Tag Archives: Equipment

How Many Pounds Should I Pull?

I have an Olympic Recurve student (who switched from compound) who is currently building his shot. Besides being a delight to work with, he is bringing up questions us coaches should be able to answer. One of those is “how much draw weight do I need?”

I am in the camp of “as little as possible for most recreational archers” as “it ’posed to be fun, bro.” But here is the answer I sent back to him.

* * *

As to what draw weight to settle on, you are looking for something you can handle. Our goal is to shoot our last arrow of a competition as well as we shot our first arrow, so too much draw weight creates fatigue that foils this goal. You also want it to be as high as possible (while meeting the other criteria). This is because the higher the DW, the flatter the arrow trajectory and the closer to “indoor form” we get. Young archers experience the problem that because of their short DL and low DW it means that at longer distances, they have to hold their bows at fairly steep angles, which distorts their form and results in their sight aperture being above the target face. We would rather not to have to distort our form so much and we would rather have our aperture line up somewhere on the target face for consistency (e.g. 12 o’clock—7-ring, dead center is even better).

Unless you are ferociously competitive, something in the mid-40’s would serve you well for all applications. There are some people who only compete indoors and so only shoot 18 m and 20 yds. They do not need much DW at all. Just enough tension on the bowstring to get off of it cleanly. If you plan on competing outdoors, pick your longest distance and see if you can sight in on the target, that is get a sight setting with your aperture somewhere on the target face. If you can you are good (enough) to go. If you cannot, and you can handle a higher DW, that is your solution. Many people find such a spot at the mid-30’s to higher 30’s of pounds of DW. (Cast depends on a lot of variables, one of which is draw length, another being arrow mass.) This is the gift given us by the creators of lightweight, stiff all-carbon arrows. If you cannot handle much draw weight, then all-carbon arrows are part of the perfect solution. Having less mass they accelerate to fairly high arrow speeds at low-ish draw weights.

 

 

 

 

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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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A Problem with Right Fliers

We are trying to find helpful ideas for you to pursue “Archery in a Time of Pandemic.” (We will be publishing a number of articles in Archery Focus to this end.) Since I have not been able to meet with archery students I have offered them free remote coaching and one of my newer students has taken me up on this offer. The issue we are dealing with is fairly often right fliers being shot. The archer is right-handed and shoots Olympic Recurve.

We had previously addressed things like centershot issues, form and execution issues, and arrow spine issues and are still exploring those things but I came up with another possible source of such a problem while watching Jake Kaminski’s new YouTube series on tuning Olympic Recurve bows. Here is what I sent my student. (Please realize that I can only see his bow and arrow spreads in pictures.)

* * *

I have been watching Jake Kaminski’s tuning series and he made a point I hadn’t thought of before which could be causing your rightitis—limb alignment . . . or rather, limb misalignment.

Many people do not know why adjustable limb pockets were created, but it was because the only recourse we had before they were available was to send our bows back to the manufacturer, who got tired of adjusting misaligned limbs and replacing malformed risers. So, they made the adjustable limb pockets so people could fix their own damned bows . . . and thereby created a whole new class of misalignments.

Now, almost all take down recurve bows have adjustable limb pockets and one problem this allows is this: the top limb points a little to left and the bottom limb also a bit left. Now the bowstring, which can still be eyeballed to line up with the center of the riser is actually parallel left of where it should be. This means the bowstring is moving toward the left of center of the bow and that throws the arrows off to the right . . . well it predisposes them to do so anyway. A particular kind of poor loose makes for a way right arrow, a loose not so bad results in one that is just slightly right, that is ordinarily correct by a slight windage adjustment of the bow sight. So . . . spot, spot, spot, spot, right flier, spot. Kind of what you have been getting.

Checking whether this is the case is not so easy. It is easiest done if you have a large flat surface, such as a quality ping pong table. If the bow lays flat on that surface, bingo! You lay the bow flat on the surface and then measure how far the string is up from that surface. Then you flip it over and do it again. If the bowstring is in the central plane of the bow, the same tabletop to string measurement should be had (this is the desired state).

Just thought you’d want to know. (I did mention that there is always more than one cause for every effect, did I not? :o)

I do hope you are fairing well.

Steve

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Getting Serious: Helping Them with New Arrows, Part 3

Helping Them with More Advanced Tuning

When your archers have mastered basic tuning, they often are curious about more advanced tuning. Let’s jump to the end of the line to look at the Cadillac, no the Rolls-Royce, of tuning: group tuning.

Preliminaries to Group Tuning
This is something an archer shouldn’t undertake unless they have reached a stage where they are consistently grouping well at all distances they are competing in. Since this process is quite laborious, to attempt it before the preliminaries are in place will be a great waste of time. So, this is not for beginners or even intermediate archers.

What Group Tuning Accomplishes
There is a short list of things that group tuning accomplishes. In the early stages it confirms the quality of the tune at all of the competing distances. Later, it is used to expose very small improvements that can be extracted from an archer’s equipment.

Getting Started—Proportional Group Sizes
If a your or your student’s bow and your arrows are tuned well, then consistent groups should be possible and observed. And because arrows are fairly simple projectiles they should show some consistent behavior, one of which is that the sizes of the groups should be proportional to the distances shot.

For example, if your archer shoots three dozen arrows at 30 meters and the diameter of the group is 20 centimeters. If that process were to be shot at double the distance, 60 meters, the diameter of the group should also double, so the group should be 40 centimeters across/high. At triple the distance, you should get groups three times as large, etc. Of course, this is on a windless day with no other influences upon the archer.

So, other than the archer, why might one not get proportional groups? Two common problems are excessive drag and clearance issues. If the arrows themselves have excessive drag associated with them (often this is attributed to poor fletching but it would have to be really, really poor to be the main cause because the drag associated with the shaft is far, far greater than of the fletches), the excessive drag will slow the arrows rapidly and as their speed is lost, the arrows become less stable and groups expand. If this is the case, the grouping at longer distances will be larger than expected. Clearance issues are issues in which the arrow, as it is leaving the bow, strikes something on its way out. That something can be a fletch or even the arrow itself. The thing it hits can be the riser or the arrow rest. It can even be the string dragging on the archer’s chin as the shot is loosed. These issues cause unstable arrow flight from the beginning, which the fletches can damp out over time. This results in groups at the closer distance being bigger than expected when compared with the sizes of the groups at longer distances.

Testing for Proportional Group Sizes A perfect place to do this is the practice butts of a field range because there are almost always a wide choice of target distances already set up. If you are at a target range, you will have to set up targets at the distances your student will be shooting. You will need three, better four, target distances and it makes things simpler if you choose easy multiples of the smaller distance, e.g. 20, 40, 60, 80 yards/meters or 15, 30, 45, 60 yards/meters. You can do it at any four distances, but then you will have to do some math. It is also easier if you use the same size target face.

The process is to shoot enough arrows to establish a reliable group size (you can disregard obvious mistakes). You can determine the group sizes either from the rings on the target (use decimal scoring) or by wrapping a string around the arrows and measuring the length of the wrapping string (a rough circumference of the group). Obviously if you don’t have many arrows, you will need to shoot a number of ends and the string technique is a bit messy (if you have four groups of six arrows, you will have four circumferences and you can just average those). The circumference or diameter (width/height) of round groups are direct measures of “group size.”

It is best if all of the arrows are shot on the same day so that the same conditions exist as well as the archer being whatever they were on that day (no day-to-day variations in mood or physical ability).

Making the Comparisons If you were able to pick four easy distances (20, 40, 60, 80 yards or meters) then the groups sizes should line up as well. The smallest one should be able to be multiplied by 2X, 3X, and 4X to get the other three (or close enough). Do not expect these to be exact. The 40 group size might be exactly half of the 80 with the 60 exactly half way in between, but the 20 group size is off. If so, this means that either the test was a bit iffy (you can just repeat that distance to confirm the number) or you may have a clearance problem.

You may have to do this a number of times to get a set of group sizes you feel good about and are “believable” as to what they are telling you. But when you have done this, you will feel that you have a good idea of what your expected group sizes are at those distances (you will know what is “normal” for you).

And That Was the Easy Part
The basic group testing is to make sure that there aren’t any glaring problems with your setup or tune. Once that is done we can get into fine tuning.

To fine tune your bow-arrow system by group testing, the procedure is the same for nocking point height adjustments and centershot adjustments, even button pressure adjustments. You establish a repeatable group size at one of the longer distances in your “suite.” Then you make a minute change in one of the variables, for example, a 1/32ʺ (0.5 mm) change in nocking point position, and then you check the group size again. Another little change, another test, and so on. You are looking for the group size to shrink when it hits a sweet spot. Obviously you need to test changes both up and down in the nocking point, testing each change. After, say, making four 1/32ʺ downward changes in your nocking point, you need to go back to normal and try making upward changes. Ideally we would see the group sizes shrink and then go back up in size around the “sweet spot.” But we don’t know exactly where we are in that scenario, so we have to feel our way along. And, “ideally” doesn’t come around very often, so we take the best we can get.

Clearly this is laborious and should only be undertaken when your archer has settled form and a settled draw weight and a settled draw length. If your student is still growing, don’t do it. If they are thinking about changing bows, don’t do it.

There Just Has to Be Something Easier!
There are quite a number of intermediate tests that are substantially easier to perform, but are not as fine. We will cover a couple of these next time: Shooting at Vertical and Horizontal Tapes and French or “Walk-Back” Tuning.

 

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The Bare Shaft Planing Test Had Two Fathers (At Least)

Actually I am guessing more than two, but the modern test seems to have had two.

Max Hamilton (1963) And the Basic Test
A gentleman named Max Hamilton is credited with having invented the basic test. This test is to shoot bare shafts (only) into a target about two paces away. The first thing to look for is are the arrows straight into the target or are the nocks high or low. In the nock high case, one concludes that the nocking point of the arrow on the string is too high; in the nock low result, the nocking point is too low. The nocking point is adjusted and the test repeated until the nocks are level with the shafts.

Then one examines whether the arrows kick left or right (if they do, this is ignored until the nocking point position is corrected). If the nocks of the bare shafts are to the right, this indicates that the arrows are too stiff for the bow, if the nocks are leaning to the left, the arrows are too weak.

Today we have a great many ways of adjusting the bows to make a spine match and get the bare shafts flying straight from the bow. Back then the options were more limited. (I know people who sanded wood arrows to make them less stiff!)

Obviously, if the bare shafts are leaving the bow in a “straight” orientation, there is less for the fletches to correct.

Ed Eliason (1960s?) And the Modern Test
The modern test is attributed to Ed Eliason, one of the U.S.’s most accomplished archers.

This is the test we are all familiar with. At short distance (< five paces) three fletched and two bare shafts are shot. We look to see that the fletched shafts grouped and the bare shafts grouped. If they did not, then that test is scrapped and a “do over” is in order.

The test is interpreted according to the relative positions of the two groups. If the bare shafts are higher or lower than the fletched, the nocking point position needs adjusting. This is always done first. If the bare shafts hit to the right or left of the fletched group, then the arrows are too stiff (left) or too weak (right). (Note These are all for right-handed archers. If your archer is left-handed, you need to switch all lefts and rights.) Shafts that are just a tad too stiff or too weak may be able to be adjusted using cushion button pressure. If they are more than that, almost all modern bows have adjustable limb pockets that allow for draw weight changes (too stiff arrows need more draw weight, etc.). Arrows can adjusted, too. They can be cut shorter to stiffen them, for example.

More Than Two Inventors?
The reason that I think there were more than two people whose fingerprints are on this bow-arrow test is I have read and heard considerable information from trad shooters who describe tuning by shooting arrows into loose piles of dirt or sand. They were looking for the arrows entering the pile straight. If the nocks kicked left, right, high, or low, they made adjustments.

Adjustments to all wood bows involved sanding/scraping the limbs to drop the bow’s draw weight, cutting the limbs off a bit to raise the draw weight, changing the brace height, sanding the arrows to make them less stiff, I even know an archer who added layers of arrow lacquer to his arrows to make them heavier.

Since these “tests” of the bow-arrow system go quite far back in time, and are known today, I suspect they were background knowledge for people like Max and Ed. Before these “modern” tuning tests were invented, what did people do to tune their bows? I have to assume they did something. And that the “something” was informed by what people did in their past.

 

 

 

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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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A Recurve Bowstring Question

I was too lazy to bust out all of my string making equipment recently to make a new recurve bowstring and then . . . a special offer popped up from the 60X string and cable people, so I ordered a new string from them. It came right away (third day in the mail!) and was a very nicely made bowstring. It measured, as expected, 3/8ʺ less than the length ordered, but they are very clear that they make their bowstrings to AMO specifications, which means that recurve bowstrings are measured when under 100 pounds of tension. (Which I am sure would get the length to exactly what was ordered.)

My question is this. Have any of you ever put a tension meter on the string of a strung bow? I would love to see what the tension was on a normal bow to see how 100 lb compares.

Additional questions might be:

  1. How does brace height affect string tension?
    2. How does draw weight affect string tension? (I have drawn a lot of bows and the higher the draw weight, the higher the string tension, but that is just the direction of the change, not an indicator of the quantity.
    3. Does twisting of the bow string affect tension?

I can design the experiments and actually pull them off . . . but I do not have handheld tension meter (say 0-200#) to make the measurements. They seem to be a bit pricey on the Internet, with the cheapest versions being sold for sailboat rigging.

Anyone interested? (I’ll pay for the data and/or article.) Anyone ever heard of such measurements being made?

Postscript I have run afoul of this with commercially made Dacron strings, suited for very light drawing bows. These bowstrings were always too short, possibly because the light drawing bows could not come up to anything near the 100# of tension they were measured under. Strings can be shortened by twisting but not lengthened. When I make my own strings I can adjust the build length to make sure this doesn’t happen … but when you need a dozen strings … ouch.

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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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Monkey See, Monkey Do, Part ?

There is an American idiom that goes “monkey see, monkey do.” This is a common comment coming from parents trying to protect their children from copying their children’s peers who do stupid/dangerous things. The idiom basically claims that simple copying is what animals do (comical animals in the minds of children) even though humans do it more.

I have used this phrase myself when describing the main approach archers and coaches have when transmitted fundamental knowledge about archery. We basically copy what successful archers have done. I have used this story in the past as an example of this and it bears repeating: an archer attended the Vegas shoot, but having a rash or something on his bow hand, he shot using a glove to protect his skin. He did very well and when he showed up the next year to the same shoot, he saw several people wearing gloves on their bow hands. He, of course, did not have such a glove as his malady had been cured.

Since we do not know what the source of archery success is, we tend to copy what the “winners” do. My question is: can’t we do better?

This topic came up with a question regarding why various string releases were not being used in Olympic Recurve competition. Why does no one use a thumb release, for example? Part of this, I am sure, is because most of us do not like being singled out as being different. The exception, however, is if one does very well being different. The best example I can think of was Dick Fosbury, a world-class high jumper. Fosbury was almost a circus show because while everyone (and I mean everyone) performed the high jump belly down (in what was called the Western Roll), Fosbury went over the bar on his back! What a maroon! What an idiot! And then he started winning and winning and winning, eventually becoming a stirring Olympic champion (1968 Mexico) causing people to chant for him as he performed. Now, everyone (and I mean everyone) uses the Fosbury Flop or some slight variant of that.

In the case of the Fosbury flop, university researchers studied it and showed it to be a superior form (as it caused the elevation of the jumper’s center of gravity to be lower, actually going under the bar as the jumper went over).

This kind of confirmation is what is missing in our sport. And it doesn’t need to continue this way. We have an Olympic governing body (USA Archery) and a number of other very strong archery associations. How hard would it be to have those bodies create a research program? There are colleges and universities galore around this country. Those institutions have psychology departments (to study clicker panic/target panic/gold fever), engineering departments (to study bows, arrows, tunings, etc.), physics departments, physiology departments, even some sport science departments. Each of these departments has graduate students and undergraduates looking for research projects. Could we not approach these departments with these questions we want answered? Could we not offer some form of funding to support that research (the Easton Sports Development Foundation has been very forthcoming there)? I mean how hard could it be?

As just one example of such a question I give you string finger pressures. I have read in quite a number of books what fractions of the pressure the three fingers should have on the bow string. These are usually given as a set of percentages, e.g. 30%, 50%, 20% on top, middle, and bottom fingers. So, I ask you. Have these been measured or are they just guesses? <Jeopardy music plays in the background> They are just guesses. As far as I can tell, they have never been measured. (I have tried three times to come up with a scheme for doing so and have not pulled that off, probably because I do not know what I am doing.)

Wouldn’t this be a lovely project for a college science or engineering student? Come up with a tab that reports finger pressures on the string. Have a number of archers use the device to see what we can see. A second level experiment might be to give an elite archer feedback from the device to see if that will help them be more consistent. Another would . . . well, I think you get the idea.

Being somewhat cynical, I suspect that we will see “monkey see, monkey do” for some time yet . . . until some enterprising country who is heavily invested in, say, Olympic archery (Korea? France?) decides to pursue a research program to discern what works from what doesn’t and why. Then we will see a stampede of other countries following suit . . . but only if the experimenters are successful, because we will still be committed to “monkey see, monkey do.”

 

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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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