Archery from a newbie

Paul Wicker, Going PostalI first encountered archery on a stag night I had arranged for my soon to be thrice married best mate. We had all arrived the previous night and had sunk the obligatory massive amounts of lager, as is traditional.

The first fun way of spending our weekend, before the clay pigeon shooting, quad bike riding and bombing around in a half track, was archery.

Enthusiasm was low, but morale and a few other things immediately perked up when we met the jodhpur clad, absolutely gorgeous young lady who was to be our coach. Her consummate skill, and habit of bending over to pick up a wayward arrow held our rapt attention for the session. This isn’t her, but it might be her twin sister.

Imagine the calendar flickers over five years. My mate is still married to his third wife (yaaay). And My local archery club has a ‘have a go weekend’.

Having spent £20 on 3 arrows for £2 try it out session, I put my name down for the next beginners course. Which was booked up. Nine months later, I find I am enrolled on the course and am delighted.

The beginners course:-

You need to go on the beginners course, which provides you with a certificate which shows that you understand the basic concepts of archery, and more importantly, the concepts of safety at an archery ground.

My course cost £60, lasted 6 weeks x 2 hours per week, and was well worth it.

  1. We learned :-
  2. Course safety
  3. How to assemble and disassemble your equipment
  4. Stance and form, and how to shoot a bow
  5. Ettiquette on the field
  6. Scoring and marking
  7. Where your local archery shop is

The last is pretty important. Most people starting archery are like me, they really don’t know much and want to get cracking. Most archery shops are reasonable, fit you for your bow, measure you for your arrows and don’t oversell you on kit.

I was really lucky with my archery course, I was partnered with a couple of blokes who were pretty like minded, all very competitive and despite ranging in age from 50 – 70, had some good banter going. Some people ended up with a couple of yummy mummies, and some had a couple of young kids. Like I said, I was lucky.

Two of us, both the same age took different routes to equip ourselves (once you compete the course, you don’t get to use the club bows anymore, and you probably wouldn’t want to anyway)

I took the recommended option of ‘go to the local archery shop, get measured and buy what your budget can afford’ option. My new archery mate, lets call him Mark, took the ebay option.

Paul Wicker, Going Postal

RiserThe bit you grip.
LimbsThese attach above and below the riser and form the bow, there's an upper and a lower, and the string attaches to the ends of these. Usually made from fibreglass, can be wood, can be carbon fibre if you are extremely rich.
BowstringMade from synthetic fibres which loop round, up and down, which twisted to form a string.
Sight mountBracket for the sight, has markings so you know where to position the sight depending on the distance you are shooting.
SightOverly complicated looking thing with a marker to position in the centre of the target.
Pressure buttonThis presses against the arrow to minimise flexing as it passes through the bow.
Long rodWeighted stick which sticks out of the front of the bow, provides forward weight and stabilisation.

I bought an intermediate package consisting of loads of stuff you don’t think you need, but it turns out you do, as follows:-

There are a number of bow types available, ranging from a bent stick to a cantilevered compound bow. I, like most club archers, use a recurve bow, which looks like this

There are other things too :-
Finger string – Since you aren’t supposed to grip the bow as such, but hold it under tension against the string in your other hand, the bow can fall forward under the weight of the long rod, the string stops you dropping your new bow.

The bow would tend to fall backwards without the long rod, and tends to hit you in the forehead. Which is unpleasant.

String pullerSince your bow is assembled and disassembled on site, the bow stringer allows you to bend the limbs sufficiently to attach the string to the ends of the bow under tension.
Arm guardProtects your arm against the string, which can hurt a bit.
Finger tabProtects the fingers holding the string, after loosing several arrows bare fingers will become sore. Some have a spacer between the forefinger and the next two to ensure you don’t grip the knock (notched end) of the arrow with your fingers and prevent a clean release.
Arrow pullerRubber mat or gripper to help when pulling a wet or deep arrow from the target.
Chest guardProtects your moobs from the string. It can hurt. A lot.
Backpack or caseCase makes you look like an assassin. Backpack can also hold your flask or sarnies.

Optional extras

Paul Wicker, Going PostalGreen tights, leather jerkin, pointy hat with a feather in it.

And of course – Arrows.

There are 4 common styles of arrow shaft. These are; Wood, aluminium, carbon, and an aluminium/carbon composite.

Almost all production arrow shafts are made from these materials. The only exception is fibreglass. Fibreglass is used in some leisure arrows, but usually only as a pre-fabricated arrow. It is not typical to buy a fibreglass arrow shafts separately as it would not be the natural choice if you were making your own arrows. Arrows are purchased to match your draw length and bow, fitted with a point at one and and a knock at the other (A plastic end with a notch for the bowstring)

I bought eight standard aluminium arrows for about £40. I will progress to carbon composite which are thinner, probably in about 12 months, but these are considerably more expensive (can be £100 per arrow, but you really don’t need these unless you are seriously committed to the sport)

Paul Wicker, Going PostalAll the kit, as described above, comes in at around £180 for a beginner package, and about £400 for the same but ‘intermediate’ which has a much better riser and better limbs. I opted for the intermediate package, as the riser should see me out, and the limbs can be upgraded as required. I also hate shopping, and wanted a package that would last more than the first year.

You can, as in any sport, pay as much as you feel necessary, arrows at £100 a pop, risers at £1,000, limbs the same. But you don’t need to I feel that whilst £400 is quite a bit to lay out, its cheaper than a set of decent golf clubs.

Whilst we are on the subject of money, club membership is around £100, half of which goes to the club to pay for the facilities, target faces and other consumables, and half goes to Archery UK for insurance.

Beginning Archery

Most clubs provide novice sessions which give you loads of helpful tips and advice. I also got loads of good advice whilst being measured for my bow from the very friendly staff at the shop I went to.

Competitions, not much experience here, my first is in a couple of weeks.

252 scheme

In order to explain how this works, I need to explain the target and distances involved.

The structure holding the target is called a boss, and consists of a stand with a wooden frame holding a pretty dense foam body. The target face is a big strengthened paper square, usually 122cm square, although smaller ones are available.

It’s divided into a number of concentric circles, scoring in the UK from the inside out is as follows :-

Gold – Bullseye! 9 points
Red – 7 points
Blue – 5 points
Black – 3 points
White – 1 point
Anywhere else – ‘M’ – miss.

Paul Wicker, Going Postal

At the start of the beginner course, you will be aiming at a target 10 yards away. This lets you get used to the stance, body alignment and holding the bow, whilst hitting a few golds for confidence.

Half way through you will progress to 20 yards, which is the basic starting distance.

Most archery clubs run the 252 scheme, which is an award achieved by scoring 252 or above with 36 arrows (an average of 7 per arrow) on two consecutive attempts, after 6 sighting arrows.

The maximum distance shot by most club archers is 70 yards/metres which is also the distance female and mixed olympic archers shoot . Senior men shoot at 90m at the Olympics

Archery, and archery club membership, seems a bit daunting at first. OK, some of the members make their own bows and arrows from trees, wear strange clothes and are a bit strange, but in the main, people use standard kit and get a huge amount of enjoyment from the sport. I have to say, that everyone I have met so far has been very helpful and friendly.

You don’t have to compete against other people if you don’t want to, you can just improve your own scores, and the 252 scheme is great for this.

For a relatively low amount initial outlay (£170), and cheap membership (£100 pa), archery is a very enjoyable and entertaining sport, which you can do at any age, so why not give it a shot.

© Paul Wicker 2018

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