Bowstring Maintenance & Replacement

P1230461In the last blog, we discussed the purpose and application of bowstring wax as a part of proper string maintenance. Another way to prolong the life of your string includes proper storage. Obviously, you should store your string in a safe dry place, and protect it the best way you can to prevent damage. However, you spend time tuning your bow including adding the “perfect” number of twists to the string, therefore you should store your string to maintain this tuning.

The easiest way to accomplish this is to interlace the teardrop loops together as shown here.

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Although, proper maintenance and storage of a string can help a string last years, every archer will eventually need to change their string. Before any shooting sessions or tournament, it should be a part of your regular routine to check your equipment for damage. Where your string is concerned, if there are signs of damage such as signs of fraying or one or more strand breaks you should consider changing your string.

Although as string materials have evolved, the strength of individual strands have far exceeded where they need to be in terms of breaking under strain.  The number of strands impact the nock fit and when shooting with the extra strands added, it was found that it could help make the bow a bit more stable. Competitive archers rarely will shot with even a minimally damaged sting since it may impact the performance and therefore, any competitive archer should have two strings for tournaments. The two strings should be exactly the same, ideally created at the same time, on the same day, on the same jig, by the same person; this way you can swap them confidently. Personally if a single strand breaks, I immediately switch to my backup string or alternatively during a tournament to my back up bow.

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Strings are so important that some archers schedule string changes so they can maintain the same performance, since strings can stretch over time, and also not worry too much about potential damage.  Depending on your budget this may or may not be an option. Another option includes custom strings and making your own using a string jig however that is the topic of another blog.

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.

My Bow

IMG_7304Recently, one of my Tumbler followers asked me to share the details of my competition bow since they were moving towards competitive archery and wanted to know about my bow. First, I will explain the story of how I got to my current bow.

I have been searching for the perfect bow for me since the day I started shooting. Finding the perfect bow takes experimentation, trial and error. Your bow is a personal preference, so much so that in ancient times, it was a person’s most treasured possession and many kings were entombed with their bows. Finding the perfect bow may take years… and it may change as you grow, change and develop.

When I was just starting out at 9 years old, I needed a light mass weight bow. Something that would not damage my bow arm long term however would allow me to practice a lot. I was a good shot however VERY small for my age. I was able to come across the Fiberbow riser with a mass weight of only 599 grams, less than half the weight of other bows and it allowed me to practice a lot with less fatigue. This was a great bow until a couple of years ago, when I became stronger than the bow.

So before training for the Canada Games, I switched to the Cartel Midas 25” riser. I love that bow, it helped me win a Silver at the Canada Games and it took me to the World Indoor Championships in Las Vegas . This was an awesome bow for me as a cadet, however, with the change of divisions and greater distances as a junior I need to generate more power for outdoor shooting. Therefore I switched to a 23” Midas Riser and increased my limbs to 36 pounds. On initial tests I was able to top 196 feet per second and had to add additional weights to consistently settle on 194.5 fps. This is high for a recurve archer with only a 25” draw length.

IMG_7317My new bow is as follows…

  • 23” Cartel Midas Riser
  • 36# MK Archery Medium 1440 limbs
  • Cartel Spectra Sight
  • Cartel XD Stabilizer system with Midas V-bar
  • AAE Extended Clicker
  • Cartel Rest
  • Cartel Cushion Plunger
  • Custom String

Wow, this bow is amazing; I hardly feel the shot. The limbs are the smoothest I have ever shot. The limbs use carbon foam-core technology and are extremely smooth and straight. I love my new bow and it is the perfect bow for me right now. Although bow selection takes time and experimentation I hope you too can find the perfect bow for you.

Dominant Eye Training

To reach your potential in any “shooting” sport your eye dominance must take precedence over your dominant handedness. Do not assume your eye dominance is your hand dominance. If you do not know your eye dominance, read my earlier blog about how to check. Samantha asked….

I took archery lessons a few years ago. I own three bows, a compound, re-curve, and a crossbow. But one thing I never thought about until after I stopped taking lessons was eye dominance. I soon found out that I was left eye dominant, but I am right handed. So I have been having trouble hitting the target since my dominant eye is not the one being used to aim. This has been making it difficult and a little frustrating. I have tried left handed bows so my dominant eye was focused down the arrow shaft but it made it even harder to steady and was uncomfortable. Do you have any suggestions on things that could help my aiming? I do not wear eye glasses or contacts. I have had my eyes checked very recently and was told that I had great vision.

If your hand and eye dominance match, you are very lucky. It is important to note that level of dominance can vary from person to person. For some archers it is very difficult to tell the difference and in some cases your eye dominance can change, although that usually happens at a young age. My little brother’s eye dominance changed when he was 8 after a year of archery lessons with a right-handed bow.

For those archers that end up cross-dominant (left–eye dominant and right-handed or vice versa), it can be extremely frustrating, especially for those who take it up later in life since you have already developed your dominant handedness.

Some archers try to force the eye to match their handedness and end-up very frustrated. Trust me you will be far more frustrated trying to force your eye dominance than training your body to do the tasks with your other hand. It may start out unsteady and uncomfortable but it will get better with practice.

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

To help train your body to shoot with your dominant eye, you need to add extra practice using resistance bands to develop the muscles. Also If your eye-dominance is closer to the middle or you have switched recently; shoot with an eye-patch on the less dominant eye to help train yourself to aim using the dominant eye.

The key to achieving success is purely perseverance. Although it can be costly to purchase another bow, you need to match your shooting to your eye dominance.  My coach was already a successful archer before she discovered her eye dominance was incorrect. She changed and became even more accomplished and never regrets the work she had to do.

Girl Guides

Before I was in archery, before I competed internationally in robotics, I was a Girl Guide. Girl Guides is a parallel movement to Boy Scout for girls in 1909, Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting decided that girls should not be part of Scouts.  Therefore, in 1910 Robert’s wife Agnes started the Girls Guides, named after a famous frontier regiment in the British Indian Army, the Corps of Guides. Guiding makes a positive difference in the life of every girl and woman who experiences Guiding so she can contribute responsibly to her communities.

The Girl Guides of Canada’s goal is to develop confident, courageous and resourceful girls who will make a difference in the world.  Girl Guide values are

  • I Promise to do my best,
  • To be true to myself, my beliefs and Canada
  • I will take action for a better world
  • And respect the Guiding Law

The Guiding Law challenges me to:

  • be honest and trustworthy
  • use my resources wisely
  • respect myself and others
  • recognize and use my talents and abilities
  • protect our common environment
  • live with courage and strength
  • share in the sisterhood of Guiding.

My introduction to Girl Guides at a young age has helped develop me into the person I am today. I started as a Spark, continued through Brownies, until I graduated from Guides at which point I had collected two full badge scarves and the coveted Lady Baden Powell award.

This past weekend, I was invited to a Girl Guide camp to introduce archery to a group of Girl Guides. It was a real trip down memory lane and it was a lot of fun to see young girls enjoying the same experience that I did when I was young. I remember the Saturday afternoon events at camp were always my highlight of the weekend.  This time, it was my turn to make it the best part of the whole day and teach this new group of guides how to shoot a bow and arrow. Everyone loved it, so much so I actually had a little 9 year old girl come up to me and hug me telling me how much she loved it.

To witness someone enjoy the sport and love it as much as you is the best part of being a coach. Being a part of the start of a new dream in another person’s life is so rewarding, and gives you the unwavering desire to do it over and over again.

Without people willing to help develop new dreams in kids, there may not be as many adults with successful dreams.