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Shopping for a Traditional Bow

Note - So years ago I wrote this article for "The Canadian Daily", an online magazine which has since disappeared. Since it is no more I realized I should republish the article here instead. Thus while the information here may be a little redundant when compared to some of my other articles, it is not wholly redundant. There are some useful parts in here that are not mentioned elsewhere on my website. Also I have updated part of the article.





I have been doing archery since 1989 and have over 10 bows. I am not even sure exactly how many I have now. I would have to count them all.

Truth be told I am already shopping for another bow. I collect bows of all shapes and sizes, and I have a fondness for older antique bows. Thus writing this article about shopping for traditional bows just comes really naturally for me. I guess I am a true toxophilite (someone who is obsessed with archery) and enjoy passing on such information.

Whether you are jumping on the archery bandwagon or if you’ve always wanted to get into archery – or if you are a compound bowhunter who wants to try bowhunting using a traditional bow – well then this is an article you will likely enjoy immensely.

Regardless of your motivation you have lots of options available. There are longbows, shortbows, horsebows, traditional recurves, pyramid bows, hybrid longbows, hybrid pyramid bows, double limbed recurves (which is not traditional, but definitely unusual) and scorpion bows (which is just plain weird) – and many of these bows have variants that come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. eg. A yumi bow is a Japanese longbow typically used during kyudo ceremonies.

For hunters using what is known as a “bare bow” (a bow without any gadgets on it) is the ultimate challenge. Hunting with a compound bow feels like you are cheating, whereas hunting with a bare bow means that you have to be a truly skilled archer and know what you are doing. Hunting with a bare bow may seem primitive and even intimidating in comparison to modern recurves, but it is hunting in one of its most ancient forms and once you get the hang of it you wonder why you ever bothered with a compound bow.

Finding the right bow for a beginner can be a challenge. To get started you need to know which is your dominant eye for archery. Once you know whether you are right or left eye dominant then you need to figure out how much you can actually pull – and how much you can hold steady.

To put this in perspective I can tell you that many men and women out there can pull a 40 lb recurve bow – and that the vast majority of them have difficulty holding it steady. Some of them won’t even be able to pull it, let alone hold it steady. They would be better off starting off with a bow that is in the 24 to 30 lb range, learning proper archery form, how to aim, etc, and after they have learned all that and built up additional muscle then go out and buy a more powerful bow if they so wish to.

This would be important for people who wish to do bowhunting. Ontario law requires the use of a 39.7 lb or better bow for hunting deer, and a 48.5 lb or better bow for hunting elk, moose or black bear. Those of you who are already familiar with compound hunting should already know these laws, but for those of you who are new to archery this is good information to know.

Most companies list their bows’ draw weight at a draw distance of 28 inches. Pay attention to that as sometimes it will be a different number. eg. If it is 30 lbs at 30 inches then it is probably only about 28 lbs at 28 inches. This will not make much difference depending on your arm length however. If you are shorter your draw length might be only 26 inches, or if you are taller it might be 30 or 32 inches. As long as you can pull the bow and hold it steady that will be the biggest deciding factor as to whether that is a good bow for you.

Now you might wonder “Why bother with a heavier poundage bow? Can’t I just use a really light poundage?” Yes, you could. But you wouldn’t get much range or accuracy out of it. The stronger the bow is the more speed, range and accuracy the arrows will have coming out of it – but you need to be strong enough to pull that bow in the first place.

For beginners stick to a lighter bow and get really good at it before switching up to a more challenging bow. For compound bowhunters get a traditional bow that fulfills your needs so you can hunt legally with your new bow, but pay attention to the advice section further below.

TYPES OF BOWS

Traditional Recurve Bows

Recurves offer more power and speed with respect to entry level bows. Because the bow limbs curve backwards and then forwards it creates extra forward tension on the bowstring and gives more power into every shot – this results in faster arrows leaving the bow and more accuracy over longer distances. Recurve bows typically come in the range of 14 lbs to 70 lbs. It is possible to get recurve bows more powerful than that, but they are more likely to snap, break, twist.

Recurves are faster “pound for pound” compared to longbows, but as you will see below longbows can pack more punch.

Expect to pay $130 for a basic wooden recurve or $300 to $900 for a high quality traditional recurve bow.

Above on the right you will see a photo of myself out for some winter archery practice at the Toronto Public Archery Range. The bow I am using is a Bear “Grizzly” traditional recurve with black sheepskin dampeners on the bowstring (it makes the bow quieter, an useful thing for bowhunters). I like that bow so much I gave it a name – “Seahawk”.

Longbows

Longbows may seem very primitive and simple, but they are also very powerful. While each shot loses some of its power to the limbs, it benefits from no real limit on how powerful a longbow can be. English warbows (a type of longbow) often packed between 80 and 120 lbs of force. Indeed some of the centuries old warbows that were recovered from the sunken Mary Rose warship were so powerful that after being restored they packed an impressive 150 to 160 lbs of force at full draw. Lastly one of the greatest archers of the last century, Howard Hill, once took down an elephant while hunting using a 183 lb longbow. It took him 4 arrows to accomplish the feat.

At higher poundages longbows become the bow of choice for most archers. The arrows get faster and faster too, so while a recurve can shoot faster arrows at lower poundages, at a higher poundage the longbow wins because the recurve bow would snap (“catastrophic limb failure”) under the stress.

Now you might think that longbows are less accurate. This is wholly untrue. They are more difficult to learn how to shoot, because the stance is different and more difficult, but they are no less accurate than a recurve bow in the hands of an archer experienced at shooting longbows. Indeed the three greatest archers of the last century (Howard Hill, Byron Ferguson, and Awa Kenzo) all used some kind of longbow.

Most longbows don’t have an arrowrest on them, but you can also get hybrid longbows which do have an arrowrest. Personal preference, I like mine to have a proper arrowrest.

Expect to pay $150 for a basic longbow or $200 to $900 for a much nicer longbow.

Shortbows and Horsebows

They’re basically the same thing. Shortbows are designed for shooting on horseback and there are a variety of countries known for their traditional horsebows – including Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Japan, Korea, Mongolia and numerous other countries. I don’t want to leave any out, but suffice to say shortbows were found in many cultures all over the globe. In North America it only took a few generations after horses arrived for Native Americans to transition to making horsebows so that they could more easily shoot from horseback. The necessity of being able to do horseback archery drove their ingenuity to design the new horsebows.

The great thing about shortbows is their speed and versatility. They are a lot of fun to shoot and some archers have become amazingly fast with them. One such archer is modern speed shooter Lars Anderson – who can shoot 10 arrows in 4.9 seconds, and can shoot 11 arrows in the air before the first one hits the ground (long distance of course).

Expect to pay $200 for a basic shortbow or over $1,000 for a really nice traditional Korean shortbow.

In the video below you see a local Toronto archer using a horsebow to practice clout shooting (shooting extreme distances at a flag to see how close you get).



Unusual Bows

This is where you get into your pyramid bows, double limbed recurves or even the really weird scorpion bows. When it comes to these bows there are really nothing wrong with them, they’re just really unusual. I don’t recommend people buy an unusual bow for their first bow, but it would be a fun 2nd or 3rd bow if you start collecting them.

Pyramid bows are similar to longbows but the limbs taper differently and the handle is designed with inverted triangles above and below the handle. I have one myself and I have discovered they are really quiet – which is a boon if you are a hunter. For myself I have a custom made hybrid pyramid bow that has an arrowrest built into the handle. My pyramid bow was custom made by local Toronto bowyer Mike Meusel and cost me $250.

Double limbed recurves look weird, but they are more powerful. In theory a custom bowyer could make a double limbed recurve that has up to maybe 160 lbs of power at full draw. Anything more than that and I am confident it would break. However I have only ever seen photographs of double limbed recurves. I have never seen them in real life. It would be a real challenge to find someone willing to custom make one, or an even bigger challenge to try and build one yourself.

Scorpion bows are spring loaded instead of using the limb tension to fire the arrow. In this respect they are similar to a spring loaded ballista (a type of very large crossbow), but smaller and there is no locking mechanism. Instead you pull it back like you would with a normal bow and release it – the springs do the rest of the work. Like the double limbed recurves the scorpion bows are extremely rare. There is probably less than a dozen of them on the whole planet.

Where to Buy and How Much to Spend

There are a variety of places within Toronto and near Toronto where you can buy traditional bows. You can see a list of available archery equipment shops in Toronto by visiting ArcheryToronto.ca.

If you are just starting out my advice would be to get a basic wooden recurve first, but if your heart is set upon a longbow, shortbow, something more unusual or even something really expensive then my recommendation is that you shop around and KNOW what you are buying first. Ask the shop owner to string the bow for you so you can try pulling it back and holding it steady. If you cannot hold that bow steady then you need a lighter poundage.

Budget wise expect to pay about $350 for a basic wooden recurve bow, 10 arrows, finger gloves, quiver, bracer and arrowheads. If you opt for something more expensive you will need to budget within the $500 to $1,000 range. The prices go much higher (diamond encrusted composite longbows made from Italian yew and Brazilian rainforest hardwood, etc), but I don’t recommend getting ridiculous with the first bow you buy.

You could also try to buy an used bow – which is riskier as you may not get the poundage you are looking for. Or worse, if you don’t pay attention you might buy a right hand draw bow when you are left eye dominant. Using the wrong eye to shoot with will make all your arrows go off to the side. Finding an used bow will take longer and you will need to scour craigslist, kijiji or my favourite, auction websites that have estate sales. I am on the lookout for antique bows and estate auction sales are sometimes a great way to find archery equipment that is really old and in good condition.

It is possible to get some real steals if you manage to find a high quality bow and buy it off someone who doesn’t know what it is worth. Thus it is possible to get a really nice bow for $100 or even less. But don’t expect that to be the norm. Most people selling them will have an inkling of what they are worth. However if you don’t like their price you can always make them an offer for 70 or 80% of their asking price and see if they are willing to sell it anyway.

When buying an used bow always check for cracks in the wood – and then determine whether you think you can fix it. Last summer I purchased an old shortbow for $10 because I pointed out two cracks in the wood and the guy dropped his price to half his original asking price of $20. I took the shortbow home, fixed the cracks with superglue and it has shot perfectly ever since. It came with no string so I made my own string using jute and it is hanging on my wall right now as a decoration.

Making Your Own Bow

It is possible to make your own longbow or even a pyramid bow. I recommend starting with a longbow because other types of bows are very tricky to make and it would be better to start with something simple before you try something that is going to be much harder to build.

I myself made a homemade crossbow earlier this month for fun. I am already planning to make a 2nd larger crossbow and using my earlier attempt as a prototype.

If you do decide to try and make your own traditional bow I recommend buying the book “The Traditional Bowyer’s Bible”, written by Jim Hamm. It is an amazing book and a must have for anyone into bow-making or arrow-making. Another good book on this topic is “The Traditional Bowyers Encyclopedia” by Dan Bertalan, which is available to read at the Toronto Reference Library.

Advice for Compound Bowhunters

If you are making the switch from compound bows and have never really used traditional bows before the biggest thing you are going to have to get used to is the lack of let off when you pull back a traditional bow and try to hold it steady. The other thing you are not used to is shooting without gadgets. So my advice for you is as follows:

#1. Try weightlifting 30 to 45 minutes every 2 days, focus on building both strength and endurance. Eat more protein. The extra strength and endurance will help you to hold the bow steadier for longer periods of time. Don’t stop doing this after awhile, keeping weightlifting every 2 days to continue building up your strength and maintain it. Being a lazy slob and quitting after 2 weeks will cause the muscle gain you did get to disappear over time. Having extra muscles won’t hurt you.

#2. Learn to shoot faster and more accurately. This means lots of practice. Get to the point where you barely need any time to aim and hit where you were aiming.

#3. Learn to shoot at different ranges, including uphill and downhill. If you are shooting without gadgets you have to learn to gauge the distance with your eyes, aim accordingly and make a well executed shot. Again this is something that can be remedied through lots of practice on 3D ranges where you don’t know the distance you are shooting.

#4. Don’t get a bow you can barely hold steady. Find what poundage you can pull, and then get a bow 10 or 15 lbs lighter than that so you can hold it really steady while you aim. You will still want it to fulfill the minimum legal requirements, but you don’t need to get a ridiculously powerful bow if you are only hunting deer. When hunting deer most bowhunters use a 45 lb bow (13% above the legal requirement in Ontario). For hunting moose or elk most bowhunters use a 55 to 60 lb bow. For hunting black bear many bowhunters like to use a bow in the 60 to 80 lbs range. You could go higher, but it unnecessary and overkill.

Equipment Maintenance

If you are using a wooden bow try to avoid getting your equipment wet. Wrap it up, avoid mildew, clean your equipment regularly. Remember to wax the bowstring regularly – like once every time you practice, or every 2nd time you practice.

Once in awhile you should make an effort to try out new equipment and see if there is anything you want to try using. eg. Try Dacron bowstrings vs Dynaflight 97 bowstrings. See which one you like better.

Keeping your archery equipment in good shape will maintain a lot of its resale value if you ever sell it at a later date.

If you decide to sell your current equipment and get newer equipment, get the new equipment first before selling the old. That way if you don’t like the new bow as much you can always change your mind, sell the new bow and keep the old one.

Still Need More Help?

In the past some of my archery students have asked for my aid while shopping for archery equipment, having me go with them and “hold their hand” so to speak while they shop for archery equipment that is suitable for them so they get the most out of their equipment. I am always happy to help in that respect, even people who are not my students. (Although I do require you bribe me with food, because I am a busy guy. eg. One of my favourite archery stores has an all you can eat Korean buffet nearby.)

So if you absolutely need more help finding archery equipment in Toronto you can email me (cardiotrek@gmail.com). Otherwise I recommend browsing the different shops listed on ArcheryToronto.ca.

Archery Lessons in Toronto + Do-It-Yourself Approach

Note - So years ago I wrote this article for "The Canadian Daily", an online magazine which has since disappeared. Since it is no more I realized I should republish the article here instead. Thus while the information here may be a little redundant when compared to some of my other articles, it is not wholly redundant. There are some useful parts in here that are not mentioned elsewhere on my website. Also I have updated parts of the article.



Hello!

My name is Charles and I am a personal trainer in Toronto. However on the side I also teach archery, boxing, swimming and ice skating. Depends on the season really.

When it comes to my sports training activities it is the archery lessons that get the most attention (thanks to all the movies and media fuss in 2012). However there simply aren’t a lot of places or people in Toronto that offer private archery lessons.

There are archery clubs (like Hart House at the University of Toronto) and even an archery school, but when people want private lessons and don’t want to spend a bundle there isn’t a lot of options.

(Update April 2014 – Toronto now has an archery club, the Toronto Archery Club on Meetup.com. So that is a new option for the Do-It-Yourselfers out there.)
There really is not a lot of options. Especially for kids, since many places don’t teach kids, with the exception of summer camps which exclusively teach kids - but often have shoddy equipment and sometimes even instructors who have never even touched a bow.

Now you could hire me – that is a given. But what I am going to do here is talk about the Do-It-Yourself Approach to Learning Archery. There are definite pros and cons to the DIY approach which I will explain.

#1. You will need to buy equipment. To get a decent beginner package of equipment you are going to need to spend approx. $300 to $350. If you want to get into Olympic archery you need to be thinking $1,000 to $1,500 – but I don’t recommend Olympic archery for beginners. If you want to get into compound archery / hunting / bowfishing you are looking at $500 to $1,000 depending on the type of compound bow you get. Again, I don’t recommend compounds for beginners either because they are more complicated since you have to learn how to tune them. I argue it is better to learn recurve first, and then you can switch to your chosen style of archery.
 
Note: Deciding what kind of archer you want to be is an important decision. I personally teach traditional recurve archery because all the truly great archers were traditional archers and my personal intent is to follow in their footsteps. This doesn’t mean you can’t go down the road of Olympic or Compound shooting, simply that it is a personal choice that each archer must make and their decision should be respected. You can even try to do more than one style of archery – but it would be a huge investment as you will need different sets of equipment. For myself my next bows will be a traditional Japanese yumi bow and a traditional Korean shortbow – because I want to explore other unique types of traditional archery.

#2. Where to buy equipment. The place I used to recommend the most is Tent City in North York, near Steeles and Dufferin, which had a fair selection and if they don’t have it then they can order it for you. Unfortunately Tent City is no longer there as they ran into financial troubles after a fire on their roof years ago. But there is also Bass Pro in Vaughan which caters more to compounds and hunting / bowfishing, and The Bow Shop in Waterloo which has a much bigger selection, but is evidently further away.

All else fails, you can purchase equipment via Amazon.ca or similar websites and just have it delivered.

#3. You will need to learn proper archery form. Beginners learning archery need to focus on form a lot. You need to learn how to stand, how to pull the bow, how to anchor your shot, how to aim, how to follow through, how to make lines and clusters, how to adjust your shot – and how to learn from your mistakes. Oh and how to multitask unconsciously because you’re expected to do a lot of this all at the same time without really thinking about it.

Note: You can get a lot of free archery tips off my website in the archery section. But even that only scratches the surface.

#4. To learn form it is best to have an archery instructor (like me!) who can coach you and tell you what to do, what you are doing wrong, and help train you away from bad habits you are making and steer you towards good habits which will increase the quality of your shots. However if you don’t want an instructor you are going to be relying on trial and error and complete guesswork – which will take forever because archery is a sport for perfectionists and you will be making lots of mistakes. Thus if you want the DIY route I do have a book to recommend you. It is called “Precision Archery” and is edited / written by Steve Ruis and Claudia Stevenson (the editors of Archery Focus Magazine). The book is basically a list of the best articles from their magazine and has 14 chapters covering everything from equipment to form to aiming to competitions. There are other books I recommend reading too, but Precision Archery will cover a lot of the topics you will want to learn – and it covers multiple styles of archery.

#5. Weightlifting… Thanks to The Hunger Games, Brave, The Avengers, Arrow, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and even the British film Hanna archery is super popular right now. But many of these films present a false understanding of archery and people think that it is easy to pull a bow. It is not. Most beginners are stunned by how much more effort it requires just to pull a 24 lb recurve. The more powerful bows require quite a bit of strength to pull back and hold steady – strength that is beyond the average person.

To backtrack to equipment it is important that a person’s first bow be one they can actually pull back easily – but still has some physical challenge to it so that they are building extra muscle so that they improve physically with time. This is why I bring up the topic of weightlifting. If you want to have a physical edge in archery, to be able to hold the bow more steady, to pull more powerful bows, to get better range and accuracy, then you are going to need to do weightlifting that targets your back, shoulders and triceps. Forearm strength helps a bit too – which means using hand grips to build up those muscles.

Note: I recommend specific exercises to my archery students, but the exercise I recommend most is good ol’ fashioned push ups. Do 20 push ups 5 times per day and you will be building up many of the muscles which will give you a physical edge in archery. Some archers even like to do push ups, stretches and other exercises before shooting to warm up their muscles. (Push ups targets the shoulders, triceps and pectorals. The shoulders and triceps are used a lot in archery, and the pectorals are mirror muscles for the back muscles – which is useful for maintaining balance and form. Over time many archers get overdeveloped back muscles and then their form and balance suffers because their pectorals are too weak. By doing push ups regularly it helps to rectify that problem while simultaneously building the shoulders and triceps.)

#6. Location. The place to go in Toronto is E.  T. Seton Archery Range (also known as The Toronto Public Archery Range) in E. T. Seton Park, near the corner of Don Mills Road and Gateway Boulevard. To get there take the 25 bus from Pape Station or if driving I recommend parking in the Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot near the Tim Hortons. Then walk down the hill westward on Gateway Boulevard and part way down the hill you will see several shortcuts after the fence which lead near the archery range.

Note: If you live outside of Toronto and unable to make the trip to E. T. Seton then you will need to find a suitable place to do archery. I do not recommend your back yard because that could get you charged with reckless endangerment. A better solution would be a grassy field on a farm.

#7. You are going to lose a lot of arrows if you don’t have someone coaching you. This is a given so remember to buy lots of arrows. My advice is that you don’t muck or fool about with your aim. When in doubt aim really low because the arrow will arc upwards and your first shots might even go over the target if it is only 20 yards away. Archery is part geometry and physics in that the arrows are going to arc and you need to learn where to aim in order to have your arrows hit dead center. Aim low, hit high.

#8. Don’t do archery in a place where you will break or lose arrows easily. eg. Shooting at a tree in the woods may look good in the movies, but you will break your arrows on the tree or lose them in the woods. You want a nice soft surface (like a professional archery target butt) and a grassy field or hill behind the target so you can find your arrows easily.

#9. Don’t expect to be amazingly good in an hurry. It takes years to master archery. Archery is a journey and it requires patience and lots of practice.

#10. If you change your mind and want archery lessons in Toronto you know where to find me. A couple lessons and I can have you set on the right track.

Happy Shooting!

Buying and Tuning Archery Equipment

Note - So years ago I wrote this article for "The Canadian Daily", an online magazine which has since disappeared. Since it is no more I realized I should republish the article here instead. Thus while the information here may be a little redundant when compared to some of my other articles, it is not wholly redundant. There are some useful parts in here that are not mentioned elsewhere on my website. Also I have updated part of the article, as the store "Tent City" no longer exists.


By Charles Moffat - November 2014. Updated February 2019.

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is what equipment archery students should purchase, and how to tune it.

To answer this question I first need to balance how much a student wants to spend with whether they are planning to compete eventually – or if they want to jump straight into competitions, and if so, what kind of competitions because Olympic archery is really only one style of competitive shooting.
There is Arco Nudo (no gadgets), Flight Archery, Field Archery, Clout Shooting, 3D competitions, and some competitions even have moving targets. There is even more bizarre archery sports like Equestrian Archery (on horseback), Archery Biathalon (cross country skiing combined with archery), and other similar events. I personally think it would be fun if someone made an Archery Obstacle Course, wherein participants must make their way their way through an obstacle course as quickly as possible and score as many points as possible.

My recommendation regardless of what style of competition they are planning to get into is to get a beginner bow for that style – just to see if you like it. Or if you are not certain then you should start with the basic 3-piece takedown recurve. (To browse various types of 3-piece bows please read the reviews posted on ArcheryToronto.ca: Review of Three Piece Takedown Recurve Bows. The links below are hyperlinked to the individual reviews for the bows mentioned and will take you to that specific review.)

The recurve bows I recommend most for beginners on a budget are:

The Jandao Recurve is identical to the PSE Razorback, the only difference is the label and the price. The bow is available in 2 lb increments.

Price is $120, although prices vary so you may need it is a higher price at your local store.

The Samick Sage is prettier than the Jandao, but you have to be able to pull 25 lbs easily if you want to buy it because it is only available in 5 lb increments, starting at 25.

Price is $150, although prices vary so you may need it is a higher price at your local store.

Before purchasing either of these bows however I first need to test the strength of the beginning archer. Normally I do this while teaching the archery lesson, during which I start the student off with a light poundage bow – 18 lbs – and then have them shoot with it for 30 minutes or so to see how well they can pull it back, how easily they fatigue, and so forth.

Commonly beginners discover that archery involves a lot more physical strength than they were expecting – even to pull a 18 lb bow (which is considered to be a small amount when compared to more experienced archers that are typically pulling between 30 and 60 lbs). Don’t expect to be pulling large amounts in the beginning however because beginners often have weak back muscles and complementary muscles which are not used to the strain. Attempting to pull more than you can will result in arm, shoulder and back pain – and unlike weightlifters who like to claim “no pain no gain”, in this case pain can lead to chronic strain problems that will prevent you from practicing altogether, so why risk a disability when you can take your time and progress at a safer speed? Ego? Ego is the bane of archers and messes with both their body and their mind, both of which you need to be top form if you are to succeed.

If a person is petite or skinny I typically advise them to start with either an 18 or 20 lb bow, which means they will end up going for the Jandao bow mentioned above or a bow similar to that.

If a person is stronger / more robust they might be able to handle a 24, 25 or 26 lb bow, which means they can choose between a 24 or 26 lb Jandao or a 25 lb Samick Sage.

Someone who is quite strong (football player esque) can handle a 28, 30 or 32 lb bow, which means they can choose between a 28, 30 or 32 lb Jandao or a 30 lb Samick Sage.

Exception – If you are purchasing a compound bow and plan to be hunting with it you will want to set it up for 40 to 50 lbs. Have them do that in the store for you when you purchase it. Preferably buy one that is easy to adjust (the Diamond Infinite Edge for example is very easy to adjust and available at Bass Pro in Vaughan). When choosing what weight to use you will want at least the minimum poundage legally required for whatever you are hunting. Hopefully the compound bow you are choosing has a high let off rate (70 to 85% would be nice). Make sure you can actually pull it back and hold it steady.

Some people will likely ignore my recommendations when it comes to starting with a low poundage bow. People are certainly free to choose bows that are more powerful than they can properly handle and I won’t be surprised when such people tire too easily, give up because it is too difficult, etc. You have to think of it a bit like you are at the gym and you go over to the dumbbells. Which set of dumbbells do you pick? The big 30 lb dumbbells, the medium-sized 25 lb dumbbells, or the smaller 15 or 20 lb dumbbells. Wisdom tells us that we should start low and work our way up. Ego tells you “Pick the biggest one! Pick the biggest one!”

However there is a trick to this. The advantage to three-piece recurves is that the brand model limbs can be purchased separately and are interchangeable, which means you can always buy more powerful limbs later on. Thus my strong recommendation is that you start low, with a comfortable number, and then after you’ve been shooting for a good period of time (3 months or more) then when you feel ready you can come back and buy an extra pair of limbs for your bow which are more powerful.

Thus if you purchase a 25 lb Samick Sage for example you might come back later and buy 30 or 35 lb limbs when you feel you are ready for a challenge.

I have seen beginner archers go out and buy a 60 lb bow they can’t even string properly, let alone pull. Presumably the bow they purchased either ends up in the closet collecting dust or they sell it for a loss and buy one they can actually use properly.

Tuning your Arrows

When it comes to tuning your arrows you want arrows that have the correct spine (flexibility) for the bow you are using. An arrow that is too flexible will snap and break. An arrow that is not flexible enough won’t flex properly as it flies through the air, will be too heavy, less accurate, etc. To get the most accuracy you want arrows that are the correct spine.

To do this we first need to determine your draw length. With your bow arm extended (for most people this will be your left arm) measure the distance from the base of your thumb (not the tip, just the base, closer to your wrist) to the right corner of your mouth. The measurement, depending on your height, will usually be between 26 and 32 inches. For most people it will be about 28 to 30 inches. This indicates the length of the arrow you should be purchasing in order to attain full draw. Some people also add an extra 1/2 or 1 inch to the total just for safety’s sake or to give them the ability to overdraw the arrow.

In a store they will sometimes have an arrow or a stick with measurements on it they can use to give you an accurate measurement.

Many stores have 29 inch pre-cut arrows that are for sale, which will suit most people who are of average height. Anyone shorter than that can choose between leaving them that length (will be less accurate) or having them cut shorter so they fit your draw length better.

Next you need to read the following chart, which is also available on my website at Three Frequently Asked Questions about Archery Equipment. Using the draw length measurements across the top, compare that with the weight of your bow going down the left side – then find the corresponding 3-digit Arrow Spine Number in the middle. So if you are using a 25 lb Samick Sage and have a 29 inch draw, then you should purchase 600 spine arrows.


A big mistake many beginners make is that they end up with a pile of mismatched arrows. Maybe they lost a bunch, maybe they found some (and neglected to put them in the lost and found box), or maybe they even found broken arrows and decided to fix them (giving new life to broken arrows is a personal hobby of mine). What you will find however is that these arrows will be different weights, different spines, different lengths, and consequently each arrow will shoot differently – which means your chance of making clusters of arrows on the target will be dramatically reduced. (To learn more about how to shoot arrow clusters read some of the posts on my Archery Tips page.) Ideally you want to have arrows which weigh the same, are the same length, the same spine, everything is identical. Including the Arrowhead.

Tuning your Arrowheads

To get a better understanding of this please read my post “What the eff is FOC Weight?” which explains the acronym Front-Of-Center and how it applies to arrow balance. Basically what you want is at close range you want to be using arrowheads that are suited to the task, which in this case are heavier and moves the balancing point closer to the tip of the arrow – and makes them more accurate. At longer distances you want to be using lightweight arrowheads, which moves the balancing point closer to the middle – but still Front of the Center of the arrow.

  • At 20 to 30 yards you want to be using 125 to 150 grain arrowheads.*
  • At 40 to 50 yards you want to be using 85 to 100 grain arrowheads.*
  • At 60 yards or more you want to be using 50 to 75 grain arrowheads.*
* This is just an example and is not always true. Depending on the weight of the arrow, it may be more optimal to use specific weights at different distances.

When it comes to tuning your arrowheads there is no “one size fits all”. For beginners it is recommended you buy 125 grain arrowheads (150s are harder to find in stores and are often made for wider shaft arrows) and then stick to the closer targets anyway until your skill has improved to the point that your arrow clusters are the size of a doughnut – and you are scoring at least 40 out of 50 every round with 5 arrows on a standard FITA 40 cm target. If you cannot shoot at least a score of 40 with 5 arrows regularly on the short distances then you are simply not ready to be trying to hit the longer distances.

Tuning your Fletching

Normally the fletching comes with the arrows, so unless you want to be cutting the fletching off and gluing on new fletching you probably are not going to be tuning this so much as you are going to be purchasing arrows with the fletching already on there – or ordering custom made arrows with the fletching you want.

The colour of the fletching doesn’t matter with respect to accuracy – although having bright, easy to find colours on there certainly helps if you ever lose an arrow.
 
What matters more with fletching is the length of the fletch, the width of the fletch, the shape of the fletch – and the type of fletching you are using.

If you are using a compound bow you will want to be using Vane Fletching – vanes are stiff pieces of plastic, and are typically either short or long fletch.

If you are using a longbow, traditional recurve, shortbow, etc then you will want Feather Fletching – which comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, and is typically between 2 and 5 inches long.

If you plan on shooting at birds or doing small game hunting (or competing in 3D events) you will likely want Flu Flu Feathers – which are extra wide (2″ or so) feather fletched arrows that are often brightly coloured to make them very easy to spot.

The length of fletching effects its accuracy at different distances, depending on the wind conditions. Longer fletches are more accurate on a non-windy day, shorter fletches are more accurate on a windy day. At short distances there won’t be a huge difference in accuracy because the arrow isn’t in the air long enough for the wind to effect it overly much, but at longer distances the longer fletch arrows will give you more accuracy under normal conditions because it keeps the arrow going straighter – whereas shorter fletch will be more accurate if it is windy because the wind will catch the larger fletching sideways and turn the arrow so it loses much of its accuracy. (Obviously you don’t want to be using Flu Flu Arrows on a windy day.)

When it comes to shape of the fletching there are many different kinds, including:
Parabolic, Shield and Traditional are pretty commonly used. Banana, Low-Banana, Swift, T-Hawk, and Pope & Young all have their pros and cons.

The shape and size of the fletching effects how straight it flies, how fast it flies, how much it contacts the arrowrest (or in the case of longbow/shortbow archers shooting off their glove, how much it contacts their glove).

The Swift fletch design for example is basically identical to the Parabolic, but has been trimmed somewhat to make it thinner and lighter in an effort to give it more speed. The Low-Banana is the same idea – nearly identical to the Banana, but designed for speed instead of accuracy.

What style of fletching an archer chooses often depends on the style of shooting you are using the arrows for and whether you want more speed, more accuracy or maybe you just don’t want the fletch rubbing against the arrowrest so much.

Tuning your Arrowrest

If you are completely new to archery you might not know what an arrowrest is. Scroll up, look a the photo at the top. That is the riser from a Samick Sage with a cheap plastic arrowrest on there.
Now pay attention. Your arrowrest is arguably one of the most important pieces of equipment you will own.

 Why? It is because every time an arrow leaves your bow the first and last thing it touches will be the arrowrest, and you want your arrowrest to be accurate and consistent. If you buy a cheap plastic arrowrest don’t expect it to stay the same with every shot you do. With every shot the plastic wears down, it becomes uneven, it starts to rip, and it will eventually fall apart and have to be replaced. There is also the matter that the harder and more durable a plastic arrowrest is the more it rubs against the fletching during each shot, which can lead to inaccuracy if it is rubbing too much or rubbing inconsistently.

More traditional archers like to use fur arrowrests (available at various archery stores) which allows the arrow to slide across the surface of the fur gently and this cushion of fur allows the arrow to not be rubbing against anything too hard that would cause it to lose accuracy.

Example: The bow on the right features a traditional fur arrowrest which has been glued in place.

Now the fur will eventually wear down, but the good news is that fur is surprisingly durable despite being so soft and it should last a good long time before it needs to be replaced.

Another option is to buy a more modern arrowrest made of metal and other materials.
Your options are drop down arrowrests, drop away arrowrests, spring loaded arrowrests, wire arrowrests, whisker biscuit arrowrests and hostage arrowrests. There are many more types, but I am not going to list them all.

When it comes to these modern arrowrests (many of which are most commonly used on compound bows) they usually come with instructions on how to tune them. This will usually require you to tune the arrowrest to the weight of the arrow, to adjust it to left or right, up or down, to make certain it is centered on both the X and Y axis, and so forth.

For best results read the instructions that come with the arrowrest so you can tune it properly. I am not going to give the tuning instructions here for the literally hundreds of different arrowrests that are available out there.

If you purchased a compound bow then your bow likely came with either a whisker biscuit or a hostage arrowrest. Both are quite good and you likely won’t even need to tune them if they were already tuned in the factory.

Tuning your Hand Gear

How you release your shot is equally important as what you are using. Regardless of whether you choose to go with a tab, gloves or mechanical release you will want one that works well for you. Some people (myself included) find tabs annoying. I would rather shoot with a thumb ring than shoot with a tab. This is an area of shooting that comes down to personal preference (unless you are shooting compound, in which case you have only two choices: mechanical or gloves).

Pick the method you find to be the most comfortable for you and learn to shoot with that as best you can. As time progresses try other styles of gloves, tabs, etc and find the one that works best for you.
For example I have 6 different styles of shooting gloves in a box at home, I also have 3 different tabs, 2 thumb rings, and 2 mechanical releases. Of these I have determined that of all the equipment I use, I prefer the Neet gloves (size large), the Regent Archery Persian-style gloves (size medium), and the more expensive mechanical release because it just works better and is less fussy to use – not because it is more expensive, simply because it is the easiest to use.

Tuning what hand gear you use for shooting with will be something you play with along the way. For beginners I recommend you find a pair of Neet gloves in your size and then experiment with other styles of releasing as you progress. Don’t go trying to skip to thumb rings or something more difficult to learn until you have mastered how to shoot using something simpler.

Other Gadgets

If you are looking to tune a sight, find the right stabilizer that suits you and tune other gadgets then we are getting into more complex topics. You will need to sign up for archery lessons if you want instructions on how to tune such things. I teach all of the topics listed above and much more, but I have to go do some personal practice now so that will have to wait for another day.

When do you become an archer?

Q

Someone posted this on Facebook awhile back:

"When do you become an archer?"



And below is how I responded to this question:


When you first start you become an amateur archer.


When you compete, you become a competitive archer.


When you get paid to do archery you become a professional archer.

When you teach it and people come back for more lessons and tell their friends how great you are, you become an archery instructor (possibly by accident like I did).

When you have learned everything in terms of the physical aspects of archery and have to constantly challenge yourself mentally, you have become an archery master.

The master already knows how to shoot. That is not their problem. Their problem is finding challenges (often mental challenges) that allow them to continue learning something new.
A round of shots on January 24th 2019. The one shot clipped a nock and the nock went flying off.

Now you will notice that, yes, that is a very tight cluster. And yes, I did clip the nock so that it went flying off.

But what you might not notice is the date. January 24th and it was freezing cold outside. Here is some more photos from that day. To shoot that well in those conditions... it is mostly mental.

Eventually it got so cold I decided to go home.






Panarama of the Toronto Archery Range!

Private Archery Ranges near Toronto

One of my students asked me about private archery ranges near Richmond Hill, and in response I have made the following list of private archery ranges near the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) - which includes Richmond Hill.

I was originally thinking of organizing this list alphabetically, but then I changed my mind and decided to organize by categories as some of these locations are university clubs, archery tag locations, and only a few are wholly private archery ranges.

PRIVATE ARCHERY RANGES IN THE GTA

Archers of Caledon
archersofcaledon.org

Located North-West of Brampton, this club/private range was once known as the Humber Valley Archers, but changed the name when they moved the club to Caledon Hills north west of Toronto. The club hosts indoor and outdoor tournaments, and international tournaments as well.

The Archers of Caledon has a 30 x 15 meter heated indoor range, with 10 shooting lanes.

Outdoors, Archers of Caledon has:
  • A 30 to 90 meter target range.
  • A 10 to 80 meter practice range, which includes both field archery and target archery.
  • A 28 target field archery / 3D range course with animal targets ranging from 6 to 65 meters.

Durham Archers
durhamarchers.com
Two ranges located north of Oshawa, this members only club offers a 3D shooting range (only from Spring to Autumn, the 3D targets are put in storage during the winter to prevent ice damage), target ranges, and field archery. They also host a variety of tournaments.

Note - There is no indoor range.


Peel Archery Club
peelarchery.ca

Located in Peel/Brampton (north west of Pearson International Airport), this indoor range offers both target and 3D options, with the comfort of heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. It also boasts Canada's only 70 meter indoor archery range. (Currently the only one. This may change in the future.) They also host a variety of indoor tournaments.

Note - There is no outdoor range.


York County Bowmen
yorkcountybowmen.com

Located east of Newmarket (north of Toronto), York County Bowmen is a club/private range that boasts the following:

  • An indoor 18 meter (20 yards) range  with 12 shooting lanes.
  • Over 50 acres of 3D target ranges, with 14 field archery shooting lanes.
  • A target practice range, with targets spaced from 10 to 60 yards.


ARCHERY TAG INDOOR RANGES

The following is a short list of archery tag locations which also operate archery ranges, the trick being that most of the time the space is being used for archery tag, and they only rarely open the space up as an archery range. So for example some archery tag locations only open up the space for practice 1 day per week, so don't expect a lot of availability that matches your schedule. The size of the space varies on the locations, but don't expect anything larger than 30 meters as these locations are typically about the size of a high school gymnasium. The good news however is that you don't need a membership for these indoor ranges and can just pay an hourly rate to use the space.
  • Archers Arena in North York
  • Archery Circuit located south of Markham
  • Archery District in Etobicoke
  • Archery 2 You in Ajax
  • Battle Sports in North York
  • Stryke Archery Range in Brampton and York

UNIVERSITY ARCHERY RANGES

Joining an university archery club can be a bit trickier. It generally helps if you are already a student or alumni for that university. With university archery clubs there is typically specific times when the range is open, so you really need to find out what their hours operations are before deciding whether to make the effort to join one of these clubs.
  • University of Ryerson Archery Club
  • University of Toronto Archery Club @ Hart House
  • York University Archery Club

PLACES TO AVOID

Sharon Gun Club - Located north-east of Newmarket, this club does NOT offer archery. Contrary to what a Google search dictates, this club does NOT do archery at all. It is purely a gun club. So don't waste your time on this one.

Shooting Academy Canada - Located in Scarborough, this location does offer both guns and archery (as well as throwing knives, airsoft, and BB), and boasts a tiny 15 yard indoor target range. There is no outdoor range. No field archery, no 3D archery targets, etc. Hence why I decided to list it down here and not with the wholly private archery ranges. Plus since they are using firearms indoors, users should really be wearing hearing protection - which many archers might object to as it would feel weird wearing hearing protection while doing archery. So it is not a location I would recommend to students.

Target Sports Canada - Located north of Markham, this is another location that does NOT offer archery. It is another gun range that could be easily confused as an archery range, mostly due to faulty Google search results.


See Also

List of Archery Clubs in Ontario

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