After Practicing for 50 Meters – Getting Back to 3D

I finished 8 down in practice. It was a day of longer shots. I selected a range of numbers to generate 20 values from 30 to 50 yards. The average distance was 37.8 yards – nearly 9 yards further per target than my previous practice at 3D. On that occasion the yardage range was from 20 to 40 yards.  For the longer 20 targets I averaged 9.6 points per shot for a total of 192.

50 yards – yes there is a deer down range

It’s hard to figure out where the target distances might be set during a 3D shoot. The best we can do is to shoot all sorts of distances. Aside from the abilities to judge distance and shoot well, in 3D, with all the uneven footing, an archer must be able to adjust his/her form to accommodate the ground in order to shoot uphill and downhill.

50 yards – it doesn’t take being off much to lose an arrow

Here, in New Hope, North Carolina (on the cusps of Hertford) the ground is pretty much level. On my practice range, I have no variances in elevation. The best I can do for elevation is shoot off porches and decks. Those allow for changes in elevation, but the footing remains level.

Some people have suggested standing on blocks or making ramps, similar to skateboard ramps, to stand on while practicing. The theory is that those  ramps and blocks will provide unstable, not level footing. Those techniques remain untested.

I can’t make changes in elevation, but I can find ways to make shots difficult

There is nothing to be down for the uphill shots as far as local practice goes here on the coast on North Carolina. What I do most is work on things I have at my disposal – yardages and complicated shots.

Yep, this bear was one of those difficult shot series

Over the early summer I practiced primarily for 50 meters. Yes, there were a lot of 3D tournaments on the weekends. However, my focus was 50 meters. That effort may have cost me during 3D competitions. Over the past few weeks I’ve dropped the 50-meter sessions.  I still shoot from 50-meters, now at foam animals. But, by making my practice at 3D deliberate and difficult, my scores are over the past two tournaments are creeping up a bit.

Talent Transfer and the 10,000 Hour Rule (1,2)

It is popular to believe it takes about 10,000 hours to become an elite athlete in most sports. There are exceptions, that seem to have clear explanations. Those exceptions are few and far between. Furthermore, a close examination of those exceptions reveals some associated phenotype or uniqueness to an endeavor that complimented the sport. Essentially, those exceptions are based on talent transfer.

For example, in the UK, female athletes were selected to train for rowing based on height and weight regardless of having ever rowed. Rowers are ideally shaped if the are tall and light. Their height gives them leverage on the oars. Being light is a speed benefit while in the boat. In rowing, physical size plays a major roll.

The UK placed ads in the press seeking female athletes of a certain height. Those meeting the requirements were physiologically tested for sports performance. From there a group passing the grade were trained as rowers. It worked and the UK earned a gold medal during the Olympics by a pair of rowers with relatively few years (4*) of training and experience. (*Helen Glover, 2012 Gold Medalist – Olympics)1

Helen Glover with her Gold Medal (photo from Wikipedia)

Helen Glover, the Gold Medalist, had no experience rowing just 48 months prior to winning Gold. She was, however, already an accomplished athlete at the country level playing field hockey on a second-tier English national team.2 UK Sports, following a search based on specific phenotype criteria and testing, transferred Glover’s physical talent to rowing.

Years of practice aren’t the same as quality of practice. Each of your practice sessions needs a design and a goal. Every competition should have plan for the engagement. After shooting, practice and competition, it’s good to log notes that include range, type of competition, score, what went well and what did not go as planned. This will aid you in creating  training sessions.

Participating in a charity event for the Special Olympics wearing my Team USA gear (made the team for the long course duathlon World Championship in 2007 – seems like yesterday)

I reviewed data one of the top archers in the world. He first picked up a bow at 12 then put it down until he was 18. Nineteen years later, and by my estimate 12,950 hours of practice he quit his day job to shoot full time. Note: he was approximately 2,950 hours beyond the 10,000-hour mark some suggest is needed to reach an elite level.

Most working people easily fit in 400 hours of training a year. Some do more, other less. Top amateurs practice, by my estimation, 750 hours per year. The bulk of that training is on the weekend. The fellows I shoot with, as gathered through causal conversation, have an average of 25 years shooting experience and are at the 10,000-hour mark regarding practice time. (Based on 400 hours of training per year.) They’re a tough bunch to shoot against.

Of the folks I shoot with and compete against, none is at a professional level that allows them to earn a living exclusively from archery.  Yes, they all seem to have passed the 10,000 mark to have reached an elite level.  Many of them are elite archers.  Several have been world champions a few of them more than once.

For certain I’ve got well over 10,000 hours of training on a bike.

10,000 hours (or sometimes equated to 10 years of training) is a long time.  Many archers, in fact, have 10,000 or more of practice.  Obviously, not all them or even most of them are elite archers.  To muddy this a bit more, there are archers competing in all types of archery event at the elite level with far fewer hours of practice than 10,000.

How much training can I transfer to archery or is it good enough to simply look this cool (Yes, I know this isn’t cool. Once a geek, always a geek)

The difference may be the talent transfer.  An athlete that was good or pretty good in one sport can occasionally excel in another. Glover is just one example. There’s another matter, that of deliberate or highly focused training.

An archer that goes to the range, shoots 20 to 30 arrows without a plan isn’t accomplishing much. If that effort takes an hour, the practice is done four times during the weekdays and that training augmented by another four hours on the weekend, it comes to 10,000 hours (allowing for holidays) after 25-years of practice.  You might imagine, that archer, while pretty good, and regardless of having achieved the 10,000 hour mark, is in most likelihood not an elite archer.

Then, in archery there is Crystal Gauvin who, after one year of archery experience, dropped everything to turn professional.  Something I consider important is that she had been a serious athlete prior to finding her place in archery – talent transfer and way less than 10,000 of archer practice.

It doesn’t take 10,000 of practice for everyone to reach an elite level.  It does take practice.  Archers with 10,000 or more hours of practice may never reach the elite level. The practice isn’t enough without specific practice goals.  Individuals that do succeed in archery by what appears to be a fast-track, are often those that switched or transferred athletic talent into archery.


  • McClusky: Faster, Higher Stronger: The New Science of Creating Superathletes, and How You Can Train Like Them. Chapter 5, The Fast Track to Greatness, Talent Transfer and the 10,000 Hours Rule, pp 78-81 PLUME NY, NY 2015

It Takes Practice

A level four-archery coach said to me, “Archery is all mental.” Granted, in archery as other sports the brain controls athletic performance to a large degree. Chess is all mental except for the sitting and moving of pieces. Chess can be exhausting, nearly as tiring as the physical exertion of some similarly timed sports events. I was on a chess team in college. Some practices and matches left me drained. Chess isn’t a physical activity – archery is a physical activity. Both require mental efforts, both can be exhausting.


While archery isn’t all that physically demanding compared to other sports, like: running, swimming, and cycling –  archery is a sport where practice and fitness are paramount. In chess physical fitness isn’t much of a factor. Chess and archery take thousands of hours of practice to reach an elite level. Even so, not all make it to the elite level.

Archery is to a large degree mental. So is doing a full distance Ironman, a marathon, or any other sport. But, don’t fool yourself; a mental attitude alone isn’t going to have you running 6-minute miles for 26.2 miles after cycling 112 miles and swimming 2.4 miles. You have to train to get there.  Neither will mental focus have you shooting perfect scores if you are practicing two to three hours a week.


Becoming great in any sport takes time. It takes a lot of practice. With practice comes skill and confidence. There’s a point when some reach a level where mental focus takes control – not before form and skill are developed.


While I appreciated the coach’s unsolicited remark and I think I got the gest of it, I didn’t agree 100% with him. Sure, the mind controls, but the body responds. If the body’s form is off and skill has not been developed and there’s a goal of a perfect score – well that’s just mental fantasy.

Random Numbers 3D

Judging yardage expertly is a weak point for me. Shooting at a dot on a piece of paper over a known distance, like a lot of folks, is easier than shooting at various sized animals over unknown distances. So, I am working on judging yardage.

Judging yardage is easy – here’s the math

This isn’t a new exercise for me. I have several yardage training plans. The one on queue for today was a random numbers exercise.

What I do is apply a random numbers generator to provide 20 values. These were selected within a boundary of 20 to 45 yards, inclusive. From that 20 values were generated and those become the distances. The value is then applied sequentially beginning at 3D target number one.

On the range there are 10 foam animals: a bear, coyote, badger, turkey, two deer, bobcat, pig, mosquito, and a mountain lion. The pig can be shot from three distinct angles, each one offering a new view. The turkey can be shot from the front or the side. The side shot on the turkey is the more difficult thanks to obstacles and trees. The mountain lion has two views both challenging and can be shot out to 48 yards. The two deer are positioned so that ambient light varies and they can be hot out to 65 yards, one out to 100 yards if I desired to chance a lost arrow.

This lane allows for a very long shot

For this exercise I approached each target in sequence and stopped when I reached the randomly generated distance. No range finder was employed to verify. From that position I aimed and took the shot.

The distances averaged 30.3 yards with a minimum distance of 20 yards and a maximum of 43. Today’s exercise resulted in a slightly higher score than yesterday morning’s test. This may be attributed to a slightly, 3 yards, closer average distance to the target.

Judging yardage is a weakness for me. To improve I look a practice design than makes me focus on yardage. This was a pretty good exercise. I’ll repeat this method this afternoon and narrow the values generated to 30 through 50.

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.