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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

What a Way to Go!

The odds of being killed by at meteorite are 1 in 250,000. Those odds should make you feel pretty certain you’re not going to be crushed by a falling celestial body. Strange things, however, happen and many of them seem to happen during archery practice.

While practicing on a 3D range in Maryland I made a nice center shot. That’s not to say it was my only center shot, I’ve hit others. What was different about this one is that as I pulled my arrow the tip and insert came out leaving a hollow opening at the end of the arrow. There was no digging the insert or tip out, both swallowed up in the foam of the faux pig.

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Robin Hooded Insert

The next day I was back on the same range for more practice. The targets, 30 of them, hadn’t been moved from their prior position. At the pig, where on the previous day I’d shot an insert/tip swallowing pinwheel, I repeated the shot – smack in the center.

When I walked up to the motionless foam boar I found my arrow not only again hit the center, but I had Robin Hooded the hidden insert lost from the day before.

Somewhere I once read that a Robin Hood occurs 1 in every 10,000 shots. I have no idea if this is correct or how it was that whomever came up with the number made their assessment. But, I have learned the expensive way to do my best to avoid a Robin Hood.

Nevertheless, the lost center shot insert and tip, now stuck on the tip of my latter arrow, seemed unique and among those weird things that happen while practicing archery. Yesterday, another meteoric odd shot occurred.

While practicing 3D the target was lining up on was a coyote at 37 yards. When I aimed at the target I noticed a small limb of a bush extending somewhat within the potential path of my arrow. It was very little twig and I considered the odds of that twig deflecting my arrow to be really small. I ignored the limb and shot.

Coyote in the distance and the nicked limb.

The weather has been up and down here on the coast of North Carolina. One day the high temperature will be in the 40s the next in the 60s. Shooting that arrow outside it was on a warm day, in the 60s and sunny. Birds where chirping and insects were hopping, crawling and flying about enjoying the momentary relief from the cold.

In this warmth my arrow, in flight, hit the tiny branch and deflected. Granted the odds were low despite my instinct warning me there might be a chance, albeit small, that I would strike the twig. After the shot, I thought, I’d lost that arrow, it being buried under fallen leaves.

What I hadn’t noticed, on the tiny branch, there had been a little green tree frog. No doubt this little frog was siting on the branch, warming itself, and waiting to nab an insect or two was they flew past. What flew past was not a bug; it was a Black Eagle arrow. Lifting my arrow from the leaves, there it was, a green tree frog, impaled and killed.

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What a way to go.

All I could do was stare and then remove the tiny amphibian from the arrow . What were the odds? This may be even more weird than the Robin Hooded insert. To be sure, I felt bad for the frog. It was only trying to enjoy a warm day among the recent  less pleasant ones.  Perhaps it was on the limb waiting for a fly or other insect to come within tongue reach.  Then,  smack – I suppose the odds were astronomical.

Football, TV and Commercial Breaks

The past several days have been busy. We’ve been putting away Christmas decorations, getting the house back in order, running, shooting and cycling.  But, on Sunday it means football in the afternoon and evening.  I really enjoy football so adjustments are necessary.

I played football from little league through high school. I was a starter at a large high school, H. V. Jenkins in Savannah, GA.  I even spoke with a few college scouts in my junior year. The growth spurt that might have gotten me a scholarship never happened. To make matters worse during the summer between my junior and senior year of high school I spent it training for and competing in for long distance bicycle races. I actually lost about 15 pounds before the cycling season ended. I remember one scout looking at me and asking me if I’d be ill. In the long haul I got a lot more from cycling than I’d have gotten out of football, but I never stop loving the game. Many of my friends earned college scholarships and a few ended up playing pro-football. For the majority, physcial

participation in football ended after high school.

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First 3 shots, in a zone, anticipating Game Day

For most of my former teammates, all sports ended after high school. A few stayed active but by far not the majority. Even the few guys that played pro had short careers – a common theme for pro-football players.

On Sunday none of it matters. Sunday means watching games. I get my training done early so I can relax and watch the televised action on the gridiron. This past Sunday was the final week of the regular season. Still, there were some important games as they related to the playoffs. For example, a Steelers win and a Jets loss put Pittsburgh into the Wild Card spot. I kept my fingers crossed as I watched the Steelers win over the Browns and the Jets lose to the Bills.

We also watched the Redskins beat the Cowboys and waited in anticipation for the outcome of the Vikings – Packers game to see who would end up playing Washington.

The local paper had picked the Packers to win. I doubted that would happen even though I like the Packers. The problem with the Packers, the left side of the offensive line was totally devastated. I just didn’t see how Rodgers and the Packers could compensate for that weakness. In the end the Packers lost to the Viking and are headed to Landover, Maryland to meet the Redskins next week.

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Pedaling hard and fast – can’t miss the kick off

In preparing for the games, I did an early 3-mile run, got in about 80 arrows worth of archery practice and cranked out twenty – five miles in a big gear on my Computrainer. I napped off and on during the 1 PM game, only in the 1st half. Afterwards, I was wide-awake. Then came the TV commercial hellhole.

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Stretched out on the couch watching highlights waiting on the games

It was the first quarter of the Vikings – Packers game, Minnesota had been moving the ball. On third down, Green Bay stopped them. Commercial break. Back from what seemed an awfully long run of commercials the Packers had the ball. What happened? I didn’t see a punt. Oh, the score was Vikings 3, Packers 0. I guess I missed a field goal. Perhaps, I’d not been paying attention.

Or, did a field goal just get preempted for commercials? No way, I must have missed it. Maybe I’d had a small stroke.

Now, the Packers have the ball. They’re moving down the field. It’s 3rd down and they don’t convert. Commercial break. The game finally returns after I’ve been encouraged to drink beer, buy a new car and a truck, get a new cell phone, take Viagra, get a new laptop, change my cable plan, and treat diabetes with a new drug. (I don’t have diabetes.) Following the encouragement to spend more money, the game returns – tied, 3 to 3. What?! Obviously another field goal this time for the Packers.

The commercials were absolutely unbearable. My wife, who also enjoys football and I became fed up. It felt like we were watching 10 minutes of commercials for every 5 minutes of football. I love football but there is a point where I can wait for the results. In the second quarter of the Vikings – Packers game, we threw in our terrible towels and changed to Netflix.

Back on the 3D Range

Over the past month I’ve focused on shooting dots. Primarily because I had an indoor tournament in Georgia and another two in January, one in North Carolina the other in Pennsylvania. Which reminds me, I need to make hotel reservations for Lancaster. What I’ve missed is shooting 3D.

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This pig between trees is a fun shot
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Especially when the shot hits the X

During the past several weeks I have shot live animals, but no fake ones. In both cases precision is critical – more so with live animals. In either situation practice is imperative.

Today for my second practice, rather that shooting more dots (I am starting to see them in my sleep) I headed onto the 3D range. I’d gone out earlier to put out a trail camera. The brief time in the woods was all it took for me to grab my bow and head back out.

One of my concerns is getting “cold” at judging distance. Sitting in a blind or tree stand I always prepare by using a range finder and learning distance where I anticipate a deer (for example) to pass. In all my hunting shots, where a deer appeared I knew the range before I aimed.

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On the 3D course, I work to make each shot a different distance from the last time I worked a specific target. Because I was “cold”, having not judged distance in a month I carried a range finder. I estimated the range, and then verified it before I shot. Often I’ll verify after the shot, today I was being cautious.

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Going for this badger at 32 yards. With the leaves down you can see my turkey on the left.
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Just cut the center ring

When I practice I bring paper to make notes about my shooting. I record my distance, the range finder’s distance, the type of target and the score. When I get back from shooting I record these notes on a spreadsheet then evaluate that practice against prior training. I was happy to see that the difference between my range and the electronic range was only 0.6 yards. (Clearly, home field advantage)

I did manage to shoot a few 8’s but the distance was good. Those 8’s were pulled to the left, my error – I knew it as soon as the arrow released. In each case it was poor follow through, a bad habit I am working to correct.

I ended up the day with an even 200 (20 targets). My 8’s were evenly countered by 12’s.

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The center on this “Big Buck” is about gone after 10 months. The arrow nearly passed through.

Rain, Wind, and More Rain and Wind

Shooting outside has been a challenge over the past week or so. Everyday the wind has been a factor, as has the rain. Last year, here in Hertford, this kind of weather would have been extremely frustrating. This year, things have improved.

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Stephen in from of this Archery and Tackle shop

In Elizabeth City there is a new bow shop that has an indoor range. Since I don’t have a ‘real job’ I try to get to the “Cutting Edge” to practice inside about once a week.

The weather we’ve been having, lots of rain and lots of wind, (sometimes singularly, at other time as a set) has made me really appreciate an indoor place to shoot. It’s especially nice because I’m practicing when most other archers are working. Granted, it is a bit selfish for me to write that, but I do recall trying to practice on ranges where other archers didn’t have a clue regarding proper range etiquette.

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As a rule most archers have excellent manners on the range. There were times, however, when I simply left the range calling it a day because I’d reached my limit of stupid behavior input. Shooting solo the only stupid things I see are those occasional shots I make that aren’t par. The 586 I shot today was a perfect example and one practice session I was glad not to share in real time.

I dropped 14 points shooting inside compared to shooting outside in the wind yesterday. Perhaps the pristine conditions turned me a bit soft.

The Four “Cs” in Sports and Archery: Tips for Achieving Your Goals.

Brian Mackenzie is a performance coach for the United Kingdom Track and Field Team. In 1997 he published a sports science paper in Psychology that remains widely referenced and applied today. 1.2 Because so much of archery and the goals we set for ourselves as archers, is mental, it is critical to develop a foundation to understand our training and preparation for becoming a better shooter.

Each year I set goals. These include financial, academic (even though that goal may not mean going back to school – I still pick a topic to study), and athletics. For this paper, my focus will be on sports.

Becoming a full-time sponsored archer was an early goal for 2015. I set a goal to have four sponsors and those sponsors would need to fit my overall philosophy of archery as a sport and be a sponsor in which I held confidence. I also laid out a series of competitive goals and tournaments along with a training plan.

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As part of this process, I include a management plan that Mackenzie first published – the “4 C’s”.1 When preparing goals and specific training plans for archery, Mackenzie’s research is applicable.  Whether or not you have intentionally implemented his work, it is likely you have reflected upon the “4 C’s” to some extent during your archery career.

As part of any training plan, managing the “4 Cs”, as described by Brian Mackenzie will be helpful.  They are:

  • Concentration: your ability to maintain focus.
  • Confidence: believing in your ability.
  • Control: your ability to maintain emotional control regardless of the distraction.
  • Commitment: your ability to continue working toward your goal.

It seems Mackenzie’s work is ideally suited for archery. Whether training, hunting or in competition the “4 C’s” are relevant. The mental aspects of archery interact so completely with the “4 C’s” that they could be archery specific.

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As archers, we don’t require a scientific paper to enhance our shooting ability.  But understanding the science behind the seeming innate physical and mental responses we process while shooting gives credence to our efforts and desires.

When practicing, have a plan for your session. Concentrate on your plan and focus. Your focus isn’t limited to that practice; maintain an “archery” focus as part of your self-image. Doing so and improving will help develop confidence in your ability. Self-doubt or negative self-image thoughts should be eliminated. When shooting there will be distractions – avoid them or exclude them from your mind during practice takes control.

When you are on the range, leave everything else off the range. Your distracters will be waiting when your return from the range. If something distracts you while you’re practicing, assert your control over the invasion and re-focus on your training. As your control develops, your mental focus will develop.

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Finally, make a personal commitment to your goals. This means discipline to follow a practice plan, have a personal goal for every competition, and understand that you are committed to your goals.

The “4C’s” represent a simple and easy to establish management criteria for achieving your goals. You can use them as pillars to set a plan for improvement with your shooting. Whether your goal is to get a trophy buck, shoot a perfect score, or win a major event, starting with basic concept will help.

References:

  1. Mackenzie, B. (1997) Psychology [WWW] available from: http//www.brianmac.co.uk/psych.htm
  2. Lain, D: The athletic respiratory therapist. Adv for Resp Care and Sleep Medicine. Online March 4, 2013

Time to take a test

The past several weeks have been devoted to shooting paper. However, there’s an indoor 3D tournament coming up in a couple of weeks. So, I’ve changed my practice. In the afternoons, rather than shoot paper twice in a day, the second practice has been against 3D targets.

Last week, I replaced a well worn 60X string with a new 60X string. That meant making some minor adjustments on my sight. Once that was concluded it seemed ideal to take a test on the 3D range.

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The test method is simple. The day before I moved my targets around a bit. During the test they would look different. The first step, following a 6-arrow warm-up at 20 yards, was to approach each target and record what I perceived as the distance. Then, take the shot. Before leaving the stake take a measurement of the distance using a range finder. There were 20 targets in total. Ten animals shot once each, then the sequence repeated from a different stake.

The results weren’t great. The difference between my estimation of yardage and the range finder was 1.1 yards. This seems petty good at first glance, but there were three targets with too great of an error: one at 7 yards, one at 5 yards, and one at 3 yards.

The 5-yard and 3-yard errors were both on the same target, a mosquito. The mosquito, a Reinhart product, is a little on the dark side. The target is positioned in a dark spot with dense foliage surrounding it. The resulting scores on the insect were a 5 and an 8. The 7-yard error seemed to be in my favor and the shot resulted in a 10.

Overall, I shot a 198 with 8 Xs at a maximum distance of 45 yards. This wasn’t close to my best score of 216, however, the maximum distance for that score was 35 yards. (An old hunter class score using pins, 20 targets.)

When I “take a test” I attempt to set-up a range where I am cold to the targets. I vary the distance. The targets are also arranged to that the shot is realistic and fairly difficult. I record data and notes during the test. From those notes data is entered into a statistical database using Excel. Review of the data helps build a training plan for the new few weeks.

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What a typical field record sheet looks like

In the past I’ve had a number of archers expound to me that I should not keep my scores and that I shouldn’t worry about them. I should simply shoot and work on form. From the onset I completely disagreed. True, I work on form with every shot. But, without data and notes I’d be losing valuable information about my progress. Not only do I frequently “take a test” I log notes on shots, crunch the data, and record what target I shot. That is, I record the animal type for the shot (if shooting 3D), or whether it was a 3-spot Vegas style, 3-spot vertical, or a 5-spot.

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Data transfered to one of my computers

During some training I specifically don’t keep records. Why?  It is too much to keep records, and a bit weird, during a tournament. So, I conduct many practices in the manner of a competitive event. I also have days that I relax and shoot entirely for fun. But, without a written record of progress that is aimed toward specific goals, well every shot is simply shooting for fun. And that, too is okay should it be what you’re aiming for.