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.

In Archery Maybe it is Best to Follow Your Heart.

Practicing the mechanics of archery takes patience and focus. It’s a matter of training your muscles to sense alignment and form while maintaining Jedi-like control.   Or maybe all you need to do is follow your heart.


Keast and Elliot published a paper in the Journal of Sports Science that measured archers’ sway, aiming time, cardiac cycle (electrocardiac cycle) and the release of an arrow.1 The study included recurve and compound bows.  This is what they discovered.

Sway was measured at the postural center of the archers’ body and sway varied significantly both within and between two separate trials (the archers were tested twice, 100 days apart). As sway increased the quality of the shot decreased.

As aiming time increased the quality of the shot decreased except for bare bow shooting.  During bare bow shooting as the aiming time decreased the quality of the shoot decreased.

Cardiac cycle time was also measured.  Here they found that cardiac cycle time increased significantly as the archers approached the release of the arrow where there was a good shot.  When the shot was bad or average there was no significant increase on the cardiac cycle.


The most consistent parameter related to the quality of a shot was the placement of the first finger movement within the ST phase or mid-cycle phase of the electrocardiogram for arrows of good quality.

How does an archer achieve the movement of the finger (to release) within mid-phase of their cardiac cycle?  You can’t feel the individual bleeps of your electrocardiogram.  I can only explain like this:  It is in that millisecond when you sense the target, feel the calm, unconsciously find that instance where everything is blocked other than the target, and then release occurs.  It appears that the heart knows when you have it right.


1)  Keast D, Elliott B: Fine body movements and the cardiac cycle in archery. J Sports Sci. 1990 Winter;8(3):203-13.


Beat, Just Plain Beat!

I suppose I don’t recover from working out like I did when I was in my 20s. Well, I know I don’t. Lately, I’ve been on a tear of riding, swimming, lifting weights, running and shooting. On top of that I’ve been hauling lumber and moving loads of dirt. It seems to have caught up with me and I felt it this afternoon while shooting.

I try to take rest days. Most of the time I succeed. This morning I didn’t even run that far. Not so much because I felt tired, Coco, the lab down the road, joined up with River, my lab, and I on the run. With all the rain we’ve been having I knew the two labs would get filthy. That meant I’d need to give River bath. I’d just bathed her yesterday (mud related incident) and was not up for doing it again. So, I turned around before we reached cresting creeks and over flowing ditches – one that is the last resting place of a buzzard picked deer.

If there is water, muck, or mud, these girls are in it.
I shot this for 60 yards, it was 57 – yes sir that’s how to earn an 8.

Shooting in the afternoon I was on a muddy wet 3D range. I had no gittyup. Still I shot, and ended up 2 down (198 out of 200). It wasn’t so much a matter of not being able to judge yardage. At each target I recorded my distance, shot, then recorded the distance using a range finder. The average distance per my estimate was 32.3; the range finder’s average was 33 yards. The minimum distance, a mosquito was 18 yards and the maximum distance was 57 yards, a mountain lion. On both of those targets, the distance was one of convenience; water left me very few options regarding where to stand. I shot poorly, hopefully, just because I was tired.

This mosquito is a tough little bug.

To complicate shooting the sun, which can come through the trees because the leaves are down, created a glare on the lens of my scope. I was happy I didn’t lose any arrows. At least two shots were as much of a guess made aiming as I like to make. Amazingly, both of those shots were 12s.

IMG_4617 IMG_4618

I did run this morning, I shot twice, and I will force an easy bike ride in an hour. But, tonight, I plan to have a good nights rest.

17°F (-8°C) and Windy

The weather has been pretty bad lately. It is still cold, 17°F (-8°C), and windy but the sun is shining. Doing just about anything outside means getting cold. Today, I got cold.

Fortunately, I was only really cold while pulling arrows. I shot from a heated shed out toward a 3-spot target. Living way the heck out in the country has advantages.

Nice and warm – warming my releases as well.

What I worked on today was my release. I have three different releases, two hinge and a thumb. I shoot them all about the same. I think if I could get the point of release just right for a hinge that would be what I would use exclusively. But, I continue to go from bad to worst whenever I mess around with either making the release lighter or heavier. Of the two hinges I am using, they’re both mostly right. One is a little heavy; the other is a little bit heavier. Neither is perfect. I’ll mess around with them some more at a later date. I rather just shoot, which means I fall back to using my thumb release. As thumb releases go, I have an inexpensive product, but it seems to be set just right. But, it is easy to get lazy with a thumb release and screw up shots.

The 3 releases

Aside from dealing with my releases I have been working with the grip on my Elite 35. I do not like the feel of the grip. There are after market grips that can be switched on the Elite. They aren’t cheap and I’m not willing to pay for a test drive. So, I did what is probably the least expensive and best thing to get a better feeling grip. I wrapped it with bicycle handle bar tape.

Bicycle handle bar tape. Cycling tape helps reduce the shock of vibration from the road that is transferred to handlebars. It ought to work on this bow.

I spent a few hours shooting and practicing with the newly taped grip and rotating releases. The tape felt nice, the releases just felt like the releases always have – no one of them is a clear winner.

3 tens, 3 different releases.

It was still cold when I finished shooting. I closed the door to my shed and spend an hour on my Comptrainer. As I pedaled I watched Miguel Indurain win the 1992 Tour de France on DVD. Then, headed to the Y in Elizabeth City to lift weight and swim while Brenda, my wife, did her cardio-weight lifting work.

For the romantics out there, yes this is Valentine’s Day. We celebrated yesterday because Brenda wanted to get in a workout today. She’ driving to Atlanta on Monday and felt this might be the last chance she’ll get to lift weights for the next few weeks.

Despite the cold, it has been a very active and fun day to play.

Using data and notes to find a remedy

I examine the scores of other archers when I can find them. Going into a tournament, I like to know what I expect of myself and where I stand relative to the competition. Naturally, there are people that continuously preach to me “Don’t even think about the score!” During competition I don’t think about the score or at least I give it minimal attention. By the time I am in a tournament, I am so accustom to my scoring what ever I’ve shot rolls off my back once the score has been recorded.

But, I don’t go into a tournament blind to what I expect from others and myself. I know when I am off and I know when someone else is shooting below his or her usual. However, the score is not my focus. I let the score take care of itself – it always will. I just shoot one target at a time.

A few weeks ago I was off and week later I was on – taking a 9th place then a week later 1st place. What happened? That has been the question.

Because I keep data and logs of training I was able to go back and analyze my shooting. This is a habit I brought to archery that has its roots, for me, in cycling. Now, I don’t keep an extensive journal. I keep what I think I need; essentially I record what I can analyze and a few notes. I keep it simple. If it’s not simple, it simply won’t get done.

Yesterday, I was working on a problem shooting a Vegas style 3-spot. My best score shooting this group of targets, under the new USA Archery scoring rules (the littlest circle, the old X, is the 10, all the other yellow is a 9) is a 588. My average is 4.8% lower, when combining my hinge and thumb release scores. My best results come using a hinge. On average, the hinge release earns me 6 more points versus my thumb release out of 600 possible points. However, recently I’ve been off with my hinge.

Why? Well, I changed slightly with how I activated the hinge. My data and the few notes (the important practice observations I record) gave me the clue, which was confirmed by video. Of course, I am eager to correct my error and shoot. That needs to wait a few more hours until I’ll put what I’ve learned to the test.

If things work out I expect I’ll beat 588 real soon. Soon enough for the indoor tournaments coming up – I hope. By keeping scores, logs, and notes then analyzing my data I think it has helped me improve. I don’t keep an outrageous amount of data -I keep enough for me.

Whoa, whoa, whoa

This morning after a run I headed into Elizabeth City to practice on an indoor range. The wind at my home coming off the river was simply horrendous for archery, great for sailing, not so much for shooting. As usual, when I show up to practice early in the morning I had the range to myself, at least for a time.

Today, a mature fellow was in the shop having some bow maintenance done. When it was completed he walked over to the range to give it a test. With him he had three arrows. Since I was shooting a 3-spot, I was working with 3 arrows. So the shooting would align fairly evenly.

He said he only wanted to shoot a few times to make certain things where correct with his bow. He was polite and not at all a bother to me in the least.

When he asked me the distance to the target, 20-yards, a red flag popped up. But, I dismissed the mental caution assuming he was trying to make conversation. He interrupted me between arrows, I’d fired 2, and so I informed that the distance was 20 yards and invited him to go ahead a shoot – I’d wait. He shot 1 arrow while I shot my final one.  Then he offered to stop so I could retrieve my 3. He, too pulled the one he’d shot.


On the next end, we each had shot 2 and I was preparing to shoot my third arrow. I was at full draw. The man had been standing on the line next to me a few yards away. Then, out of the corner of my eye I noticed he was walking down range.

I was at full draw using a hinge release. The release had already clicked. I froze and began saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” as I carefully let down.


What was going through this guy’s head? He did stop, but good Lord – who walks out potentially in front of an arrow. It was a first for me.

Dealing with funky coastal weather

The weather has been, well typical of coastal North Carolina. One day freezing, the next warm, then rain, then back to freezing. In a few days, the prediction is clear and nearly 70. When is comes to practicing archery, there’s a lot of inside, outside, and at times running for cover.

Thankfully, we have an indoor range a short drive from where I live. In the mornings the range is typically empty. When I show up, I have it to myself. A bit boring, but the advantage is I have the range to myself.

Again, all to myself

When its real cold, I shoot from inside a shed and out toward my target. The shed has a gas heater and there’s a four-legged companion to encourage me. I’ve thought about bringing her, River, to the indoor range. River loves archery. But, she’d probably get banned.

River is constantly assessing my work

Over the winter I’ve been shooting a lot of spots. This is the time of year where there are a fair number of indoor tournaments that are within easy driving.  So, like many others, I shoot at dots and wait for 3D.

Today I learned of an indoor 3D tournament just up the road. I’ve shot there before and the lighting is not so great. Using a scope, for me, ends up being an activity that’s purely guesswork when it comes to aiming. So, I changed out my bow, set it up for hunting and decided to enter the bow hunter class. I can illuminate the pins and hopefully that will help.

A good reason for pin nocks. Busted this one checking my bow after I switched sights. But, saved an arrow or two.

Along the bow change, I headed out to the 3D range this morning and afternoon. It was apparent I hadn’t practiced 3D since December 15th. I’d have practiced more but, it started to rain and I had to sprint for cover. What can I say, it will be spring soon and I’ll be contending with mosquitos and ticks when I’m in the woods.