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Showing posts with label Archery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Archery. Show all posts

Ramsay's Archery Skills on Game of Thrones / National Post Article

I was recently asked a series of archery questions by a reporter from the National Post, a Canadian newspaper. The questions pertained to a recent episode of the popular television show "Game of Thrones", episode 9 of season 6 during which the character Ramsay Bolton (formerly Ramsay Snow) displayed his impressive archery skills.

SPOILER ALERT - If you have not seen the recent episodes of Game of Thrones you may want to watch the episode in question before reading any further.

Some of the questions I was asked included:
  • How far would Ramsay, the shooter, have to be to successfully target the victim? How far would be too far?
  • And how long would this shot typically take? How fast do you believe the arrow is moving? 
  • What style of arrow and method of shooting is Ramsay using, and do you think these are good choices considering what he is about to do?
  • Would the arrow continue moving in a straight path at this distance? Would his victim have been able to “zig-zag” and avoid it, in other words?
Ramsay Bolton with Penobscot Flatbow

Ah yes, the scene with the Penobscot bow. I was very happy when I saw that. The Penobscot are a Aboriginal American tribe who used "double limbed flatbows" which have extra cables attached to extra limbs on the bottom and top of the bow, which allows the archer to adjust their tiller and weight by shortening/lengthening the cables by twisting the cables to tighten or loosen the cables. The adjustability and added power makes the arrows go further with a longer arc, which ultimately leads to more accuracy at longer distances.

Normally Ramsay in the TV show is seen with a Hungarian style horsebow, a type of shortbow which is not known for its long range accuracy, but by switching to a Penobscot bow he gets added range and accuracy. As a fan of the Penobscot bow, it was very nice seeing it being used in the show.

Sample of a Penobscot Bow

Penobscot Woman with Penobscot Bow
Note - Torontonians interested in buying a Penobscot bow should contact Gary at Basically Bows at 940 Queen Street East. Address and hours are listed on http://www.archerytoronto.ca/Archery-Equipment-in-Toronto.html

How far would Ramsay, the shooter, have to be to successfully target the victim? How far would be too far?


Depending on the archer and the power (measured in poundage) of the bow, he could be pretty far away. Howard Hill once shot a bald eagle at 150 yards away, which is twice the distance modern Olympic archers shoot at. Rickon is a lot bigger than a bald eagle however, but I would estimate he was about 100-120 yards away when the fatal arrow hit him.

Ramsay showing off, deliberately missing.
Judging by Ramsay's previous skill shown in the TV show, this is not impossible. I would say Ramsay is likely "reasonable accurate" out to a distance of 120 yards when shooting at a man sized target. Ramsay's skill is quite good and he even shows off a bit by looking away during one shot and deliberately missing. Judging by the camera angles and the size of people in the distance I think the two opposing forces were about 200 to 250 yards apart.

[It is difficult to estimate the precise distances as camera angles will sometimes skew distances. I am basing my estimates on previous experience of seeing the sizes of people at known distances of 100 yards, 200 yards and 300 yards.]

And how long would this shot typically take? How fast do you believe the arrow is moving?


To nock, draw and aim - only a few seconds. You would not want to be holding it for a long time when aiming at a moving target, as the character Ramsay likely would have tuned to the Penobscot to his ideal poundage for the utmost accuracy and speed. The arrow was likely traveling between 200 to 250 feet per second (fps) on release.

Regarding the precise arrow speed I am basing that on the estimate that Ramsay might have tuned the Penobscot bow to approx. 80 lbs, the higher the poundage the more power and speed released initially. Based on Ramsay's physical size, his youth and the fact he has clearly been shooting a very long time, 80 lbs seems like a reasonable amount.

Historically any bow used for war would be a much higher poundage than any bow used for hunting or recreation.

To put this in context 80 lbs is the bare minimum for an English warbow, which is more powerful than the standard English longbow. Longbows for adults are *usually* in the range of 20 to 80 lbs. English Warbows are usually in the range of 80 to 200 lbs. For example Howard Hill once used a 173 lb now while hunting a bull elephant in Africa, which admittedly was overkill in terms of power.

A typical hunting bow in Ontario is between 40 to 70 lbs, stipulated because the minimum legal poundage for bowhunting deer is 39.7 lbs and for moose/elk/black bear the minimum is 48.5 lbs.
A bow that is only 20 - 30 lbs of draw weight in contrast would have a speed of approx. 100 to 125 fps. Only a fraction of what a Penobscot bow is capable of.

What style of arrow and method of shooting is Ramsay using, and do you think these are good choices considering what he is about to do?


Ramsay appears to be using a wooden arrow with long turkey feather fletching (for added accuracy on non-windy days, less accuracy on windy days). The arrowhead appears to be a moderately heavy traditional broadhead. He would not want an arrowhead that is too heavy as that would reduce his long distance accuracy, so he has chosen one that is relatively narrow and saves on weight.

Ramsay Bolton with Hungarian-style Bow
Ramsay is using a style of archery similar to the Howard Hill style of shooting (this is how famous Howard Hill is, he has an archery style named after him). Howard Hill would also lean forward and into the shot slightly, aligning his body with the angle of the bow. The style is popular with longbow and flatbow archers, and bears similarities to Mongolian, Persian, Turkish and Hungarian archery styles. The style involves deliberately canting (changing the angle) of the top limb of the bow to the side so you get a cleaner view of the target and it compensates for the sideways motion of the arrow - without the cant the arrow would tend to go further to the side, but the cant allows the archer to be able to compensate for the difference and makes it easier to aim at their target.

As longbow archery styles go, there are three common styles you may have seen previously: English Longbow Style (no cant, shooting long distance in volleys because of reduced accuracy), Japanese Kyudo (no cant, but with significant stylistic differences in form and release), and the Howard Hill style of shooting. Of these three styles, the Howard Hill style makes the most sense, plus since he has already been seen shooting Hungarian style horsebows, it is not so different from the style of shooting he does regularly.

So yes, a moderately weighted arrowhead with a long fletched arrow, using a Howard Hill style cant makes total sense to get the most accuracy.

Hungarian Bow

Would the arrow continue moving in a straight path at this distance? Would his victim have been able to “zig-zag” and avoid it, in other words?

The arrow would be traveling in a straight arc, so yes, it would be straight and arcing downwards. In theory, yes, Rickon would have been able to zig zag at that distance and dramatically reduce the chances of Ramsay hitting him, but Rickon clearly was not thinking that. He also did not think to run behind the burning crosses and let the heat rising from the crosses change the view of the target so that it was blurry and more difficult to aim at. So if he had thought to zig zag behind the crosses, his chances of survival would have shot way up.

I should note that in the TV show Stark children who have their wolf killed somehow have a tendency to die. Sansa is the only character who has had her wolf die and has not yet died. She has so far bucked the trend, which makes me wonder if she is doomed. Rickon was clearly doomed the moment he got captured and his wolf was killed. Arya is fortunate that her wolf is still wandering the Riverlands.



Additional Notes

Check out Ygritte's bow that she had. It is a recurved replica of the Meare Heath bow, which is a famous example of ancient bow designs.

Ygritte with her Meare Heath replica

Diagram of the Meare heath bow

Ramsay was taking his sweet time there between shots. He was in no rush. Had he wanted to he could have shot perhaps 10 times easily in the space of 1 minute, but instead he was patient and took his time about it.

Which I think is part of his character. He takes his time and enjoys his sadistic pleasures. In contrast when he realizes he is in danger he manages to get three shots off at Jon before he starts getting punched in the face. That scene was shorter but was a better example of fast shooting.


Got archery questions?

Send your questions to cardiotrek@gmail.com. More than happy to help answer questions.

Happy shooting!

Archery Testimonials x 4

#1.

"Thanks again for the archery lessons! You are the best. We tried archery tag several times but didn't really learn how to shoot properly until we met you.

To anyone reading this, Charles is an amazing archery instructor who is very patient, very good at communicating ideas, and he helped us to get rid of a lot of our bad habits. You could not ask for a better instructor. He makes the lessons fun and we learned so much every lesson.

- Amber and Muhammad"

#2.

"Charles provides quality archery instruction and service. He has good attention to detail, is nice, friendly, very knowledgeable, and I am very happy with my archery skills. They are all due to his tips which covered everything from how to stand, how to pull, WHEN to pull, how to stand up straight, how to aim, how to release and much more. I had a problem with my drawing arm that was causing me to tremble, but Charles taught me how to fix it by pulling the bow correctly after pre-aiming. I would not have thought of that. He also taught me how to use consistent power so each arrow has the same amount of power and why that is important for accuracy. I am coming back for more lessons next year.

Thank you for the archery lessons!

- Zhang Min"


#3.

"Charles is a great instructor. I took five lessons with him and each lesson is different and tailored to fix whatever problems I am having. By lesson 5 I was shooting long distances and even scored a few bullseyes. The part I enjoyed most was the drills in which he would challenge me to try new things, like moving a target ball around so I have to learn how to adjust my aim, adjusting my aim for windy conditions and shooting at moving targets. I never thought I would be able to shoot at moving targets or long distances so accurately, but now I can.

I surpassed my expectations and now have my own equipment. I am extremely happy with the lessons I received.

- Jennifer D."

#4.


"To the reader:

Before signing up for archery lessons I did my research. I did this because I want to get into traditional bowhunting and I wanted someone who understood what I was looking for. One of the things that impressed me right away is that Charles practices archery in the winter. From what I can tell he is the only instructor in Toronto who does that. He also does bowfishing, which is not the same as bowhunting, but impressed me nevertheless. I was also impressed by the amazing amount of archery tips he had on his website, all for free - which got me thinking, if that is all the tips he gives away for free, then what is he teaching? So I decided it would be worthwhile to sign up for 1 lesson. I figured 1 lesson wouldn't hurt.

Wow. I learned so much in the first lesson it still boggles my mind. He started with a safety lecture, then he did an eye test to see which is my dominate eye, then he showed me how to put together a 3-piece recurve bow (at the time I didn't even know what a recurve bow was and I kept calling it a longbow by accident). Then he did a lecture on how to aim and then a lecture on proper archery form, which covered everything from what I should be doing with my toes, my fingers and even my neck.

Then we started shooting. Charles was very careful to adjust my form each time I was shooting so I could get better shots and foster what he calls good habits. Sometimes he allowed me to make mistakes so I could see what a difference bad habits makes. By the end of the lesson I was shooting clusters at a target 62 feet away.

Needless to say I immediately asked to sign up for more lessons. The following lessons taught me how arrow spine worked and how that effects the quality of the shot, how arrowheads come in different sizes and shapes and what they are used for, how to wax a bow string, how to properly string a recurve bow, how to string a real longbow, and he gradually increased the strength of the bows I was shooting so that I was becoming stronger. He also taught me several different aiming methods, which I found fascinating.

During lesson 6 we were shooting at a paper target of a deer 165 feet away, which I found to be a lot of fun. Charles had learned that I was also interested in bowhunting and surprised me during the final lesson with the deer target. He gave me an interesting tip:

If you want to hunt then you should routinely practice at double the distance you intend to hunt at. So for example if you want to hunt at 90 feet or less, then your should regularly practice at 180 feet. This way you feel confident in your accuracy at a time when you more likely to be pumped full of adrenaline and might start second guessing your accuracy.

That was an important tip to me. But it was just one of many I learned from his lessons. What you see on his website is just the 'tips' of the iceberg. Thanks again!

- Chris W."

A Steady Relaxed Hand on your Compound Bow

What NOT to do - over-gripping the bow.
A very common beginners mistake for new archers is gripping the bow when you don't need to. Gripping the bow tightens up the forearm muscles and causes people to torque and/or jerk the bow, as well as increasing unnecessary vibrations and micro-jerking.

The best solution for preventing this is to completely relax the hand and forearm. Not even the thumb should be tensed. Everything should be relaxed. Fingers, hand, thumb, forearm, and elbow should be relaxed. Even the bow shoulder should be reasonably relaxed.

Hand position is a matter of debate however. My preference is for the base of the hand (the palm) to be bracing the bow as that reduces the chance of torquing the bow.

Some archers however prefer to angle their hand slightly diagonally, which increases the chances of hand torque. As an instructor I try to steer people away from that and I consider it to be bad form if a student is doing it because it is robbing them of more accuracy. However some archers swear by their chosen hand positions (archers are sometimes a superstitious lot) and choose to ignore physics.

The above hand position will tend to cause left-ward torquing.

Some archers also like to tuck their fingers up on the side of the handle, which again tensed up the forearm and increases the chances of jerking the bow mid-shot. Even micro-jerking (so small the human eye can barely detect) will rob accuracy. Again, some archers swear by this hand position and choose to ignore the laws of physics.

The fingers are too tense and will cause right-ward jerking.

Close, but if the fingers are too stiff, they can still cause jerking of the bow.

Another problem is people who have their fingers facing forward but they are still making them stiff or making claw fingers. Any amount of tension is going to hurt accuracy. Ideally what you want should look more like your hands do when you are standing and your hands are relaxed at your side. Or comparatively, the shape of your hand when you reach out to shake someone's hand. A nice relaxed, natural position.

Another common mistake is when archers relax only three fingers, and then pinch their thumb and index finger together. Again, any amount of tensions robs accuracy.

Please don't pinch your index and thumb together.

Claw hand plus even a tensed up pinky finger can rob accuracy.

Ideally you are going for the nice relaxed handshake position, with the base of the palm bracing the bow (not the thumb, the thumb area used as a brace increases hand torque). See the above photo and several of the photos from further above from people who favour bracing the bow against the lower "drumstick" of the thumb.

Some people only seem to have a basic understanding of what hand torque does to their shots and cannot be bothered to try fixing the problem.

Common Mistakes
  • Gripping the Bow.
  • Tensing the Fingers.
  • Tensing the Thumb.
  • Pinching Thumb and Index Finger.
  • Claw Hand.
  • Rotating the hand and bracing on the Thumb "drumstick".
  • Holding the Handle too far to the left or right (aka, not centering the hand on the handle).

HOT TIP

Comfort also seems to be a big factor for accuracy. If someone doesn't like the handle of the bow they are using, that lack of comfort will often cause them to tense up their hand when they should not be. Having a good comfortable handle therefore allows the person to relax their hand more and allows for a more comfortable, relaxed and accurate shots.

Notice above how many of the people in the photos are using the bare handle and haven't added anything to the handle to make it more comfortable. That is because they don't know any better.

What people are supposed to be doing is purchasing a better quality grip and then attaching it to their bow. Some people even make their own. Like the two examples below.


Another alternative is to wrap the handle, as desired by the user, with leather or faux leather. Some people also use braided para-cord and have experimented with other materials.

To learn more about how to shoot compound bows you can sign up for compound bow archery lessons in Toronto.

6 Tips for Tighter Compound Bow Clusters

Below are six bow tuning tips for improving the quality of your clusters when shooting a compound bow:

#1. Make sure your Nocking Loop is installed correctly.

Most compound bows these days come with a nocking loop for a mechanical release already installed on the bow these days. Most of the time they are installed correctly. Sometimes they are not. Here are some tips for making sure it is correctly installed:

(A) Make sure the loop is not pinching the nock too much while at full draw. A way to test this is to draw the bow back, arrow nocked, with no arrowhead on the arrow. If the arrow rises off the arrowrest (assuming you are not using a whisker biscuit or hostage arrowrest), then nock pinch will result in the arrow rising a bit off the arrowrest. If the arrow isn't staying on the arrowrest, then the nock is being pinched. To fix this, adjust the nocking loop so that the nock has about 1/4 or 1/3 of a mm of extra space. Some people might even give it 0.5 mm. At full draw the extra space disappears. Retest to see if you are getting arrow lift, if it is doing so, repeat the process to give the nock more space until it stops causing arrow lift when at full draw.

 (B) Check what direction the nocking loop is pointing. It should be pointing straight back away from the bow, but sometimes it could be installed crooked. The "String Torque" of it rotating back to its original position from a drawn position can result in minor fluctuations in accuracy. Sometimes if the loop is really off centre, it might even come in contact with the arrow, which could potentially ruin a shot entirely.

#2. Synchronize your Cams.

There are a variety of names for this, including synchronizing, timing, positioning, and indexing. Whatever you call it, the purpose of synchronization is to make sure the dual-cams on your bow are reaching full draw and let off at the same time. Having both cams synchronized increases speed, accuracy, consistency and the overall "feel" of the compound bow.

When synchronizing it is best to have a friend (or archery instructor) with you so that one person can be drawing the bow while the other person is checking the positions of the cams. Preferably someone who has done this before and knows what to be looking for. (It is also possible to use a machine to draw the bow for you, like a Draw Board. eg. The Lancaster Archery Supply Pro Shop Draw Board sells for $199.99, but if you are only buying it for this one task, then it is really not worth buying.)

Once you determine that one cam or the other is out of synch then all you need to do is either lengthen or shorten the cable by either twisting / untwisting the cable to change the lengths. Depending on the model of the bow you can also adjust the length of cable by changing the position of the stopping peg.

Note - Adding extra stuff on your bow strings can sometimes drastically change the tautness of the bowstring and effect synchronization, and thus hurt speed and accuracy. Thus any time you add or remove anything from the bow string / cables you should recheck the synchronization to see how it was effected.

#3. Make sure your nocks fit the bow string properly.

Sometimes people buy arrows with nocks and they are either too tight or too loose on the bow string. Both are bad for accuracy. Too tight means the bow string is pulled forward on the brace height during release. (Too tight also adds string noise by making a louder twang, which for hunting purposes could alert the prey.) Too loose could result in a misfire / the nock slipping off the bow string during a critical juncture.

Ideally what you want is a nock that isn't too tight, too loose, allows the bow string to spin freely but without torquing the arrow. If it cannot spin freely when nocked, then it is too tight. If it is so loose that the nock falls off the bow string, it is too loose.

When nocking an arrow you should hear a click sound. It should not be a snapping or twang sound. Then roll the string using your fingers and see if the string can move freely within the nocked position. Click and spin.

Another way to test for looseness is to nock an arrow, point the bow at the ground and gently tap the string. If the vibrations of the bow string being tapped cause the arrow to slip off and fall to the ground, it is too loose.

If your nocks are too tight or too loose you will need to experiment with other nock sizes until you find one that is perfect. Or the reverse is to re-serve the serving on the bowstring and make it slightly thicker or thinner.

#4. Make sure your arrow nocks are properly installed.

An improperly installed nock can sometimes be the difference between shooting the target and digging broken shards of arrow out of your arm. Hopefully that doesn't happen to you! Such accidents sometimes occur when people are shooting a nock which is broken, damaged, cracked, or my favourite word of the day: Kaputt!

But if the latter can be avoided, so can the former - improperly installed nocks. The correct way to install a nock is to wax it first (string wax works great for this) and then slide it into the shaft. Once in, align the nock as desired and it is done. That is it. Wax it and install. The wax acts to make the nock even tighter inside the shaft, and reduces the chances that it will slip out in the future or become crooked due to vibrations.

You should also regularly check the status of your nocks for damage and check the alignment.

#5. Learn how to do Nock Indexing.

The definition of Nock Indexing is simply checking to see how the nock is aligned compared to the arrow fletching vanes. It should probably be called "Nock Fletching Alignment" as that more accurately describes what you are doing. Briefly touched on above, it is simply a matter of aligning your fletching and nocks so that they are in the same position and match your arrowrest when shooting.

If you don't do Nock Indexing, your fletching will rub against the arrowrest in different ways and each shot will be slightly different.

Note - You also need to make sure that the fletching vanes are not coming in to contact with any cables while being shot. To check for this, draw back the bow for a shot, then go back down slowly to check to see if any cables make contact with the vanes.

#6. Reinforce the Peep sight serving.

I am a strong believer in this last one.

When you buy a compound bow the peep sight is usually installed for you, but the serving around the peep sight (assuming they served it!) can sometimes be loose and move around - which in turn causes the peep sight to move around between shots. To remedy this problem, reinforce the peep sight with extra serving and make sure that sucker isn't moving around on you. Having a peep sight that stays put where it is supposed to be dramatically improves consistency in my opinion.

Photo on the Right - The serving above and below that peep sight is too loose in my opinion. Minor movements up and down by even 1 mm will effect the accuracy by about 2 inches at a distance of 20 yards, or dramatically more than that when shooting at 30, 40 or 50 yards. On my bow I reinforced the serving a full cm top and bottom, and tightened it so the peep sight cannot move around at all.

Note that reinforcing the peep sight may effect the cam synchronization, so you should always do this first before doing any synchronization.

Want to learn more about compound bows and archery? Sign up for compound bow lessons in Toronto.

12 Things Every New Archer Should Do or Know

The following is a list of 12 things new archery enthusiasts should do or at least know before they begin the sport of archery.

#1. Find a good archery instructor. Your own personal Yoda.

One of the worst things you can do as a beginning archer is to try and train yourself. This leads to bad habits, and once those bad habits become entrenched they are very difficult to get rid of. It is arguably easier to train someone who is a blank slate and has not yet entrenched any bad habits.

Archers also sometimes develop bad mental habits, so having a good instructor can also help you deal with mental hangups. As you progress archery becomes less about the physical strain and more about mental conditioning.

I should also note that your instructor should be a good communicator. Someone who has difficulty communicating things to other people (due to a lack of people skills or communication skills) may have been trained as an instructor, but that doesn't make them a good instructor. People skills and communication skills are the hallmarks of people who are good instructors, as they convey their thoughts and ideas clearly and in a manner so that students can easily understand what is being communicated.

It doesn't matter who you choose to be your instructor (eg. it doesn't have to be me), but it does matter that it is someone you feel confident about their skills as an instructor. It might be a friend, a relative, a co-worker - but you might also determine that your friend isn't that good at explaining things, which is why having an experienced instructor helps. And it also matters that you do the following...

#2. Find an instructor who teaches the style of archery you want to do.

This is arguably more important than #1.

You wouldn't hire a compound bow instructor to teach recurve bow, and you wouldn't hire an Olympic instructor to teach traditional recurve. The styles of archery of separate, use different archery forms, aiming techniques, and comes with its own set of rules.

For example lets say you want to learn how to use a Mongolian style bow and how to use a thumb ring, well then you need an instructor who knows how to shoot horsebows with a thumb ring.

Myself I teach all five major styles of archery. The only things I don't teach is crossbows and kyudo. The first bow I ever shot was a compound when I was 10 years old, I made my own longbows when I was a teenager, I had Olympic archery lessons when living in South Korea, and I now teach all five styles: Longbow, shortbow/horsebow, traditional recurve, Olympic recurve, and compound.

#3. Be yourself and don't compare yourself to other archers.

Everyone was a beginner at one point and many beginners make the mistake of comparing themselves to other archers who have:
  • Been shooting a lot longer.
  • Shoot a different style of archery.
  • Are physically bigger and stronger.
  • Have better posture.
One of the best things you can do is stop worrying about what other archers are doing and focus on what you are doing. Don't try to shoot like everyone else, because everyone else is different - often focusing on different styles, and you should not try to mix styles.

Example - I know a person who bought a horsebow, but they started comparing themselves to Olympic archers and tried to replicate their shooting style (using Olympic/South Anchor instead of Traditional/North Anchor) and the quality of their accuracy went down because they were using the wrong style of archery with their bow - and consequently an inconsistent draw. Seeing the Olympic archers shoot made them think they were doing something wrong and instead of working on their traditional form, they switched to Olympic anchor and actually saw their accuracy get worse instead of better.

So please, please do not compare yourself to other archers who are shooting different styles of archery. Focus on your own style.

#4. Worry more about your technique than your equipment.

In the beginning it doesn't matter if your archery equipment is frugal or expensive. You will shoot poorly regardless. Shooting form and technique matters more because that is what builds skill, proper form and accuracy. Getting better quality equipment can come later.

#5. Archery is always harder than people expect it to be.

Especially the further you are shooting. Twice the distance isn't twice as difficult, it is exponentially more difficult.

The first things new archers learn is that is that it is always harder to pull a bow than they were expecting, and even harder to hold it steady. Next, learning how to aim (or adjust sights) is really a matter of building clusters of arrows on the target, but if your form is poor then your arrows might be all over the place with no consistent cluster - and that itself will be very difficult if your form is inconsistent due to not understanding how archery form works - which goes back to #1 and #2 above, about finding a good instructor who teaches the style of archery you are learning.

Even with an instructor it will be a hard process, but a very rewarding one as people with instructors learn way faster, break/lose less arrows, and gain accuracy. Not being able to see that increase in accuracy will feel more like defeat than a win, and thus people who are trying to teach themselves will often quit doing archery because they don't think they are very good at it.

#6. Archery does Not Come Naturally - it takes PRACTICE.

Some people even practice during the Winter.
Yes, some people have physical advantages of height, strength and good posture - but that doesn't make them naturally good at archery. Practice is the most important part, as the more you practice the better your archery form becomes consistent and the more accuracy you gain.

Thus even if you feel like you didn't do well the first time, you should also realize that you at least improved compared to the first round. Your first shots will likely be horrible. It is when you finally get an idea of what you are supposed to be doing, learn to relax more, and then you will see your accuracy improve.

In seven years of teaching archery I have had a few students who go the bullseye on their very first shot, but that is not the norm. And they never would have got that bullseye were it not for me carefully adjusting their form before that first shot occurred. It was a matter of patience that they held their shot long enough for me to fix their form, adjust their aim perhaps and then they managed to do so well because of those combined factors.

#7. When shooting compound, use the correct draw length and desired draw weight.

One of the worst things you can do with a compound bow is give it to someone who has a different draw length and a draw weight that they are not used to. They might be under-drawing or over-drawing the bow, and too much weight or not enough will feel foreign to them.

The sights will also be off because compound bows are designed to be adjusted to the user. So the draw length, the draw weight and the sights will all be off.

The same thing goes when using an Olympic bow. If the sights are set for a specific person, they are basically useless to someone who is shorter or taller.

I recall years ago watching a person teaching two friends how to shoot. The person didn't have any experience teaching, but was trying to teach their two friends, which included a tall man and a short woman. They were both using the same Olympic recurve, with the sight set up for the instructor. The tall man was comparable in height to his friend and was able to get his arrows on to the paper target they were shooting at, although not with great accuracy. The short woman however, her arrows were landing two feet below the target because her draw length was different and she wasn't getting the same amount of power as the two men, thus her arrows would arc downwards more and miss completely. The two men couldn't figure out why she kept missing so low, even though she was using the sight - to them, that was all that mattered. It was because the sight was in the wrong spot for her height. It was set up for their friend who was a good foot taller than she was.

#8. Don't rely on gadgets to get accuracy.

Form matters more than gadgets. Gadgets are crutches. A good archer can shoot the target without any need of gadgetry. Focus on learning good form and good habits, and your accuracy improves. Focus too much on using sights, stabilizers, clickers and other gadgets and you will be looking at your equipment for the mistake and not at yourself for improvement.

A good archer seeks to improve their form constantly. A bad archer blames their equipment.

#9. Try to beat your own score, but remember that score doesn't matter.

It is the sport that matters. Don't worry about trying to beat the scores of other people. Try to beat your own score and have fun/relax while doing it. Overthinking the shot, becoming tense or frustrated, these are things that will ruin your accuracy. Relaxation is key. Becoming frustrated will cause you to tense up the wrong muscles at the wrong time and ruin your shot.

Patience and relaxation are two important things for building accuracy. You will get there, but being impatient and frustrated about it will only the delay getting the results you are looking for.

This is especially important for competitive archers, as competitions often spoils the fun of the sport. No fun means less relaxation, less relaxation means you will be overly tense and ruin your shot.

"Fear is the path to the Dark Side [of archery]. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." - Yoda.


#10. If you want to get really good at archery you need to be passionate about it.

Someone who is less than passionate about archery is not going to be practicing very much. In a survival situation it makes sense for a person to be passionate about that which will bring them food, but for people doing archery for recreation, then they might only practice once per year or once per month.

Once per month will allow for a very slow progression of learning. For the truly passionate people once per month is not enough however, they crave to be practicing several times per week because they love it so much. That level of passion drives them, archery becomes an addiction to them, and they improve dramatically within a relatively short period of time because they are shooting so often.

#11. Make Practice part of your Routine.

Scheduling one or two days per week as part of your archery practice routine will allow a beginner archer to quickly build their skills quickly. Some archers may even do 3 or 4 days per week, if their work schedule allows them to be practicing that often. Once you get into the groove, it will become something you just do every week.

#12. Have Fun and Shoot for the Stars.

If you are not having fun, then why are doing this?

And if you are not challenging yourself to shoot further distances with more accuracy, then you won't really see improvement.

It is when you challenge yourself and have fun at the same time that you will see both an improvement in your accuracy and have a great time while shooting.

Even people who are training for a competition should regularly try shooting for fun and giving themselves new challenges, because the joy of a new target to shoot at is good for their mental conditioning. They will go into a competition feeling more relaxed and confident.

Coming up with fun things to try is sometimes a challenge by itself, but when in doubt try the following:

Shoot at a moving target (eg. water bottle on a string works well).
Shoot at a target at a random distance.
Shoot at a tiny target (like trying to pierce a string).
Shoot at a balloon tied to string that is pegged to the ground at a long distance. So not only is it a moving target, but it is further away.
Call your shots on a paper target (eg. Try to hit 3 o'clock on the blue or 9 o'clock on the black.)


Heavier Poundage Bows and Weightlifting for Endurance


The above two shots were done earlier today with a 1975 Browning Wasp traditional recurve bow (50 lb draw weight), at a distance of 20.5 yards. Not bad for an antique bow.

The bottle itself is easy enough to hit with a light poundage bow, especially if you are accustomed like I am at shooting at relatively small moving targets.

However getting that level of accuracy (the cluster is the size of a dime) with a higher poundage bow is a true challenge because it becomes a matter of physical strength to be able to pull - let alone hold steady - a 50 lb bow.

That means that the Herculean effort of pulling 50 lbs and then holding it steady is a matter of both STRENGTH and ENDURANCE.

Hence the title of this post, Heavier Poundage Bows and Weightlifting for Endurance.

Now I have talked previously about the issues of weightlifting for the purposes of doing archery. If you want to read more on this topic I recommend reading the following posts:

10 Weightlifting Tips for Archers, Part One

10 Weightlifting Tips for Archers, Part Two

Archery as an Alternative to Weightlifting

And while those posts do talk about the benefits of weightlifting for the purposes of doing archery, it does not really talk about the issues of higher poundage bows - like those in the 50 to 80 lb range, and how to train your body to be able to pull the heavier poundages, and then hold it steady.

Thus here we go...

10 Tips for Building Strength and Endurance for Heavier Poundage Archery

Tip #1. Get a variety of different kinds of dumbbells.

Don't bother with barbells, dumbbells is what you really need for this. You need the dumbbells so you can focus on the individual muscles, both left and right, without having one side of your body compensating for the other.

You also need a variety of different sizes so you can focus on building different muscle groups, which will often require different weights in order to challenge you properly. If they are too heavy you will be less likely to execute the exercises using proper form, if they are too light they won't be challenging you properly. Thus you need a range of different weights so you can both challenge yourself and focus on your weightlifting form.

Tip #2. Like archery, weightlifting is all about form.

It might not look like it, but professional weightlifters are focusing their attention on making sure they are performing the exercise properly so they can maximize their muscle growth. If they use improper form to lift/move the weight then it is the wrong muscle(s) doing the work, which means that won't be getting the full benefit.

Take the simple dumbbell bicep curl. Done correctly the elbow is kept relatively close to the body. A common beginner mistake is for people to curve their elbows outwards to make it easier, which means they are using different muscles to help lift the weight. Done correctly, it is only the biceps doing the work.

Right: Sample image of a bicep curl. Note how the elbows are kept close to the oblique muscles on the sides and aren't sticking out to the sides.

Note - Good form also includes GOOD BALANCE. Keep both feet on the floor and stay balanced!

Tip #3. While lifting, focus on doing it SLOWLY.

A common beginners mistake when weightlifting is to do 10 reps very quickly, like it is some kind of race and you just want to get it over. However that doesn't actually help when you are trying to build endurance (or strength for that matter). Instead your goal should be to lift the weight slooooowly, hold it there, and then go back down slooooowly. This way you are building endurance more.

Doing weightlifting slowly also gives you more time to focus on the quality of your form. Like archery, shooting too quickly will effect your form. Your goal here is the same, to lift it slowly, focus on your form, and perform the exercise properly. You don't get the reward like hitting the bullseye like you do in archery, but you will see the rewards as your endurance and strength goes up after only a week or two weeks of doing the exercises.

Tip #4. Expand your focus so it covers multiple muscle groups.

"Don't put all your eggs in one basket."

Don't just exercise your back muscles. While it is true that your back muscles are important for doing archery, they are not the only muscles that archers use.

Archers use their upper back, their shoulders, their triceps, their biceps, forearms, finger muscles, their lower back, their abdominal muscles, and even their pectoral (chest) muscles. Some are definitely used more than other muscles, but that should not discourage you from exercise them. The muscles of your lower body (legs / etc) are also used for balance and standing still. Thus there is a good argument that archers should embrace a full body workout for improving their overall strength and balance.

Focusing on only one muscle or one muscle group (the upper back for example) may be helpful with one task, but creating too much emphasis on the back muscles will cause other muscles to become overly dependent on that one muscle group and the quality of your accuracy as an archer could actually go down as your shoulders and other muscles cannot hold steady when placed under the strain.

Note - It also helps to learn the anatomical terms for the different muscles. That way when you look for exercises that help your shoulders, you know that you are looking for deltoid exercises.

Thus you need to deliberately pick and choose exercises which will boost the following muscle groups:

Rhomboids (Upper Back)
Front, Back and Upper Deltoids (Shoulders)
Pectorals (Chest)
Triceps (Back of the Upper Arm)
Biceps (Front of the Upper Arm)
Forearms + Finger / Hand Grip Strength (this will mean using Hand Grips and learning how to use them properly)
Abdominals (Belly)
Obliques (Sides)
Legs

Doing all the above means you will be doing a wide variety of exercises and you should try to spread your attention across all of them equally so that the muscles are building in an uniform manner. A common mistake people do is to focus on a single muscle, which will grow up to a limitation - in order to get it to grow further, you need to spread your focus across the whole muscle group so that they all grow as they work more effectively as an unit. To do this properly however means you need to be doing individual exercises which target the individual muscles, and then to do many different exercises so each muscle or muscle group gets its fair share of exercise.

eg. Chest Flyes are really good for the pectoral muscles, as demonstrated here by Arnold:


Tip #5. Pay Attention and Avoid Sports Injuries.

Practicing proper form while exercising isn't just a matter of maximizing your strength gain, it is a matter of avoiding sports injuries. When learning a new exercise, do it slowly, do it properly, and save yourself the trouble of developing a sports injury.

A common thing amongst archers is to improperly draw their bow and then adjust their bow shoulder and drawing elbow after they have drawn back. Ideally they should be pre-aiming, then draw back in one smooth motion. Constantly adjusting the bow shoulder and drawing elbow is bad for those muscles and can lead to sports injuries. In the case of the elbow it can lead to "Archer's Elbow, aka Tennis Elbow".

With weightlifting it is the same problem. Improper lifting and bad form leads to sports injuries. So pay attention and do it properly! Don't say I didn't warn you!

Tip #6. Do More Reps to Build More Endurance.

Remember how I mentioned above to do the exercises slowly? Well here is your next challenge. Do more repetitions - still slowly - and do more of them.

Week One start aiming to do 20 reps of each exercise.

Week Two up it a little by increasing it to 25 reps of each exercise.

Week Three increase it to 30 reps of each exercise.

Week Four increase it to 34 reps of each exercise.

Week Five increase it to 37 reps of each exercise.

Week Six increase it to 40 reps of each exercise.

Now did you notice what I did? At the beginning it started off with an increase of 5 reps per week, but after it hit 30 I reduced the increase to 4, and then 3, and then 3 again. Why did I do that? Because the constant equal amount increase in repetitions becomes unsustainable. Once you real a certain point when the number of reps seems like too much, decrease the incremental amount to a more sustainable level and gradually proceed from there.

Weeks Seven to Eleven increase the reps by 2 reps per week. Doing that allows for a nice slow incremental increase in endurance, allowing your body more time to play catch up with building new muscle.

Remember also that your goal is still to be doing the exercises slowly, you should not be racing to complete them. Also note that the above schedule is just a sample. It will not necessarily fit everyone's exercise routine, and they will want to customize their increase in repetitions to fit their own needs.

Tip #7. Eat Healthy to Build More Muscle.

Any true athlete also makes a solid effort to eat a healthy amount of vegetables and protein. Avoid the sweets. You will still need carbs for energy, but focus on eating healthy and you will see faster returns on muscle growth.

Also allow yourself a cheat day (aka, a High Carb Day) once in awhile that will boost your metabolism. A higher metabolism speeds up muscle growth and boosts energy levels. Having a High Carb Day once per week will keep your metabolism from crashing. The boosted energy levels once per week will keep your metabolism higher, while you are still building muscle and keeping your diet healthy and balanced.

Tip #8. Don't Weightlift Every Day when you are first starting out.

A common beginners mistake is to be weightlifting every day in an effort to build muscle faster. However the problem here is that you end up ripping muscle tissue (hence the term "ripped") and it takes 48 hours (sometimes more) to heals properly and build new muscle tissue.

Thus if you rip the muscle tissue, it repairs a bit and builds new tissue while you sleep, and then you rip it again 24 hours later when it is not fully healed and new tissue is not properly grown, what happens??? The answer is that any new muscle tissue rips again, and you've just wasted any growth you could have potentially had.

Instead here is what you should be doing. Weightlift every two days. eg. Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Give yourself 48 to 72 hours between weightlifting sessions so the muscles can heal and grow properly. A Monday, Wednesday Friday schedule for example allows you to be building muscle over 48 hour periods twice per week, and an extra long 72 hour period over the weekend.

Tip #9. Sleep!!!

Getting a good night's rest is extremely important for weightlifting and building muscle. Your body only builds new muscle tissue while it is at rest, and the most effective form of rest is sleep. If you are not sleeping properly, then you are not healing properly.

Tip #10. Motivate Yourself to Weightlift Regularly.

This is arguably the most important part of weightlifting regularly. If you only do it for two weeks and then stop doing it, then any gains you made will slowly disappear. Becoming an Avid Weightlifter is about making a lifestyle change so that weightlifting becomes part of your weekly schedule, so that eating healthy and getting a good night's sleep is also part of your routine.

Building strength and endurance will boost your archery accuracy with the higher poundage bows, and you will see benefits with your health, your emotional independence / confidence, and even perks for your sex life. (For both men and women.)

How you choose to motivate yourself to make archery part of your weekly schedule is really up to you. You could:
  • Hire a personal trainer who understands the value of weightlifting.
  • Hire an archery instructor who also teaches weightlifting techniques.
  • Listen to music while weightlifting.
  • Watch your favourite TV show while weightlifting. (My preference is Game of Thrones.)
  • Reward yourself emotionally after weightlifting. (Never reward yourself with unhealthy foods.)
  • Practice weightlifting with a friend or family member so you keep each other motivated.
Still need more ideas for how to Motivate Yourself? Good thing I have long list of posts on the topic for you to browse.

BONUS TIP

During the off season for archery (Winter) try to make an effort to do weightlifting to keep your body in good shape so that you are in excellent shape when Spring comes, and then once Spring does come make the effort to keep weightlifting so you can continue to improve your physical capabilities.

You don't need to do your weightlifting outdoors during the Winter like the fellow below, but hey, to each their own.

Optional Archery Equipment, Need or Don't Need

There are many things that not optional when doing archery. For example the bow, arrows, bowstring, shooting glove or tab. All the basics.

But there are also lots of optional items that not all archers get. Or sometimes decide to make their own, as many archers have more of a Do-It-Yourself approach to some of the more optional equipment they know they don't actually need.

#1. Archery Backpack or Case.

Like the pink and black one below. Many different options out there for colours, designs, etc. In theory you could always just use a normal large backpack however. Having a specially made one is not a necessity. Years ago I even looked into having a wooden case for archery equipment made, similar to the one further below.



#2. Bow Sock.

A bow sock can also be used to transport your bow, and only your bow. It is basically exactly what it sounds like, a very large sock made for carrying your bow inside. The one below was made by someone on Etsy apparently. To make your own a quick way to do so is to employ an old scarf, sew up one side of the scarf together, and sew the bottom together. Add a handle or shoulder strap (or both), voila it is done.


#3. Paper Targets.

It isn't necessary to have a paper target to shoot at. Many people I know in Toronto shoot at brown Tim Horton's lids. Or if they are like me, at objects dangling from a string because they love the challenge of a moving target.


#4. Moving 3D Targets.

So optional I almost forgot to add this in here. There are many ways to make your own moving 3D target. I favour a low tech approach, but other people have gone full DIY mode and decided to have motorized moving targets like the two examples below. And further below that, a set of round throwing targets.





#5. Armguard / Bracer.

There are some extremely decorative armguards out there, but it doesn't have to be fancy. It just has to work.


#6. Hip Quiver.

There is no rule saying you have to buy a fancy Easton or Hoyt hip quiver. There are traditional designs available, and many people go the DIY approach as well. I personally hate quivers and avoid them entirely.


#7. Back Quiver.

If you do decide to get a back quiver, at least try to get one which makes it easier for you to get your arrows out of it quickly and without breaking your spine. Try to get one with adjustable straps so it is easier to use. Tip - Roll up some fur or faux fur and stuff it inside your quiver, it will prevent your arrows from rattling around or falling out of the quiver so easily.



#8. Ground Quiver.

Ground quivers are one of the few quivers I do like. Sometimes also called a Field Quiver, they are designed to hold your arrows for you when standing at the firing line.


#9. Bow String Dampeners.

Sometimes also called String Silencers. Dampeners are often made of fur, yarn, plastic or other materials. Plastic is the most common these days. The purpose of dampeners is to reduce the amount of noise your bow makes when it is shot. I favour fur myself, but hey, I am a traditionalist.


#10. Stabilizer.

Stabilizers come in two main styles. Hunting and Olympic style. Hunting Stabilizers are shorter, often heavier, and commonly used on compounds but can also be used on recurve bows. Olympic Stabilizers are primarily used on Olympics recurve bows and are significantly longer and sometimes come with side stabilizers which give it a Y shape. There are also recreational stabilizers and people who make homemade stabilizers. Like many things in the world of archery, they often come in a variety of colours too.


#11. Decorative Limb Skins.

This is something you add to personalize your bow a bit in terms of appearance. Camo is a popular choice for hunters, despite the fact that deer are colour blind and only notice motion.


#12. Decorative Wooden Handles.

These are usually more for compound bows, but it really depends on the type of riser being used on the bow as some other types of bows may be compatible if the riser is designed to take them. They are not necessarily wood either, they might be made of faux wood, plastic, carbon fibre, etc.


#13. Wrist Strap.

These are to prevent you from accidentally dropping your bow. I never use mine - mostly because I never drop my bow in that manner, so for me it is unnecessary. Look at the silly person below, he is wearing two of them. Is he worried one of them is going to break?


#14. Portable Archery Target.

Lots of people like using portable archery targets, but mostly hunters. I personally favour an archery target ball like the one further below made by Rinehart. I like throwing it at random distances and practicing figuring out where to aim at strange distances. It also works well on unusual terrain like shooting downhill or uphill.



#15. Bow Racks and Bow Stands.

Bow racks come in two varieties, those that stay at home for storing your bow(s) on (partially for display purposes), and those you take to the range with you for holding your bow when you are not shooting it - which are properly known as Bow Stands. Bow Racks are usually for storing multiple bows, usually at home. Bow Stands are more commonly used at the archery range, and usually with only one bow on it.

Bow Stands for Recurve Bows

Bow Rack at Home
After reading this you will probably have seen some things that you might want or have decided that you don't need for your own personal use. To each their own. Archery is very much about making personal decisions as to what kind of archer you want to be.

Want to learn more about archery? Sign up for archery lessons in Toronto.

Happy shooting!
Looking to sign up for archery lessons, boxing lessons, swimming lessons, ice skating lessons or personal training sessions? Start by emailing cardiotrek@gmail.com and lets talk fitness!

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