Tag Archives: Archery Shops

Getting Serious: Helping Them to Understand Archery Tech

Archery is a technical sport, there is a lot of technique involved. One of the areas bewildering to both new archers (and their parent’s if they are young) is the technology of bows and arrows, the equipment. One of your roles is to help them with the tasks of selecting equipment to acquire, setting up that equipment to be both safe and effective, and tuning it so it is matched to the archer’s skill. This is not a small undertaking, so let’s talk about this.

Talking Archery Tech

In the companion AER piece for archers, I took a shot at explaining arrow spine. Most beginning archers do not have a clue, and if my experience is at all common, many experienced archers also do not have a clue. So, this is important: if you find yourself in the position of making recommendations regarding purchases, setup and tuning, etc. and you are not comfortable with that task, you need to find a “tech support angel” or tackle that steep learning curve yourself.

Tech support angels come in the form of archery pro shop owners who take you and your students under their wing, offering you the services you need or can be a member of your archery club who volunteers to keep your program equipment in shape. In our first archery program experience (a 4-H program) a club member took all of the program arrows home with him after our weekly lessons and repaired them and brought them back for the next session. Later, we learned to do this task ourselves. We have heard of archery shops offering the same service for reduced or even no fees. (They are in the business of making money doing these things, so if they offer you a steep discount, or free services, be very, very grateful.)

Basically, we are saying you need to know of what you are teaching. Once you do, you will find yourself walking your students through procedures … over and over and over. Often the same student needs to be shown things multiple times. As with all physical skills, having them do it themselves after being shown is a critical step in learning.

Getting an Education

Coach training programs don’t do much in this area, so you are going to need to find other sources of technical support. One of those is books. We can recommend:

  • Simple Maintenance for Archery, 2nd Ed. by Ruth Rowe and Alan Anderson This is a must have book for coaches of serious archers! Step-by-step procedures with photos are provided for almost every task you will need to master.
  • Modern Recurve Tuning, 2nd Ed. by Richard Cockrell An excellent resource for what the title claims.
  • Tuning Your Compound Bow, 5th Ed. by Larry Wise The tuning bible for compound bows by a master coach.

Another source is the Internet, which we are sad to say is a mixed bag. Some of the information available is spot on and other, well, not so much. When using the Internet, always consider the source. We can safely say that the Lancaster Archery Academy Blog is a safer bet than a random video found in a Google search.

Teaching Videos There is an old saw used by teachers which is “tell me and I will forget, show me and I will remember.” There are a great many videos available on sources such as YouTube that are excellent at showing things. Here are a few examples:

We give out links to videos on how to tie a finger sling from a shoelace, how to safely brace a bow, etc. but we strongly recommend that you very carefully watch any video you would like to recommend as some of them start out doing a great job and then fly off into the land of error later. Take notes about any points in the videos you find iffy. These can be points of discussion for your students if you recommend the video to them.

Recommending videos and “further readings” is also a good way to get your student-archers involved in archery outside of their lessons or classes. They also are a marker to distinguish serious competitive archers from recreational archers. In general we have found that the recreational archers won’t do “homework” but the serious archers eat it up. We often use the test of asking students to text or email us to remind us to send them the information they say they want. Almost universally, the recreational archers will not bother to remember to do that or if they remember, they just don’t do it.

This is not a knock on recreational archers! They are not in the sport for what you are asking them to do and they are just being polite or telling you what they think you want to hear. This is to keep you from making the mistake of trying to teach your students the wrong way. Homework and drills don’t work for recreational archers, making things fun does. Just focusing on fun will offend a serious archer after a while and could lose you that student. This is all about “knowing your audience,” a prime rule of teaching.



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Arrow Shaft Lengths: Some Ins and Outs

I have just been corresponding with a student regarding arrow shaft lengths. He was ordering Easton arrows and using currently available data charts from Easton. What he found, though, was that he was ordering his arrows “uncut” but the arrows he had made were ½˝ longer than the numbers indicated. After going back and forth about the topic of “arrow lengths” we didn’t resolve the difference.

Here are some different aspects of arrow length:
Shaft Length In Easton’s catalog if you find this listed it is the length of the shaft alone.
Arrow Length Most people measure from the bottom of the nock groove (where the string touches) to the end of the shaft. This is also called a “cut length.”
Total Arrow Length For front of center (FOC) calculations and some computer sight mark programs, the arrow is measured from the bottom of the nock groove to the tip of the arrow’s point. Some even include the full length of the nock.
The kicker is that these measurements go under quite a few different names. Argh.

Since I know that Easton has changed the lengths of some of their shafts without notice, I grabbed an arrow off of the shelf, an Easton 2013 Platinum Plus arrow and measured just the shaft. It measured 32.5˝. I picked up the current Lancaster Archery Supply catalog and it had a chart that listed that shaft at 32˝. So, I looked back at a LAS catalog from several years ago (about when that arrow was purchased) and it listed the shaft at 32.5˝. Bingo. A change had been made. And unlike software that tells you (or at least lists) all of the differences from the previous version when an upgrade is installed, this doesn’t happen in archery.

Even when you know what is going on, it doesn’t mean you know what is going on. And you need to keep in mind that distributors buy thousands of shafts at a time, and some may not have good inventory control (which has rules like sell the older stock first, just like at the greengrocers!) and they may even have some “new” and “old” stock mixed in their bins.

Serious competitive archers have arrow saws and cut their own arrow shafts, then assemble them. The final length is the result of a tuning process, not something one looks up in a chart. If you don’t have the tools to cut arrow shafts, melt point cement, own a jig (or five) for fletching, etc. you are at a disadvantage as a competitor and as a coach. These are things that friends had when I got started but it was clear I needed my own tools (I am doing some fletching for a friend right now). And the above situation is one of the reasons.

Welcome to the wonderful world of archery equipment!

* * *

PS I am working on, amongst myriad other things, a series of pamphlets that cover these equipment issues. My goal is to provide these as e-pamphlets that you can carry around with you on your smart phone to consult as you need to. Until then I still recommend the wonderful book Simple Maintenance for Archery by Rowe and Anderson.

PPS If you haven’t noticed it Easton has made some rather large changes in its recurve target spine chart. If you are buying Easton arrows, you should use nothing older than the 2016 chart.

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Why are Target Archers Served So Poorly?

In 2012 the Archery Trade Association (ATA) sponsored a landmark survey of archery participation in the U.S. People in all 50 states, thousands of them, were surveyed via telephone as to archery and their participation in the sport. Last year they repeated the survey, somewhat expanded, and discovered a quite large increase in participation, which is probably no surprise to archery coaches. The new survey estimates the total number of adult archers in the U.S. at 21.6 million adults (plus uncounted scads of youths!).

The ATA for quite some time has been little more than a bowhunting marketing organization, so it is not surprising to see the report pull out a bullet point that “A little more than half of all (adult) archery participants in the U.S. (55%) bow hunt.” (p8) They got that result by summing the segments labeled “Bowhunting but not target archery” and “Target archery and bow hunting.” They did not, however, pull out a bullet point that could have said “More than three quarters of all adult archery participants in the U.S. (81%) participate in target archery.” I got that by summing the “Target archery and bow hunting” segment and the “Target archery but not bowhunting” segment. Possibly saying that there are more adult archers participating in target archery than bowhunting doesn’t fit their usual narrative. When you add in the fact that it is highly likely that the millions of youths participating in archery are way more likely to be target archers than anything else, the size of the “target archery market” is substantially bigger than the size of the “bowhunting market” when you consider just archery equipment (bows, arrows, sights, etc.)

The size of the ‘target archery market’ is substantially bigger than the size of the ‘bowhunting market’ when you consider just archery equipment (bows, arrows, sights, etc.)”

Way more than a few archery manufacturers sneer at target archery as the unprofitable weak sister of bow hunting. This is regrettable because when you look at look at the prices for target gear and compare them with hunting gear, the target gear tends to be more expensive, which means if you are selling to a dedicated target archer, vs. a dedicate bow hunter, you are looking at greater sales, not less. My estimation is that target archers spend more on archery equipment than do bowhunters. Bowhunters spend a lot more on their “bowhunting” but much of that is on ATVs, tree stands, travel, lodging, deer tags, licenses, camping gear, camo clothing, tracking cameras, etc. etc. things that manufacturers of bows and arrows do not make.

So, why the negative attitude toward target archers? If you look at sales of target equipment, they pale in comparison to the hunting gear. Why is this? There are more target archers than bow hunters. They are willing to spend more on archery equipment. So, why are sales so poor?

Could it be that target archers can’t find things to buy? Even in archery “pro shops” it is often the case that target equipment is either not to be found or very, very limited in scope. Those same shops also do not seem to have target archery specialists to help with buying decisions.

So, now that the Archery Trade Association has shown … twice … that the number of target archers is very, very much larger than anyone thought, where are the programs and outlets to market goods to target archers? Why aren’t the bow and arrow manufacturers pressuring the ATA to expand marketing to this previously unnoticed huge market? Is it because a manufacturer of broadheads, used only by hunters, have as much clout as an arrow manufacturer? Why are target archers not served better than they are? Why?


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Coaching Cheap Thrills

I just received a notice of another follower of this blog. (There I’ve told you there aren’t so many followers of this blog (there are 142 of you to date), if there were I would have turned off that notification long ago, otherwise one’s Inbox gets swamped.) The new follower is “rosecityarchery.” (Be still, my beating heart.) For those of you who don’t know Rose City Archery, it is the premier producer of wood target archery shafts and arrows. They may also produce the world’s best hunting shafts, but I cannot attest to that as I have never hunted with wood arrows.

Rose City Archery is located in Oregon and they claim to be the world’s largest wood arrow and shaft manufacturer. I have no way to verify that, so I take them at their word. They have been in business since the early 1930’s.

If you are interested in traditional archery and wood arrows, check out their web site and their blog (https://rosecityarchery.wordpress.com). You will find not only the highest quality products for sale, but also some high quality information about building them.

Also, there are a great many false claims made about wood arrows, such as they can’t be shot from compound bows safely, so that if you decide to “go wood” you will need to educate yourself. Traditional archery icon Dan Quillian wrote a series on such myths for Archery Focus magazine a while back (all back-issues are available for free with a subscription for the next six new issues).


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Why Buying the Very Best Sometimes Is a Bad Idea

Guess what? When it comes to equipment recommendations, you are Number One! Now, don’t get a swelled head, we just mean that you are the first person your students will consult regarding getting their own equipment or an upgrade of their own equipment. No matter how good you are at giving such advice, something happens between your advice and the purchase. What happens is the student-archer does his own research on the Internet or through catalogs or, sometimes worse, a salesman comes in between.

We have created a form for giving such recommendations and the stimulus for that form being created was a student we sent to a good archery shop who came back with a bow with 15# too much draw weight and about 2˝ too much draw length. But it was a very high quality bow, discounted heavily, and it had red and gold flames on it. Yep, you got it, a discounted high end bow that hadn’t gotten sold got fobbed off on our student. We were upset with the draw weight and draw length mismatches, the two most critical fitting criteria, but not so much about an expensive bow being bought as that student’s parents were quite well-to-do and could afford it. Now we realize that buying higher end equipment before it is appropriate can actually inhibit the progress an archer is making.

So, we recommend that you actively sell your students in avoiding buying top-of-the line gear before they are ready. We do this by recommending they buy equipment that matches the level of their shooting. Beginners should buy beginning-level equipment. Intermediate archers need intermediate-level equipment. Advanced archers need high end equipment (how high is a tough question).

Realize that this runs counter to conventional wisdom. Home craftsmen are best off buying the best hand tools they can afford: they work better and last longer. Cooks are encouraged to buy the best cookware they can afford for the same reasons. Most people think that if their archer had better equipment, they would shoot better. This is not necessarily the case. This is the same kind of thinking as when people think that a 60# bow should shoot arrows twice as fast as a 30# bow (not even close). And going against the grain of “common knowledge” is a tough sell.

The Reasons
There are a number of good reasons for the equipment purchasing scheme described above. Here are a few.

Budgetary Reasons We’re talking the family budget here. Many a family has a garage full of sports equipment purchased when one of the kids (or Dad or Mom) was excited about a new sport but then dropped it a couple of months later. There is the $300+ baseball bat, the $250+ hockey skates, etc. High end equipment has high-end price tags and investing a large sum of money in equipment before a significant commitment to a sport is made is probably a recipe for wasting hard-earned money. Our suggestion is to have youths earn their better gear through participation. This runs counter to the current trend in which parents try to encourage their kids by buying them stuff, but our recommendation has a better foundation in psychology.

Another consideration for growing kids is they can grow out of things quite quickly. For example, we do not recommend carbon recurve limbs for kids for that reason. The wood-fiberglass limbs give quite adequate performance and, as the youth grows, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg every time they need new limbs . . . or new arrows, or. . . .

Such equipment purchases can also create envy in students of lesser means but that is hard to control.

It Isn’t Necessary Many of the young Olympic Recurve archers we see can’t wait to get out of a wood-risered recurve into one of the really pretty metal-risered recurves. Turns out there is no significant advantage to the archer. What about the new equipment makes it more consistent or accurate? There is very little difference and there may be actual negatives (see below). What young archers need is a good tab, properly fitted to them. (We see way too many youths with rigid, metal-frame tabs, usually the wrong size and in the way; we recommend you keep them on a soft tab until they are quite close to their full growth.) Then they need good arrows. Carbon arrows? No, good aluminum arrows are fine. The best reasons for buying carbon arrows rather than aluminum are: you have no access to an arrow straightening jig or you need lighter mass arrows to “make distance.” The worst reason is “they’re cool.”

If they are using a bow sight, a decent bow sight might be next. Only after whatever makes for a full kit for the archer is had is a move up to a better bow warranted. So, a beginner-level setup can be upgraded one step at a time, by buying a better <insert whatever accessory or bow here>. The old accessories, for example, will fit on a new bow but the new bow need only be the next step up (beginner to intermediate to advanced to expert/elite).

It May Inhibit Progress Buying higher-end gear for a less than appropriate archer can have drawbacks. The aforementioned metal-framed tabs are one example. If not fitted perfectly, the tab creates awkward, rather than relaxed, string hand fingers which inhibit clear finger releases. Same goes for release aids.

We have seen way too many youths, especially girls, rushed into a metal-risered recurve bows (or full compound) with the result that since they do not have enough shoulder development to hold the bow up through a shot, they get months and months of practice dropping their bow arms! You can ameliorate this a little by widening their stance until their muscles develop, but there is only so much adjusting that can be done. The wood and plastic resin risers on beginner bows have the added benefit of being quite light weight. The metal bows, not so much.

Whether working with parents or adult students, avoiding buying mistakes is a tough one for us coaches. Making sure the person with the purchasing ability knows that buying higher-end equipment is not necessarily a good idea is important. You may want to print out copies of this article or draft something on your own as a handout.

We are busy trying to put together an online course of how to fit students with appropriate archery gear so as to help you help them get the gear that will keep them in the game. Look for it on the AER website. We will announce the course here.

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Helping Them Buy Their Own Equipment

What should I get? Where do I go? Where can I get a bow like Stephanie’s! Again, if you haven’t heard questions like these yet, you will and soon. Shopping for archery equipment requires quite a bit of technical knowledge. Whether or not there is an archery shop (also called an archery “pro shop”) in town, your help is going to be needed by all of your students desiring their own archery equipment. (The alternative is your students will go off on their own and buy equipment ill suited to them, and when that equipment doesn’t work well, they will share their unhappiness with you!)

Also realize that in the AER Recreational Archery Curriculum, you must have your own bow and arrows to start Stage II. The first Stage is the “beginner” stage in which we supply all of the equipment. The reason for this is a student can only go so far with borrowed equipment. To reach the intermediate level of archery, they need to have equipment that can be adjusted to fit them, which means, they need to have their own equipment.

The best case scenario is when you have a good archery shop nearby, so let’s look at that first.

Working with an Archery Shop
If you have a good archery shop near you, you are in luck. They should have numbers of bows and arrows in stock, plus many accessories that your students will need or want to buy (quivers, tabs, bow sights, stabilizers, etc.). They should have at least a small space set aside to test shoot bows or at most even a full indoor range. In order to send them customers with confidence, though, you are going to want pay them a visit and check out their inventory. In the long run, having a good working relationship with a good shop will pay huge dividends for your students.

A quick survey of the shop will give you an idea of who they are set up to serve. Look at the bows on the wall. If they are all in camouflage color schemes, they do not have target bows in stock and they aren’t serving many, if any, target archers. If, on the other hand, you see a number of bows in “target colors” (black, white, silver, bright reds, blues, yellows, etc.), the odds are good that they are set up to serve people like your students. If you work primarily with kids, look for Genesis compounds or small brightly colored recurve bows. Some places don’t make any effort to serve youths, because there isn’t much profit in selling to them. Some places will tell you they can help, but if they haven’t committed to carry some bows in stock, you have to doubt how much expertise and/or willingness they might have.

If they have stocked several target bows, then you are probably in luck. If you don’t see what you are looking for, talk to the owner and see if he is interested in serving your students. Do realize that beginner level target equipment is lower in cost, so there isn’t as much profit in it as in higher priced stuff. But many shop owners will work with you if you can supply enough customers. If you can suggest products to carry, especially any you will be recommending, the owner may be willing to carry them for you. Also inquire into whether there is a staff person who is knowledgeable about target archery gear (especially for kids). If they do have someone, good; if they don’t, it may be possible to bring one of the staff up to speed with a little help from you.

No Shop, Yes Problem
As problematic as archery shops can be for beginning target archers, if you don’t have an archery-only shop, we do not recommend you suggest “big box” sporting goods stores, etc. without having checked them out carefully. They are unlikely to have any or enough target equipment to choose from. They are unlikely to have someone on staff who is a “target archery specialist.” They are also unlikely to have a place to shoot a bow to try it out. Now, we admit that some Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s stores do have archery ranges, but every time we go into such stores, we check out their archery holdings and the vast majority of what they offer for sale is for bowhunting only. So, what are you to do?

There are a number of Internet-based archery suppliers that can sell your students what they need, often at good prices. But the burden is going to fall on you to help them create a shopping list so they know what to buy, then to help them set their new equipment up when it comes in. If this is your situation, you need to offer “Bowfittings” as a service. A Bowfitting is a complete fitting session in the form of a private lesson that takes about 1-1.5 hours. You charge a flat fee for this. We are currently designing a web-based training program (www,ArcheryEducationResources.com—look for it) to teach you how to make all of the necessary measurements. For example, for arrow recommendations, you need to make shaft size recommendations, fletch material and length recommendations, nocks, and point recommendations. Our training will provide you with our recommendations, but you may find you can get some great deals working through a local shop or archery equipment vendor, so you won’t be limited in what you can recommend. You will also provide information on reasonable prices to pay and reputable online dealers from whom your students can purchase their gear safely, if a local source is not available. You can also offer a follow-up individual lesson to get your student’s new gear set up and shooting well. Or, they can bring it to class and you can work on it, time permitting. (You may need to explain that you cannot devote all of your class time to one student, so it will take longer this way.)

Getting a Bowfitting may also be the best way for your students to go to a shop knowing what it is they want. (If you want a sneak preview, check out the article “The Bowfitting” in Archery Focus magazine, Vol 12, No 2.)

Equipment Recommendations
While we will leave most of the specific recommendations to the Bowfitting course, there is one we can make easily. Parents often approach us and ask what they can get their child because “he/she loves archery so much.” If this child has been shooting a Genesis compound bow during class, this bow can be recommended without hesitation and without having to fit it. A recurve bow has many variables to be established: riser material (wood, polymer, metal), riser length (21˝, 23˝, 25˝, 27˝ and more), limb length (short, medium, long—this along with the length of the riser determines bow length), draw weight (14-50# in 2# increments), bowstring material (Dacron, Fast Flight, etc.), and arrow rest.
The Genesis bow comes with all of the decisions made for you with the critical factors being adjustable. All you need do is pick the color.
Not only that, but there is a Genesis arrow available which is “one size fits all” which, as we all know, “doesn’t really.” But the Genesis arrow can be shot by the kids and adults in the family, so they have that advantage. Another arrow recommendation is to simply have them buy the arrows they are using with that bow in class (typically a 1816 or 1916 Easton Jazz arrow).

Working with Parents
If you work a lot with kids, you will also be working with parents on buying decisions as they are the ones paying the bills. It is important that you let your parents know you do Bowfittings (if you do). It is important that parents become aware that purchasing a bow for a child has a great many parameters involved and that help is available. Even parents who are archers often do not have the all of the expertise needed to help their own kids buy archery gear.
Having handouts to give parents is a great way to communicate with them. If you deliver a wonderful talk to parents attending before a class session, just as you finish another will show up and ask you “Can you repeat that?” Having a handout to read on their own time is a courtesy to busy parents who can’t necessarily stay for a class session or whose kids catch a ride with another parent. We think you get the idea.

We hope to have an “exchange” section on the AER Web Site where AER Coaches can share copies of their handouts so you can have examples to make up your own from. Look for it!

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