Archery is a sport that is good for the mind and the body which benefits me greatly for my health and wellbeing. But it’s also got something for me in other ways. One of the reasons why I choose archery over many of the other Olympic sports is because it is also a combination of physics and craftsmanship. I am a science geek as a well a sportsman and I have a broad range of interests in science which includes physics and engineering. At the time I took up archery after the 2012 Olympics I was studying for a degree in physics at the Open University. One of the topics I covered was classical mechanics which includes the physics of the mechanism of the bow and arrow and I spent some time examining the science of archery. For this post I have decided to combine my love of science and my love of archery to show that archery is a prime example of brains and brawn working together in harmony. This should set the stigma aside that geeks like me are not cut out for sports.
First of all let’s start with the mechanics of motion. When you fire a projectile like an arrow do you expect it to go straight forward towards the target or up and then down in a curved line known as a parabola? Well for thousands of years people used to assume the former as the great philosopher Aristotle, tutor to Alexander the Great, told of how projectile motion worked without experimenting with it. He lived in 4th century BC Macedonia, but he was originally from Greece where his tutor was Plato. The physicists of Aristotle’s day and age didn’t experiment with nature very much because they were theorists who used common sense from observation where the logic is impeccable. Aristotle believed that force was always needed to make an object move until it comes to ‘a natural state of rest’ as he called it. Arrows are made of naturally heavy materials and so their natural state of rest is on the ground. By that logic when we fire arrows they will continue to go on in the direction of the target and then land on the ground in a straight direction. Just aim at the target and once you release the arrow it will fall to the ground. He later tried to explain how come the arrow actually flies through the air when it doesn’t fall directly to the ground upon release as well. Once again without experimentation but by observation.
According to Aristotle the air around the arrow experienced a force from the firing of the bow. The arrow would travel the straightest path that it was set to take by the archer and in that case the arrow would always hit the target if aimed in a straight direction. That is not true, if it were then I would be able to hit the gold ring and score a perfect round and everyone could be an Olympian. An Islamic scholar and a French philosopher later trained to expand on Aristotle’s science by explaining that the force on the arrow was it’s impetus and it fell to the ground once it lost it’s impetus. This was supposed to explain how an arrow can fall to the ground when shot directly into the sky at an angle and then fall directly to the ground. Later it was realised that this impetus is actually called the momentum, which is best described as the force when the arrow’s mass is multiplied by the speed it is travelling. It wasn’t until the 17th century when scientists like Galileo Galilei finally applied experimentation to all the teachings of the ancients that the ground rules for physics were established. This meant that from now on experimentation as well as observation were compulsory for testing scientific theories and technological innovations.
One of the most significant discoveries about projectile motion that Galileo discovered would also become Issac Newton’s first law of gravity: inertia. That is the reaction an arrow gets when you release the string, the string will bounce back and the limbs will flex back into their natural shapes but the arrow can separate away from the string and fly off by the force of the potential power of the limbs and the string. Remember that the power of the bow is in the draw weight of the limbs. The stronger the tension they have when pulled the heavier the force they have on the arrow when released back into their normal shape. Now Galileo was perhaps most famous for proving that the Earth orbited around the Sun and disproved that the Earth was not at the centre of the Universe. Part of this science involved studying the behaviour of falling objects and seeing how gravity affects the path they take when they fall to the ground. He found that all projectiles like arrows don’t actually travel in a straight line at all, they travel in a parabola. A parabola is a curved line that starts from one point, goes up and then comes back down at another point at a distance from the starting point on the same level. You fire the arrow and it travels at speed towards a target upwardly and then as soon as it slows down gravity makes it fall back down again and it hits the target just before it hits the ground altogether. Providing the poundage is right for the distance you are shooting at. This is an important factor in target archery when you have to aim your bow using the sight and anticipate where it’s going to hit based on how level the target centre is with your line of fire. That’s why the common bowsight that we have on recurve and compound bows are adjustable for all sizes of archer as well as how far the target is and the poundage of the bow.
Now that we understand how arrows fly the way they do I think it might be worth looking into how bows behave. Bows are cleverly crafted pieces of engineering in style and simplicity. Da Vinci had a saying ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’. The mechanics and the physical behaviour of a bow is to be understood as an elegant tool of beauty and precision. A bow is a device that converts slow and steady human force over a distance into stored mechanical potential energy. Energy that is stored in the limbs of the bow. This energy is converted into kinetic energy upon release of the bowstring and a great deal of that kinetic energy is transferred to the arrow. Potential energy is the energy that an object has based on it’s position and kinetic energy is energy through motion. When you pull back on your bow, you apply a force to the bowstring which in turn bends the bow as it adds elastic potential energy. Thus a bow is basically a sprint which stores energy to be put into the arrow. The stretched shape of the bow is an example of potential energy and then there’s the kinetic energy which is what it becomes when the string springs back into it’s normal shape. As the second law of aerodynamics states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it just goes somewhere and that energy has now gone into the arrow. When the arrow leaves the bow it’s full of energy which is taking it into flight on a path towards the target where the only thing that can affect it’s flight is air resistance and gravity.
The draw weight of the bow is often associated with just the limbs of the bow. But in actual fact it’s more to do with the length of the bow itself as well. Draw weight is directly proportional to draw length, as the bow behaves just like a spring. Robert Hooke was a scientist who was studying the laws of motion using springs and he provided some inspiration to Isaac Newton. In 1660 he discovered the law of elasticity which bears his name: Hooke’s Law. Hooke’s Law explains that the amount of stretch in a spring is proportional to the force pulling on the spring. This can also be applied to bows where it’s known as elastic potential energy. When you pull the bow outwards the length of the stretch is the same as the force of you pulling it outwards. The force upon the bow is recognised as the draw curve. The draw curve is apparently a slight curve because of the shape of the bow, but when you combine it with other factors is becomes defined graphically to help understand the relationship between the draw length and the draw weight.
The relationship between the draw length and the draw weight is graphically defined as a straight line relationship where the energy stored in the bow is calculated by the draw weight multiplied by the draw length divided by the number of limbs (2). For example my bow has 28 lbs limbs and I have a draw length of about 28 inches. So 28 lbs x 28 ins/2 = 392 pounds per square inch.
For a recurve bow the draw weight is defined graphically as a straight line, but for a compound bow it is defined as a curved line. This is because compound bows use levers and cams, which decreases the draw weight with the draw length. Thus allowing the bow with the same amount of energy to require less force to pull on it. This is why compound bows feel lighter to pull than a recurve bow.
This is about as much as I can cover for now on the topic. I could go on but it would be too much for one post and so I have decided to make it in parts. I enjoyed writing this one because it gave me a chance to go over my old textbooks and reading material on physics and engineering principles. This could be a chance to show science in sport is not just for the physical attributes of the athlete but also for the performance of the equipment that they use. When you understand the laws of physics you can blend in with the nature of the competition.
Dancing Wind - May I have this dance?
Now that you have an idea of the wind on the line and how to read the wind from a distance we can put it to use for those moments when the wind is blowing in different directions from you to the target. In order to adjust for varying winds across the field you have to account for the wind in each direction.
The wind is blowing on you from the left and is hard enough to push you gently to the right. You notice that the flags on the targets are blowing in the same direction as on the line. All you have to do is focus on you and being stable. If the wind is strong enough to drift the arrow to the right, then simply aim off center to compensate.
Now you notice the wind has stopped on the line but the flags are now blowing to the left, not the right. You are stable because there is no wind pushing you but how do you aim? Look at objects to the right off the field to see if the wind is blowing midway down the range or not. If it is then most likely that wind could drift the arrow off center. Here again just aim off center. If the wind midway is not blowing and only blowing on the target then you can aim close to center because the arrow will already have enough energy to keep its original path. It is unlikely that the wind will gust 20mph at just the target. It could happen, but not likely.
This is where it gets tough. Already you noticed a change in winds and the direction has changed direction. This is the time to know that the dancing winds are likely and the swirling begins. Most winds like this happen if there is a storm coming in and your field is on the edge of the front. It can also happen in spring as the temperature changes cause wind changes.
Now the wind is blowing from the right on the line and you notice the flags are blowing from the left. Run!!! You are in a tornado! Just kidding. Or am I? This is exactly the kind of winds I had to deal with while in Houston that time. The winds came from different directions at different times. I was being pushed to the right while aiming off center high right. How does that work you ask? The wind was pushing me to the right on the line and the winds at the target were gusting faster to the left (coming from the right), but in the process the rain was coming down hard. I had to aim high due to the heavy rain and the gust from the left at the target was much higher than what was happening on the shooting line. I was letting the wind push me right to ease my aim since I had to aim off center due to the winds blowing left. The wind would push the arrow way left, so I aimed off for the wind. The rain pushed the arrow down enough to cause me to have to aim higher. The combination pulled the arrow right back into the center. When the wind would change while raining I would change my aiming point. I could gauge the wind gusts at the target and on the line before they actually hit my target lane. I knew where to aim and for how long before I ever pulled the arrow back.
Strong gusts will push you regardless of what you do, but you can time the shot between gusts and when it is steady enough you can properly aim off knowing how much and work it into your shot process. It takes lots of practice and patience, but you can master the wind. Nothing feels better than knowing you can shoot in the wind and still keep a great score up. In times like these with lots of high scores posted, this is one area that you can beat your competition.
Simply put, shooting in the wind is not ideal for any archer but a fact of shooting outside. A true master will use obstacles as an advantage. Try it the next time the wind blows. Get excited to go shoot and train to be the Wind Master.
Tips and Tricks
The heavier an object the less likely it is to move in the wind. A simple solution is to add weight to your bow. You can add weight to the stabilizers or riser. If you are worried about changing how the bow reacts on the shot once you have set up your perfect stabilizer weight setup, then don’t worry because this is simple. Whatever weight you add to the long rod, match that weight to the sides. This will keep your balance the same but allow more total weight to be added.
The best thing to do is to practice with more weight and find that right amount for you. Everyone is different when it comes to stabilizers and bow weight. Personally I just add weight until it feels right. You don’t want so much weight on the stabilizer that it has an adverse reaction with your shot.
Generally a good rule of thumb when it comes to the diameter size of a stabilizer is that thinner is better. The smaller the object the less surface it has for the wind to move it. Physics says this is true, but what if I told you that the difference between 15mm to 22mm isn’t enough to truly cause much more of a push. If you took a piece of 1” conduit and ¾”conduit 30” long and held it outward in the wind, you will notice a minute difference. Where the difference comes in to play is more how you feel. Some might like a bit more push, and some might not. If you are unsure, go as small as possible. Just be careful and make sure the thinner rods can take the added weights you might add.
Another way to help with your equipment in the wind is to know how arrows react. Smaller shaft size, just like the stabilizer size, will help in the wind, but your biggest ally here again is weight. A heavier weighted arrow will bull its way down range much better than a lighter arrow. I have always shot A/C/E’s and used the heaviest point weight I could find. I tuned the bow this way since my shooting was mostly in the wind anyway. If you are curious as to how this works, then take two objects that are the same shape and add more weight to one of them. On a windy day throw those objects up in the air and watch how they react. The lighter one will move more than the heavier one. Simple.
The unfortunate side to tuning this way on purpose and using a heavy point on the arrow is that you have to keep the tune that way for any condition. This will add extra costs if you have to change arrow spine to increase that much point weight. The advantages are huge in the wind if you do make the change, but it could get more expensive with new arrows to achieve this outcome. I have always recommended to new archers to set up their bow using a heavier point than normal so that they get used to that mind set from the beginning. With so many ways to correct arrow spine I have never found this to be any issue and a proper tune can be done.
So to sum up your new wind knowledge.
For any archer the wind is not as much fun to shoot in, but with practice and using the tools given, you too can be a Wind Master.
By Tony Brasher
Volunteering for a big sporting event or for a club makes you a valuable person as much as the champions who shoot for gold. I have been volunteering for sports events with the aim of doing a great service for the athletes and making a great contribution to a society that promotes sport and the wellbeing of the community. I had been a volunteer at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year and I had the honour and the privilege of working for a once in a lifetime event for free. I was happy to be on the team of volunteers for the games. These volunteers were called the Clyde-Siders and we were the work force of the ‘friendliest games’ ever in history. The only drawback to Glasgow 2014 for me was no archery. At the moment archery currently exists as an optional sport in the games where the host city can choose to include it in their games. At the moment there is a petition to make archery a core sport in the games so that it can be guaranteed to appear permanently at the Commonwealth Games in the long term so that every host city will have to host it. Until then I decided to take an opportunity to volunteer for an archery event elsewhere. The chance came when my club West Essex Bowmen hosted their annual Double 70m FITA/50m world record shoot in aid of raising money for the Essex Air Ambulance service.
When you go to watch a sporting event in the stands you wonder how much hard work goes into the set-up of the range. I had to work hard getting the targets set up en masse ready for the big game. This included a gazebo for the food stall and the club staff, which took half the club members to erect which required the same kind of effort you’d expect from a team of stagehands. As I had responsibility for my own target in the past when shooting for practice I came to realise that I had a lot more to do to make the targets elaborate enough for big game. This involved aligning the frames up along the shooting line, putting the bosses in place, fixing the flags on top of the frames in a coloured pattern and putting the paper target faces in place. These target faces had to be perfectly placed in accordance with World Archery’s regulation so that we could accurately measure the scores for World Record status. It was way out of my experience base, but I took to it like a fast learner.
Getting involved in volunteering brings you a lot closer to the champions of the games. With archery you get to run the show as if you were sharing the stage with the archers too. I remember that exact same feeling at the Commonwealth Games where I marshalled the field of play area for the athletes. As an archer myself I could see the West Essex Bowmen competition was no different from an ordinary club shoot competition shoot. Here however the club archers were shooting alongside championship archers at international level. In archery we shoot in competitions that are set by the rules of World Archery or Archery GB, where the rules apply for all archers of any experience or ability with different degrees of talent. This same criteria applies to any sport so even if it’s a club competition or a big sporting event then you can volunteer for any game that has a grand impact on the sporting world and you can shine like a champion yourself. I take great pride in volunteering for my community, club and fellow athletes. The best thing about it is that it boosts your wellbeing and happiness. It allows you to realise your importance even though you do it out of passion rather than recognition. It can also lead you to taking up a new found passion for sport and take up a new sport. When I was at Glasgow I had no interest in triathlon, but when I went along with it I got into a habit of trying it out myself. I learnt to ride a bike, which I hadn’t done since I was a kid. I’ve also got a bucket list of other sports that I want to try out as well.
With every sporting event we go to see we discover a new champion who becomes a household name. I had never heard of any famous sporting archers until I watched the London 2012 Olympics. Now I know a few big names out there who are worth watching alongside all the others in different sports. We had quite a few big names at the Air Ambulance shoot who were from the Archery GB para-squad. Among them were Simon Powell, David Phillips, Hazel Chaisty and Paul Browne. There was also Nicky Hunt from Team GB’s able bodied archery squad. Like any committed volunteer at a sporting event I watched over them and kept a look out for them and I even took an opportunity to watch them shoot, take pictures and talk to them. I told them how good it felt to work as a volunteer at an archery event for the first time and how well they were doing because of the volunteers here as well. It was a beautiful day, the weather was clear but there was quite a breeze blowing. But the real change in the wind came with the powerful skill and display of strength and mental abilities from these all archers who came out to play today.
If anyone would like to feel this same experience then I would suggest you sign up and volunteer for an archery game today. Whether it’s for a local club or a big sporting event your time on the shooting line without a bow is just as valuable as you are an archer. Even though archery is a somewhat niche sport in general I believe it is an important and valuable sport for all. With volunteering you can really appreciate the value of archery and accept that we should embrace all classes of sports and citizens.
The petition for the inclusion of archery as a core sport in the Commonwealth Games can be found at https://www.change.org/p/hrh-prince-imran-include-archery-as-a-core-sport-in-the-commonwealth-games
Part 2: The Wind Master
How I Learned to be a Wind Master...
In 1991 I competed in a tournament in Houston, TX that would prove to be the worst weather I have ever shot in. The first day started off with a thick fog that made 90m hard to see and within the first hour the rain started coming down. It started gently at first and then would stop for moment just long enough for the wind to pick up between the rains. When 70m shooting started, light hail began coming down and the temperature changed fast. Within a few ends the winds had picked up and gusts of 40 mph would come and go. The entire day was spent with temperatures changing constantly, the wind blowing heavily most of the day, and the rain just kept coming with down pours every 15 minutes.
I managed to survive the weather and keep my scores up in the process. I fell back at 90m, but shot an amazing 70m in the weather to gain back the lead. My 50m went well and 30m was a cake walk. I ended up shooting a 1324 FITA that weekend and added another check mark to the win column. The reason for my success on that weekend… I became a Wind Master.
Shooting in the wind is tricky enough and I have never actually met anyone that has said they like to shoot in it. I would never say that I enjoy shooting in the wind, but when the weather comes in I know that I had an advantage over most. Game on!
Growing up in the Panhandle of Texas afforded me the constant ability to train in the wind. I did not have much choice, especially in the spring time. Basic wind skills were useless due to swirling winds that changed in direction and speed from me to the target. With a lot of practice and a very good understanding of physics and sailing, I was able to change the odds into my favor.
As I stated in Part 1, shooting in a steady wind from any direction can be adjusted by aiming off center and letting the wind drift you back. Simple in comparison to shooting in vastly changing winds that not only change direction but actually blow differently during a single shot.
Using the basics of shooting in the wind, this is where you need to focus on all the little parts to this and add it when the time comes.
Wind Where You Stand
Knowing the wind where you stand on the line is simple to gauge just by feeling it, but knowing the wind down range is where this article will help you.
Unlike a sailor who is looking for wind on purpose, we tend to wish it would just go away. The way a sailor looks for find is exactly what you need to know. The wind where you stand could be different than down range and you need to know the wind on the line first. For this entire example we will assume you are a right hand archer and the wind on the line is a light breeze coming from the left. The breeze isn’t strong enough to push you over, but enough that you really feel it.
Your natural reaction is going to be to push back and aim off since the wind is blowing enough to almost push you. At this point you do not want to push back and aim off at all. Being able to hold your aim steady on the target is the key goal for this to work. If in a breeze you cannot hold on center then I recommend more basic training and practice to get that part down. You have to be as solid as possible. I have opened my stance up to 5 inches wider to give a more solid base in heavy winds. I have also changed my alignment to the target if the wind is constant enough. This alignment change allows you to float back to center by the time you shoot your shot. We aren’t talking much of a change but just enough so that the shot is completely as normal as possible when you release the arrow, just as if there wasn’t any wind at all.
A little secret to wind from the side while on the line is to use your opponent on the line to block some of it for you! It really is funny to use them as a wind blocker, but it does help.
Using the Flags
Ever notice those pretty flags down range? Nope. Not the one on your target. The ones down the target line on the far target ends. These are the flags you need to be looking at during this process. Wind is rarely constant or consistent enough to use the flag on your target. The wind has to travel a long ways before it ever gets to your target and gets changed by obstacles in its way that will help it change direction and speed. Unless your bow shoots an arrow over 1000 fps, by the time you read the wind direction on your target and shoot, the wind can change before the arrow reaches the center. Basic concept, but you get the idea for what is next.
Wind BEFORE the Range
If you don’t know how to sail a boat then you are in luck because this is where you learn how to find the wind to be a sailor and use that wind knowledge to help you shoot archery outside. Just like a sailor, you want to watch and know exactly what the wind is doing at all times. You want to know how it will blow before it ever reaches you and your target. This art is a tad difficult to master but you can learn it with some practice.
Watch the trees, bushes, grass, or anything at all that moves when the wind blows. Observe how it moves in the wind. It is blowing from your left. That means left to right wind. Watch those objects to the far left off the field. If you pick a tre,e try to pick the same one every time and make sure that it isn’t higher than the height of your arrow path. On average it is something about 8ft taller than your target. Is it a very light breeze at your target but a tree off in the distance looks like a gust? Let the gust you saw at the tree make its way to your target. Watch how much the tree or bush moved, then watch the field flags down the line. See how long that gust took to get from the tree to your target. On average if a tree is 100 yards away and a gust hits it, if it takes 5 seconds to reach your target flag then the wind is blowing 20mph. That is a heavy gust that will affect the arrow on center. My general rule of thumb is that if it takes 10 seconds or less to travel 100 yards, then the wind is only at 10mph and barely effects my shot at all.
With some practice and learning how to watch the wind from a distance you will be able to know how fast it is blowing and how long you have before a gust hits the target or you.
Did you get all that down? If so then you are a very strong wind shooter, but not yet are you a master. Keep an eye out for part 3 about the “Dancing Winds” and some tips on equipment in the wind.
When I learned about archery competitions I was quite surprised by the number of games there were that you could play. All I knew of archery competitions was the Olympic archery games and that was a very big target for me to aim for. Although I was also keen to know of other archery games out there as well. From what I’ve seen there are more types of archery competitions across the world than there are card games. Each of them using their own individually recognised shooting ground, shooting distance, number of arrows per end, number of arrows per round, size of target face, age group, measurement system and type of bow and equipment used. Each of these competitions are identified by a name. The Olympic round uses recurve bows where the archers shoot at a distance of 70 metres on a 122 cm target face. Those who can make it through to the medal round shoot a total of 72 arrows, with 18 per round (elimination and final), at the rate of 3 arrows per end. At the 2012 Olympics in London the ends were referred to as sets where an archer with the highest score in that set was awarded two set points, if it was drawn each archer received one set point. If one archer received six set points then that archer would win that round.
As you go up to that shooting line you wonder how far you can go to hit the gold ring. When I was a beginner I started shooting at short distances indoors, which as you can probably tell has a limit to the shooting distances you can do according to the length of the building and it’s rooms. The maximum distance that I could get out of the range was 20 metres (21.9 yards). Well I wanted to shoot further so that I could see how far I could go and it was very tempting to go one better. When I took to my first competition six months later I shot in a Junior Windsor round, which had an imperial scoring and range measurement system using a 122 cm target face. It was a target that alternated between three dozen arrows at 40 yards, then another three dozen at 30 yards and finally another three dozen at 20 yards. That’s nine dozen arrows in total where you can get a maximum score of 972. Even at 40 yards (36.6 metres) this was still way below the distance that you would be expected to shoot in an Olympic round. The only way was up so I got to work on improving my technique.
To start with the best way to get into tournaments is to start off small with a local club match. To begin with you need to think about the bow you use and how far your arrows can go. A bow with a light poundage of around 20 – 24 pounds will only manage a distance of up to 40 – 50 metres. In my experience my first bow could only handle a small and medium sized range. I had to inverse my sight in order to shoot further than that. To get the hang of learning to hone your craft in archery competitions I would suggest you start with a small imperial or metric competition like a Windsor round, a Portsmouth round or a Western round. These are relatively easy to handle for a beginner and I learned a lot about competition formats and how to handle my technique and look for where I could improve things. Later when I changed clubs I trained up my physique until I could handle a heavier bow so that I can shoot further and therefore take part in more demanding competitions that were on a par with the Olympic round.
To develop your craft and get accurate it’s ideal if you work alongside a coach. Ask your club for help and assistance in developing your craft. A coach can teach you some exercise routines to improve your shooting skills. They will also recommend that you train away from the shooting field too. It’s a good idea if you join a gym and ask a personal trainer to work on your chest, arms, back and shoulders. These parts of the body are used extensively for shooting a bow and a set exercise routine will help you get you shooting to the standards of an Olympian. While you’re still trying to get further it is vital that you keep up with getting accurate with your bow. Keep a journal of your activities detailing your poundage, bow sight settings and distance from the target range. If you find that your draw weight feels lighter in your hands then you know that you are making progress. From then on it may be possible for you to achieve the goal of getting to the Olympics yourself.
Shooting in the Wind and Rain
Every archer at some point has shot in the wind or rain. Only a rare few will say that they like the wind or rain. The reason why most do not like the wind is really simple. It is because it effects our shots. Plain and simple. The wind is an enemy for most outdoor shooters. You eat sand, eyes burn, the shot isn’t steady, and your hair is a total mess! So how do you enjoy shooting in the wind or rain?
The answer is simple. Practice in it. It really is that simple.
I know, I know, you want to know the secrets of shooting in bad weather and how to make it work. First you have to use this formula A(B+S)/H+W x 0.5W/1.25fps. Got it down? Perfect! Now I don’t have to explain the math. Just kidding, but the science behind shooting in bad weather is amazing when you get down to it. In reality you don’t have to be a math major or a physics genius to know how to shoot in the wind. You just have apply some very simple things to your shot in order to get the outcome you want.
Let’s start with shooting in the rain. This one is simple. Very simple. Biggest rule is to keep as dry as you possibly can. Not easy to always do but by simply putting say an umbrella over your bow between shots will help keep water away from parts that really don’t like get wet. Parts like your adjustable sight, a plunger if you use one, and limb bolts. If these parts get wet and don’t dry out correctly you can have mechanical issues later and that will effect more than just your shot.
Rain isn’t a terrible thing to shoot in. It makes for a new challenge that will truly set apart the competition. It will affect your ability to aim well, your grip will not be as solid and can slip, your release will not feel as consistent, and amongst other issues you will notice arrow flight to be a tad off. The reason your arrows flight is hindered is because of the pressure a heavy rain can put on the arrow with gravity. That slight push will only affect the arrows ability to correct itself quicker, but not force the arrow from its original path like wind can.
If you don’t practice archery in the rain because you’re afraid of getting wet, then you can’t master it for that moment it comes. And it always comes at the wrong times. Practice shooting in the rain when you are able. Find a hat that keeps your eyes and face as dry as possible so that you don’t have any sight issues or release problems. Keep the bow dry as possible by covering when possible. Also make sure to keep leather finger tabs as dry as possible. I personally have a leather face tab just for those wet moments. If you live in a place where rain is scarce, not a problem at all. Get someone to hold a water hose with a mister over you while you shoot. Feels great on a hot summer day! Feel for any chances you might have to make if it rains. Does your clicker sound different when wet or does it feel different when it hits the riser? Is your release clean or slipping? Do you wear glasses and they fog up or you simply can’t see with them wet? These are things you need to think about and practice to overcome the problems before the big day comes.
Rain is simple overall to beat, but wind takes finesse. Wind is the single most deterrent for most archers or athletes in general. No one but a sailor actually likes the wind. What if I told you that the wind is actually a game changer for even intermediate archers. Mastering how to shoot in the wind can actually help you when the gusts start coming.
Now I grew up in the Texas panhandle and wind is a normal thing in life. It was easier to count the calm days than keep track of the days the wind blew. I learned that physics and basic math skills will help you win in the wind.
Start off with a solid stance and don’t be afraid to widen it a bit on windy days. Don’t change it enough that the base of your form is off, but just open it up a little to give you a more stable platform. Don’t tense up before or during the shot. Fighting the wind is the worst thing you can do. Relax. When you draw back you can feel the direction the wind is blowing on you. You know that if the wind is blowing from the left that the bow will drift right and the opposite if the wind is blowing from right. Try to gauge the push with steady light winds. If the bow is pushed to the right you will naturally pull the bow back to the left to center it on the target. The problem with this natural want is that if for any reason the wind stops as the arrow is shot, you will pull the bow past the center and you will miss your shot.
The easiest way to get around this with little thought is to aim off center, depending on the wind direction of course. Relax and let the wind push you back to the center. Some timing is needed to be able to shoot at the exact moment you need to while aiming, but with practice you will figure that part out quickly. By letting the wind push you back to your aiming point will allow you to do less work and keep your energy instead of fighting it all day and being tired.
Aiming in the wind is pretty easy as well. If the wind is strong enough to push you and the bow to one side, then it is strong enough to move the arrow while in flight. How much do you aim off center? The amount you aim off depends on many factors, but the quick and simple way is to just practice in different amounts of wind. Shoot an arrow dead center and see how much it drifts, if at all. Assuming that you are shooting toward the North, if the wind is blowing from the west then the arrow could be pushed to the right of the target. Start off with an arrow shot dead center while aiming and see how much it drifts to the right. Let’s say it drifts right to the 7 red ring. Aim off to the left of center in the 7 ring. The arrow should drift right into the center.
This same idea works for either direction of wind and also for wind from the back or in the front.
The hardest part to learn and practice is watching the wind using the flags. Pay close attention to how strong the flag is moving and in what direction. Again with practice you will be able to see how much the wind is blowing and in what direction to help you make your adjustments quickly. For the advanced wind shooter you can learn how to shoot in winds that vary in direction and speed from you to the target. Keep an eye out for a part 2 of this brief wind training guide to learn how to read the wind when it blows different all over the field.
A long time ago sports equipment was little more than just an instrument of the success of sportsmen. Racing cars for example were built with powerful engines, simple steering and brake horsepower to speed to victory kept in check with a few basic tools, lubricants and fuelling. Now today they have a vast array of gadgets and highly advanced technical components and on-board electronics. These features are vital in cutting down the number of seconds in a lap time and can enable them to break records unlike anything ever before. Streamlined bodies, on-board computers, advanced materials in components, etc. No sport is without it’s advanced training facilities for it’s athletes and none more so than the advanced mechanics of gadgets in the design of bows and arrows. If you’ve looked at the bows in the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games and the International games you will see them fitted with all kinds of appendages and shooting aids. I remember the first time I clapped eyes on the bows of the Olympians at London 2012, I was completely dazzled by all the bits and bobs on the recurve bows. I thought they looked like a design for a space witch’s broom from a science fiction film! Even my grandmother was puzzled by the long rods of the stabilizers and why they fell forward as they shot them. So what exactly are these things fitted to the recurve bow?
Modern bows used today have sights that can be a valuable tool in getting your shot very accurate. These are designed to be used to allow the bow to be flexible and adapted to each type of draw weight, bow length and shooting distance. A typical bow sight has got three parts that allow you to adjust the aperture horizontally, vertically and left-to-right. The aperture is the bow sight you aim with to hit the bull’s eye with and it’s fixed onto a sliding mechanism at the end of the bow sight at the end of one of the shafts. First there’s the horizontal shaft which extends outwards from the bow, this adjusts for the horizontal distance between the archer and the target. Then there’s the elevation shaft which allows the archer to adjust for the parabolic angle of the arrow’s flight. Anyone who has taken a physics lesson will understand that projectiles like arrows and artillery shells shoot in the path of a parabola, a curved line that goes upwards and then downwards towards the target. The last shaft is a screw thread where the aperture is attached. This can be moved from left to right to keep your accuracy within the bull’s eye by centring the aperture in the arrow’s line of fire at a right angle to the bow.
One of the first things you’ll notice about the way recurve archers release their arrows is that the bows fall away from the archer every time. This is because the archers are not actually holding the bow with a tight grip at all. A recurve bow works by having the limbs in sections that are separate from the riser. This allows the bow to flex and store more energy efficiently than a straight limbed bow like a longbow, which results in a greater energy output and speed to the arrow. To achieve this at it’s best effect you don’t grip the handle at all, you actually cusp the handle and as you draw the bow you compress the handle against your palm almost as if you have no grip on the handle with your bow hand at all. This isn’t good when you release it because it just means that the bow will fall out of your hand when you release the arrow. To stop it from falling to the ground we use straps or cords wrapped around our wrists or fingers called slings. With these slings you can release the bow with the loosest of grips on the bow hand and just let it fall away.
One of the most obvious gadgets on any modern competition bow (recurve or compound) is the long rods sticking out from the riser. These are called stabilizers. The purpose of a stabilizer is to keep the bow even and steady as the arrow is fired from the bow. When you pull on the bow the force on the string creates tension which brings all the potential energy towards the archer’s end of the bow. When you release the string the energy is transferred to the arrow which forces it away. However the tension also releases energy from the limbs which oscillates throughout the entire structure of the bow. This oscillating effect makes the bow turn, or torque in your bow hand, which can make the arrow veer off slightly as it slides off the arrow rest upon release. Especially when the bow is actually just pressing against the palm of your hand. With a stabilizer rod you have an elongated structure where you can channel those oscillations in the direction of flight and eliminate the vibrations. It also allows you to balance your form because all that drawing towards you tends to make you aim higher than is necessary. It can even more problematic when shooting in the wind where a stabilizer can come in handy. The wind will blow you off balance as you try to keep steady when aiming.
A clicker is a simple little piece of spring metal fitted to the riser that acts like a release signal. When drawing the arrow it’s important to know exactly when to let go and release the arrow. If your draw is too short you will undershoot and if your draw is too long then the arrow either overshoot the target or it will fall off the arrow rest as you pull it back to far. A clicker can be pretty useful so that you know when to release your arrow. It’s fitted just above the arrow rest where it’s anchored and the lower end is free, where it extends to the arrow tip. When you reach full draw the clicker slides down the arrow tip and then releases once you have achieved full draw. When this happens the clicker makes a clicking noise, hence it’s name. Once you hear the click you release the arrow and away it goes. Simple but effective.
One thing that archers can suffer with their accuracy is a phenomenon called the ‘archer’s paradox’. The archer’s paradox refers to the manner that the arrow clears the bow upon release by bending around the bow handle. The full force of the released string on the arrow sends the energy of the bow to the arrow. As it leaves the bow the point end of the arrow pushes against the bow and the bow resists this push, causing the arrow to bend. As the fletching approaches the bow handle the bending of the shaft allows the fletching to move away from the arrow rest and bow handle. The arrow continues to bend before straightening out after ten yards in front of the bow and then flies on towards the target. However the archer’s paradox can also affect the flight of the arrow as it travels towards the target. A cushion plunger can alter the flex so that the arrow alignment is correct and bring it to an ideal ‘centre shot’ location. It doesn’t eliminate the flex, but it gives as the arrow pushes against the bow and thus reduces the flex.
A kisser button is a small, horizontal disc that is attached to the bowstring above the nocking point. The nocking point is where the arrow is attached to the bowstring, which is marked between two metal points on the string. The kisser button is above the nocking point and it comes into contact with your lips, hence why it’s called a kisser button. It acts as a drawing aid whereby it helps you maintain a consistent anchor and draw length.
Archery has evolved alongside the cultures through the ages. With a very simple bow and arrow the human race has been able to hunt and protect themselves, and with any activity there is always a little friendly competition.
From the early stages of archery nearly 10,000 years ago and the weapon of choice, before guns, was the bow and arrow due to its many abilities. Skilled archers could shoot from long distances compared to most other weapons of their time. Man could hunt from a distance allowing them to stay away from danger as compared to being up close and personal. Kings valued their archers very highly and the archers were skilled and trained to protect the kingdom from afar. Archery has had a very long and colorful history that continues to this day.
I am not sure if I have ever actually met someone who did not know the story about Robin Hood. The romance of the story of a hero robbing the rich and giving to the poor, who just happens to be an archer. The story unfolds of a hunter taking the kings deer and later competing in the most famous event every archer dreams of shooting. Being the mystery man who makes his way to the finals and then splitting an arrow for victory. The famous “Robin Hood” or splitting of the arrow. Every archer dreams of that moment for sure.
While Robin Hood is more of a modern story, the setting gives way to a feeling of kings and knights centuries ago. We get a little nostalgic when we think of Robin Hood. The idea of splitting another arrow has always been the allure of a great shot. The question starts with how hard is it really to split another arrow, especially at will. Archery becomes a sport and competition the moment you try to better another archer. Skill plays a key part in being able to repeat a perfect shot, or does it?
While archery as a whole has stayed basically the same, the technology has not. Technology has changed for many reasons over the years, but the main reason is to create a bow and an arrow that has more consistency. That consistency is based on the idea of being able to literally shoot each shot in the same place each time. Don’t get me wrong the archer’s skills play a huge roll in this ability, but the equipment we shoot has changed to give us the edge and become a legend in our own time.
In the 1970’s Olympic recurve started seeing things like sights and stabilizers. Long gone were the days of wooden arrows and one piece bows. The recurve itself changed in ways never imagined. The limbs came off, the bow became more radical looking, and the archer started to buy more stuff to keep up with the changes.
When I began shooting Olympic recurve in the late 80’s the bow was already far advanced. I had a Hoyt Gold Medalist TD2 with wood medalist limbs. The bow seemed powerful and more precise than any stick bow I had ever shot. I will always remember that bow because it was painted in an awful but unique root beer color that had as much flake in the paint as a bass boat. The sight was very different and very much like the Angel sight today with just a single bar sticking out and adjustments on the riser end. The clicker was basic and came lose all the time. I shot Easton aluminum arrows that served their purpose and the stabilizers were Easton as well. I recall the bad vibrations from the stabilizers due to them being metal. Needless to say the bow actually shot very well and it was my first bow I loved.
I shot that bow until around 1990. Then everything changed again. I had a new Hoyt TD4 with Carbon Plus limbs, Accel 300 ( yes the spelling is correct ) sight, Easton ACE stabilizers, and ACE arrows. The entire world had changed! The bow was even faster, more forgiving, and easier to tune my way. And don’t even get me started on the ACE arrows! What a massive difference in performance all around. They were a little different to setup and tune due to the new barrel shape, but in the end I wouldn’t shoot anything else.
Time moves forward and so did the technology. Some of it is gimmicks in marketing, but a lot of it truly made the sport better. More importantly the changes kept with the goal of making us more consistent.
Through the years the bows changed and so did a lot of other stuff. The solid magnesium risers gave way to lighter aluminum ones with holes creating an entirely new era and look, with some being made entirely out of carbon. The wood limbs evolved into more modern carbon and foam. Today the bows are a modern piece of art bringing the latest in technology and materials to the sport we all love. With the advances that have been made over the last 30 years makes me wonder what the future still holds for us and our equipment. But along with the changes in equipment comes a bigger smile from each of us being able to hit the center more often. And to hit the center more often like everyone around you means that we must all keep up with the times.
The spring weather is coming out and that can mean only one thing, it’s time for shooting again in the great outdoors. Nothing beats the satisfaction of getting out there with a bow. It puts greater emphasis on being more active. Some take up running, some take up cycling while other choose archery. Now for some people like me that presents a problem if you are a non-driver and are probably still working on passing your test. Making it really difficult when the archery range is only accessible by car and there is no public transport other than a cab that sometimes doesn’t go down that way. So I have forced to rely on improvising my technique indoors in places where I don’t need a shooting range. This might sound hopeless but if you can work a way around it then you can get through it and be prepared for when you’ve got access to a shooting range.
A good idea to practice shooting is to not shoot at anything at all. By that I mean not shooting arrows, but practice shooting your bow. When I went up to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games I didn’t want to lose my technique and my shooting strength needed for my bow. So I got hold of a gadget called a Training Band which allowed me to practice and exercise my shooting muscles so that I didn’t lose my ability with executing a shot. It was very useful in gaining strength as well as preserving my muscle memory. There are quite a few of these exercise bands on the market but I would highly recommend one that can mimic the full tensile force and weight of a bow. The one I choose was made by Win & Win, it has two sets of bands. There is one which you can use to enhance your pulling weight to develop your muscles in the shoulder and another band which you use to improve your posture by stimulating the weight of the bow in your hands by anchoring it to your foot.
This has been a very useful tool to developing my style and shooting strength away from the target range. Thanks to stretch bands you can build up your muscle strength until you can pull on a much heavier bow, so they have a long term use as a development tool until you can shoot with a heavier bow. When I first took up archery in 2012 I could only manage a drawing weight of 22 pounds on a recurve bow. Six months after joining my first club I was able to switch to 24 pounds of drawing weight, and then after that I got a stretch band and I was exercising my shoulders and improving my technique until I could handle 28 – 32 pounds. After which I upgraded my bow and was now able to shoot arrows to the distances of the Olympic and Commonwealth archers.
Another exercise that can be useful in home-based shooting is using your own bow as an exercise device. I picked up a tip from Canadian archer Vanessa Lee on how to use your bow in the confines of a small room like my 4 metre squared bedroom. All you have to do is set up your bow as usual but for safety reasons DON’T load it with an arrow. All you have to is get a paper target and stick it up on a wall or draw a target on your wall if you prefer (like what I have done my wall, below). Now stand a firm distance from the target, pick up your bow, anchor and draw just like what you would normally do. Using you bow sight aim at the target and hold it for at least 3 – 5 seconds as if you were drawing it as normal. Then slowly release the tension by bringing your bow back to it’s normal shape. Repeat this routine 6 – 12 times taking a 3 – 5 minute break in-between each end. Just like what you would do at a competition. Always remember DON’T dry fire your bow, which means shooting without an arrow. It can damage the limbs, break the string(s), cause cracks and splinters to develop in the riser or the limbs and releasing it without an arrow can cause injury to yourself!
There are also some other exercises that you can do provided that you have enough room and plenty of space to practice with your bow in which you can load it with arrows. No one likes to shoot a bow without arrows, as it would be pointless to have a bow at all. Some archers have facilities like a garage or a shed which is sufficiently long enough to set up a small boss with a target. However these can only be done provided that you have enough room for a target to set up. A small shed with a shooting distance of about 2 metres is the minimum recommended distance so I could easily shoot that far in my bedroom with a boss target set up. This is ideal if you are shooting at home indoors during the autumn and winter when it’s indoor season. However if you think about shooting outdoors in your garden then you are likely to come under the full force of the law. Because the bow and arrow are recognised as weapons they are also likely to be considered ‘dangerous weapons’ in most countries that you are only allowed to use them on a proper archery range. Lots of people shoot in their own gardens and they are responsible for their own safety and other people within the boundaries of the garden, however there is a critical element in ensuring that your arrows don’t stray beyond the garden in an area where they can overshoot. In target archery you need to allow some extra space behind the targets where the arrows are likely to hit the ground towards an overshoot line. For that on the scale of a back garden you need to have a very long garden indeed. You would have to put up some kind of barrier to prevent the arrows from flying outwards from the garden.
For further archery practices without a range where you use your bow as an exercise device I would recommend the exercises of Kisik Lee. He is one of the world’s top archery coaches and has played a hand in nine of the 18 Olympic gold medals won since 1984. He is currently the National Head Coach for Team USA and his website KSL International Archery offers some very useful tips on honing your shooting skills. You can find them on his website here: http://www.kslinternationalarchery.com/Training/SPTs/SPTs.html