was back home I was dead. I’d been looking forward to 3D practice, but I was so beat I wondered how I’d make it through the session.

At 60 yards, the target is down range next to the far pine tree. Each arrow is a close pass with the oak tree. The little building behind the paddle board is where I grill or fry food.

Around 3:00 PM, after a few hours of work on my dock, I rallied and got in the 3D practice. Still no wind and shooting was pretty good. I finished up around 6:00 PM in time to grill chicken for our dinner fajitas.

At 60 yards, one foot is on the bulkhead.

I’ll admit, the swim did me in, and I am fried.

3D Struggles

At then end of last year’s 3D season I was averaging 9.61 points per arrow. There were times when I shot just fine other times not so hot. Thus far, 2016 sucks. My average 3D score is 8.35 points per arrow. That’s a loss of over 25 points per 20 targets. Something has run afoul.

This badger can be a tricky shot beyond the ground obstructions.
On this one, I guessed well on the yardage.

I practiced a lot over the winter. It was cold and I shot a lot of dots. The main two reasons, it was cold so I shot indoors and the USA Indoor Nationals were in the spring. Still, I got outside several times per week to shoot 3D.

A week ago I shot a tournament, outdoor at paper, in which the sequence of arrows was: 20 at 60 yards, 20 at 50 yards, and 20 at 40 yards. I shot well and ended up second. I was pleased with my final score. Granted I’d been out scored but I’d shot well losing by 2 points. A few days prior to that competition I’d shot a 3D contest, I ended up second, but shot like crap.

My assumption was that I’d spent so much time shooting paper that I was failing in my yardage estimates. That’s easy to test, I when to the range, guessed at 20 targets, shot them, and then took a yardage measurement with a range finder.

I try to make the shots 3D realistic – this one at 42 yards.
When I pulled the arrow at the 42 yard deer I discovered a frog had found a nice spot to enjoy the day. I left him to his pleasure.

My final scored yielded, you guessed it 8.35 points per arrow. The kicker is, my estimate of the yardage was only 0.80 yards difference. The mean distance for all targets was 37.15 yards with a range of 23 yards minimum ( a mosquito) and 54 yards maximum ( a mountain lion). These results did not yield a clear indication of the problem.

Looking at the individual variance in yardage error was more revealing. When I misjudged I was off by 2.3 yards. On one, which probably skewed the values, I missed judged by 13 yards. If I removed that error the misjudged value becomes 1.65 yards. Seeing that I’d missed judged by 13 yards was a shock.

There were a lot of distances that were correct. But the errors when I made them were large enough to land me 5s and 8s. It only takes a few of those to lower a total score. Where I judged soundly, I shot 10s and 12s. This little exercise was telling. It shows that when I guess yardage well I shot pretty good. When I am off, I am off and at times I am way off.

Judging yardage is one of the challenges of 3D. Having access to a range within a few feet of my front door helps. But, there is still a lot of work ahead to bring my per target average back to 2015’s level and surpass it.

The Cold and the Rain

The past few days have been windy. Wind is not a friend to archers (or cyclists, unless it’s a tailwind.) We’ve had some rain and earlier in the week it caught me while out running. Playing outside, well, you’re going to have to deal with the elements.

Today, Easter, after breakfast there was time to run and shoot. We’ll be preparing a “big” meal later. Cooking that meal, in part, on the grill in the summer (outdoor) kitchen, now looks ever increasingly like there will be rain.

A little bit to the left, a little bit to the right, and one just where I wanted it.

There was no rain, this morning,  while River and I ran. Also, a bonus, it wasn’t windy. While on the archery range, there was still no wind, but the rain came. It wasn’t a hard rain but it was cold. That combination of cold and wet sent me back inside.

Lately, I’ve been shooting all over the place. I’m not referring to tournaments, I mean all over the place aside from the center of the target. It has been especially bad during 3D shoots. So, practicing 3D is high on the list of areas where I’m looking to improve.

The lower arrow surpassed me, it was on the center line.

I’d hoped to get in a few hours of 3D practice this morning. That didn’t pan out thanks to the rain. I stayed out long enough to get wet enough and cold enough to throw in the towel. Or more accurately, outside long enough to seek out a dry towel.

Last shot before heading inside

When I raced bikes I used to say, “I can take the cold or I can take the rain, but I can’t take the cold and the rain.” That remains true for archery.

A Tired Lab is a Good Lab

The day starts with a run. Some days lifting weights follows running. Other days there’s swimming and cycling. Still others it’s all of the above. And on nearly all days I shoot in the morning and afternoon.

This day started like so many others – running. River, my lab, runs with me. She’s basically a runner and swimmer even though she has a keen interest in archery. Together we run along with a friend, Coco. Coco, the lab down the road, is well mannered, but she can’t avoid nastiness. River, a bit more refined, stays out of the worst of Coco’s badly influenced romps, if I can signal River away in time.

A couple of nasty but happy dogs

Mud was on Coco’s mind during this run. River didn’t haller in mud, Coco’s shame, but following the run she needed a bath. In fact, both dogs needed bathing and I expect Coco’s owners weren’t too pleased when she returned home.

Coco enjoying the muddy bottom of this ditch, River looking on

One of the many things I’ve learned about labs is that a tired lab is a good lab. So, River hangs out me with after running while I shoot. I’ll spend hours outside practicing archery and throughout it all River watches. Some times I need to toss a stick but that’s fine.

After checking out my arrow placement, River moves onto more interesting investigations

River prefers 3D practice to paper target practice. 3D is done in the woods and there are so many more things to smell. Occasionally, there’s a nice carcass to taste and roll over. Of course, there’s the possibility of finding the delicacy of a pile of rabbit poop, a favorite treat for many dogs.

Finally worked out to 40 yards taking aim on this turkey
At 40-yards, a bit low to the right. but tight.

This afternoon, practice was about yardage. The game was to estimate and check my guess against a range finder. Regardless of what the range finder measured, the first shot was always taken using my yardage estimate. The targets were then shot up to 6 times before moving, using the same target at distances from about 20 yards to about 50 yards at about 5 yard increments. It’s a slow process and by then end of the day both dog and man are tired.

Starting Over

The recent USA Indoor National Championship and the NC State Indoor Championship taught me a lesson. That was, I can’t shoot well. It’s not the bow, arrows, sight or other equipment. Something is very inconsistent with my form. So, when I got home here in coastal North Carolina, I decided to change everything related to shooting.

During the Indoor Nationals I watched a lady that is extremely good. We talked a bit, she was either being nice or thought I knew more about archery. I quickly explained I was still new to the sport and I simply didn’t know the answers to most of her questions. But, what I did was watch how she shot.

It was easy to recognize how relaxed she shot. It was clear she stood a bit differently than me, held her bow better, and her release was smooth. She had better follow through and she currently ranked number 1 by USA Archery. Watching her shoot it was obvious my form was awful.

When I’d returned home here in New Hope,  North Carolina I began the process of changing: how I stand, hold my shoulders, where I anchor, and how I release. By release, I mean I changed back to a hinged release versus a thumb. Of the ‘errors’ I’ve begun correcting is how I stand. It occurred to me I’d lost focus on my core and was sagging a bit. That alone probably accounted for a number of poor shoots.

It is difficult to change. The old style was comfortable, albeit stagnant. The new style is not yet second nature and that hit home in a 3D tournament last weekend. That along with not being par at judging distance having shot 18 meters for so many months.

However, in the long run, backing up a bit, being less comfortable will pay dividends in the future.


Shoot 3 arrows, throw a stick.

I forgot to bring my camera to provide a picture of today’s practice here in Tignall. Honestly, how exciting is it to see arrows stuck in a block. Not so exciting for River, my dog.

She’s fairly forgiving and let’s me shoot a bit before she needs to play. She let’s me know she’s had enough by getting in front of me while I am at full draw and barking. It is a real demand on concentration, which typically yields an 8. It is hard to not laugh when River is essentially going crazy in front of me.

Show me the stick

The solution is a stick. Any stick that I can throw works. The game works this way: I shoot three arrows. Then, I retrieve them. Walking back to my bow I find a stick and grab it. Next, I toss the stick as far as I can chunk it. River runs after it, picks it up, and heads back. She’ll then sit next to me, stick in mouth until I shoot three arrows.

At that point she drops that stick, walks with me to retrieve the arrows and the process repeats.

It adds a little time to practice. That’s a good thing; I tend to shoot too fast. Maybe River is trying to teach me to slow down. Or maybe she’s just bored.

Uncooperative Weather

This morning is was cold and windy. I still was able to get in a decent practice, about one and a half hours, and around 70 arrows. I’d hoped to get in another 50 – 60 arrows this afternoon.

The cold morning sucked. The early A.M. wind sucked. The afternoon, well, it got worse. The temperature warmed to around 54°F and the wind picked up. Here’s the kicker, after about 30 arrows it started to pour down rain.

Moments (it’s raining) before it really cut loose.

Now, rain was predicted, but it arrived early. While shooting outside is rarely perfect, today playing outside has been a challenge.

Too Cold for Comfort

It started out cold and then got colder. It has been warm and by next week we’ll have temperatures into the low 80’s. But, today it was cold. Cold is a matter of perspective. When we lived in Pittsburgh and Cleveland today’s temperature would have been spring weather. For a boy from Savannah, that never acclimated to cold despite life’s efforts to provide ample opportunity, 40°F remains cold. To enhance the wintery experience there was a brisk wind.

The morning’s run wasn’t so bad – I was running. Shooting was another matter. A new paper target started me with optimism. It didn’t last. The longer I shot, the windier it got, the colder I became. I was definitely underdressed. To make matters worse my bow and release had sat on the truck over night. Holding the release it felt like an ice cube in my hand.

Well, archery practice started off on a good note.

After 30 or so arrows I left my bow on the range, arrows still stuck in the target and I headed back to the house to get another layer of clothing. The extra clothing helped.

Typically, when the temperature is cold I wear several layers of clothes, a glove on my bow hand, and a hand warmer in my right jacket pocket. Trying to tough it out today failed. I’m looking forward to next week when the temperatures are in the 80’s.

Getting Dialed in for 3D

Saturday begins the 3D season here in my neck of North Carolina. The following week I head to Georgia to shoot two in two indoor tournaments. Hopefully, I’ll find another 3D shoot while I am in Georgia. Friday, I shot outside and didn’t shoot all that well.

I did a practice round, without a range finder, at random distances over 20 targets. I tried to make each shot tough – judging by my score (188) I succeeded. To make a random sample I used a random number generator with a range from 20 to 50. Here’s how it ended up:

44       23       20       44       32

24       50       26       49       27

24       24       41       30       40

43       23       34       22       47

Then, the yards were assigned to targets 1 through 20 based on the random numbers generated. As it turned out target 1, for example, was a turkey at 44 yards. Then, on the range,  I estimated the distance for each shot without a range finder. So, at the first target, a turkey, I walked out to what I judged as 44 yards and shot it. I scored a 10 on that shot.

I did worse on target eight, having shot all 10’s and 12’s until that point. Eight was a small boar. This time I shot it from the reverse side – not my typical shot. I ended up with a 5. It was a difficult shot where I needed to place an arrow through a small opening in the bushes. The next shot was from 49 yards and I hit a 12, then back to 27 yards on a coyote for a 5 and so forth.

All dialed in for 3D

It is a little bit backwards to walk the distance first, trying to judge it, rather than walk up to a target and make the call. I didn’t approach the target then walk away while counting steps. I walked the range approaching targets from a tangent.

In a comparison of known distance yardage (ASA State Qualifier where they provided the yardage on the 1st 10 targets – I still have the little slip of paper they handed out.), it was interesting to discover in that previous tournament the average known distance was 34.8 yards. My randomly generated average was 33.4 yardage (for 20 targets), or only 1.4 yards difference between the averages. However, with my random number generator the average for the targets 11 – 20 was 36.6 yards, or 1.8 yards further. (Unless you care about stats and numbers, you’re probably ready to click this page closed.)

Finding new ways to make 3D more challenging in training, especially on your home range, can be important during a tournament. Moving target around helps. Coming up with ways to make judging yardage ‘different’ should pay dividends later this year.