Monthly Archives: November 2012

Q&A How Do I know My Equipment is Set Up Right?


An anonymous question came in regarding how you can tell if bow and arrow are set up correctly. Since not much more information was provided I am going to assume we are talking about at least an intermediate archer because until one has one’s own equipment, this question doesn’t make sense.

The key thing is that three things have to match: bow, arrows, and the archer’s skill. Here are some clues that can tell you if they do.

If your archer is shooting without a sight, then the “giveaway” is where the archer’s points of aim (POAs) are. If the arrow is properly spined for the archer and bow, the POAs should be directly above or below the spot they want to hit. On ordinary circular targets that means on a 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock line through the middle of the target (see diagram). If the POAs are to the left of this line, the archer is compensating for the arrows curving over to the right, meaning the arrows are too weak (right-handed archer, if archer is left-handed, switch all “lefts” and “rights”). If the POAs are to the right of this line, the archer is compensating for the arrows curving over to the left, meaning the arrows are too stiff (right-handed archer, if archer is left-handed, switch all “lefts” and “rights”).

For archers with sights, you can just look at the position of the sights aperture (or pins) vis-à-vis the centerline of the bow. Either hold the bow or prop it on a chair or tree so you can see the string against the background of the bow. Line the image of the string up with the center of the riser. (Often there are screws in the back of the riser that help make this alignment.) Then check to see if the aperture is to the left of this plane or to the right. If the aperture/pins are to the left of this line, the archer is compensating for the arrows curving over to the left, meaning the arrows are too stiff (again for a right-handed archer, if archer is left-handed, switch all “lefts” and “rights”). If the aperture/pins are to the right of this line, the archer is compensating for the arrows curving over to the right, meaning the arrows are too weak (again for a right-handed archer, if archer is left-handed, switch all “lefts” and “rights”). Note that these directions are exactly the opposite from when your archer is aiming off of the point.

These are checks that can be made quickly. Obviously a simple bare shaft test can also tell whether arrows match bow and archer, too. (For a right-handed archer, if bare shafts land to the left of fletched shafts, the bow’s arrow rest is too far away from the bow or the arrow is too stiff. If bare shafts land to the right of fletched shafts, the bow’s arrow rest is too close in to the bow or the arrow is too weak.

There are many things else that could be wrong, the above assumes the bow and arrows and archer are relatively close to what they should be before checking.

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Helping Them with Sights

One of your students has a sight they want to learn how to use, so, what do you do? You teach them to use it, of course, but how? This is what this article is about.
(Photo Courtesy of Lloyd Brown)

The Preliminaries
In our curriculum there are some hoops that need to be jumped through before this point is arrived at. In order to be taught how to aim, students need to be able to shoot good groups at short distance. The argument for doing this in this manner: beginners need to focus on their form and execution and aiming puts them into their heads focussing on the target and they lose focus on their bodies. So, good group at least indicates they have a fairly good full draw position and they can get off the string well enough repeatedly.

Then they are taught to aim “off the point.” Point of aim (POA) technique is a good first technique to teach because nothing new has to be added to the bow to use it.

We also want a beginner to have his own bow, arrows, and sight before we go through this process, but some differ. It is just our experience that if you use program sights, there is just too much fidddling around to get them right and then the class is over and another student needs to fiddle too much to get it working, etc.

If your student is good to go, then here is our process.

Basic Setup of the Sight
We will use a simple target sight for this. See the section on pin sights below.

Obviously the sight has to be attached to the bow. Once that is done, move the sight aperture in or out until it is directly above the arrow shaft when the bow is vertical (this is a good estimate of a starting windage position for the aperture). Vertically, a good estimate of how how high above the arrow the aperture needs to be is the distance between the students aiming eye and the corner of his mouth. You can even hold your thumb and finger up to the archer’s face to take off this estimate (avoid poking them in the eye, please).

Now you are ready to start.

The Training Process
Start with the student shoot at a reasonable distance until they are warm. This is done by the student shooting off of the point. If they find the sight too distracting, take it off. You want them shooting good groups I the center of the target off the point. Then ask them while they are shooting if they can see the aperture against the background. If they can, ask them where it is. Have them use the clock system with the rings on the target to describe where it is.

If the aperture isn’t on the target center, adjust it. Let’s say your student says that the aperture is at 2 o’clock in the red, which means it is both high and right of target center, so move it down and to the left.

Have them continue to shoot off the point and spotting where the aperture is and adjusting it until it is at target center. Have them shoot a couple more shots off of the point and then ask them if they could shoot a shot lining up the now centered-up aperture on target center. (I have never had a student say “no.”) Then let them shoot this way.

It is important to let them shoot with the sight this way for the rest of a class. Don’t move on to something else.

This whole process can be done in about five minutes if everything goes as planned.

The process builds a sense of success because the arrows are always grouping and always cenetered on the target. Just slapping a sight on and showing them how to aim with it results in off center groups which feel unsuccessful. Then most instructors begin teaching the student how to sight in their sight which we believe is too much information too fast and, therefore, confusing, resulting in mistaken repositioning of the aperture, resulting in more off centered arrows.

Leave “sighting in” for other distances for a later date.

Pin Sights
Beginners who have bowhunter friends or bowhunter parents may show up with a pin sight, often a hand-me-down. This is slightly more complex.

Before attaching the sight to the bow, we recommend that you lower all of the bottom pins down as far as they will go. This effectively turns the sight into a “one pin sight.” Then the procedure is much the same as for the target sight.

Sighting In
As with all of our recommended procedures, there are alternative ways to doing things. If you are perfectly happy with a method you use, then use it. Our procedures are based on our teaching philosphies, such as “complex things are best learned a piece at a time” which is the basis for the procedures offered here.

We usually start out the sighting in procedure by asking them to warm up at their most comfortable distance and when that is done, we ask them to step back five more yards from the target (or move the target five yards farther away). We ask them then to shoot still by lining up the aperture with the target center. Of course, their arrows will hit low. Ask them how to move their aperture to get back at target center. Whatever they answer (even if it is wrong), help them move the aperture and then test their “hypothesis” as to how they should have moved their aperture. If they guessed wrong, their arrows will be even lower, so they will have to reverse course and move the aperture the other way. Have them continue adjusting until they are back at target center.

You can then move them back five more yards and have them repeat the process. Always start with the old sight setting, which should cause them to shoot low, and then adjust the aperture.

Of course, with low drawing bows, they may run out of room on the sight to make adjustments and there are other complications, we just won’t go into those now.

If they are using a pin sight, instead of moving the aperture, the next pin in the “stack” is raised up to sit somewhere below the first pin, then the procedure is the same. A new pin is used for each new distance. (You may want to choose the distances to give them a nice range for their shortest and longest pins, or not. It is hard to anticipate what those will be in advance.)

But Wait, There’s More!
When they are done with the lesson, ask them if they could set their sight back to any of the other distances. If they haven’t written the other ones down (or marked them on a “sight tape” on their sight) the answer is probably “no.” This is a good time to make the point about writing such things down. We often pass out small spiral bound notebooks (we got a pile of these very cheaply on eBay) as an incentive to write things (like sight distances and their corresponding sight tape scale readings) down. You have already clearly made the point that archers can’t keep everything in their heads.

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Q&A Should Coaches Get Coached

An anonymous writer asked the question “whether coaches get coached?” It was asked in the spirit of should coaches get coached, so that is the question I choose to answer.

I can’t really answer the question with regard to whether coaches get coached. I suspect “not.” This is generally the case for most archers and not just coaches (possibly due to the small number of better coaches). Most archers, at best, get coaching from their fellow archers, that is suggestions from their friends about what to do, when.

With regard to the question “should coaches get coached,” the answer is a definitive “yes.” Every time I have the opportunity to get coached by a better coach, I try to avail myself of that opportunity. Last spring, I received a visit from Larry Wise of Pennsylvania, a world-class archery coach if there ever was one. I talked him into a lesson and a friend talked me (with Larry’s okay) into joining us. Now Larry received a fee (always expect to pay for lessons!) and received an added benefit in that my friend arranged two shooter’s clinics for Larry in the area. So, this is a form of “networking” by which coaches connect with people which can turn into more work for them, so many coaches are willing to do “one off” lessons for this reason.

I even agreed to a coaching session while attending the World Archery Festival in Las Vegas one year. The reason? The fellow contacted me about his inability to find a coach locally and I tried to help him find one but came up empty handed, so I agreed to give him a lesson, while at the Festival. More and more coaches will even give you remote lessons via video clips, Skype, whatever.

The bottom line here is that if you want to coach archers, you should be able to shoot at about their level. Beginning archery coaches should be able to shoot minimally as well as a beginning archer. Intermediate coaches should be able to shoot at the intermediate level. And if you want to coach expert archers, yes, you need to be at the expert level. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to be at the top of any of those particular heaps, but at least you need to have experienced what you are asking your students to do.

Would you take golf lessons from a bad golfer? Tennis lessons from a poor tennis player? Some archery skill is definitely needed and good coaching accelerates the development of that skill.

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