Getting Started in Archery

Archery is one of the best sports because it can be social, competitive, fun, and casual, you just need to decide what you want to get out of it.  Recently the interest in archery has sky-rocketed since the movies the Hunger Games, Brave and the Avengers.

Archery is so popular that Britain right now, with London Olympics finishing recently,  MPs are demanding its return and politicians have participated in training sessions with current and future Olympians.

This is not a local phenomenon either, there are tons of articles throughout North America about the increased interest in Archery. I am sure there are even more throughout the world since I have seen a lot of blogs about people who have or want to give it a try and I have also seen a lot of questions and comments about how to get started.

Well, here is a quick simple step-by-step guide.

  1. Find a archery club : Archery clubs exist everywhere; your school may even have an archery club. You can also contact your provincial, state or national archery organization. Most Provincal Sports Organization (PSO) or National Sports Organization (NSO) are now online and they will either have a listing of clubs or you can contact them directly for one
  2. Setup a take a beginner class or a private lesson : Most clubs offer regular lessons for both beginner and advanced archers. Alternatively you can contact a private coach, like myself, and setup a private session.

It’s that simple and once you have tried archery; you’ll be hooked.

Since, the hardest part about getting started in archery is finding information. Check out my links page for links to Ontario, Canada, USA, and International organizations to help you find an archery club close to you.  Once started, you can talk with your club or coach and they can provide some insight on how you can get the most out of archery.

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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.

I’m Back…

Just got back from this year’s Canadian National Field and Target Championships held on beautiful Vancouver Island in British Columbia. This year I travelled with my coach Kathy Millar from South Nation Archery Supply and without either of my parents.

The Field Championships were hosted by Cowichan Bowmen Archery Club which is considered the best field course in all of Canada. The course is both beautiful and challenging with large rocky hills, angled trees, and other mind illusions. According to my coach it is pretty close to world level field tournaments. I also had the honour to shoot with my World Indoor Championships teammates Virginie Chenier and Caitlin Northey and I was fortunate enough to placed third.

The Target Championships were hosted at the West Shore facility consisting of both a FITA 1440 on day one and a FITA 720 on day two. Day one was not the best shooting day for me; the wind was tricky, I was not feeling the best, and I had an equipment failure where my arrow rest came off. On day two, the FITA 720, I was still a little shaken up from the FITA 1440, but I had a much better shooting day. Although I did not medal, I did come back with a lot more mental experience and a lot of fun memories.

The National Championship trip also provided me with a HUGE surprise.

In 2011, the Gunter family established an annual bursary for Canadian junior archers to be awarded at the National Championships. The WW Gunter Memorial Bursary is awarded annually to a Canadian Archer between the ages of 15 and 20, who has competed or will be competing for Canada at a World Championship or international archery competition such as the Youth Olympic Games, and who is planning to continue their education at the post-secondary level. The archer must conduct themselves in a manner that is a credit to their sport, their country and always maintain a sense of dignity and sportsmanship in victory and defeat.

To say I was surprised when they announced that I would be this years recipient would be a massive understatement. I was in such disbelief, my coach, Kathy actually had to nudge me to go and receive the award. I am humbled that the Gunter family would endow me with such an honour and I thank them enormously.

Instinctive Archery World Champion: Peter Garrett Interview

In September 2011, a friend of mine Peter Garrett, shocked the World and became Canada’s First World Champion in Instinctive Archery capturing Gold at the World 3D championships in Austria. Recently, Peter agreed to participate in an interview describing his experience and what it was like to reach the top of the podium for Canada.

Jordan: Congratulations again Peter, first can you give our readers a little information about your shooting background. What got you interested in archery and at what age?

Peter: When I was 49, I moved to Kitchener and joined the Elmira Rod and Gun in 2004 so I could continue my pistol shooting that I had been doing for 25 years. My 11 year son saw the rubber 3D animal targets there and wanted to shoot at them so I bought us each a bow and started archery. After 3 years my son lost interest but I loved it and shot my first provincial championship in 2005.

Jordan: As you are aware North America is dominated by compound bow shooters, what made you want to shoot bare bow and instinctive?

Peter: I started out with an unsighted compound bow but there was hardly any competition, so I switched to a recurve bow as there was lots of competition and I could always put sights on it and make it an Olympic style bow.

Jordan: What inspired you to “take it to the next level” and compete on the national and international level?

Peter: I won my first provincial championship, something I had never accomplished in 25 years of pistol shooting and it really inspired me. The next year the 3D Nationals were held in Ontario so I attended it and won as well. As there was nowhere to go in unsighted compound, I switched to an instinctive bow and have been enjoying it ever since.

Jordan: What is your typical practice routine & how often do you practice?

Peter: My typical practice was to shoot 60 arrows about 3 times a week

Jordan: How do you prepare both physically and mentally for an international match such as the World 3D championships?

Peter: I won two 3D National Championships and had a chance to represent Canada at the World 3 D Championships in Italy in 2009. When I got there I realized how poorly prepared I was. They had different rules, most of the other countries had full sponsorship and they trained 2 to 3 times a day. I was so nervous I missed 3 of my first 4 targets, I hit the next 36 but it was too late and I finished 2nd last. I decided if I went again I would be properly prepared. The 3D worlds are held every two years, so I learned all the rules and started training twice a day in September 2010. I was shocked in December 2010 when World Archery announced a rule change that banned my 3 finger under the arrow grip and made a split finger grip mandatory. I had to change my bow and relearn the way I shot in order to meet the new rules. I got a loaner riser from Lancaster Archery and started practicing 2 to 3 times a day in early January and kept that up until the end of August when I went to the worlds in Austria.

Jordan: I hear that bare bow and instinctive are far more popular in Europe, what was it like competing in the World 3D championships?

Peter: In Canada in 3D, there are about 15 compound archers for every non compound archers. In Europe there are 5 non compound archers for every compound archer, a huge switch. On our Canadian team 6 of 8 archers shot compound bows but their practice area was ¼ the size and number of targets as mine for non compound archers. There is a lot of prestige associated with the non compound archers and the best of the best were in attendance. Both French and Austrian archers told me about 100 archers tried out for their countries 3 Instinctive positions at the Worlds. Canada only had myself in Instinctive and Brock Patton in Longbow.

Jordan: Here in North America, the landscape for archers is different from that of Austria how did you prepare for shooting on hills, valleys, etc…

Peter: I practiced hills by occasionally going to a ravine near by and shooting at any club I knew had a lot of hills. The Flying Feathers Club in Madawaska had the overall best variety of shooting conditions so I tried to go there whenever they had a competition or I was allowed to practice there.

Jordan: Who are your coaches and how did they help prepare you for this journey?

Peter: I did not have a coach for 3D Instinctive archery for a variety of reasons. I did receive help in the spring with general bowman ship and dealing with distractions from Kathy Millar. Larry Smith set up my new bow, figured out the best arrow to use and gave me some great training tips on judging distances.

Jordan: Do you have any sponsors that have supported you through this adventure?

Peter: Lancaster Archery had lent me a 17” Trad Tech Titan riser to try until their 19” was in full production. As the new riser was not released in time I used the 17” at the world championships. Since then Goldtip arrows and Trad Tech have helped me with my equipment as I used their product to win the World Championships.

Jordan: What was the most memorable part of the whole experience?

Peter: The most memorable moment was hearing my team mates and wife sing O’Canada from the stands as they raised the Canadian flag and played the National Anthem. I had great support from my wife and team mates throughout this event that made it extra special.

Jordan: Now that you have succeeded in becoming World Champion, what are your new archery goals for the future?

Peter: This is a great question, I stopped shooting completely for 3 months as I needed a break. I thought I might quit but I love to shoot archery and I have started again. In January World Archery changed the rules again so now I need to use a wooden bow and other significant changes that at this point I am not planning to relearn so I can shoot at the world in 2013. I am just having fun shooting right now and with retirement from work ahead in the near future I am not sure what I will do.

Jordan: Would you be interested in doing a periodic blog now and then for our readers?

Peter: I would be happy to and answer any questions someone may have.

Annual Shoot for the Cure

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer). In 2011:

  • An estimated 23,400 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,100 will die of it.
  • An estimated 190 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 55 will die of it.
  • On average, 64 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every day.
  • On average, 14 Canadian women will die of breast cancer every day.
  • Probability of developing or dying from breast cancer
  • One in 9 women is expected to develop breast cancer during their lifetime and one in 29 will die of it.

Trends in breast cancer
Breast cancer incidence rose steadily from 1980 to the early 1990s, partly because of increased mammography screening. Breast cancer death rates have declined in every age group since at least the mid 1980s.

Every year Canadian Archers gather for a tournament at the Bow Shop in Waterloo to raise money for Breast Cancer Research. Last year, the tournament raised over $9,000 and this year is very special as Bruce Savage, Vice President of Administration for the  Ontario Association of Archers (OAA) is donating his beard. It’s has been over 30 years since he shaved his beard. Below is a letter by his daughter Racheal to all archers…

Hello Everyone:

I am putting out a call to one and all to dig deep into their wallets and purses and to help me spread the word far and wide!

As many of you know, my father has had a beard for probably as long as you have known him. In fact it has been 30 years he has had that same beard! I do not remember ever seeing his chin.

After a lot of convincing, I have worn him down. He will be donating his chin this year to the annual Canadian Archers For A Cause – Shoot For A Cure held annually at the Bow Shop in Waterloo. Last year alone, this tournament raised over $9,000 all sent to breast cancer research. This year we are hoping to do even better. Check out the web page for tournament information as well instructions on how to donate. This year the shoot will be held on January 21st at The Bow Shop in Waterloo

As I’m sure you can imagine, Dad is pretty attached to his beard and I’m hoping to make his beard a worthwhile incentive for donations to a great cause from across Canada.

I am asking for not only your donations, but I would like all of you to help me get the word out far and wide. Please post this information on provincial and club web pages where possible, email to friends and family, contribute personally. There is not a lot of time for us to pull all of this together as the shoot is being held January 21, 2011 but I REALLY appreciate any assistance you can give.

Not only are we shaving his beard, we are planning on shaving it in the middle of the range as part of the weekend event. Of course this will be well documented via photos and will be dispersed for entertainment value after the shoot. What else would a good daughter do?!

Donations can be made by contacting Michael Martin at The Bow Shop at (519) 746-8139 or via email at media@bow-shop.com . Any size donation is greatly appreciated and can be made via cash, cheque, or credit card.

If you have any questions or would like more information please do not hesitate to contact me. Sorry if you receive this information more than once as I’m trying to get the word out quickly due to our short time lines.

Thank you.

Racheal Savage

If you are planning to be in the Waterloo area for the weekend of January 21st, please consider participating in the annual Shoot of the Cure, however  if not consider donating a couple of dollars to this worthy fundraiser.

Preparing to take on the World

The 2012 World Archery Indoor Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada are less than a month away, and I am equally excited and nervous. This will be my first experience at the World level and I am trilled about enjoying it with my junior recurve team mates, Virginie Chenier of Quebec and Caitlin Northey of Saskatchewan. I am sure that we will gel as a team however since we all live in various provinces we will develop our team round strategy at the hotel on practice days. Speaking of the Hotel, the South Point Hotel and Casino, where the event will be held, is located in the heart of the premiere southwest Las Vegas valley, just minutes away from the famous Las Vegas Strip. According to their website, some of their many amenities include a 16-screen Century Theatre movie complex, 64-lane bowling center and a handful of restaurants that cater to all appetites and tastes.  Their distinctive hotel features spacious rooms and suites with 42-inch plasma televisions, Point Plush mattresses and Wireless Fidelity throughout. A unique feature to this property is its Equestrian Center, which is the finest horse facility in the country. South Point also has a fabulous 400-seat showroom that features headliner entertainment and dancing to live bands on weekends. Although the hotel offers plenty to do, even for those under age of majority (21 in Nevada), I am not sure I will have a lot of time based on the posted schedule for the Championships. The practice venue will be open for both official arrival days, Friday and Saturday, and I plan to get there early on Saturday. The rest of the week looks like the following…

  • Day 1 Official Practice & Team Captain Meeting
  • Day 2 Qualification Rounds
  • Day 3 Individual Eliminations
  • Day 4 Team Eliminations
  • Day 5 Individual and Team Finals

Immediately following the championships from February 10th to 13th is the World Archery Festival, stage 2 of the Indoor Archery World Cup. However, due to the amount of school I would have to miss, I have decided not to participate, instead I will fly home on February 10th. I look forward to meeting so many new friends from all over the world, and participating in one of the archery world’s premier events. Until then, my focus will be on eliminating all distractions. First and foremost, finish this semester and exams the week before leaving. So rather than setting expectations to high; my goals are simple. First, focus on shooting and ignoring bells, whistles and the bright lights of Las Vegas. Then, give it my best effort each day, focusing on each shot and ignoring any mistakes. Lastly, learn and enjoy the complete experience. If all I bring back is the knowledge of what it takes to compete that the World level, I will succeed. I have been asked a couple of times now, however it is unknown at this time, if they will be streaming a live feed of the competition however results will be posted on the World Indoor website.