The Goldilocks Principle Applied to Archery

I can’t remember if I have written about this here, and am too lazy to search back through a zillion blog posts, so I will write about it now (and possibly again). I know I have written about it in a number of my books, but that ain’t here, so . . . I continue.

You are aware, I am sure, of the Goldilocks fable, of the little girl, lost in the woods, who happens upon a house owned by three bears (a mama, a papa, and a baby bear, no less) who happen to not be home. As she explores the house, she finds porridge in three bowls, one of which is too hot, another too cold, and the third “just right.” Similarly she finds three beds (mama and papa apparently don’t sleep together), one of which is too hard, the next is too soft, and the third is just right.

What the moral of the story is I can’t tell you, but this “too much, too little, just right” framework I found applies to archery and so I labeled it the “Goldilocks Principle.”

The Goldilocks Principle Applied to Sighting In
As an example, consider the task of sighting in with a brand new target bow sight. You have set up and installed the sight according to the manufacturer’s instructions and are now ready to find some sight marks. So, you put the aperture about where you think it needs to be for a 20 yd/m shot and shoot an arrow. The arrow hits well below the target face. You know what to do (“chase the arrows”) so you move the aperture down one click and shoot again. And again, the arrow hits off the bottom of the target face, so you lower the aperture one more click, and . . . whoa, would you really do this, this way? I have seen a number of people actually do this . . . but most people would make larger adjustments realizing “one click at a time” was a bit too deliberate.

I suggest a better approach for this task, and really any similar task of making settings or adjustments in settings (nocking point heights, centershot settings, etc.), is to employ the Goldilocks Principle.

Doing the task above, according to the Goldilocks Principle, after the first shot being way low, the aperture is moved quite a ways down the sight bar in the hopes of an arrow hit that is “too high.” Just for fun let’s say we make such an adjustment and the second shot is as high above the center as the first was below. Where would you put the aperture for the third shot? <Jeopardy music plays in the background . . .> Yep, you’d put it exactly half way between those two settings and you would be very close to target center on your next shot.

This is actually the process I recommend. If the first test is low, adjust so that the second test is high, then cut the difference between those two settings in half and try again. If you are still high on the third shot, then split the difference between that “high” and the original “low” and try again. Lather, rinse, repeat. This process results in being very close to spot on very quickly.

The original process of inching, or millimetering, or clicking your way up or down from where you were is loaded with problems. Often a small change doesn’t give you enough information to tell if you have even made an effect. Certainly it doesn’t give you any help in what kind of setting you are looking for, other that “higher, move it higher,” or the equivalent. You may be an inch or more away from where you need to be and that is a load of clicks (and test shots). If you can immediately find the first two points of “too high and too low” you have established that the point you seek is in between. When you choose roughly half way between those two, you cut the range of possibilities in half each time you make an adjustment.

If you haven’t been using the Goldilocks Principle, give it a try, it may reduce the size of some of the jobs archers have to do.

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