March 28, 2018 - Day 1. Today was my very first exposure to the world of archery. I researched archery ranges in Philadelphia and decided to visit B&A Archery in Northeast Philadelphia for their indoor range, large selection of bows, and knowledgeable staff. After reviewing a number of articles and videos on different beginner bows, I chose the Bear Cruzer G2. The shop had several G2s in stock and I immediately fell in love with a purple one from Bear's 2017 line. Herb, one of the shop owners, spent a lot of time training me on the various aspects of my new purchase. For someone like me who has no real experience with archery, this was a valuable freebie included with my purchase. Herb has 30+ years of teaching experience in another field, which is why his instruction was so great. In my second set of 6 shots, I got all of them on the white circle! We then moved from 5 yards to 10 yards and then 15. The various tips and critiques from Herb and Bill were very helpful. You could tell these guys love what they do. There were several other archers at the range, too, all of various levels, a good mix of different people from youth to seniors. One of the senior archers watched my progress. "Stick with it, babe. You're pretty good," he commented.
March 30, 2018 - Day 2. I took my kids to B&A Archery and they had a great time there. My youngest son was shooting arrows like a champ and my oldest son became interested in crossbows as a result of their visit. Bill gave me several tips during my target practices, including using my bevel to improve accuracy and making sure my fingers are out of the arrow's path so the vanes don't cut me. I split a nock by hitting it with another arrow.
April 3, 2018 - Day 3. In my third practice day, I found myself consistently shooting a little high and to the right, so Herb adjusted my sight. I was still shooting high after that, but he said to not worry about that. "By the time the arrow reaches the back wall, it'll drop right onto the bullseye," he said. Lots of target practice today at 10 and 15 yards. Herb said I should try 20 yards next aiming at a vertical line. He’ll also add more draw weight to my bow. My shoulders were sore the next day.
April 9, 2018 - Day 4.
Ladies Night attracted a small handful of ladies. Bill added a full turn of weight on both ends of my bow bringing it to a weight of 30 pounds. Herb gave a new girl and a couple of guys an archery lesson. Bill demoed a crossbow to a group of guys interested in using it for hunting. Herb adjusted my sight again. I practiced on a vertical line on the back wall. I also practiced shooting deer and bear targets. Shooting animal targets does not mean I want to shoot animals for real. A number of archers at the range also feel the same way.
April 10, 2018 - Day 5.
I tried a recurve bow today. Compared to my compound bow, I hated it, but I could see the allure. After shooting six arrows, I could feel my fingers chafing. I practiced mostly on a vertical line on the back wall. Sometimes the peep sight looks fuzzy or my bow hand gets shaky. I had some luck shooting at a little bear target by getting all of my arrows into it successive times. I split two nocks. I met a new retiree named Jerry who will be coming to the range often. I gave Jerry some tips that Herb gave me to help him with his shooting. I ended up with a thumb injury. All of the friction of pulling arrows out of the 3D targets left me with a cut on the tip of my thumb.
April 16, 2018 - Day 6. John, an archer I had seen on the range before, gave me lots of good tips and advice on aiming, sighting, and holding my bow. Herb, my instructor watched as I drew back an arrow. "I'm really proud of you," Herb said. "You're standing the right way." My only problem with my stance is my grip on my bow, which Herb and John referred to as wringing a chicken's neck. I told them I had an unnatural fear of holding my bow loosely with an angled hand because it might snap back into my face. "Just try it," John said. "You end up exerting a lot less pressure on the draw." Oddly, that was counterintuitive, but true. I was curious about bow sight magnifying lenses, but, unfortunately, my little bow doesn't support them. That might be something for my next bow.
April 23, 2018 - Day 7. I felt ready to try more draw weight, so Herb added a full turn on both ends of my bow bringing it to a weight of 33 pounds. It didn't feel that much different from 30 pounds. I'm getting a lot closer to the vertical line today. I'm landing on the cardboard more often than not. I got a little cocky with my shots. "I saw that," Bill commented of my shooting. "You're doing that fancy stuff. Keep your finger next to your jaw until the arrow hits its target. Then you can move your finger and do all that fancy stuff." Herb and Bill recounted a challenge some years ago where a target was 105 yards away and Herb nailed it with his second shot.
January 14, 2019 - Day 8. It's been almost nine months since I shot an arrow. Before the first shot of my first set, I accidentally triggered my release on the pullback and hit myself in the nose. Owww!!! I'm glad it was just 33 pounds of force coming at my nose versus the full 70 this bow is capable of. I asked Herb for a refresher lesson on how to shoot. He helped me get my groove back in three shots. On my third set, five of my arrows were in a tight group. The last one was off. My friend Chris W was impressed with my shooting. "You can get them in a tighter grouping than I can with my gun," he said. My sixth and final set is shown to the right. My shots were a little high, but I remember Herb telling me that that's not a bad thing. I was at the archery range for just an hour. If I wasn't with my friend, I would've been there for two more hours. There is a meditative quality to archery that compares to meditation in yoga. More people should try it.
Archery checklist: Feet shoulder width apart, slight bend of the knees, don't choke the chicken when gripping the bow, keep the arm holding the bow slightly bent, keep the drawing arm's elbow high, index finger behind the trigger release, brush the drawing hand against your jaw to your cheek to your ear, the tip of your nose touches the drawstring, look through the peep, breathe in, move your index finger in front of the release, steady the shot, squeeze the trigger completely, count 1-2-3 slowly before removing your finger from the release (or count 1-2-3 after hearing it hit the target), yell "clear!" and wait for everyone else to yell "clear!" before retrieving your arrows.
January 26, 2019 - Day 9. Today my kids and I attended the Lancaster Archery Classic, the East Coast's largest indoor archery tournament with an estimated 1,600 archers competing in 15 divisions. We stopped by the Lancaster Archery pro shop first, since it was on the way to the tournament. There, my youngest son and I practiced at the indoor range and Techno-Hunt simulated hunting experience. I hadn't shot in 12 days and I didn't have my bow with me, so I rented a compound bow to use. The range instructor measured my draw to be 25.5 inches and set the weight to 35 pounds. It took a few rounds of shooting at the indoor range to adjust the sight. He basically wanted to see if I could hit the small trio of targets on the back wall before permitting me to shoot in the Techno-Hunt room. Many eyes were watching me as I struggled to hit the yellow circle as I normally could with my own bow. Nevertheless, my shots hit inside the blue which was good enough for Techno-Hunt. Inside the Techno-Hunt room, it was just me and my kids. I hit almost everything in the 30 minutes allotted, including many "vitals" shots and one "bullseye." My chosen game was a random set of animals and circumstances with some of the animals moving around the screen. The only two things I missed were a praying mantis and a little duck. When nobody is watching me, I'm insanely good, hitting exactly what I want to hit almost every time. When I watched the archery finals at the Lancaster Archery Event, I felt how nervous some of the contestants were while standing on the podiums with the world watching them. It didn't help that the play-by-play announcer kept saying things that could potentially make the contestants even more nervous. Your looks of concentration are projected on the large screen above the target and is what is shown on YouTube live. My kids and I spent some time in the vendor area playtesting various bows and trigger releases. I finally got to try holding the Bowtech Fanatic 3.0 and Mathews TRX 38. Without the stabilizer rods, I prefer the Bowtech. It feels much better balanced and can give me more value right out of the box. The Mathews felt top heavy and kept tilting forward or tilting back in my hand. I held a fully outfitted Mathews TRX 38 that was more than eight pounds. Yikes!
February 4, 2019 - Day 10. Sometimes we take several steps forward and end up taking a step back. I kept consistently missing my targets high right. My bow felt alien to me. I finally compensated by aiming low left to get my arrows to hit my targets. In the middle of my 2.5 hour practice, I took some time to shoot a target 15 yards away rather than the targets on the back wall, which was 20 yards away. I got my arrows to group again and then moved to shooting targets on the back wall. If my bow has not changed since the last time I shot, then my mechanics are definitely at fault. I experimented with shooting my arrows with cock vane up versus down. (The cock vane is the vane with a different color than the others and points in a direction that will minimize the possibility of the vanes touching the arrow rest.) The shop had a used PSE Supra for sale. I held it and it felt similar to the Bowtech Fanatic I held a week ago.
February 5, 2019 - Day 11. I walked into a full house with eight other archers. Tuesdays are typically the barebow archers day. Today was much improved over yesterday. My shots were in line with where I wanted them, but were high, so I aimed lower to compensate. I seem to have a better knack at grouping my arrows on an animal target. I spoke to an archer named Lou who let me try his Mathews Triax hunting bow. It had a 45 pound draw weight, a little heavier than I'm used to. I also tried the PSE Supra that I held yesterday and tried pulling the string, but could not. The draw weight was way too heavy for me. The shop tried to adjust it to its lowest setting, but concluded it would still be too heavy for me. Lou taught me how to keep the tips of my arrows in place with wax.
February 8, 2019 - Day 12. Bill adjusted my sight, since I was consistently shooting to the up and right. I'm hitting my targets now using the top pin. I tried an Easton X10 stabilizer on my bow, but that didn't steady my bow and seemed to make my grouping worse. Bill said that I might need a shorter stabilizer. At the end of my practice, a young, very handsome man followed me out of the range for a smoke break and commented, "You're pretty good." We talked for a bit and he asked me if I ever hunted or tried competitive archery. I said no, but that someday I'd like to try my hand at competitive archery.
February 11, 2019 - Day 13. Like many of the Mondays, I was the only girl attending Ladies Night. 66 shots fired with two misses within the circles from 20 yards away. The first was on my first set, a warmup set. The second was an anxiety misfire with my new Lumenok lighted tips. I fear that grouping them might result in the shattering of an $11 Lumenok. These nocks make my arrows feel a wee bit heavier. It's really neat to see their flight paths. It's like shooting flaming arrows. A small group of East Indian men watched me shoot with my new nock tips. "You're very good," one of them said approvingly. I thanked him. In some weird way, these nocks might turn out to be confidence building or anxiety inducing.
February 16, 2019 - Day 14. I took my oldest son to the range with me, but he wasn't that into it. I decided to take a chance with my new nocks and concentrate on one target. I like the fact that I don't need to use my binoculars to see my shots. Bill liked my form today. He suggested I come on Tuesdays when there are sometimes 30 to 40 archers in house shooting from both upstairs (30 yards) and downstairs (20 yards). Two archers thought I shot very well. The first asked me if I had ever considered hunting. The second complimented me on my grouping in my last set (third picture below). I felt that I should just stop while I was ahead and end the day on a high note. I think I do pretty well for someone who doesn't see 20/20.
February 23, 2019 - Day 15. My lighted nocks no longer light. Herb thinks I didn't turn them off properly, so the batteries died. I switched back to the old nocks. I split an arrow, but the good news is Herb thinks the arrow is salvageable. It'll just be shorter than the others. I put a deposit down for a new competition bow and ordered a dozen new arrows. When I breathe properly, I'm quite accurate. Nobody seems to believe I've only been doing this for 15 practice days.
February 25, 2019 - Day 16. After three practice sets with the Vegas 3-spot, I moved on to the NFAA 5-spot where the targets are smaller, but the scoring is more forgiving. You get 5 points for shooting into or touching the perimeter of the white circle and 4 points for hitting the dark rings. The scores on my three highest sets were all 24 out of 25. There was definitely a difference between my first and second hour at the range. My aim was off in the second hour due to fatigue. I hope I get to shoot my new bow at least a few times before my surgery. The next day I noticed a bruise on the middle of my right arm, the one I use to draw my bow with. I must've tore a muscle in my arm. Instead of foolishly shooting again the next day, I took the day off.
March 2, 2019 - Day 17. The range was packed today. I continued practicing my shots on the Vegas 3-spot and earned 25 out of 25 twice and 23 out out of 25 on my third highest set. Not bad. We'll see how I do with six arrows once I get my sixth arrow repaired. Bill showed me my new Black Eagle Outlaw Pink arrows that arrived today. They look awesome. Fatigue seems to be my worst enemy in archery. As time goes on, I get sloppy. Four arrows land in a tight group and the fifth misses the target completely. My sight picture moves around a lot and is blurry from my lack of 20/20 vision, but my shooting results are pretty good, all things considered. The guy next to me shot with a long stabilizer. The tip of his stabilizer never moved as he aimed his shot. My kids were with me. My oldest son sat there bored. I bought my youngest son a Diamond Atomic bow, a miniature version of my compound bow, that he seemed to like very much. Oddly, it's very hard to find a tiny bow case to fit this bow.
March 4, 2019 - Day 18. I took a step back today. I just wasn't aiming right. It may have had to do with my giving blood for labwork needed for my upcoming surgery. It may also have to do with me not being patient with my shots and breathing correctly. There is always a lot on my mind. I started settling down in the second hour. Bill fletched my new Outlaw Pink arrows and my first set, shown below, looked pretty good. The followup sets looked pretty good, too. As seen below left, I scored 30 out of 30 with six arrows. Bill said that each arrow is built to better tolerances than the Gold Tip Hunter arrows I've been using. He also installed field tips rather than bullet points on them to make them easier to remove. I'm not sure these arrows are actually "better," but they sure are gorgeous. One thing I've noticed at the range is it's pretty much a boy's club. Guys will ask other guys for advice, even if those "expert" guys are not shooting too well. When a new girl enters the range, Bill usually tells her to watch me, which is pretty cool. I must be doing something right.
March 8, 2019 - Day 19. I tried Bill's Easton X10 stabilizer on my bow again. I started getting a feel for what it does after several rounds. It slowed down my sight picture so that when I fire, I have a better chance of hitting my target. The problem is, after a while, fatigue sets in and my shooting ends up worse. I removed the stabilizer and found it much easier to group my arrows since I got my arm used to the heavier weight. Right before closing, on the last arrow of my last set, I heard that characteristic ripping sound... cheeeeee-ukkkkk!!!! I split another arrow, this time one of my new ones, and it went deep! Everyone at the range was impressed, perhaps even more so because it was just my 19th day of shooting. "Told ya' she was good," Bill commented about me to one of his friends. One of the guys I had talked to for a while gave me his phone number. Sadly, the competition bow I ordered won't be shipping for another four weeks due to backorders from the trade shows and archery competitions held this time of year.
March 9, 2019 - Day 20. Two "Robin Hoods" in two days! This was on the fifth arrow of my first set. Everyone at the range heard the ripping sound and congratulated me when they saw the split arrow. Bill told everyone who entered the range about my new trophy. A little later I shattered a nock and split a third Outlaw Pink shaft, but only an inch, so it should be fixable. Unfortunately, Bill concluded that the the Gold Tip arrow I split back on February 23 wasn't salvageable because the shaft was split too far down. It's funny that the specs on the Outlaw Pinks are only marginally better than the Gold Tips, yet I was never able to split my Gold Tips like this. "The people who write those specs are not shooters," Bill commented. "You have to shoot these arrows to see what they're all about." My youngest son accompanied me today and got to shoot his new Diamond Atomic some more. We both tried Bill's Easton X10 stabilizer. My son actually did very well with it. After a couple of firing mishaps, I adjusted his sight and he was aiming and scoring better. He's very hard on himself, expecting to hit bullseyes quickly, but I assured him that the bullseyes will come with patience and practice. Bill told everyone about how I was putting my time into my practice.
Is shooting a Robin Hood all luck and chance? If you should six shots in a round, ten rounds in an hour, and log 120 hours trying to shoot the same target, that's 7,200 shots. Chances are good that one or more arrows will be split, or at least have their nocks broken. When you look at your sight picture, it is seldom stationary. It moves back and forth, around in a circle, in the shape of a parabola, in the shape of a figure eight, etc. I believe that how the sight picture moves is related to the energy flows within your body at the moment you draw the arrow back. Your breathing, heartbeat, muscle tensions, and fatigue come into play. You can use various tools to get the sight picture to move more slowly, but it is nearly impossible to hold the sight picture completely still. What you are doing then is estimating when to release your arrow as your sight pin hovers over the X on the target. Even if the sight pin is not pinpoint accurate, you are hopefully holding and drawing back the bow the same way each time and estimating using the same sight pin every time. Proof that this is not all random is there are archers who can hit the X consistently. The more consistent you are with hitting your target, or close to your target, the less something like chance enters the equation. This is my theory at the moment and it may change over time based on my observations, experiences, and research.
March 13, 2019 - Day 21. A good crowd formed at the range today. Two girls, one a newbie, were buying a bow and Bill pointed me out to them. "There, she is," Bill said. "Clare shot two Robin Hoods on back to back days and busted nocks the very first day she shot her pink Outlaws." The newbie wondered if her draw weight was high enough. "Clare's buff as hell and she doesn't need to have a high draw weight," the experienced girl said to her newbie friend. Brian, one of the competition archers who shot next to me, complimented my shooting. "You shoot good," he said. That was cool. I told him I shoot well when I breathe properly. It took a while to get my groove back and I ended up scoring 29 out of 30 on a 5-spot on my very last set.
March 16, 2019 - Day 22. "I'd like to introduce you to my family," an East Indian man wearing a colorful turban said to me. I had seen him early last month. "Since I last saw you, I had told my children about you and had hoped that they would come to learn from you... and here they are," he said, gesturing to his little son and teenage daughter. Good archers always pass their knowledge on to others, so I felt it was my obligation to do so. I'm not an expert, but I taught the little boy what I knew about stance, nocking an arrow, drawing, steadying a shot, etc. The little boy's father was pleased. "Are you teaching the munchkins now?" Bill commented. I nodded and smiled. After a few errant shots, the little boy started to get the hang of it. He and his sister stayed for a few more rounds. I proceeded to shoot more rounds myself and hit my third Robin Hood, this time using the Easton X10 stabilizer. This time, the struck arrow was coiled around the striking arrow. "Six broken nocks and three Robin Hoods... order another dozen?" Bill asked. I nodded. When the East Indian man and his family were leaving, he stopped in front of me once more. "You're incredible! You are an inspiration to my family. Thank you for teaching my son!" he said, bowing down and kissing the back of my hand as if I were royalty. I scored 30 out of 30 twice. Sadly, my Robin Hood shot was during a round in which I scored 29 out of 30. I read about the more elusive Double Robin Hood. That seems to be something to strive for.
March 23, 2019 - Day 23. I met a friend from my workplace today and helped him select a new bow and accessories. I shot sparingly, but when I did, I tried to make my shots count. I shot a 24 out of 25. I did this with a recovering shoulder. It felt better today, but we'll see how it feels tomorrow after some rest. I recently discovered that I just need to shoot five arrows at the 5-spot, one in each of the five targets, to score. My Bowtech Fanatic arrived today ahead of schedule. Everyone admired my new bow. It's exceptionally well-balanced like a good katana. I had Bill and Herb install a Ripcord Ace fallaway rest on it. I also ordered an Axcel AccuTouch Carbon Pro Slider Sight w/ X-31 Scope (.019"), Specialty Archery peep, Paradox bow sling, and a 24" Dead Center Diamond Series stabilizer. Bill recommended Dead Center over Bee Stinger because the former is a more established company.
March 25, 2019 - Day 24. Today was another step backwards day with my shooting. I still managed to get a pair of 24 out of 25 scores, but there were many inconsistencies, such as arrows missing their targets or bad groupings. I attribute all of this to my recovering shoulder. I got to shoot my Bowtech Fanatic, but without a sight and a peep, I had to estimate where my arrows would land. I hit a few bullseyes, including one on my third shot. I experimented with an Easton X10 stabilizer to get a rough idea of how my Dead Center stabilizer will feel. Tom, whom I had seen at the range many times before, thought I shot very well, all things considered. "If you could shoot like that without a sight, you'd do pretty well in 3D," he said. Herb said my other parts should be coming in this week.
March 30, 2019 - Day 25. My youngest son and I had fun at the archery range today. My Dead Center stabilizer arrived and I got to use it on my still sightless and peepless Bowtech Fanatic. I bought my son a K3 stabilizer for his bow and six new Outlaw Pink arrows for myself. One of my friends challenged me to hit a little orange ball resting on top of a 3D target. My first shot penetrated the ball. Successive shots reinforced the first shot. What is amazing is not that I hit the ball, but that I hit it from a very difficult vantage point. I shot my arrow in between two close target boards to the left and right of me, the angle of which gave me two inches of space for my arrow to fly through. I scored 24 out of 25 on my last set of 5 spots. My legendary status at the range has been upgraded to "shooting four Robin Hoods in one week." The fourth Robin Hood, that I didn't count before, was an arrow with a nock I broke. Bill examined it and said that there was a split at the end of the shaft, making the arrow irreparable. It was a "technical Robin Hood," much like a technical knockout in boxing. I pretty much destroyed $90 worth of arrows in one week. This can be a very expensive hobby.
May 4, 2019 - Day 26. Today was my first day back at the archery range after my surgery and recovery last month. Having my new Bowtech Fanatic by my bedside gave me hope and inspired me to continue my physical therapy to improve my strength and mobility. Bill installed the rest of the accessories I ordered for my new bow, including a Specialty Archery peep and 1x clarifier, an Axcel AccuTouch Pro single-pin slider sight, a 4x lens, a Ripcord Flex Fit Launch Pad, and a quick disconnect attachment for my Dead Center stabilizer. I also got Bill to reduce the draw weight of my bow from 38 to 35 pounds. I shot 12 practice rounds at the NFAA 5-spot and scored 238/300. I felt tired after the seventh set. I could normally shoot closer to 300. 238 is not bad, considering I wasn't very strong or mobile up until this week. After the 5-spot shooting, I split another arrow, my fifth so far, this time achieving it with my Bowtech. I also hit a little orange ball hanging on the back wall several times. I like how the AccuTouch allows me to finely tune my sight with minute clicks of its dials. Bill gave me a couple of tips on shooting. "Keep your arms steady throughout the shot. Don't let them expand out," he said. Bill never liked the embellishments, or "the fancy stuff," as he calls it. "All these tips will make you great," he said. Bill had shot near perfect scores in 600-point competitions in the past. Steve Web, star of the television show, Apex Hunter, was at the range getting several of his Elite bows tuned for his new show. "I only trust Bill," he said. Bill introduced me to him and I got a picture with Steve and my split arrow. I was at the range for six hours, but took plenty of breaks throughout that time. I could normally shoot twice as many arrows, but I'm glad I took it slow just to get my feet wet once again. Today was a good day.
May 8, 2019 - Day 27. I kept hitting my targets a little to the right with Baby Bear. I switched to Saeko. It took a while to adjust to the heavier weight, but I managed to achieve a score comparable to last Saturday. I renamed my Bowtech bow from "Batman" to "Saeko" as an homage to Saeko Busujima, the lead character of the anime Highschool of the Dead. Saeko has purple hair and kills zombies with her katana. Herb began preparing me for the USA Archery Level 2 course. He is a Level 3 coach. Bill and I were talking and I expressed an interest in hunting. I'm quite interested in acquiring meat that is not the usual stuff I buy from a grocery store. Bill gave me a lesson on what I'll need to buy to prepare for a hunt and how to store the meat. He said he could have me hunting as early as this weekend.
May 9, 2018 - Day 28. Today I wanted to focus on Saeko, so I left Baby Bear at home. I scored 263/300 and hit 17 X rings. This is pretty good considering Saeko isn't 100% tuned yet. Tuning can take a while on a target bow. We had to make a height adjustment on the sight because it was too high. Typically you want the top pin to be set at 20 yards. After the scoring practice, I worked on my 3D skills by shooting at a boar target to prepare for my upcoming hunt. "Visually draw a line from the back of the animal's front leg up towards the top," Herb said. "Right about here is where you want your arrow to hit to get the heart or lungs," he said, pointing at a spot a little below halfway. I purchased my first set of broadheads. I thought I'd have to adjust my aim a little higher because broadheads were heavier, but Bill and Herb said I don't need to. "Choose three arrows that you will only use for hunting so you can keep your broadheads on them," Herb said. Since this is my first hunt, the guide will try to situate me closer to the hog, probably less than ten yards away. Bill gave me a number of boar meats from his previous hunts, including a roast, boneless chops, bacon, and hot sausage. Once I kill my hog, I can get my meat processed in many different ways.
May 11, 2019 - Day 29. My Bear Cruzer G2 is a solid beginner's bow, but can also be tuned into a lethal hunting weapon. Bill felt the draw weight on Baby Bear was a little light, so he cranked it up two turns to make it 41 pounds. "You just need to make one good shot," he said. Wham!!! My arrow hit its mark on the back wall target. "Now that's what an arrow hitting a target should sound like," Bill commented. He and Herb showed me the proper place to hit each 3D target animal. "You want to hit the nerve right there, so the animal falls right down," Bill said. I did some research on the subject and discovered there are numerous arguments debating where the best shot placement is, but I trust Bill and Herb because they've mentored me since day one.
May 12, 2019 - Day 30. Mother's Day Hog Hunt. Bill, my kids, and I drove up to a 400-acre private hunting ground in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania where I signed up to do my first hunt. Amid the onslaught of wind and rain during our three-hour drive and the other three members of our group cancelling on us last minute, it seemed as if someone high up above was testing us. We started our day with a 4:00am wakeup and arrived at the hunting ground at 8:00am. We met Rocky, the owner of the hunting ground, and his two assistants. Donuts and coffee were provided as Rocky gave me the details of what I should expect during my hunt. Because of the rain, I could not experience the hunt by foot, which is how it's usually done. We took a Land Rover truck around the hilly path searching for one of the two red hogs on the grounds. We saw a myriad of wildlife, including turkeys, rams, deer, Watusi buffalo, and a special "Black Death" Cape buffalo. Two Watusi buffalos spotted us and started chasing our vehicle, but we drove too fast for them to catch up. Our guide said that he spotted one hog deep in the forest and the other on top of the hill earlier in the day. We tried to find the hog in the forest, but couldn't see him. We went up the hill, turned a corner, and spotted the other hog continuing along the path we were on. Our guide stopped the truck and I climbed out of it, taking a moment to look at the monstrosity. The hog looked at us, huffed and snarled, and started walking towards us. Our guide feinted a step and a kick and the hog backtracked. I'm not sure we were in any real danger since the hog didn't have visible tusks, but I'm not a hunting expert. "Take your time," Bill said. I situated myself, took aim, and shot. I aimed at the spot Bill and Herb instructed me to, but my arrow missed. The hog quickly scurried away from us. "What the hell?" Bill said, as he checked my wrist. He noticed that the GoPro attached to my wrist interfered with my arrow's flight path. He turned it away from my bow. Our guide instructed me to follow the hog. I carefully followed it. It stopped and turned back to look. "Don't stand so close," Bill instructed. I stepped out, took my stance so that I was facing its side, took aim, steady, steady, and shot. Wumpfff! The hog squealed and ran. Blood gushed from the wound. "Good shot!!!" our guide and Bill announced in unison. The hog ran for about a city block. I followed it. It finally laid down. Our guide poked it and it jumped back up and ran away again. Bill instructed me to take another shot at the same spot. I did. This time it scurried away another 40 paces before it plopped down on the ground again. It was still breathing. "Last one should do it," Bill said. I ran up to the hog, situated myself, took aim, and shot again at the same spot. "Excellent grouping!" Bill stated. The hog curled over and fell on the side where my arrows penetrated. The arrows all snapped in half and shot like projectiles in three different directions. The hog laid still and took its last breath. Our guide poked it to make sure it was fully down. We took the following picture to commemorate my first hunt. Despite all odds, the hunt was successful. I would've preferred hunting in the forest, but the rain prevented that and my kids were with me, so they probably wouldn't have enjoyed traipsing through wet forest. I would've preferred hunting a big black Russian Boar with three-inch tusks, but that might've been pretty dangerous for a first hunt. I followed all of the rules for an ethical hunt so my hog wouldn't suffer much before its death and we took the hog to a butcher so my family and friends can enjoy its delicious meat.
Many of my friends admit that hunting is one of the coolest things I've ever done. Of course, they will get to pick and choose among the glorious bounty of meat that will come soon. Now that I have my first hunt under my belt, I want to try hunting a deer next, and eventually a Russian Boar and a black bear, all with the intention of eating the meat.
May 16, 2019 - Day 31 - Using Saeko, I scored 277/300 and hit 15 X rings. I shot this without any warmups. For fun afterwards, with the next five arrows, I skewered an orange ball hung off of a nail, three deadly shots on three animal targets, and a bullseye right in the middle of a five spot. I should've stopped right there with my good fortune, but I wanted to continue practicing. I practiced another NFAA 300 round and scored 259/300 and 12 X rings. My bow felt heavier that time. My arms were shaking and I ended up missing three out of sixty targets in that round. I was quite tired after the second 300 round. To improve my form, Bill and Herb recommended I squeeze my trigger (as in squeeeeeze my index release slowly) rather than press it quickly as I've been doing.
May 18, 2019 - Day 32 - I shot three NFAA 300 rounds and scored 262/300 and 12 X rings, 278/300 and 11 X rings, and 274/300 and 11 X rings. For fun, I practiced shooting at an orange ball either hanging off of a nail or sitting on top of an animal target. I focused on not gripping my bow at all. I pushed against the grip with my hand in a U shape, thumb and fingers aiming towards the back wall. I felt fatigued towards the end of my five and a half hours at the range. Shooting 200+ arrows will do that. The young man next to me was new and getting used to his recurve bow. "Is it really true you shot three Robin Hoods in a row?" he asked me, hearing of the lore surrounding me. I nodded. "It must feel good to be the stuff of legends at B&A Archery," he said. Indeed, it does.
May 20, 2019 - Day 33 - I shot one NFAA 300 round and scored 275/300 and 13 X rings. Bill re-sighted my bow after adjusting its arrow rest. At full draw, I felt my sight moving around a lot today. My draw arm felt the effects from overuse on Saturday. I feel a bit of a self-imposed rush to shoot quickly; I have to break out of that newly formed habit. I know I can get many ends of 25 and 5 X rings if I really focus and take my time.
May 22, 2019 - Day 34 - My friend Ken joined me this evening at the archery range. I helped him with his shooting form and he was getting lots of bullseyes by the end of the night. Since Ken was shooting a recurve bow and didn't have the benefit of a launch pad to keep an arrow in place, I recommended, and Herb confirmed, that he tilt, or cant, his bow while drawing it to keep the arrow from falling off. During my practice, I was getting frustrated with my Ripcord Ace arrow rest; the launcher arm kept bumping the arrow and making it fall to the side forcing me to let off and draw again. It came to a point where I made peace with it by simply flipping the launcher arm up manually before drawing. For an expensive product like this, you shouldn't have to settle for that. "We'll continue to adjust it," Bill said. If the Ripcord doesn't work for me, I might try switching to a Vapor Trail Gen7. I love how the design of the Gen7 accommodates whatever size arrow you wish to shoot without the need to change out a launcher arm. I spoke to the Vapor Trail folks and they assured me that there are target shooters who use the Gen7. Unfortunately, with all the talking and rest times in between rounds, I didn't have enough time to complete a 60-arrow round, so I scored 198/225 and 9 X rings in 9 ends. That interpolates to a 264/300 and 12 X rings. The good news is I'm getting a little stronger every day.
May 29, 2019 - Day 35 - Bill installed a Paradox Elite Custom Cobra Bowsling and replaced the string suppressor on Saeko. I scored 265/300 and 16 X rings. I switched from the a U grip to a wrap-around grip, but applied light pressure only on my index finger and thumb. This seems to work well for steadying the bow and getting my shots in the 5-rings. There were many distractions tonight, which made it a good test under pressure. I have to fix a few problems: 1) I base what I do in the next four shots on my very first shot, so if I hit a bullseye first, I tend to be more lax in the remaining four shots, 2) if I hit three or four good shots, my fourth and/or fifth will be terrible, and 3) aiming at higher targets are more problematic for me. The good news is I was more consistent in getting X rings towards the end.
May 31, 2019 - I drove up to the Kasak Kuts farm in Doylestown to pick up my butchered hog products. I was surprised my little MINI Cooper was able to trek up the gravel hill driveway to the Kasak Kuts farm. I was even more surprised that I was able to fit the meat and the 150-quart cooler into the back of my car. A cooler that size is something you'd normally throw into the back of a pickup truck, not squeeze into a MINI. I thought I'd be getting a huge amount of meat from my hog, but the butcher said that most of my hog was fat. I got two and a half boxes worth of frozen, vacuum sealed pork roast, spare ribs, country style spare ribs, chops, shanks, ham steaks, picnic ham, bacon, hot dogs, kielbasa, scrapple, and cheeks.
I tried the bacon and hot dogs and both were delicious! The bacon was thickly sliced with lots of lean meat. It was almost a sin to call it bacon, more like ham with fatty ends. The hot dogs were the best hot dogs I've ever eaten. I ate two without feeling nauseous as I do after eating store-bought hot dogs filled with preservatives.
June 3, 2019 - Day 36 - I scored 272/300 and 16 X rings. Two missed targets on the eighth and ninth ends wrecked my score. I then tried another NFAA 300 round at 5 yards to practice my accuracy. I was able to shoot 25/25 on each end and hit 35/60 Xs. Hitting the X itself is a lot more challenging than hitting within the X ring. A big pat on my back for not wavering from fatigue, since this was my second set of 60 arrows. After scoring practice, I tried my hand at shooting a little orange ball. I skewered the ball on my first shot. I did so again and again and stopped after my third attempt, satisifed with my good fortune for the day.
I made a scrapple and egg sandwich the next morning that was outstanding. A lot of store-bought scrapple has a slimy feel and texture and slicing such scrapple almost feels like slicing through lower quality Spam. Slicing through this scrapple was more like slicing through a muffin, which is fine because cornmeal is one of the primary ingredients in scrapple. There was just enough salt in it to be tasty, but not so much as in a store-bought brand. Oh, my gosh, good scrapple is like a meat muffin! Some days later, I heated up a ham steak that was so delicious! My kids and I had shell pasta with sliced kielbasa in it. It was really good.
June 8, 2019 - Day 37 - I didn't shoot my best because of many distractions, so today was a step backwards day. I added a Bow Coach shot analyzer to my son's bow. He didn't like it, saying that it added noticeable weight to his bow and made him tilt his bow to the right. I can believe that, since the unit with batteries adds 3.8 ounces to the right of the bow. If football is a game of inches, then archery is a game of ounces. Balancing a bow involves playing with minute adjustments in weight. Sometimes as little as an ounce can throw the center of a bow off balance. This is probably why Bow Coach failed as a product. I believe the product's intentions are good, but it needs to incorporate more modern design technologies to keep it a lightweight product.
June 10, 2019 - I stopped by the range to pick up my manual set for the USA Archery Level 2 Certification Course. The manuals are very professionally done and in full color.
I started with seven packages of scrapple, gave away three, and have two left. Kasak Kuts makes some amazing scrapple. My friend Ashley said, "This is the best scrapple... EVER!" My friend Chris W also commented, "Those hot dogs and kielbasa you gave me.. they are the best EVER!" With so many ringing endorsements, I would definitely order from Kasak Kuts again.
I visited my Dad in Brooklyn for Father's Day and gave him some pork products as a gift. I cooked up a dish with cauliflower, bell peppers, and pork shank that was quite tasty. Unbeknownst to me, the shank meat was already cooked and gave my dish an incredible aroma. I consider it a sleeper hit. Who knew that my love for archery would lead to good food for my family and friends?
June 17, 2019 - Day 38 - I scored 277/300 and 16 X rings. My aim was a bit shaky today, so many of my 5's were lucky shots touching the edge of the white circle. You would never guess that was happening with the result on the right. I tried target practice on the little orange ball, but could only spear it once in 18 tries. I believe my poor aim was me consciously trying to incorporate a "transfer to hold" step in my shooting steps. I learned this "new step" from the USA Archery instructor manual's eleven-step shooting process. Up until today, I didn't think about transfer to hold. I just did it as part of the anchor step. I feel that each of the eleven steps are not equal, so giving each one equal weight, as implied by the manual, can seriously impair an archer's results.
June 24, 2019 - Day 39 - The humidity and distractions got to me and affected my score. I scored 272/300 and 9 X rings. Most of my shots were low. Perhaps I'll do better next time.
August 17, 2019 - Day 40 - It was my first day back at the range, so it took a couple of hours to get myself acclimated again. I don't consistently lift my bow the same way each time. On occasion, I cant my arm a little, causing the arrow to fall off to the side just enough so that the launch pad prongs of my arrow rest, a RipCord Ace, don't catch the arrow. This leads to frustration as I lose my focus when I'm forced to let down my draw. I needed an arrow rest that would account for my lack of consistency; all of my research led me to choose the VaporTrail Gen 7. The Gen 7 is a limb-driven system that is popular with hunters. It is a full-containment rest that keeps the arrow in place. As soon as the arrow is fired, the rest drops, allowing the arrow safe passage through the rest area. All of this happens in the blink of an eye so the arrow's vanes don't hit the V, which would cause the arrow to be redirected. I bought this rest to accommodate the larger diameter arrows I'll be purchasing in the near future.
August 24, 2019 - Day 41 - I taught my first class in archery today. My student got them all in the bullseye! I demonstrated the proper stance and shooting form and hit what I could only describe as a "sprout," when all six arrows look like they're coming out of a single hole. In my haste to pull out my arrows, I didn't get a picture of it, but another archer warned me not to keep doing that or I'll split another arrow. My distance shooting was terrible as I needed to adjust my sight for the new arrow rest. I managed to get all of my arrows within the rings last time by compensating for what I saw through my site.
September 7, 2019 - Day 42 - When you don't feel good about your shooting, it's good to go back to basics, the fundamentals you learned that helped you become a good shooter. I know I can be deadly accurate with my hunting bow, so I practiced with that today. I retrained myself to be the steady shooter I was from three months ago. I can certainly hit the animal targets and even slayed the deer target, but my target shooting is still a little wonky. More practice needed. I had Herb decrease my draw weight down to pre-hunt specifications, so my bow feels a lot better now.
September 8, 2019 - USA Archery Level 1 Instructor Certification Course - Herb taught an intensive Level 1 training course to three experienced shooters. All three of us passed our final exams. We covered the entire manual and also discussed a lot of practical material not found in the book. The concept of "transfer to hold" in the certification manual is basically back tension, one of the other students said. "Don't tilt your head to touch the bowstring with your nose. Let the bow come to you," Herb taught. Another good tip was to wait for our shot to be heard on the target before moving. If we cannot hear the shot, then we count "1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi." "If you tilt the bow up or down, your elbow should follow. Bow goes up, elbow goes down. Bow goes down, elbow goes up," Herb said. Throughout the history of B&A Archery, Herb has seen it all. Archers come into the shop with all kinds of misconfigurations on their bows, no matter where they purchased their bows from. Herb stated that there are only two master tuners on the East Coast: Bill Arroe and Lenny Marsh. During one of Lenny's seminars, Lenny would consult with Bill for accuracy in what he taught.
September 15, 2019 - USA Archery Level 2 Instructor Certification Course - My classmates and I continued our Level 2 training course with Herb and all three of us passed our final exams. We breezed through the entire manual, since most of it was a refresher from last week's course and we already knew most of the material. The majority of our time was spent teaching each other the basics of an archery class. We were encouraged to simulate a real-world situation by doing what typical beginners would do in order to get the teacher-in-training to recognize common issues that need to be addressed during a typical class.
September 21, 2019 - Day 43 - Today I taught my first official class to Anna, a new student with no archery experience. She reminded me a lot of me the first time I tried the sport. I taught her the basics of shooting and emphasized consistency in everything she did. Anna was a quick study, but kept failing to position her bow arm properly. We switched to a lighter bow, because the heavier bow didn't allow her to pull the bowstring back enough. After 45 minutes of instruction, she knew all of the basics and was shooting by herself. I shot with both of my bows today. I had not shot Saeko, my purple Fanatic, in over a month. Fwatt-ta-ta-ta... was the sound I kept hearing again and again as my arrows would leave Saeko. I kept missing and readjusting my sight, never quite achieving the accuracy I'm known for. "What the heck is that rattling noise?" Bill asked. I shrugged. I handed him my bow. Bill noticed that a couple of items on my bow had gotten loose: my arrow rest and my string suppressor. He tightened up the loose screws and I was firing well once again. Shortly afterwards, I was grouping tightly and did it again... my sixth Robin Hood. I looked through my binoculars and saw the back of my arrow twirling around its point of impact. When it was time to retrieve our arrows, some of the other archers ran to look. "I've never seen a Robin Hood live and up close," one of the archers said, enthusiastically. "May I take pictures of it?" he asked, and I said yes. I walked over to Anna, holding up my Robin Hood. "This is why I'm your teacher," I said to her, "and you can do this, too!" Her eyes widened and I knew she was hooked. At my recommendation, she purchased a Bear Cruzer G2 and a set of arrows right then and there.
September 23, 2019 - Day 44 - I got some good shots on the 3D targets, but a mundane NFAA score. Ah, well. I bought six more pink arrows, since I only had four pink arrows remaining after the Robin Hood on Saturday. I also placed an order for Dan McCarthy PS23 arrows and a purple Diamond Series V-bar stabilizer set. Ann was doing well with her new bow. She was able to shoot the back wall by the end of the day. Bill advised Ann to watch how I shoot. David, another new archer, asked me lots of questions during practice. New folks are still in awe that little me shot that great big hog in May.
I visited Bass Pro Shops in Atlantic City recently and wasn't impressed with their archery section. Before I bought Saeko, I was in awe of Bass Pro, but now that I'm familiar with real pro shops, like B&A and Lancaster Archery, Bass Pro feels like Sears.
September 28, 2019 - Day 45 - I helped my youngest son return to archery. He's a pretty good shot, but a little off to the right. He refuses to have a peep sight installed. I convinced him to get a loop on his bowstring to allow him to shoot more consistently. I practiced shooting a little rainbow-colored ball and skewered it on the sixth arrow of my first set, then on the third arrow of my second set. My luck ran out after that as I wasn't able to skewer the little ball again.
October 5, 2019 - Day 46 - What started as a good, steady day of shooting unravelled after four ends. My shot kept moving to the left, little by little. It was eerie. I kept adjusting my sight, but my shot continued moving to the left. I thought there was something wrong with my bow again. I then gave up on the NFAA 300 scoring and practiced at five yards to regain my confidence. 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4. I shot at three different targets and grouped the arrows so tight you couldn't slide paper between them. I shot lines across the targets, hitting the white dividing lines between the rings with razor sharp accuracy. I shot in the sliver of space between another set of target pages, again with razor sharp accuracy. There was nothing wrong with my bow. It could be that my triple practice today - yoga, aikido, and archery - finally took its toll on me. I just wanted to see if I could do all three in one day and I did, but at what price? Finding your shot is a very humbling experience.
October 8, 2019 - Day 47 - It took me a while, but I finally got my shot back. I scored 264/300 and 9 X rings in the first round and 280/300 and 15 X rings in the second round. 280/300 is my best score yet. No end was less than 22 points. Whenever you feel you're losing your touch, always go back to basics and practice shooting at five yards to rebuild your confidence. I wonder if not having my binoculars on hand to check every shot actually helped me.
October 15, 2019 - Day 48 - My first round included a couple of missed spots in the first four ends. Once I got into a groove, I ended up with a score of 270//300 and 13 X rings. I rested a bit and shot a second round, scoring 287/300 and 22 X rings. I replaced the frayed launcher pad on Saeko.
November 9, 2019 - Day 49 - Herb finished creating my new Dan McCarthy PS23 arrows today. I was amazed at how light they were. They're wider than my pink Outlaws, but weigh less! I scored 269/300 and 17 X rings with my pink Outlaws, but only because in my second half, a couple of newbies placed their movable target stand in front of my targets, so I was forced to shoot the remainder of my shoot at an angle. I will need to return to the shop to get Saeko adjusted to my PS23s.
November 12, 2019 - Day 50 - Bill adjusted my sight and loop to accommodate my new PS23s. Prior to the upgrade, I shot a modest 273/300 and 15 X rings with my pink Outlaws. I missed a target in the next to last end. I guess I will have to relegate using my pink arrows to Baby Bear. Bill told me to be ready for people who can shoot a perfect score in the Lancaster Archery tournament. "That's what they do. They'll come frome Italy or some other country and shoot the lights out," he said. Even if I manage to score 300/300, will I be able to score 600/600? The champions can score that and get close to a perfect number of X rings.
November 16, 2019 - Day 51 - A modest 265/300 and 16 X rings as I tried to microtune my sight to my new PS23s. I ended up buying new red nocks because I couldn't see the white ones on my arrows through my binoculars. What started as a fun two-hour excursion ended up being a traffic nightmare as I got stuck in a two-hour delay going home.