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 want 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 that time I saw you, I had told my children about you. I 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.