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Shorter Bows Vs Longer Bows

Q

Two Very Similar Questions

"I have a question. I'm 19 and started off when I was 2 years old shooting traditional. As I got older I started shooting compound. I have a bear kodiak super magnum and I am really wanting to be able to harvest my first deer with traditional equipment this year but my shooting is all over the place. Earlier I went in the garage and got out a bear grizzly the my dad doesn't use anymore. Now the grizzly is significantly longer than the kodiak magnum. I started shooting it and was shooting way better than with the magnum. Could the size difference of the bow be the reason I was shooting worse/better?

Dylan G."


"[A] question that I have is in regards to the length of bows in general. What would be the biggest difference I would feel if I used a 62" bow compared to the 66" bow that we have been using. Would it still work well with the 28" draw length or would I just be overdrawing the bow all the time?

Thanks again for all of your help,

Eric K."


A

The short answer:

Longer bows are more forgiving. You can make a mistake and often still hit the target.
Shorter bows are unforgiving. You make a mistake and miss completely.

The long answer... it is complicated. It comes down to the physics and the design of the bow, the canting of the bow, the angle of the bowstring to tip of the bow, lateral physics, whether the bow is more bottom heavy and other factors. But yes, generally speaking, longer bows are usually more forgiving than shorter bows.

This is also true of compound bows too, which are measured from axle to axle.

Axle-to-Axle, or more commonly called by the acronym ATA, is the distance measured between each axle of a compound bow. Each cam operates on an axle and taking the length between those two axles is going to be your ATA measurement. There are compound bows with a long ATA, short ATA and some with a middle of the road ATA.

The longer ATA compound bows are always more forgiving of mistakes. However many hunters favour shorter ATA compound bows because they want a bow that weighs less, allows them to maneuver easier around branches when shooting from a tree stand, etc.

With competitive compound shooters however they don't need to worry about weight and maneuvrability. They just want as much accuracy as they can get. Thus competitive compounds are often quite long from axle to axle.


The same goes with Olympic recurve archers.

When it comes to Olympic recurves they are usually 66, 68 or 70 inches long. The extra bit of length gives the bow a bit more accuracy and Olympic archers want all the accuracy they can get. Thus it would be rare to see an Olympic recurve which is 64 inches or less. Most manufacturers that make such bows don't even make limbs and riser combos that go that short.


WHAT MAKES A GREAT ARCHER?

Now you may have also heard previously that when it comes to feats of accuracy and skill the three best archers of the last century all shot longbows: Awa Kenzo, Howard Hill, Byron Ferguson - sometimes listed in that order.

And that is true. They all shot longbows.

Awa Kenzo shot a Japanese yumi longbow. Yumi longbows are typically 7 to 9 feet long.

Howard Hill shot a traditional English longbow which had a modified handle he designed himself.

Byron Ferguson is still alive and shoots a "radical reflex-deflex longbow". Rather a complicated longbow design, but there it is.

So why did they shoot a longer bow even though these archers were already great at what they do?

Because even great archers still make mistakes. And when you know mistakes still happen you want to get the extra consistency that a longer bow affords you.

So what made these three longbow men so great?

Well, Awa Kenzo was known for his trick shooting. He could shoot a bullseye in the dark and then repeat the shot with such accuracy that he Robin Hooded the first arrow.

Howard Hill was renown for his hunting skills. One of my favourite stories about him is shooting an eagle at 150 yards, roughly twice the distance that Olympic archers shoot at (70 meters).

And Byron Ferguson does a combination of both trick shooting and long distance shooting. He can shoot a tiny moving target, like an aspirin in the air at 30 feet.

So then you might wonder, wait, so if Olympic recurves are so great, why aren't there any really famous Olympic archers?

Because they come and go. The average length of a competitive archer's career is less than 10 years. Even the most successful Olympic archers only ever compete in 1 or 2 Olympic Games and spend most of their time competing in local competitions, and there is very little money in it.

Plus the Koreans keep winning 75% of all the big competitions.

This comes down to money. In Korea Olympic archers often get big sponsors like Hyundai and Samsung supporting their careers. There is far more money in the sport in South Korea.

In contrast guess how much a Canadian Olympic archer earns in a year from sponsors?

Usually zero.

So eventually as Olympic archers get older they need to stop competing in order to pay for bills. They get married, have a few kids, the usual deal.

Even great archers like Awa Kenzo, Howard Hill, and Byron Ferguson had/have their sources of income. Awa Kenzo taught archery and martial arts, opening his own dojo. Howard Hill was in a lot of films between the 1930s and 1960s, promoting archery via film. Byron Ferguson writes books about archery.

So what made them great wasn't just their skill, but also their ability to keep doing archery because they made it part of their livelihood. Teaching, promoting, writing.

Olympic archers after they retire from competitions rarely go into archery as a business. A tiny few will end up coaching, while most of them will get an university degree or a college diploma and pursue a different passion.

Can you name an Olympic archer who was active during the 1980s or 1990s who is still famous, still competing and shooting amazingly today?

Nope. Neither can I.

Below is two photos of three Olympic archers shooting inside the Eaton's Centre while it was being built in May 1976. The photographs were taken by reporter/photographer Tibor Kelly. The archers in the photo are Wayne Pullen, Ron Lippert and Sheila Brown.


I had never heard of any of those three archers until a few months ago. And oddly enough, despite all their medals and accolades, these photographs might be the most historically important thing they ever did as archers. No doubt they contributed personally to the sport, encouraging others, teaching a bit, being supportive. Tiny ripples of influence in the river of history.

The three of them collectively probably had boxes of medals and trophies. So many they didn't know what to do with. But once an archer's competitive archery career is over, then what?
 
Some might shoot recreationally.
 
A rare few might get into bowhunting.
 
A tiny few might get into coaching, if they have the necessary skills to teach it properly.
 
Extremely few will write a How To Book, as that implies they first got into coaching and also had the necessary skills required to write a book about it.

So what makes a great archer?

In my opinion it is more than merely competing for 10 years (or less) of your life. Great archers shoot for decades and they leave a lasting contribution to the sport.

Awa Kenzo didn't just found an archery school. He founded a whole branch of Japanese archery, breaking from the ritualized kyudo to focus more on zen and Buddhist principles, a branch of Japanese archery that is still practiced today as his disciples passed on his teachings.

Howard Hill performed some amazing feats of archery. But in North America he also caused an archery fad that lasted from the late 1930s to early 1970s. An archery fad that lasted decades and effected the sport on the global level. (In contrast The Hunger Games fad only lasted a few years.) If it wasn't for Howard Hill there wouldn't even by "Olympic archery". They brought the sport back to the Olympics in 1972 after a 52 year hiatus.

And Byron Ferguson continues to teach, write and amaze. His contributions to the sport are not yet tallied.

For example lets talk about E. T. Seton.

E. T. Seton was an author of children's books. Yes, he did archery, but he wasn't particularly great at it. But he did manage to leave a lasting impression on Toronto's Archery community by donating in his will the land that became E. T. Seton Park and now contains the Toronto Archery Range.

Thus his biggest contribution to archery was land. A place for archers to practice.

Was E. T. Seton a great archer? Probably not. But we could say that he was a good person and a good archer. Certainly a generous archer.

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50 lb Horsebow balanced on three arrows. Just waiting to be shot.

Pin Float Vs Reticular Drift

Q

Hey Charles!

I was speaking to a fellow compound shooter and I mentioned how hard it is to aim sometimes when the sight pin keeps moving around. He referred to this as "Pin Float".

Is Pin Float different from Reticular Drift or are they basically the same thing?

Regards,
Jeffrey H.

A

Hey Jeffrey!

Basically the same thing.

Reticular Drift is a term largely used by military snipers to describe when they are aiming through a scope and the crosshairs keep moving about while they are trying to perfect their aim.

In archery we also use the term Reticular Drift, but when we do we are talking about aiming off the arrowhead and likewise attempted to perfect our aim while the arrowhead is moving about.

Pin Float is a bit more specific to compound shooting, as compound sights usually have 3 or more pins to choose from (with the pins usually set by the archer to 20 yards, 30 yards, 40 yards, etc). When shooting at 20 yards they would use the 20 yard pin. While aiming if the pin is moving around, making it difficult to aim, it is called Pin Float.


So how does an archer prevent Reticular Drift or Pin Float?

The short answer, you don't. It never truly goes away.

Reticular Drift is caused by the archer being in motion. The archer is breathing. Their muscles are contracting in order to maintain their draw length. The more the archer is moving the worse the Reticular Drift will be. eg. If the archer is shaking in some manner the Reticular Drift will be really bad.

However there are ways to minimize its effects.

One, use proper archery form. This will reduce shaking.

Two, learn how to breathe into the belly (as opposed to the chest) so that the shoulders are not moving up and down when you breathe.

Three, build stronger back and shoulder muscles so that they are more relaxed when put under pressure.






SOMEWHAT OFF TOPIC

In video games archers are often depicted as being super steady with the bow and there is no Reticular Drift at all.

However there is one video game I do want to applaud, because the realism in the archery depicted in the game is amazing. "Kingdom Come Deliverance" has the most realistic archery I have ever seen in a video game.

The hero (Henry) starts off in the game being horrible at archery. When Henry is first shooting he is horrible at it and the Reticular Drift is so bad it is very difficult to aim. However as the player gets better at aiming their Archery skill goes up ranks from 0 to 20, and their Strength ability and other scores likewise goes up. The Strength ability/etc is necessary in order to be able to use more powerful bows in the game properly.

Now I have heard people complaining about the game and whining about the archery system being so difficult... but frankly these people have been coddled by games like Skyrim where the character automatically is perfectly steady with their aim. They don't get that archery is supposed to be difficult. But, once the player has gotten Henry's Archery skill up and his Strength score likewise up, Archery is arguably the best combat skill in the game because it allows the player to kill enemies from distances (often while staying hidden), whereas the other combat skills require getting within melee range - in which case the swordplay system is likewise hard at the beginning to simulate Henry sucking at it.

Does the Reticular Drift in the game make it harder? Yes, at the beginning. And it never truly goes away either, it just decreases significantly as Henry gets stronger and better at archery. But that is the whole point. The game is based on reality as much as possible. Even the castles/locations are real places in Bohemia where tourists can visit. So for example the archery range in the image below next to the castle walls? You can visit the location and go there. There is no archery range there (at least not any more), but you can visit the castle.

Disclaimer - Nobody paid me to write this. I am just a fan of the game. I prefer realism in my books and my games.


Backyard Archery Legality Issues

Frequently Asked Questions

#1. Where can I do archery?

#2. Is it safe and legal to do it in my backyard or similar locations?

#3. Is there a designated place to do archery in my city?

#4. Where else can someone go to do archery?

#5. Is it possible to get permission to shoot inside certain buildings?


Answers


 #1. The short answer: Anywhere that is safe and legal to do so.

The long answer is more complicated as it varies on your location and local laws.

In Toronto it is illegal to do archery in a public park, unless you have a permit or if it is a designated area that is purposely for archery. This is governed by Toronto Bylaw 608-4.

608-4. Firearms and offensive weapons.
  • A. While in a park, no person shall be in possession of or use a firearm, air gun, cross bow, bow and arrow, axe, paint guns or offensive weapon of any kind unless authorized by permit.
  • B. Despite Subsection A, bows and arrows may be used in designated areas in accordance with posted conditions.

So with respect to public parks a person can do archery if they either (A) get a permit or (B) only do archery in the designated locations (eg. The Toronto Archery Range located at E. T. Seton Park).

Now we should also note it is also possible to do archery on private property. Such locations are typically private archery ranges located at universities, indoor archery ranges, archery tag locations, etc.


#2. Yes and No. It depends.

Depending on the city you live in it is usually legal to do archery in your backyard, garage, basement, or other indoor facilities. What really matters here is two factors:

  1. Whether your city has banned any kind of outdoor shooting, release or throwing of items considered to be weapons. Some cities have outright banned the "release" or firing of such weapons. eg. Toronto has banned it in public parks, but there is no general ban.
  2. Whether you have taken steps to ensure the safety of your neighbours, passersby, etc. If the archer is recklessly shooting in a place with no safety precautions, then that is illegal regardless because it is Reckless Endangerment with a Firearm.

Imagine for example if someone was doing archery in their front yard and people walking by on the sidewalk are in danger of being injured (and possibly killed). Well then that constitutes Reckless Endangerment with a Firearm, which carries a penalty of a $4,000 fine and possible prison time.

So the backyard, garage, basement, etc is definitely safer, but in the case of a backyard the archer should also be taking steps to ensure that it is even more safe. eg. High fences would be ideal, shooting on a downward angle at a target placed on the ground, and exercising clear safety rules.

The safest alternative obviously is to only be shooting indoors in a garage, basement or similar location. eg. I know of several people who have convinced their employers to let them shoot in their warehouse during their lunch break, using stacks of old cardboard boxes in the warehouse as targets - cardboard doomed to recycled anyway.

That doesn't mean however that it isn't possible or legal to shoot in a backyard however. The person doing so simply needs to take various safety measures so that if they are ever asked by police about their backyard archery practice that they can prove that they are doing it in a safe manner that is not endangering anyone.

So for example a neighbour could phone the police and complain, and when police investigate and interview you then you would be able to show that you are using high fences, arrow netting, shooting on a downward angle towards a target on the ground and similar precautions. The police would then determine that there is no point in arresting you as you've proven that you've taken the necessary safety precautions and that you are not shooting recklessly over any fences and into the properties of your neighbours.

#3. In Toronto, Yes.

In Toronto we are fortunate to have the Toronto Archery Range, a free public archery range that is open 24/7 all year long. It is, to my knowledge, the only free public archery range in North America. (Burnaby has a similar public archery range, but it isn't free to use.)

You can learn more about the Toronto Archery Range by visiting:
http://www.archerytoronto.ca/Toronto-Archery-Range.html

Are there any other "designated areas" in Toronto where you can do archery outdoors? No, but there are a few indoor archery ranges that are privately run by universities and archery tag locations.

Very few cities have their own outdoor archery range. eg. Montreal has one, which I believe is privately owned. (If you know whether this is true or false please correct me in the comments.)

If you know of other cities or towns that have their own public archery range please post it in the comments.

#4. Outside the city limits.

If you leave the city limits of Toronto there are a variety of places where a person can do archery. Private archery ranges are at the top of the list, but a person could potentially also rent a small chunk of land from a farmer and build a small private archery range for use by themselves and their friends.

If you have family who owns farmland or a cabin up north or similar property you could ask your family if its okay to visit and shoot on their property. eg. I keep a recurve bow and assorted equipment at my parents' farm just for this express purpose, this way I don't have to bring archery equipment with me when I visit, it is already there.

#5. Yes, it definitely is possible.

Although it is difficult to obtain, some locations will sometimes allow archers to shoot on their premises. Especially if it is for a publicity stunt.

The photos below are of Canadian archery champions Wayne Pullen, Ron Lippert and Sheila Brown shooting inside the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto prior to the 860 foot long shopping mall being opened. The photos were taken by Globe and Mail photographer Tibor Kelly in May 1976. (It is from the cover of the May 17th 1976 issue.)

In order to be able to shoot in the Eaton Centre the three champions had to don hard hats in case anything fell on them. We assume the construction crew was on lunch break at the time they took the photos, and the three champion archers and the Globe and Mail photographer certainly had the permission of the Eaton Corporation. These aren't the kinds of photographs you could get without obtaining permission first.

The photographs are from newspaper clippings saved by Sheila Brown. We can all thank her for having the foresight to save a copy of this historical moment in Toronto archery history.


Gap Shooting, An Intermediate Archery Skill

Q

"New to traditional archery. Am I the only one to use the part circled to aim? Is it a bad habit I should break?

Justin M."




A


Hello Justin!

It is called Gap Shooting.

Rare for a beginner. It is more of an intermediate skill that archers learn after they have been shooting for a longer time period.

Gap Shooting is useful for shooting at moving targets; Aiming off the arrowhead is slower to adjust your aim compared to Gap Shooting which lets you keep your eye on the target.

Gap Shooting is not so good for shooting long distances as it means you are aiming above the target and often cannot see it any more because the bow is physically in the way.

If you learn both styles of aiming (traditional aiming off the arrowhead and gap shooting) it makes you a more versatile archer.
Some archers even put marks and/or dots on the side of the riser next to where they are aiming so they can improve their accuracy. This is known as a "Gap Shooting Cheat Sheet". It isn't really cheating, it just makes it easier to remember exactly where you are aiming.

In the example to the right is a "Gap Shooting Cheat Sheet" which uses an alternating dot pattern, making it easier to remember which set of dots you are using for aiming purposes.

The archer then aims to the side of the marks or dots, using the gap between the target and the side of the bow as a measuring device. An archer using a right handed bow with too much gap would see their arrow go to the right. Too small of a gap and their arrow goes left. (For archers using a left handed bow the reverse would be true.)

Happy Shooting!

Sincerely,
Charles Moffat
CardioTrek.ca
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