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Winter Archery Practice, Part Two


Winter archery is one of those sports which can be exceptionally rewarding and great exercise, but so few people even dare to go outside during the winter and try it.

I have written a fair bit on the topic over the years, including a Guide to Winter Archery for ArcheryToronto.ca a few years ago. More recently I have even been tempted to write a book on the topic, elaborating on an aspect of archery that few archers do and apparently don't know what they are missing.

See my previous post on this topic: Winter Archery Practice, Part One

Winter archery ends up having a very "survival-esque" feel to it. You are out there, embracing the cold and the wind, and you are learning to shoot despite the adverse conditions. Not everyone is into that, in the same way that not everyone is into going cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, snowboarding, ice fishing, or various other winter activities. But if the mentioning of those activities bring back fond memories for you, now you begin to comprehend my love of winter archery.

Contrary to popular belief, I do teach archery lessons during the winter. But I also pick and choose which days I go outside to practice. Which brings me to the following...

Five Tips for Winter Archery

#1. Check the forecast and schedule a time.

I set a goal every week during the winter of going outside at least once to practice archery. I look at the forecast, compare with my schedule, and then try to pick a day that isn't a blizzard, the weather looks sunny or mostly sunny, and thus I mitigate the worst weather conditions. It also means I am making an active effort to schedule my archery practice, as many people will often say they want to do something, but if they don't actually schedule it then they will forget to do it.

#2. Prepare for the Day.

This covers everything from having the right clothes to wear, bringing a thermos of hot chocolate, coffee or tea with you, and even more basic things like knowing all your equipment is packed up / in good condition to go shooting. If you forget to buy the necessities / repair equipment, and have them ready to go then the day of shoot might come and you will decide to skip it because "Oh, I forgot to re-fletch those arrows. I might as well not go." Preparing for something also implies that you should double-check you have everything, in which case I recommend making a list and confirming you have everything well ahead of time.

In my case "preparing for winter archery" during the Winter of 2015/2016 also meant growing a beard so it would keep my face warm while shooting.

Last Winter I grew a beard to keep my face warm.
Behind me is a friend I invited out to the range.
#3. Bring a Friend with you.

Archery is always more fun with a friend to talk to, regardless of the season. They might be already into archery, or they might be more of a spectator.

Just make sure that if you do bring a friend that they are not one of those who get cold easily, wear inappropriate/inadequate clothing when outdoors, and/or are whiners. Nothing is worse than doing a winter activity outdoors and you brought your whiny friend who hates being cold but apparently doesn't know how to prepare for cold weather. Instead bring the friend you know LOVES being outside in the winter, knows how to dress warmly, and embraces adventure and conversation. (If you are like me, you can think of a couple people already that fit that description. Or if you live in Toronto, send me an email and we can hang out sometime. I will invite a couple friends and we can make it a group event.)

Every year the Toronto Archery Club sometimes has several winter archery meetups too, usually one in early December, another in mid January, a third on Valentines, and a fourth on St Patrick's Day. That way you can also meet new people and enjoy the sport as a larger group.

#4. Know your Limits.

Knowing what distances you can accurately shoot at is handy. It is very easy to lose arrows in the snow if you are shooting at distances you know you are less than accurate at. You should also set a time limit for how long you are going to be outside. 90 minutes or 2 hours for example might be a good idea.

#5. Take Breaks.

With a winter activity like ice fishing all you really do is sit around and talk, maybe read and hope that the fish bite the hook. With winter archery you will eventually get cold and/or tired, as the cold will sap your endurance and strength. To remedy this you should take regular breaks to "warm your innards" with a hot drink, or possibly even visiting the indoors for a few minutes before later returning back outside. For example, one thing you should do before you even go outside is to take a bathroom break. A full bladder means your body is expending energy keeping all that liquid warm, but an empty bladder means you have more energy keeping YOU warm. Thus if you feel the need to go at some point, go take a bathroom break and you will discover you will be warmer afterwards because you will no longer be wasting energy keeping excess liquid warm. Taking regular breaks will also improve your endurance and strength levels, so that you are shooting better and don't start making mistakes due to fatigue.

Want more tips? Leave a comment below and I shall write more on the topic of Winter Archery.

Happy Shooting!

Examining some rabbit tracks in the snow.

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