A field guide to archery

Reblogged from Bow International:

Field archery is the ultimate challenge, whatever your bow style, and many of the world’s elite concur that their field exploits represent their finest achievements in archery. The accuracy that a quality target archer brings to this new experience is an obvious asset, but a greater set of skills need to be honed if one is to master this testing, yet satisfying, aspect of shooting.

My return to the sport as a Masters competitor, with time as an ally in retirement, yielded National Championships and then world gold in both FITA and IFAA disciplines. But I must stress that this was not done without considerable focus, practice, and knowledge of my recurve equipment. The transition to ‘the dark side’ has required a reassessment of those field skills, and a re- education of what exactly my compound is capable of under field course conditions. It has been a fun challenge so far.

DSC_8149 copy

So what exactly does a target archer venturing out into the woods need to learn, in order to reach a reasonable level of competence around a field course?

Read More…

Excellent article about field archery!

Bow Tuning – Basic Setup continued

IMG_7304Now that your bow is together we need to make sure the arrow rest is installed correctly, install a nocking point and adjust the center-shot. It is my recommendation to always install the arrow rest before installing your nocking point. So, let’s start with the arrow rest.

Installing the Arrow Rest

There are a lot of types or arrows rests available on the market. Check out my earlier blog about the various types of arrow rests. For this blog, I will be focusing on the most commonly used one for Olympics style bows, the pressure/plunger rest.

The main purpose of the arrow rest is to hold the arrow in place until the arrow is shot. A  plunger style arrow rest is designed with a support arm just long enough to hold the arrow, with a slight inward angle to the bow, and it moves out of the way with the shot.  They should also be adjusted so that the support arm does not protrude beyond the outside of the arrow. This is to minimize contact with the arrow and minimize impact on the arrow flight. Lastly the arrow rest must be positioned so the plunger/pressure button is square to the center of the arrow.

arrow-rest-backhole

Olympic recurve bows come with a threaded hole for the plunger/pressure button and the arrow rest typically is installed and centered over the hole as the arrow rest and plunger work in conjunction with each other. Note, some risers have two holes and you should use the back one as a starting point which should be directly over the riser’s pivot point.

Pivot Point: The deepest part of the riser handle.

Alternatively, if your bow did not come with a threaded hole or you are using a traditional bow the arrow rest should be installed at the contact point of the arrow onto the rest directly above the “pivot point” of the bow. You may also want to investigate other types of arrow rests to match your style of bow.

Nock Pointing

Although some recurve archers use a tie-on nocking point, I recommend starting with a simple clamp-on type nock. Clamp-on style nocks are fairly easy to install and simply require your bow square and nocking pliers.

Nocking point: The location you attach your nock, it is usually measured 5mm (1/4”) above square from the center of the plunger and arrow rest.

measure-nockingAttach your bow square to the string so it is centered on the plunger ( or plunger hole) then measure up 5mm, attach a clamp-on nock, and secure it with nocking pliers. If your arrows are loose on your string, you can consider adding a nock serving for a better fit however once the nock is installed you can begin shooting.

Center-shot and the Plunger

For an Olympic archer the plunger (pressure button) is probably the best thing to attach to your bow for fine-tuning. The plunger can be adjusted to help match an archer’s release and counteract a lot of archer’s paradox. For a better understanding of arrow selection, center-shot and Archers Paradox check out my earlier blog.

To set your center-shot, set you plunger to the middle and install it in the threaded hole. Attach an arrow to the string, below the nock, and from behind the bow check to see if the tip is pointing slightly to the left (or right for left-handers).

center-shot

Although adjusting the plunger WILL require a trial and error approach, it is important to set the plunger to the middle position using the screw on the end. The amount of pressure setting for your plunger will depend on the archer, the limb poundage and your form. The best approach is to start with medium pressure and adjust accordingly after shooting a couple of arrows (Typically clockwise for more pressure and counter-clockwise for less).

Your bow should be basically setup and ready for you to focus on  developing consistent form. In upcoming blogs I will dive deeper into fine-tuning your bow.

Bow Tuning – Basic Setup

IMG_7304For a beginner, if you purchased your bow from an archery shop, hopefully they worked with you to “basically” setup and tune it for you. If you are in the unfortunate situation were you do not have a pro shop near by and/or purchased your bow online you will need to perform the basic setup yourself. This may be a difficult task if it is your first bow and you are a green horn to archery. Shooting form has the most impact on your performance and you need to be relatively consistent to see any major impact from bow tuning.

That said in the first couple of blogs, I will give a basic overview of how to setup your bow so you can begin shooting with it. Later in the series we will discuss the intricacies of tuning each area of the bow.

For any bow setup you should have a couple of basic bow tuning tools

IMG_7604Bow Square: T-shaped tool for measuring brace height, tiller and nock position.

.
.

IMG_7606Nock Pliers:  Specially designed pliers for installing nock points.

.
.
.

IMG_7608Bow Stringer: Provides a safe and convenient way to string recurve or long bows.

.
.

You may also need an Allen Wrench Set (Hex Keys), Pliers, adjustable wrench, scissors and/or various screwdrivers depending on the composition of your equipment. Reference the manufacturer’s manuals for necessary tools. There are a ton of additional bow tuning tools such as a pressure button measuring tool, bow scale, electronic chronograph, bow press and leveling tools. These are optional and will not be used for the basic tuning.

Completely assemble your bow, for a quick and simple step-by-step guide check out my earlier post about Putting an Olympic Bow Together.

Make sure you gather all the pieces that you are going to use including the riser, limbs, stabilizer system, string, nock, arrow rest, sight, clicker and plunger. It is important to start with everything when tuning, since even one change can have you starting all over again.  Start by making sure that all the pieces fit together, and are correctly assembled so you have a tight fit.

In the first blog we will make sure your limb alignment is correct, the string and brace height are within specifications, and the tiller is properly set so the limbs are correctly set. Olympic bows are typically take-down bows with risers that have International Limb Fittings (ILF) so you can easily replace them. It is very important that limbs are aligned straight and that both limbs are aligned with the center of the grip. Some risers ILF slots can be adjusted side-to-side and you may need to make some adjustments to align the limbs.

limb_align2

For good limb alignments the things to check are…

  • The limbs are correctly installed and the top limbs in the in top slot, and bottom in the bottom. (this may sound obvious but it would not be the first time someone got their limbs mixed up)
  • The string is lined up with the center of each limb and the center of the grip.
  • The limbs are not twisted – check out my earlier blog about Twisted Limbs.

brace-heightNext we need to make sure you are using the correct string for the bow. This is measured using the brace height or the distance between the center of the string and the grip when the bow is strung using a bow square. Each bow manufacturer provides the specific tolerances for the brace height however the following chart is a pretty good guide.

62” Bow            7 3/4″ – 8 1/4″              197 – 210 mm
64” Bow            8” – 8 1/2”                    203 – 216 mm
66” Bow            8 1/4” – 8 3/4”              210 – 223 mm
68” Bow            8 1/2” – 9”                    216 – 229 mm
70” Bow            8 3/4” – 9 1/2”              223 – 242 mm

If your brace height is just slightly out of range you can try to add a couple of string twists to adjust within the specific tolerance however never put more that 20 twists in a string.

tiller-measureNext we need to make sure the correct amount of draw weight is shared between the limbs. The difference between the top tiller and the bottom tiller will effect the bow reaction on release and your ability to hold steady at full draw and aim. Your hand on the grip is centered in the bow however your arrow is actually above center, the bottom limbs needs to be slightly heavier to compensate. This is accomplished on an Olympic bow using the adjustable tiller. Most risers are shipped with the tillers adjusted to the correct depth. Adjusting the tiller is an extremely advanced bow tuning technique, and should ONLY be adjusted by a someone with experience. The thing for you to check is to make sure that top tiller is about 1/8” to 1/4″ (3-8 mm) greater than the bottom tiller, if not take your bow to a professional pro-shop or coach to help you adjust it.

In the next post, we will cover installing the arrow rest, nocking point and setting up your center shot.

Archery: One of the Safest Recreational Sport… No Really!

safety-firstThere is often a misconception that archery is very dangerous. Although a bow and arrow can be a lethal weapon, archery is actually one of the safest sports because there is a culture of safety. Statistically, archery is one of the safest recreational sports there is with only 0.65 injuries per 1000 participants as outlined in the USA National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and represents the hospitals which actually record the information. Check out the Archery Safety report from Arizona State and Fish Department from 2004.

This is largely because of the culture of safety that encompasses the sport. All coaches start by instructing their students with the fundamentals of archery safety. I remember my first lesson was about safety first. Nowadays, I regularly shoot through my house for practice and we never worry about danger because of the culture of safety within my house. Everyone follows the basic archery safety rules. For archers there are two basic areas of safety that you should maintain, personal safety including equipment and field or range safety.

Personal Safety

  • Always shoot with well maintained equipment and arrows
    • Always inspect your equipment and arrows before shooting
    • Before shooting each arrow inspect the arrow and nock for damage
    • Cracked or bent arrow must never be shot.
  • One should always use a bow-stringer for longbows and recurve bows. This will reduce the possibility of damage to the bow and injury to the person.
  • Shoot with good archery form ensuring you wear proper attire and a properly positioned arm-guard.
  • Never, ever shoot while intoxicated or with anyone who is.

Good Rule of Thumb: If in doubt, stop and get it checked it out.

Field and Range Safety

  • When shooting…
    • Do not shoot with ANYONE in front of the shooting line
    • Do not nock an arrow while anyone is in front of the shooting line
    • Only nock an arrow whwn you are on the shooting line and after the signal to start shooting
    • A loaded bow is only pointed at the assigned target
    • NEVER EVER point an arrow at anyone, whether on a bow or not.
    • Arrow must never be shot straight up into the air
  • When not shooting
    • Pay attention and be respectful of other archers
    • Once finished shooting you must be behind the shooting line and paying attention
  • When retrieving arrows from the target
    • Leave your bow behind the shooting line (hang-up your bow), you will need two free hands to collect your arrows from the target
    • Always walk forward to collect the arrows, never run.
    • Always pick-up arrows on the way first. Whether they yours or not.
    • Always walk up to the side of the target butt, so as to not to accidentally walk into the rear of the arrows lodged in the target.
    • One person at a time should withdraw their arrows from the target.
    • When withdrawing arrows from the target, ensure no-one is standing behind you. Pulling arrows may require a lot of force and they can come out of the target suddenly and could hurt someone standing behind them.
    • When carrying arrows, always hold them to your side with the points down.
    • Make sure that EVERYONE has returned behind the shooting line before starting the next shooting end.

Individual ranges may have additional rules specific to their courses, all ranges will adhere to the basic archery range safety rules. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced professional archer, if we all continue to practice the culture of archery safety we can enjoy the sport for many years to come.

Vision – Glasses, Contacts and Archery

Being an archer, competitive or recreational, does not require perfect 20/20 vision. E Perez asked…

I’m not sure if you’ve worn glasses before but if so, do you have any suggestions on archers who used glasses and are now switching to contacts? I’ve recently switched from glasses to contacts and my aiming is way off!

I can relate to this question, when I started shooting I had 20/20 vision, and around high school I needed glasses. I have not tried contacts yet, however it was an adjustment. Remember, the purpose of a corrective lens helps refract the light or images into in focus so you can see. Check out this website that explains how your vision works and how corrective lenses affect vision.

Wearing glasses or contacts can sometimes be a challenge for archers, since we actually stand to the side of the bow, not directly behind it. Therefore we are always viewing things on an angle, add the complexity of a corrective lens and it may be difficult to clearly focus on the target. It depends on the strength and thickness of the corrective lenses. I have a friend who can not shoot with her contacts on. The angle of the bow, combined with the angle of her contacts and she can not see her string alignment at all, which can affect your group.

Picking glasses out also presents a challenge because of the angle of the lenses and the thickness of the frames. My sister can not shoot with her prescription glasses because the frames are too large for the angle of the bow and she can not see her string alignment. If you need corrective lenses, it may take some trial and error experimenting to find out what works best for you.

I’ve recently switched from glasses to contacts and my aiming is way off!

If you are able to see the target and string alignment in focus, consider your arrow groupings.

Groups open up: Your brain could be simply catching up with your new perception, give it some time and practice. If the groups do not get better, then try shooting with your glasses on again and comparing the results.

Groups still tight; just off center: Move the sight. Even the smallest change can affect everything else, your vision is a large change.

Moved your sight; no change: Check your form, since many things can affect your your arrows including plucking the string.

Vision is important however not as important as good form. In fact, you may have read my earlier blog about legally blind South Korean archer, Im Dong-hyun, who broke the world record at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Im Dong-hyun has only about 20% vision in his right eye and only 10% in his left eye.

Your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them – Obi-Wan Kenobi Star Wars

Your vision is important, however you may want to focus on making sure the shot “feels” the same every time, this is the key to success. For me, my coach still insists everyone warm-up with the following exercise to help us focus on feel not vision.

Close-Open-Close Warm-up 

  1. Close your eyes and draw your bow to full draw; focusing on your form. Try to make sure all your muscles and bones are in the same position with the same amount of pressure
  2. Quickly open your eyes to move the sight to the target
  3. Close your eyes and then shoot.

I hope I have provided some guidance and answered your question. If any other readers have experienced changes from moving to contacts from glasses, we would love to hear from you.

Archery Ballistics

Recently, I invited you, my readers, to ask me any questions you have about archery and you responded. Over the next couple of blogs, I will try answer all of these questions to the best of my ability. I decided to answer the one I know the least about first. Although I am not into hunting, I am not against the practice if you are going to use the entire animal. Also, in my opinion, an animal deserves a quick humane kill and not left just wounded walking around in pain. David Roberts asked…

I’d be interested in seeing your take on ballistic; specifically focusing on achieving maximum momentum (e.g. A lightning fast arrow with the weight of a feather vs. a slow moving heavy clunker). Are there any equations for calculating the “perfect” arrow for inflicting the most damage on its target? It would have to involve the power of the bow, the weight of the arrow and the relation between the two. Is a 400 grain arrow traveling at 300 fps more damaging than a 700 grain arrow at 235 fps? Less?

For target shooting faster shots means less drop & better accuracy, but for us archery hunting folks a “perfect” arrow is one that is has the exact weight that will provide the most possible momentum of that arrow. You go into a sporting goods store and you see all the arrows advertising super light weight and giving performance metrics in the amount of energy that they transfer when they strike. That metric is the wrong one to use when looking for a damaging arrow. A damaging arrow doesn’t want to put x amount of kinetic energy into a target over the course of 2 inches, it wants to put x amount of kinetic energy into a target over 3 feet. Momentum calculations would pr

ovide that. I understand that you’re not really into the hunting with archery (I think?) and that this topic isn’t really beneficial to competition shooting at all, but for real world applications of archery it’s one of the most important topics around.

My understanding is hunting is about the kill and understanding arrow flight will help you make the most of the opportunities that are presented while in the bush.  There are two planes of accuracy that you need to be aware of; Horizontal (left – right) axis and Vertical (up – down) axis.

The horizontal arrow flight is managed through good proper form and the understanding about the effects of nature elements such as weather conditions. Check out my earlier blogs about the various effects.

The vertical arrow flight is tougher since all arrows fly on a parabolic course. Frequently misses are high and low since it is hard to judge the arc of your arrow flight for unmarked distances.

Parabola in mathematics, a parabola is a conic section, created from the intersection of a right circular conical surface and a plane parallel to a generating straight line of that surface. Another way to generate a parabola is to examine a point (the focus) and a line (the directrix). The locus of points in that plane that are equidistant from both the line and point is a parabola. – Wikipedia

Example. If you kick a soccer ball (or shoot an arrow, fire a missile or throw a stone) it will arc up into the air and come down again …… following the path of a parabola! (Except for how the air affects it.) – Math is Fun

Some bow hunters choose to use a 3-pin sight so they can guess better. By pre-sighting distances of 20, 40 and 60 yards as examples, it allows them to better judge the best impact for the kill zone between these sight marks.

Ballistics is the science of mechanics that deals with the flight, behavior, and effects of projectiles – Wikipedia.

Since the question is specifically about ballistics, understanding all components of a hunting arrow will help you select your “perfect” arrow configuration. There are a lot of variables to consider, here is a list of things to consider, I found on the following website

  • Shaft size (diameter and wall thickness)
  • Shaft length (+/- 3⁄4 to one-inch can significantly change shaft stiffness)
  • Weight of the broadhead to be shot (+/- 25 grains can significantly change shaft stiffness)
  • Draw weight of the bow (+/- 2.5 to five pounds can significantly change shaft stiffness)
  • Archer’s draw length (certain shafts become significantly weaker when cut past 28 inches)
  • String material (Dacron strings are slower and require a slightly softer arrow, for example)
  • Type of bow (recurve or compound with a wheel, soft-cam or speed-cam)
  • Finger or mechanical release (finger shooters require a slightly stiffer arrow)
  • Bow length (bows less than 40 inches in length require a slightly stiffer shaft)
  • Overdraw length, if used (three-inch-plus overdraws require a slightly stiffer arrow)

You can review my Arrows – The Series for details about most of these.

Faster shots means less drop & better accuracy” is true for all archers. Since, for example, at 150 fps, there is an 8” drop in trajectory at just 10 yards versus only 5 inch drop at 200 fps, there are benefits to maintaining a higher velocity. This allows you to shoot from farther away and better judge the curve; giving you more opportunities.

To continue, assuming all things are perfect, longer draw length or heavier draw weight should produce higher kinetic energy, momentum, and velocity that will result in deeper penetration. It also offers more choices in selecting your broadhead. My understanding is for small game, where penetration is not the issue you can use field tips. However for larger game and for a quick kill you need the proper broadhead choice as well as the proper arrow selection. Since, the weight of broadhead is the ballast of the arrow, and when we are talking about hunting you may need to start here.

A broadhead weight can range from 85 grain and can be more than 140 grains and the number of blades is important since more blades increase the wind resistance causing greater dive. I am not an expert about broadheads however I know you can select from various types including fixed blades and mechanical blades. You can also check out this video I found about types of broadheads and this website for the pros and cons of each. I also ran across these two websites about penetration of various different broadheads. (Wibowhunters and Bowonlyoutdoors). Once you have selected your style of broadhead, you can properly select the arrow to match your bow to maximize your velocity and penetration.

If you really want to understand the technical details of an arrow ballistics, arrow parabolic course and the calculations; check out this website. However I am not a math major and If you are like me that is far too technical. So for specific arrows and bow configurations including total momentum, there are several options available including online ballistics calculators such as Outdoorsden OR Peteward. You can also purchase highly rated archery applications such as The Archery Program Pro by Tony Virnoche and OnTarget!2 Software for Archers by Pinwheel Software that provide more than just ballistics information. Lastly if you are mobile user there is a phone/android application called Archery Ballistics that you can carry around with you to the sporting goods store to help you make your selections.

Remember every setup is different and changing even one thing can effect everything else. You will need to spend time with the calculators and trying various combinations until you find the right one for you and your bow.

Although, I am not into hunting I hope that I have been able to answer your question and provide some high-level direction.

Shooting with a Clicker

Every competitive Olympic recurve archer uses a draw length checker or “clicker”. A clicker is a device that assists an archer to draw their bow consistently.  The clicker rides along the side of the arrow and produces a “clicking” sound after it passes over the point, hence the name “clicker”. By consistently measuring the draw length of the arrow, you get a consistent power off the bow and therefore a more consistent grouping of arrows resulting in better scores.

There is a lot of debate of when you should start to use a clicker. Anyone who wants to advance and develop smaller groups should start using a clicker as soon as possible. HOWEVER, since clickers take a lot of discipline, patience and practice, maturity is the key factor; age maturity and shooting maturity. If you are disciplined and maintaining consistent form, then you are ready for a clicker.

Recently, one of my readers asked:

I just wanted to ask, with regards to the form, if I should be expanding my chest during the draw (pulling your shoulders back towards the spine) in order to activate the back muscles to take the load rather than the arms.

Shooting a clicker is a relatively simple process however; it requires the use of back muscles to create something called back tension. By compressing the rhomboid major muscles (between the shoulder blades and spine) together, it will draw the arrow past the clicker for the shot when you are at full draw.

First, you need to determine the ideal location for your clicker. Have a friend mark where the tip of the arrow is at full draw. This will be the initial starting location for your clicker. There are tons of clickers on the market however there are two basic types of clickers; riser-mounted or sight-mounted. Depending where the initial starting location is measured it will help you determine the type you need.

Once you have mounted your clicker follow this shot process.

  1. Nock the arrow, with the arrow under the clicker and on the arrow rest.
  2. Raise the bow and draw towards your anchor point.
  3. Continue to draw the arrow until the tip of the point is still just in contact with the clicker.
  4. Aim and while still maintaining, squeeze your rhomboid major muscles together.
  5. Once you hear the “click”, relax your fingers and finish the shot.

It is important that you are able to reach your anchor point at full draw. The clicker needs to be within the distance so your rhomboid major muscles can activate the shot. Remember, over the course of an entire day of shooting, your muscles weaken and you will have to work harder to draw the same amount, it may need to be adjusted to find the ideal location for entire day of shooting.

Important: Once you have determined your clicker location, leave it alone. Making any adjustments will affect all your sight marks, and they will need to be adjusted too.

If you have never used your rhomboid major muscles before this is going to take some time to master. Practice using your rhomboid major muscles with the following exercise.

With palms down and your forearms parallel to the floor, bring your fingertips together at chin level. Try squeezing your rhomboid major muscles together. You should witness your fingers spread apart about an inch. This is all the space you need to activate the clicker at full draw.

You can also check out this website for exercises to help develop strength in your rhomboid muscles.

The mastery of a clicker is essential for any competition archer. You will need to work on it regularly however once you master the process a clicker will become your best friend.