Tag Archives: Compound bows

Stop with the Bests, Please

I tend to “lurk” on several archery sites, such as Archery Talk, even Quora has an archery section. I call it lurking because usually I bite my tongue and don’t comment, so I’ll comment here instead! :o)

All too often I see questions on these various sites like “What is the best bow?” and “What is the best broadhead?” and “What is the best bow sight?” and “Can anyone recommend a good broadhead?” These questions irritate the heck out of me because they do not specify for what purpose. What makes a good bow sight for hunting doesn’t necessarily make a good bow sight for target archery. What makes a good bow for historical re-enactments doesn’t necessarily make a good bow for horse archery. What makes . . . do I need to continue?

So, these are stupid questions on their faces. And if one does try to answer them, one is necessarily put in the position of listing a great many different purposes and answering the question for each of those quite different categories, when the questioner is probably only interested in one of those answers.

On Quora, the following question was asked “What is the least expensive bow?” I lost my composure and answered “a free one.” My first bow (and second and third) were free in that they were loaners that got turned into gifts, so the answer wasn’t entirely facetious. Answers to this question would vary a lot if one had asked “I want to explore target archery, how much do I need to save up to get started?” or “What is the least expensive starter bow I can get to go hunting?”

So, pet peeves aside, I see too many posts on websites, articles in magazines, and videos on YouTube referring to the “best” binoculars, “best” spotting scopes, “best” bow sights, “best” hunting bow, “best” arrows, “best” broadheads, etc. The reason these are misleading at the minimum or stupid at the other end is there is no such thing as “the best” anything when it comes to archery . . . period.

Every piece of kit you can acquire for archery has caveats associated with it. One of mine was cost. I have never been what you might call “flush” to the point that money was no object. So everything I bought fit into the category of “the best I could get for under XYZ dollars.” On top of that are restrictions based upon application. Binoculars for most bowhunting scenarios should be small, lightweight, and moderately powerful, possibly wide field also. You may have to pack in these binoculars, so light and small are good, and deer hunters rarely take a shot over 30 yards, so not a lot of magnifying power is needed. Probably want rugged, too. If you are using the binoculars for long distance target shooting, such requirements may not apply. Field archers have to lug their gear around their ranges, so light and small might apply but target archers can have all of their gear in a wheelbarrow, right near their shooting station, should they need any of it.

A bow for target competition also has limitations. If you hanker after an Olympic medal, don’t come home from the pro shop with a compound bow, they aren’t allowed.

Then there is the matter of personal fit. When examining a new bow, the first thing I check is the grip section. I remember a bow Claudia fell in love with that I couldn’t draw because it felt that the grip was going to slide right out of my bow hand as I began pulling on the bowstring and there was nothing I could do to change that. She, on the other hand, felt she had never felt a more solid hold in her life. So, that bow might have been “best” for her, but it certainly wasn’t “best” for me.

What I would rather see are posts/videos/articles with titles such as “What Makes A Good Bow Sight?” and “What to Look For When Buying a Hunting Compound Bow.” Then you might be equipped to find something that is at least “good” for you.

Addendum When I finished this post it occurred to me that anyone who answers a “best” question straight on, “this is best,” or writes a “best” article is actually lying. This is based upon the simple fact that in order to declare a best of anything, you would have to test every possible candidate in that category. Do you think the people who declare a “best hunting arrow” actually tried all of them? Tested all of them? Can you imagine testing all bowstrings, bow sights, arrow points, broadheads, etc? I can’t. So, I sincerely wish people would stuff the “bests” where the sun don’t shine along with all of the other BS.

Apology If I have offended your sensibilities in any way, I do apologize. Being locked up due to the pandemonium gives me no one else to vent to.

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Compound v. Recurve Bows for Hunting

I was perusing an online article entitled “A Primer on Bowhunting.” By and large it was quite good but under the topic of bow selection I encountered the following:

“For the purpose of the rest of this article, let’s assume you’re in the market for a compound bow (which is highly recommended for a new bowhunter). The advantages are numerous, but the main ones are:
• increased effective range (usually 50+ yards)
• more accurate
• easier to hold in the drawn position (giving you time to wait for the perfect shot)
• faster arrow speeds/greater kinetic energy (resulting in a quicker and more ethical kill)”

Allow me to address the bullet points, point-by-point.

  • increased effective range (usually 50+ yards)
    Uh, most deer are taken within 25 yards, for example, so this is possibly a detriment. If a hunter thinks he is dead on accurate out to 50 yards, he may actually be enticed to take such longer shots. The problem here is the feeling of “dead on accurate” usual comes from experience at practice on an archery range, free of obstacles. In the field, however, there are branches in the way as well as other obstacles (cramped stances or no stance at all, etc.), and the farther away the game is the more time they have to react to a sound from the hunter (look up “jumping the string” for examples).
  • more accurate
    Uh, just no. The bow affects consistency, but not accuracy. Accuracy falls strictly under the archer’s responsibility. While there are aspects of bow design that do affect accuracy somewhat, it is up to the archer to use any advantage in every case.
  • easier to hold in the drawn position (giving you time to wait for the perfect shot)
    This is the primary, #1, bestest, mostest advantage of a compound bow. Because of designed in “letoff” the draw force at full draw is a small fraction of the peak draw force. Bow designs typically remove 65% to 80% of the peak draw force, often leaving less than 20 pounds of force to be held at full draw. More time means more time to aim. Recurve bows and longbows reach their peak weights at full draw and aren’t going to be held long because of that.
  • faster arrow speeds/greater kinetic energy (resulting in a quicker and more ethical kill)”
    Again, uh, . . . no. Arrows kill by cutting blood vessels that result in the animal bleeding to death. Ethical bowhunting requires the hunter to aim for the largest blood vessels, using an arrow fitted with a “broad head” which is not only broad but is very, very sharp. Larry Wise once calculated what arrow speeds were necessary to inflict lethal penetration on a deer and it came out to about 240 feet per second (fps) for a typical hunting arrow. Compound hunting bows are now promising arrow speeds of 300 fps to 350 fps. Higher arrow speeds result in what are called “pass throughs” that is the arrow penetrates the prey’s body and comes out the other side. Arrows that have left the body of the animal do no further damage, so are not any more lethal than slower arrows. (It is different for rifle hunters as faster bullets carry more energy (just as faster arrows do) but bullets kill through shock, not blood loss from severed blood vessels and there is less “drop” so longer rage shooting become easier.)

I am not a hunter. I gave up hunting when I was 18 and hunting squirrels. But I have been around hunters my whole life and I listen to them and read what they have written (a good book to educate yourself is Timeless Bowhunting by Roy S. Marlow). This allows me to work with bowhunters who are seeking archery advice and also for being able to communicate with target archers who also bow hunt.

 

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The Mindset of a Release Shooter

Note This is directed to release shooters, but coaches of release shooters should get the point as they should be release shooters themselves. Steve

If you shoot with fingers on the string, the tough nut to crack is deciding when to release the string (Now . . . no, . . . now, . . .). This is why clickers were so quickly adopted by recurve archers when they were first invented.

For Compound-Release archers (Are there any other kinds left?), the release of the bowstring is different, quite different, because a mechanical thingamabob exists between fingers and string.

My first release aid was mechanical (it was a Hot Shot) but prior to those were the various ledge and rope-spike release aids that were not mechanical. There are no such “non-mechanical” releases in use today because of the superiority of the mechanical triggers now available (mostly of the “double sear” type if that interests you).

What I am addressing in this post is the mindset needed to be a successful archer who uses a release aid.

I remember shooting a Flint Round (I miss the Flint Round, a wonderful competition) and on the final shot, my Hot Shot release failed to let go of the string. In exasperation I hammered the trigger several times (Whap, whap, whap!) and no luck. I borrowed the release aid of my mentor, who was shooting right next to me to get that last shot off. The feelings I had surrounding this event are very easily recalled. (Everyone on the shooting line was waiting for me to finish, for example.)

Release aids do fail to function, but this is a very, very rare occurrence. Much more often, a release failing to “go off” is due to the archer’s technique or the lack thereof. For elite Compound-Release archers this basically does not happen, but for us recreational archers, it does. This topic was brought up by a comment from one of my colleagues (slightly edited): “With other thumb trigger releases I know some shots just aren’t going to go off but with this new release, even if the shot takes longer I know it’s going to go off. That makes a big difference.” Yeah, baby! This is an oh, so important part of release shooting.

Part of the reason release shooters accumulate so many release aids (other than the general belief in magic, exhibited by all archers) is to find a release aid that combined with their mastery of the technique to use it, results in this level of dependability (IMHO, of course). Once you start having an internal debate (Me v. I) over whether the damned thing is going to go off, your shot is finished, done, kaput. A trustworthy release aid/technique combination is vitally important to the mindset needed to shoot well. (While waiting for the release to actuate, there should be no conscious thoughts about the release at all.)

In my first year of release shooting, I can remember the feeling of a shot carried on just a tad too long and the thoughts going through my head: Should I let down? Should I force through the shot? Will I run out of time if I do a let down? None of these kinds of thoughts are helpful. There is an optimum time frame through which all of your shots should occur and you can train yourself to do this, but a requirement for achieving this is that the release aid be compatible with your technique (and vice-versa).

For the curious, the venerable Hot Shot Release Aid.

Releases can be two-, three-, or four-finger models if handheld or even wriststrap releases. Release aids can be triggerless or have thumb, little finger, or ring finger triggers. Wriststrap releases can use the index or middle finger to set them off.

The only way to find out which of these types of release aid fit your archery is by trial and test. Do use a rope bow for your initial tries! I give a rope bow to each of my compound students (if they do not already have one) and encourage them to carry it in their quiver so they can ask other archers “Can I try your release?” without the danger of dry fires of wildly shot arrows.

Then it is a matter of try, try, and try again. The ideal release . . . for you . . . fits for hand/body and suits your personality. It will feel “right” once you have shot it for a while. And, like golfers with putters, there are golfers who use the same putter for 40 years and others who switch back and forth between a set of dozens of different models, adding to that set often. You need to find out who you are in this regard. Archery has always been a voyage of self-discovery.

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Shooting While Breathing

I got a great email with the following question that will be the subject of today’s post:

Hi Steve,

I was wondering if you had any thoughts about breath control and how breathing (best) figures into the shot cycle? In the book you recommended, Professional Archery Technique, by Kirk Ethridge, Mr. Ethridge recommends to “[i]nhale deeply as you raise the bow, and exhale as you draw. When you are at full draw, your lungs should be empty.” (p. 36) The rationale seems to be one of relaxation and stillness. 

On the other hand, both Byron Ferguson (Become the Arrowp. 18) and Anthony Camera (Shooting the Stickbow, 2nd ed., p. 275) advocate inhaling on the draw, allowing the chest to expand at anchor — though for different reasons. (Ferguson’s seems to be about using the inhalation to expand the chest and further bring the drawing elbow/arm into alignment; Camera’s seems to be that the act of drawing itself creates a natural expansion and therefore inhalation, though “while there is little if any chest expansion [at full draw], the logical progression is to continue inhaling, albeit at a slower rate.”)

What are archery coaches recommending? Is there one best (or better) answer, or is this simply a matter of “what works for you”? (For myself, the logic of breathing in makes sense, but I find the inhalation difficult on the draw, and it feels like I am having to hold my breath while at aim. I tried Ethridge’s suggestion and found, if nothing else, that I felt more relaxed/still while at aim. That seemed to be a plus. But is this physiologically “wrong”?

* * *

As far as I am concerned, you can do nothing wrong in this regard as long as you are open to what is happening to your body. The goal, is to be still and strong at the moment of release.

The only scientific study I have been made aware of reports that we are steadier/more still if we have slightly less than a whole lungful of air at that moment. If you want to try that, end with that (full breath, partial exhale) and work your way back to the beginning of the shot. I am unaware of any other serious studies, but they may exist. That, of course, is in archery. There is a great deal of study on breathing in weightlifting. In lifting very great weights, the common wisdom is to exhale upon exertion. This technique lowers internal pressures in the body and prevents injuries such as hernias. But in archery, the weights involved are not so great, so I think we are free to do almost anything.

So, I recommend you experiment as you have been doing. Try a number of breathing patterns. (Rick McKinney’s book, The Simple Art of Winning, lists several more.) The goal is stillness and control at the moment of release.

I have a couple of caveats.

  1. Note whether the source is referring to Recurve/Traditional form or Compound form. I think the requirements for these forms are different enough to require different approaches (Rec/Trad has max draw weight and min time at full draw, while Compound has reduced DW and greater time at FD).
  2. Take into account your personal situation. I tried all kinds of breathing patterns and couldn’t settle on one, so I just breathed as close to tidally as I could (look it up). Then I was diagnosed as having asthma which cleared a few things up. If I held a little long I ended up out of breath, so I included an extra breath into my pattern and it really helped.

So, don’t feel confined by what other people recommend and use your sense of how still and comfortable you are up to the moment of release, coupled with how you feel thereafter (you do not want to be panting and out of breath) as your guide to a consistent breathing pattern. There is no physiologically right or wrong that I can perceive in this topic.

Note For serious archers, this gets worked out one way or another, either through investigation (as you are doing) or through feedback training (doing something over and over until you find what works). Archery is a repetition sport and one based upon feel. Breathing irregularities lead to different feelings that have nothing to do with archery, so breathing needs to be consistent, whichever pattern you choose or learn.

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What Letoff is Best for Target Archery?

Often as not these posts are stimulated by questions sent in by my students. In this case part of one question included this:

Remember those 65% cam letoff modules? I didn’t notice any difference so I put the original 75% ones back on after a few months. Since using my trainer with two tensions, I see the higher tension seems to go off easier. In addition, I’ve read the higher tension lets you hold on target better. I have noticed even with my stabilizer with different weights I don’t get as steady as I’d like or should be.

Many coaches not raised in the world of compound bows are a little baffled by the concept of letoff. Simple stated, the letoff is the percent of the peak draw weight of a compound bow that you lose getting to the holding weight. So, if you have a 50# peak draw weight compound, if it is designed with 50% letoff, you are holding 25 of those 50 pounds at full draw. If you have a 60% letoff bow, then you are holding 40% or 20#. If you have a 75% letoff bow you are holding 25% or 12.5 lbs.

So, why not 100% letoff, it sure would be easier holding?

In the early days of compound bows (Hint: the 1970’s) compound bows had 35-40% letoff at best. The archers choosing these bows were shooting 40 and 45 pound recurves, holding 40 and 45 pounds at full draw, so knocking off a third or more of that was quite a deal. Shortly thereafter letoff reached 50%, then 65%. When I got started in archery the Compound-Fingers archers were often shooting 50% letoff bows and the release shooters were shooting mostly 65% letoff bows. The difference between the two groups is understandable if you grasp that the fingers do not leave the bow string in a finger loose, the bow string pushes them out of the way on its path toward the bow. If there is very little tension on a bowstring at full draw, where the loose occurs, then there is little force to move the fingers out of the way, which means the string will move much more than we want it to in response to the force exerted on the fingers by the string (action-reaction). This makes for inconsistent wobbly releases.

Bow manufacturers have raised letoffs up to 75%, even 80% but these are not used much for target applications. They are mostly used by bowhunters who may have to wait at full draw for a deer to present itself, for example.

Target archers still need a bit more string tension for the reasons implied in the question and more. As more and more compound archers switched to using release aids, which make our releases so much cleaner, we tended to give back some of that full draw bowstring tension (high letoff = lower full draw string tension), trading it for comfort. The holding weight at full draw which creates the string tension is a force we exert on the bow that (a) makes the bow easier to hold up (as the draw arm is pulling up, somewhat, as well as back), (b) makes the bow easier to hold steady, and (c) gives a reasonably clean release.

In my student’s case, his bow has replaceable modules that attach to the cams that change the letoff from 65% to 75%. (Letoff is an element of design that varies slightly with draw weight and draw length and since those are adjustable, these numbers are approximate.) He is saying that with the 65% letoff modules installed (giving a slightly greater holding weight/bowstring tension at full draw), that the release goes off more crisply and that he seems to be able to hold steadier. He is quite right.

Many cam modules are adjustable to create a wide range of draw lengths. Some adjust the letoff.

Basically there has to be a happy spot in the middle of the letoff range, somewhere where the amount of resistance at full draw is not taxing yet the tension on the string is enough to facilitate a stable hold and release. For target Compound-Release archers this happy middle ground is currently around 65% letoff. As with all things of this type, this is not a dictum, it is just an indicator that the farther you get away from that number the less easy things get. As the letoff goes down (toward, say 50%) the holding weight goes up and so fatigue becomes a factor on long shooting days. If you are in very good shooting shape, this may actually be desirable. As the letoff goes up, the ability to hold steady goes down a little, but if you are rock solid steady, that may be an acceptable tradeoff. So some archers favor higher and some lower letoffs than what most archers do.

If you hear compound archers arguing over “what amount of letoff is best” realize that the discussion is probably pointless as what is best for one person may be quite different for another. It also depends on the application: bowhunting, target, field, 3-D. But compound archers, shooting more complicated mechanisms (bows), have more of an equipment focus than do recurve and traditional archers. Arguing over “what <fill in the blank> is the best …” seems to be a way to talk about their sport and stay engaged. I never pay those discussions/arguments much attention.

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Are You Steady?

This is a BowJunky video that shows the apertures of top compound archers while shooting during competition. Whether you coach compound or recurve primarily, this is well worth watching.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=166&v=8Ls7xv3_0Uc

Even top flight compound people show aperture movement while aiming. Do realize that compound bows are easier to hold steady than recurve bows due to their greater mass. [ More mass means more inertia, which equates to harder to move.” The simplest example is how much harder it is to move a boulder than a pebble. They are both made of rock and their size is not an issue … their mass is the issue.] Conclusion: recurve apertures move, too … probably more so than compound apertures.

You are steady when the movement is minimal, not when it stops. What “minimal” is must be learned … and improved upon if possible.

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Apertures Float Like a Butterfly

We get letters ♫ … I got an email recently regarding apertures from a compound archer. Some interesting points were raised. Here it is:

Steve,
I’m working on a steadier hold. I switched to a dot from my aperture because the new (kinda) 80 cm target for compound @ 50m didn’t work with the aperture I’d been using for the 122cm target. That aperture also worked perfect in my garage at 28 feet as well as 18 m indoors. The dot seemed to be the same size at all distances. I was doing holding drills this week and tried both the dot and empty aperture, then noticed something interesting. When using the dot, it wanders out of the gold and you don’t want to take a shot when it does that but when using the aperture you always have some yellow in the circle made by the aperture even when the dot would be out. It’s an illusion, somewhat, you’re always in the yellow while you’re “out” with the dot even though it’s really the same position you’re holding on.

Here’s my response.

* * *

For compound people, there are a multitude of rings in different diameters and thickness … and colors to try. You can even combine rings and dots and use one or the other under different situations.

You were perceiving what is called relative steadiness. A bigger dot seems to move less than a smaller one (possibly because the extent of the motion is a fraction of the diameter of the larger dot, rather than a multiple of the diameter of the smaller one). Same is true for larger rings/apertures v. smaller rings/apertures. If you are using a central dot in your aperture, you want to have the dot be small enough it does completely cover the gold, nor does it leave the gold often. This is why I prefer a larger ring decal on my scope lens apertures. The gold floats inside of the ring and provides the information my brain needs to see that it is “centered” in that ring.

Imagine a dot so big it covers the gold. (Some have used old sight pins with beads glued on the tip to create such a thing for indoors compound archery.) In this situation one feels the urge to move it off to see if the gold is actually behind the dot. If you are in a situation like that, due to the distance to the target, it is better to “see” the dot as being inside, say, the blue ring, and looking to have it centered in that ring because the gold is not helping. On a target like the NFAA Hunter targets, you are SOL as there is only the small central dot on the face and no outer rings to help as with the parti-colored target faces.

Small dots make you feel more jittery, larger ones less so, but larger rings/apertures include the ability to see what is behind the aperture while keeping the sense of stillness.

We are never perfectly still. The fact that out hearts beat continuously, and each beat changes the location of our center of mass slightly, which means we can never be perfectly still. So apertures, scope lenses, dots will always be seen to be moving. Small objects moving a distance equal to their own size appear to be moving a lot. A large object moving the same distance appears to be moving very little. The empty ring aperture (recurve) and the ring decal applied to scope lenses (compound) provide the best of both.

Again, these are my opinions, my analyses. There ain’t no gospel here. If you are someone which an elevated innate sense of calmness, you made need no extra help like this. I am not one of those people and was born jittery, so I needed all of the help I could find. Steve

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Archers Need More Help with Stabilizers?

We have addressed the topic of stabilizers, primarily how they work, and how to get started using one. It seems that it is time to expand on that beginning. Here I am going to focus in on how you, as a coach, can help archers wend their way through a forest of stabilizers.

More Stabilizers, More, Please
It seems to me that many novice archers, young and old, rush to make their equipment look like the “good archers’” stuff. This is especially true of young archers whose moms and dads are archers. The problem with doing this is that such additional accessories may not help and might just hurt their progress in archery. Each new accessory changes how their bow feels and needs to be adjusted and tested. If your student does not shoot quite well yet, they may not be able to notice that there is no improvement in their archery from the addition of the XYZ Gizmo. And if they are adding mass to an already “too heavy” bow, they will be hurting their progress.

These accessories only make small differences in their results and if they really want positive attention for their skill as an archer, practicing and refining their form will probably pay off more than fiddling with their equipment.

That being said, you will probably not make many friends if you pooh-pooh each student-archer’s desire to add something to their kit. So let’s look at how you can help.

Getting Fitted
One of the areas archers need the most help is with their archery purchases. The archery marketplace is bewildering to even many seasoned archers, so it is especially so for novices and beginner-to-intermediate archers. If you prove valuable helping with these purchases, your opinion on subsequent ones will become more and more impactful. Besides, trying to help an archer is always one of the better things we do.

Fitting Long Rods Short stabilizers are limited in length by rule, but long rods are not, so let’s look at long rod fitting. An easy way to measure a student up for a long rod is to have them hold their bow at their side, string up. Have them allow it to hang as far as it will, but their hand should be in the bow as it is when shooting. Then measure from the stabilizer boss to the floor/ground. Add an inch to this length—this is a good first estimate as to what length of long rod to start on. If your archer is still growing, add another inch. If the long rod you are shopping for doesn’t come in that length, err on the long side, but not 5˝-6˝ long as that will be unwieldy.

As to how much the rod weighs: lighter is better (stiffer is better, too). The rule of thumb is a lighter weight farther out has a greater stabilizing effect than more weight closer in. There are now some carbon fiber long rods that are not too expensive that are lightweight and quite stiff, too. If on a tight budget, an archer can look for a used rod or a less expensive aluminum one. Some very gaudy scores were shot using aluminum stabilizers. Don’t fall for the “carbon is like bacon: it makes everything better” rule.

With regard to long rod “end weights” we recommend they start with none, maybe just a plastic cap to protect the threads on the end of the rod. If the rod comes with end weights, they can be just taken off (and put in a Baggie labeled and dated!) and added later when your archer is feeling experimental or just stronger.

Fitting Side Rods Side bars and V-bars themselves come in a number of variations. V-bar blocks (the block the side rods screw into) can be “fixed” or “adjustable” as to the angle. For compound archers, “one side only blocks” are available, but you can just use an ordinary dual rod block also, even though only one rod is the norm. The V-bars themselves come in various lengths, sort of small, medium, and large. If your student is fairly short in height, they should get the short side rods. If they are fairly tall in height, recommend they get the long side rods. If in the middle, have them get the mediums. If an adjustable block is used, the angle the rod makes with the bow tunes the effective length of the rod.

To fit them, they need to be attached to the bow and your archer needs to shoot some to adjust to the new feel. After this “break in” period, you need to ask them how the bow feels. If they pay attention, they will notice whether the bow tends to react left, right, up, or down. If they do not notice, have them shoot some arrows blind bale, specifically asking them to pay attention to how stable the bow feels at full draw and which way the bow tends to move when the shot is loosed.

Angling the side bar or bars downward moves the weight distribution from back to front (and the reverse does the opposite). So, if they feel like the bow is “rolling back” in their hand too much (or less forward, these things are relative) then the bow is back heavy and weight needs to me moved forward. Angling the side rods(s) down will fine tune this. Adding weight to the tip of the long rod would be the most affective way to move weight forward (and so removing it is the most effective way to move weight back). What you want to be leery of is adding a bit of weight on the end of this side rod, then a bit more on the end of the long rod, then a little weight on the other rod, . . . ; this can lead you to a bow that is much heavier than before, something that might not be desirable (this is a warning for youths and smaller adults who have less shoulder muscle development).

To get a feel for how the bow is balanced, try hanging it from a hook or loop of cord so it can hang freely. You will eventually develop an “eye” for how a bow that is balanced well hangs. One with too much weight forward will hang with the long rod at an angle that looks “too steep.” One that has too much weight to the rear will hang with the long rod to flat to the floor/ground. From behind the bow, the bow should hang straight up and down, if it doesn’t then weighting of the side rods needs to be adjusted. (This is the only reason for a single side rod on a compound bow—to balance the weights of the “compound weight” bow sight and arrow rest on the other side of the bow.)

Testing, Testing, Testing
We have recommended over and over that when anything new is added to a bow (or the accessories jacked up and a new bow put inside of them), the new rig needs to be tested against the old. Notes need to be taken regarding the arrangement of the “old rig” and some measures of how it performs need to be had (group sizes and round scores seem to work best). Then the “new rig” needs to be set up, adjusted, and tuned and tested in the same way. This is what serious competitive archers do.

Having said this, don’t beat this approach like a borrowed mule. A little bit goes a long way, here. Your first goal is to establish that “this is the way things are done.” You are not trying to establish that this is the best equipment setup in all of the world for your archer. U.S. archer Jake Kaminski has set up a YouTube channel and has made some very useful videos in which he walks through setting up new equipment and testing it. He is an elite archer and has worked out how best to do those tasks for him. You will also see the amount of equipment he acquires and tests, looking for small improvements in his performance. The amount of effort is amazing. Do not try to emulate this as your students are nowhere near ready yet.SAve the elite archer routines for the elite archers.

Bare shaft tuning works well (Jake uses it). Simple testing routines that can be done in a single practice session (or between lessons) should be the goal.

 

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What Should an Archer be Thinking While Shooting?

What should an archer think while shooting? This is a question often asked even though it isn’t asked often enough. There is, no surprise, not a whole lot of data to examine, but I did run across a 2013 survey of 28 PGA Tour professional golfers who were asked about what their favorite “swing thought” was (“swing thoughts” being the golf equivalent of archery “shot thoughts”). Here’re the results: 18 pro’s said they didn’t think about anything at all during their swing, 10 who did claim to have a swing thought said it was to focus on a spot a few inches in front of the ball, to encourage swinging through the ball, instead of hitting at the ball, or they focused on the desired shape of their shot. None of them said they had any technical thoughts about their swing. (Read that last sentence again. SR)

Now golf is more dynamic than archery, but it has many similarities to archery. This is one of those.

  • Golfers do their analysis and thinking between shots, so should archers.
  • Golfers inspect the lie of their golf ball, obstacles in their way, potential hazards, the landing zone they want to hit and how far away it is, the wind, club selection, and on and on, but when it is time to hit the ball, they do two things: they visualize the shot they want to hit (this is a form of instruction to the subconscious processes that control our muscles; it equates to “this is what I want you to do”), and they stop thinking consciously (it is just a distraction). Archers should do the same.

There is one exception: when you find yourself or your archer making a mistake repeatedly, it is okay to have a “shot thought,” a short phrase designed to emphasize a correction, shoring up a weak point as it were. An example is “strong bow arm” or “finish the shot.” This phrase is though only at the point in one’s shot sequence where it is appropriate. Mumbling “finish the shot” to yourself mentally in the process of raising the bow and drawing it is not recommended, only after aiming when one is finishing one’s shot should the phrase be invoked. And, this is a short term process, which should last a few shots and then stop. I have known people who use a shot thought through a whole round. (I tried this myself; I don’t recommend it as it seems to focus too much attention on one part of the shot routine, thus drawing attention away from other parts. It, it seems, becomes some sort of magic talisman; use it and you will score well. It isn’t. Don’t be fooled into this kind of magical thinking.)

So, the answer to “What should an archer be thinking while shooting?” is “Nothing is best.”

Note I consider a shot to begin when the bow is raised and end at the end of the followthrough. This defines “while shooting.” What happens between one shot and the next is the post-shot routine (scoping the arrow, analyzing any fault, etc.) and the pre-shot routine for the next shot (checking the wind, slope, any adjustment suggested by analysis of the previous shot, etc.).

Another Note Shot visualization is not magic. You cannot use a visualization process to any great effect if you haven’t practiced the process you are attempting. The mental instruction that a visualization is cannot train the muscles to do what they are untrained to do.

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Apertures: Pin or No Pin?

I got a question from Carole, who asked: “What are your thoughts on using a sight with a pin in the center (recurve sight) compared to one without a pin, just a tunnel? I have read that the human brain is excellent at centering a circle and wondered if it would be more ‘natural’ to allow the brain to center the sight on the gold and therefore more relaxed on the eye?  I have used both and (think) I prefer without the pin, but am interested in your opinion.”

* * *

Okay, here’s my opinion. I think the jury is still out on this one, so I would call it a matter of personal preference at this point. By all means, do try both types, noting how each affects your sighting (mentally as well as physically).

The same question comes up on the compound side in the form of having a central pin (usually fiber optic) or just an applied ring on one’s scope lens. (There are commercial sets of decals for application to the scope surface with various thickness and colors of loops.)

The orange ring is to make the scope housing more visible (it is centered in the peep hole to collimate the aim). My preference is for a thicker loop a bit larger than the decal shown here and bright green in color (see text).

My thinking at this point (remember this is premature as we have almost no real information on this topic, just opinions) is it depends on the kind of person you are. Using me as an example: I am a bit easily distracted, a bit shaky, and a bit nervous. I find the loops preferable for the following reasons: a small pin looks more jittery than a larger loop, which leads me to press to try to be more steady, which makes my steadiness worse, not better. One must relax into a clam state of steadiness, not “try.”

I use a bright green, thick, fairly large loop decal on my compound scopes. Green is not a color that shows up on target faces much so a good deal of contrast is there. The thicker loop makes it easier to see, the larger loop avoids a problem with small loops, namely that as target sizes change with distance, if you have a small loop, you can be floating around in the middle not knowing where you are. Take a Metric of American 900 Round. At 30 yards/meters, a small loop may only show you gold on the 122 cm multi-color target. So, where in the gold are you? Do you look for the dividing line between the 10-and 9-rings? Do you move around, looking for the edge? Similarly, if the entire gold, or center spot whatever the color, barely fits inside the loop, there is a tendency to try to fit it exactly which leads to over focusing on aiming too precise to sustain.

A large loop allows several rings or a smaller central spot to float in the middle of the loop using the brain’s automatic centering function to your benefit. (This function is hardwired into our brains. It is used for distance estimation and other functions and it is normal for most all people.)

Here’s a scope with a fiber optic dot in the middle.

On the recurve size, I prefer a larger loop than the commercially available ones that seem a bit small to me. (They are easy enough to make and I also paint the front edge bright green.)

So, when you try these options, in the back of your mind (that’s a metaphor, not literal suggestion) keep track of whether your aperture helps you to feel calm. In my case, the thick green ring helps me locate the loop in my visual field easily, in all lighting conditions, shows little perceived motion when aiming which provides a perception of steadiness, which then leads to relaxing a somewhat jumpy archer. If you, on the other hand, are rock steady, mentally calm person, you may find a pin easiest to line up with your point of aim.

The famous Beiter Sight Tunnel offers a square housing (to supply visual cues as to whether the recurve bow is being held vertically, and a plethora of “pins” inside the housing … or you can just use no insert for a circular opening.

It doesn’t hurt to try a number of variations to see what works best for you. Pin, no pin. Small loop, big loop. Different colors of loops. This doesn’t all have to happen at once (unless you are hyper-competitive), but over time, these are things to “give a try” at.

PS This is also wrapped up in another discussion: should you be looking at the bow sights aperture or the target. Both will not be in focus at the same time. That question is for another time.

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