Filthie's Mobile Fortress Of Solitude

Filthie's Mobile Fortress Of Solitude
Where Great Intelligence Goes To Be Insulted

Friday, 3 March 2023

Friday Ramble: A Bow Bender’s Epiphany

 In my glory days I lived on my bow. My last one was a Darton 75 pounder back in the 90’s and I’d have at least 100 arrows coming off that thing - day in, day out. If there was a tournament, I was in it. It was a hunting bow and even so, I was still shooting at a sub-Olympic level with it. To get in with that crowd I would have had to trade that bow in for a dedicated target bow shooting little pencil lead arrows…and I just couldn’t do it. The bum in the mirror wouldn’t stand for it.


It was glorious. I went to a formal regional 90m regional tourney with 3 beers down my back quiver and still came in second. But that was formal target shooting and I never went to another official field event after that, much to the relief of the competitors. None of this is to boast or blow hot air; the fact is that I shot so well because I spent so much time on the bow. If you shot like I did, it's likely that you would have shot even better than I did. It's one of those things  where ya get out what ya put in.

I lived for the new 3D tournaments that combined the formality of the field tournaments with the relaxed atmosphere of golf and the skills of actual hunting. The targets are foam likenesses of game animals like bears, deer, moose, antelope. Nowadays it is even better... they have life size targets for dinosaurs, sasquatches, beavers, javelinas, turkeys... you name it. The competition was cut throat too... you miss a shot, or misjudge your ranges, just once... you're done, the rest of the tourney is just a formality before you lose in the agony of defeat! There will be no thrill of victory for you!!! HAR! I spent alot of time in that agony but it was a joyful hurt! I was shooting a hunter's bow so in my mind I was still a winner of sorts. The guys with higher scores respected me for it too.

Altough my equipment was not optimal for serious target work, it was pretty much top tier for its day. If ya shoot like I did, ya learn what works and what doesn't pretty fast. But soon I started getting sucked into the competitiveness of the sport. And I learned a bitter lesson - the "pros" in archery are, for the most part, fakes. I truly think it's probably that way for a lot of other sports too. I saw men I actually admired - stooping to blatant cheating on the course and that just turned me right off. I was putting the time in, I was playing by the rules, I was paying the entrance fees, I was helping set up and take down the targets... and these fucks - sanctioned, for the most part, by the big manufacturers... were cheating like bastards! I lost interest in the sport, hung up my bow and called it a day. I wasn't the only one either... many other excellent shooters did so too... or they just stopped going to the tourneys and shot informally against the bum in the mirror. That's probly what I shoulda done... but I like rifles... and so I started shooting them instead, and pretty much stayed out of the competitions. The rub comes in these things when there is big money, big egos, and lots of prestige tied up in the event. People are people and they do what they do. If there is no governing authority to check the cheaters... you may as well not bother. I had also developed a raging case of target panic and that was the last straw. I couldn't get in front of it and lost patience trying to do so.

Fast forwarding 25 years... I found myself prematurely retired. I needed a source of cheap entertainment, and a motivator to get out of bed in the morn... and so I bought a bow. I know my way around the bow and pointy sticks... so I bought a Matthews Vertix, high end sights, a new-fangled drop away rest, forward stabilizer, etc. I already had a top notch release and other arrow building supplies ... and I started shooting. I went in with the attitude that I was going to be a casual shooter and avoid the competitive end of things. My equipment is pretty much the top end of what is commonly available to shooters today. There are elite national competitors with highly customized expensive stuff that may (or may not) be better... but for the customer off the street, supplied by the local pro shop...? It doesn't get much better. There may be other stuff that is as good as mine...but it will be top tier too. In this game its all a matter of fit and what works for you.

I went to the range... and my shooting was HORRIBLE. I figured it was age, trying to mesh with vastly improved technology. I thought my eyes were gone. My target panic was back in force. Worst of all... this top tier bow in my hands didn't sing to me. Errr... allow me to explain that:

Top end shooters know whether a shot is good or bad before the arrow (or bullet, even) - hits the target. Something will feel 'off' and it will manifest itself in where the projectile hits. In archery, if you hit left... usually it is because you did something stupid with your bow arm. If the arrow hits right, usually it’s your release was sloppy. Errors in elevation usually indicate sloppy anchoring points. Sometimes shit just happens too I suppose. When you graduate from being a shooter to an actual marksman... your bow (or rifle) will tell you what you did wrong by where you hit. It “talks” or sings to you and if you listen to it …you can self correct. If it sings…you can improve. 

Epiphany #1: Bows shoot best when they are allowed to "shoot themselves". All error in archery comes from human involvement... usually those mentioned above. We set up a good bow with stuff that is designed to minimize or forgive small errors in shooting form. That is what the peep sights, fall-away arrow rests, stabilizers, etc - are all about.  I HAD MY BOW SET UP TO DO ALL THESE THINGS. That is fine for a top tier shooter; their form is almost near perfect and these add ons make perfect sense. For the beginner? Or the shooter returning to the sport after a long absence? It's a recipe for failure and frustration. Today's bows are so advanced that they will actually 'mask' or minimize problems with form. I was making mistakes with no ability to really see what caused them. It was INFURIATING. After an especially dismal session one day… I figured I'd shoot the bow in its hunting configuration - I just took off the heavy stabilizer, and started a half assed session with the tiny targets, pretending they were grouse or upland birds. And...it almost makes me want to weep with relief and joy - the bow FINALLY began to sing to me. I'd blow my shot and hit Quartermain's target... and lo and behold, when I took extra care with the release... the arrows went right to the bullseye.  My release is now almost perfect - I'm super quiet, with a musical, almost silent "thwip!" noise that comes with a properly release arrow. If I put one into Jack's target on the right... welp... what happened with my bow arm? In a mere 20 minutes my groups shrank by 30%! I had harvested enough hypothetical chickens for a big supper and I was on Cloud Nine. I was starting to shoot like me again.

Epiphany #2: Target panic. Find out what it is, and what it means to you. Get it explained to you in a way that makes sense to you. I have had the condition (and how to treat it) explained on at least a dozen YouTubes, presented by the finest shooters and coaches in the sport today. I tried to apply their fixes. Nothing worked for me. One day I watched one lecture by Clay Hayes on the topic... and it finally made sense. The guy he chatted with was a stubfart stickbow shooter... and when he explained the phenomenon and how it works... countering it became much easier. With my bow finally able to speak for itself, and the left hand knowing what the right hand was doing... I am slowly making inroads with it. I still struggle with it, I still blow my shots…but I am on the way up again.

I suppose all this is just the old nickel about how sometimes... the best thing you can do is clear away the old problems, start with a clean slate, and go back over the basics of marksmanship. And one of the basics is... being able to listen to your bow. 

And yourself.



21 comments:

  1. I'm not a archer but this is a darned good read. Thanks. As far as the bum in the mirror- when I get my fatass out of the shower, I look in the mirror and think "who the hell let you in my house!"

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    1. “I'm not a archer but this is a darned good.”
      +1
      I was thinking exactly the same thing just now.

      Mike_C

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    2. Well thanks for saying so fellas… and thanks for dropping in.

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  2. " I learned a bitter lesson - the "pros" in archery are, for the most part, fakes. I truly think it's probably that way for a lot of other sports too."

    Reminds me of those 2 Bass tournament "pros" who always seemed to win and then were caught with lead in all of their turned in fish. The crowd wanted to tears their limbs off.

    By the way, golf is just as bad for attitude and stress as any other sport, perhaps much worse. It is infested with alpha male posturing about things that are actually feminine concerns, like golf fashion, what you do and how much you bring home, etc. Golf is the chosen participatory sport of the business management upwardly mobile type of course. Everything they do and display while taking part in the game itself or the inevitable hanging out at the club afterward is for show. If there is a backup or slower party at the tee, most golfers I have seen will huff and puff about being forced to wait and then demand to play through. Its a power trip, they hurry through each hole and crowd whoever is playing ahead of them as if the whole point was to finish the course in record time and play though 18 party's that started out ahead of them. Last time I played, over 30 years ago, I was in a group with a co-worker who was the typical "sales" type. He chastised me for wearing sneakers instead of golf shoes, generally looking like I had street clothes on, having rummage sale clubs, and preferring to tee off with a 3 iron. All the while he played 2 balls on each hole and and was allegedly keeping score on one and just practicing with the other. Of course he was not as good as his wardrobe suggested, and he was always all over the course and in the rough with both balls. I watched intently and counted without looking like I was watching and he easily was up around 16-18 strokes per hole between the 2 balls. He would always ask me on the putting green what my lye was and he would always be 1 or 2 strokes less than me, which could only mean he was a blatant cheater. To top it off he informed me a few times while filling out the scorecard that I needed to work on my game. I really do hate golf.

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    1. Aye, I know a bit about that too. I come from a family of golfers and you are exactly right. It might be okay if you’re out with your buds foe fun…but out with the boss? Or the fags at work? GAH. I’d rather work or do chores than that…

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  3. Me and my Matthews, spent 45 minutes a day every day, before I had kids. It's true, you will just *know*.

    Like my old sensei said, perfect practice builds muscle memory.

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    1. Yes. The better you get, the less time you have to spend “refreshing your memory” too…

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  4. A 22lr from a decent rifle makes all the bow shit fall to the ground and twitch.

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  5. 1st time in 22 years my bow did not come out of the case 1 single time, no target shooting, no bowhunts, nothing.
    It's an uneasy feeling, lots of reasons why.
    Hopefully the fire will relight sooner than too late.

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    1. I know exactly how that is, A. It takes a certain frame of mind to properly enjoy it.

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  6. I shoot a Hoyt Charger. It's a 2011 version I bought off a friend of mine who's kind of a 'bow nerd'. It still shoots great and I have no plans to get rid of it.

    I don't get these guys who have to go out and buy the 'next big thing' when it comes to bows or anything else. Fuck, when John Dudley moved over from being Hoyt's man to endorsing PSE, there was a whole bunch of dudes who ditched their Hoyts (which are STILL awesome bows) just because of that. I don't even understand where they find the disposable income for that....good bows are NOT cheap.

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    1. I know! The ‘pro’s’ and cool kids have to have the latest and greatest; I know several shooters like that… and they pay nose bleed prices to do it too. Hoyt is good; the only reason I don’t shoot one is because the Matthews felt better in my hands and that was a totally subjective decision. PSE are good too.

      If you’re ever in Aaaadmontin and ya want to fling a few…let me know!

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  7. Great read, Glen. Thank you.
    Moved to a Tenpoint crossbow when the shoulder started acting up a few years ago. Still miss the stalk. I'm not able to get out there anymore, and the crossbow's been sitting idle for a couple of years.
    Maybe an elk will show up at my back door some day?

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    1. Oh man… I’d LOVE to have a crossbow. Ten Point is one of the better brands, isn’t it? My problem with them is that they aren’t legal to hunt with in Alberta…

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    2. I'm not an expert, I just saved up to get the priciest one on the wall. It's a great bow, light and quiet on the cocker. Has a red dot and anything under 30 yards doesn't stand a chance.
      Never understood why some places don't let you hunt with them. It's nice for the old geezers and those with disabilities.

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  8. I bought my first brand new bow in 2008 and still shoot it today. Before it I had a couple different used bows I picked up from friends. Every year in the late summer I get the bow out and start shooting the dust off it and me and proclaim I’m just gonna buy a new one this year. But I never do and this old bow and me have been through it all. It’s dropped 50+ deer, a few turkeys, a few hundred squirrels, 3 coyotes, raccoons, possums and even some gar fish.

    I get new strings every 3 years and build my own arrows so it’s cheap to keep.

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    1. If it works, smile and shoot it! I am coming up on time for strings and cables too…

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  9. Back in my college days I would go shoot every day, for hours. Never really got good, but it was cheap entertainment once I laid out the money for bow and arrows. Shooting guns required buying bullets each trip, arrows were reusable. Then I tore up my elbow, ripped tendons, couldn't shoot for years. Finally had surgery. Still my bow arm is way weaker and I can barely pull back a sling shot. But still, got my sling shot out and put a few stainless steel balls thru a beer can yesterday. The feeling of knowing it's a good shot just as you release - nothing compares. You're right - it sings to you.

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  10. A good exercise for pistols and bows is to take a dumbbell and hold it level to a wall switch one handed. If you can hold a 8lb weight motionless at full extension for 90 seconds. A loaded handgun or bow is cake.

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  11. I have nothing to add to this missive - loved my Darton back in the day and competed against the pros and the marksmen of the time and did pretty well considering what I was shooting compared to their kit. I pretty much lost my heart for the whole business after a burglary took all my bows and most of my other hunting equipment.

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