Quiver Protocols

There is much information in archery that is needed to be learned and mastered that just doesn’t show up much in print or video anywhere. I was reminded of one such bit as I was chaperoning some new field archers around a field course this last weekend. I have written about this topic in one of my books, but I guess it is worth restating here.

The penalty for shooting an incorrect number of arrows is steep. Obviously, if you do not shoot all that you are allowed, you left scores in your quiver. If you shoot extra arrows, the rules penalize you and, to be effective, the rules must penalize you more than you could gain from the extra arrow(s). A common penalty for shooting an extra arrow is to lose the score of the highest scoring arrow on the target, or even the highest scoring arrow score plus one more point.

To prevent such mistakes, we create habits and one such is using a quiver protocol. I will describe my quiver protocol as an example, and you can take it from there. I use four-tube side quiver. A hip quiver slid around your back is great for indoors, but doesn’t allow you to see your quiver. Ditto for a back quiver. Seeing how many arrows are left in your quiver is at the core of all of my quiver protocols.

This is a four tube quiver. I made my first quiver as a back quiver, then modified it to be a side quiver, and then modified it to add tubes. (The tubes we got from golf stores.)

Of the four tubes in my quiver, I shoot from the top tube downward, meaning I empty the top tube before taking arrows from the next tube down. I do this this way because when I drop my hand down onto my arrows, the first arrow I touch is in the topmost tube which still has arrows in it. In this fashion I can pull an arrow out without looking at my quiver.

I reserve the bottom tune for “spares and defective arrows.” The spares are put in normally, but if I put an arrow in my penalty box because it is broken or bent, etc., I place it in fletches down, rather than fletches up. This distinguished the spares from arrows that must not be shot.

The top tubes are then used to distribute the arrows that will be shot. The basis for the distribution is our ability to count things without, well, counting them. For example, if someone rolls a die, do you have to count the pips on it to determine their number? The answer is no, because each face of a die has a distinctive pattern that is recognizable. If there are pips in all four corners and one in the center, it is a five. If there are pips in all four corners but none in the center, it is a four. Once you learn the trick, you never again count “1, 2, 3, 4 … that’s a four.” We learn this at, what, four or five years of age?

In any case, we want to set up our quiver to take advantage of this ability. For a shoot with six-arrow ends, we could just stuff all six arrows in the top tube and shoot them one at a time. But if there were only five arrows in that tube, instead of six somehow, would you notice? Possibly not. My quiver protocol has me putting two arrows in each of the top three tubes (3 x 2 = 6). When I glance at my quiver, if the tubes are “full,” meaning have two shafts in them, I am good to go. And a tube with two is easily distinguished from a tube with one or three just by looking, no “Uh, 1, 2, 3 … damn!” When I have shot my first arrow (from the top tube), if I look down there is one left in the top tube with two each in the next tubes. After the second arrow the top tube is empty. After the third arrow, there is an empty top tube and just one arrow in the second tube down. After the fourth, the top two tubes are empty, and … after the sixth, the top three tubes are empty. I never, ever, ever ever take an arrow out of the fourth tube and shoot it. Arrows taken out of the “spares” are only placed in the quiver in place of an arrow that was rejected, then they are shot from there.

If I am shooting in a three-arrow per end round, I start with two in the top tube, then one in the next, then an empty tube. If a five-arrow end round, I go “2, 2, 1, spares.” All of these patterns are as alike as I can make them. I always start with two arrows in the top tube, for example. This makes this ordinary and not something special just for this round, which requires additional thinking, something we try to avoid.

Using one’s quiver protocol over and over makes it automatic. I have not made the mistake of not shooting the correct number of arrows since I adopted the practice.

To make this work, you have to load your quiver carefully. This you do most often at the target aftre pulling your arrows while you might be engaged in chit chat with your target mates. You must clear the mental space to load your quiver correctly after each end. I use a mental trick of not allowing myself to move my feet until the arrows are quivered correctly. This is just an extension of not moving your feet until all your arrows are safely quiver, which is what we teach beginners for safety. (You can’t trip unless you are walking, unless you possess unusual “gifts.”)

Of course, there are all kinds of additional things of this ilk to learn. If an arrow is pulled from service do you know which one it is if it accidentally gets put in the wrong tube? (I number mine for this purpose.) Do you …

As a coach, these are things to teach your serious students. The advantage to them is if they offload some of these things into the realm of habit, there is less to distract the thought processes during the competition and fewer stupid mistakes to upset them.





Filed under For All Coaches

2 responses to “Quiver Protocols

  1. Tom Dorigatti

    Good article, Steve!
    I have always had an arrow protocol for my quiver! I have shot 3-tube and 4-tube quivers and much prefer 4 tube quivers.
    I like the hip quivers, even indoors and have learned my protocol for it as well as my 4-tube forward facing FIST Quiver.
    For Indoors on either of my 4-tube quivers my protocol is as follows (and YES! I do number my arrows, too.)
    I use the 2-1-2 protocol on the 5-spot target and have a target protocol that I ALWAYS follow, period. I never change the target face protocol. I repeat
    I NEVER change my target face protocol. My target face protocol is Top Left, Top Right, Center, Bottom Left, Bottom Right. I figure to let gravity help me out on acquiring the target during the last shots on the end, ha. The quiver protocol is simple: Arrows #1,& 2 go into the most forward tube (closest to the target face). Arrow #3 goes into the middle tube, and arrows #4 & 5 go into the third tube from the front (closer to me). The last tube (the one closest to me) is the “penalty tube” or for spare arrow(s). Remember, you MUST have enough arrows in your quiver to account for broken nocks, loose vanes, or whatever (you can’t just up and leave the shooting line to go get more bullets, ha). This protocol also keeps me on the CORRECT shooting spot on the target face, too. By NEVER varying my target protocol, I can simply look at my quiver and know which arrow I’m on and which target face I should be shooting that arrow into!
    For the 3-spot Target, the protocol is 2-1-blank- spares. My target face protocol is ALWAYS and never varies shooting the spots as labeled, 1-2-3. So, combining my quiver protocol with the target face protocol prevents me from shooting 2 arrows into one spot. In many tournaments, if you do this on the 3-spot face, you just got yourself a real bite, since the LOWEST score of the two in the one spot counts and the other one nets a zero!
    For field shooting, I have an arrow numbering scheme that differs since I group my arrows by how well they shoot. Top notch arrows are always #1A-#4A. Those are prime arrows for distances from 50 yards out. Next batch is #1B-#4B and are for distances from 25 yards-48 yards. The scuzz batch is #1C-4C, and are for the shorties. I always carry a dozen arrows with me on a field round and all those arrows have been shot and group the same based upon how well they hold line. I try to NEVER shoot a “scuzz” (“C”) arrow at the longer targets, for example. I won’t use my “A” arrows on targets where everyone shoots into one spot unless it is 50 yards out. I won’t use my “A” group arrows on a 15 or 20 yarder either.
    The 4th tube is the penalty tube, for arrows that for whatever reason didn’t go where I thought they should have (honest assessment). So, if arrow #2A is away from the group, and I know I shot a reasonable shot, it will go into the penalty box immediately and replaced with #2B. What is interesting is that sometimes, an arrow in the penalty box gets rotated back into the mix!
    One last protocol I have is very worth mentioning. It is my “arrow pulling and checking protocol”. I will capitalize it for emphasis:
    1. I PULL MY OWN ARROWS, PERIOD!!! I have many reasons for this, but if you watch people pull arrows, you will get the jist of what I’m saying here. I am responsible for MY OWN equipment and have a protocol for arrow pulling.
    3. I ALWAYS PULL THE BEST ARROW LAST. I WANT TO LEAVE THAT TARGET WITH THE LAST THING ON MY SUBCONSCIOUS BEING A GOOD ARROW. Many shooters pull their worst arrow last. I think this serves to have a negative thought in the archer’s mind as he leaves the target. If you allow someone else to pull your arrows, you lose your protocol and take other chances.
    This all may seem like it is ‘overkill’, but in some 50 years of competitive shooting, I have yet to shoot the wrong target face in competition!! (knock on wood). By NEVER varying the order in which I shoot my target faces (indoors) and always shooting my arrows in numbered sequence and putting them into my quiver in sequence, it keeps my mind in the game.
    I’ve also not shot the wrong target face on the half-way target change on a field or hunter course (knock on wood).


    • Good stuff, Tom! My 5-spot protocol is different. I shoot the middle spot, then the others as you do. This was shaped when I first shot the five-spot target. I was so bad, that I took on the middle spot first because if I missed it entirely, I had a better chance of catching one of the others! Ouch! (This is why I am so good with beginners. I feel their pain!)

      On Wed, Sep 13, 2017 at 10:47 AM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



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