15 Screws To Keep Tight On Your ILF Bow!

Congratulations, you just bought your first ILF bow! Maybe you chose an ILF bow for it’s ease of break down and set up; maybe you wanted a specific color; maybe a metal “techie” look is more appealing to you than a wood bow; maybe you like the versatility of limb choices; maybe you like the mass weight compared to a wood bow (or maybe you got the best of both worlds and bought an ILF wood riser). Whatever your reason, you now need to know one thing about your ILF bow: there are lots of little screws and nuts & bolts that can and will rattle loose with the shock of shooting your bow. More important – many of those little screws, nuts & bolts and parts & pieces to which they are attached are hard to replace – some are irreplaceable! If you are not “mechanically inclined” this may be a problem for you. But hey, you built that IKEA desk didn’t you? So don’t sweat it; read on and look closely at the pictures!

The bow example is an SF Archery Axiom Plus Light and a set of SF Archery Axiom Plus Recurve limbs. Other bow models may have more or fewer screws, nuts, & bolts than this one.

The focus of this post is for newbie SAFETY and keeping your riser in one piece. If you want to know exactly what these screws, nuts & bolts do, and why, read this “manual” for the SF Archery riser: SF Archery Axiom Manual. Your bow can become very unsafe if most of these screws, nuts & bolts come loose – please get help from your pro shop if you are reading this too late. Also, find your nearest local SMALL hardware store – they will be more helpful to you than a big impersonal store in finding that one little .08 cent screw that means the difference between you being able to shoot your new bow or not. Otherwise, read and learn.

Clicker Blade Screw – Remove It

This little screw allows you to mount a blade style “clicker” onto your bow. You probably don’t know what that is yet. Forget about it. If you decide to get a clicker of any quality later, it will come with a screw. But because this one is there for no good reason, it will fall out one day and freak you out. Someone will see it fall off if you don’t, and you’ll be, like, Oh No! A screw fell off my bow! Is it important?!! Remove it and throw it away. I remove these from the bows I sell, yet I frequently find them on the floor of my shop – what does that tell you?!

Grip Screws – periodically check and tighten if necessary

We’re going to start easy and build up to more scary things as your confidence builds.

These two little screws mount your bow grip to the bow. Your bow grip is your most important interface with your bow – equal to the string. If the grip screws become loose the bow grip will shift under the weight of the draw – it could cause erratic shots. It will almost certainly cause weird creaking noises that will drive you nuts. There should be one on each side of the grip. On the example bow, there are Phillip’s Head screws – on some bows, they are small hex head screws.

Limb Bolts – periodically check and tighten if necessary

Your ILF Bow is designed to allow you to increase or decrease the draw weight by a minor degree, maybe 1 – 1.5 LBS in either direction depending on draw length. This is accomplished by loosening a lock screw (2nd photo, the one on the back of the riser), then turning the shiny flat bolt on the front of the riser either clockwise to increase draw weight, or counter-clockwise to decrease draw weight. If you are a newbie and/or not mechanically inclined, FORGET THIS – it’s complicated and potentially dangerous to mess with this. However it is very important to periodically check both of these bolts for tightness and tighten them down if they are loose. Notice the nice little pack of hex head wrenches that came with this bow in the 3rd photo. Also notice the two “multi tool” sets in the photo – these do not come with the bow, but you need them. One metric and one SAE (American). Many, many risers and bow accessories have half metric and half SAE nuts & bolts holding them together! In the SF Archery riser featured here, the 5mm hex head wrench in the 1st photo that is supposed to fit that bolt doesn’t! It’s too small and any moderate force would result in you stripping the bolt! Take charge, get yourself two multi tools.

Block Bolt – periodically check and tighten as necessary

This limb flange “block” is 50% of what holds that limb safely and securely in place after you magically snap that limb into place. The other 50% is that rod/bolt under the shiny disk bolt that you checked and/or tightened in the previous step. I’m focusing on safety here. If that sucker works loose and you don’t notice, very bad things can happen. Check it. Tighten if necessary.

Limb/Riser Adjustment screws – frequently check and tighten as necessary

If you look closely at the block bolt in the previous photo, you will notice two screws on either side of it. These screws allow you to shift that block left or right to best “align” the limbs in the riser. For some reason, these rattle loose more than any other screw/bolt on the bow. CHECK THEM MORE THAN PERIODICALLY. I’ve also found them hard to replace for a couple of bows – CHECK THEM AND DON’T LOSE THEM! There is one on each side of the top and bottom limb bolt pockets for a total of at least 4 (I came a cross an ILF Traditional riser that had TWO on each side for a total of 8 screws – CHECK THEM!).

The ILF Limbs Themselves – frequently check and tighten as necessary

OK, here’s the one that catches everyone off guard. That slick little magic disk that slides into the limb pocket block is made up of many parts that can and will rattle loose! There is a screw or hex head bolt that holds everything in place. There is a pin that “floats” with pressure from a small spring that allows you to snap that limb into place, and most importantly, pull it back out without a lot of effort and no tools! There is sometimes a little collar that the screw nestles into. If you lose any of these parts you will most likely need to buy a whole new set of limbs. My supplier scrounged up a set for me ONCE for a customer – we made a set of Frankenlimbs that worked.

Now here’s the part where the moderate to severely mechanically inclined can stop screaming at me. Get yourself some “Threadlocker” also known as “Locktight.” It’s a little tube of gel that you can apply to the threads of most of the screws, nuts & bolts I’ve identified. It will “lock” them in place. That can be good and bad. I can see no reason not to apply it to the limb flange screws – can’t imagine why you would ever WANT to take those apart. But you may at some point WANT to adjust all the other screws I’ve shown you. Putting thread locker on those other screws may make it difficult for you to loosen them when you want, so defer to checking and tightening periodically (or frequently as noted).

Sorry to be a buzz kill after you felt so good about buying that new bow – but I want you to enjoy it forever. With great bow comes great responsibility ūüôā

Archery isn’t popular, it’s an Archetype!

In a 2013 press release, USA Archery cited a 105% membership increase from 2011 – 2013. In that same period, they also noted huge increases in tournament participation, and demand for instructor certification. USA Archery and other organizations are quick to suggest the increase is a direct result of the prevalance of archery heroines and heros in movies and television. This is only part of the reason; archery isn’t just popular, it’s an Archetype!

The term “archetype” has its origins in ancient Greek. The root words are archein, which means original or old, and typos, which means pattern, model or type. The combined meaning is an “original pattern.” A synonym is prototype.

mother & child

The psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung, used the concept of archetype in his theory of the human psyche. He believed that universal models, archetypes, reside within the collective unconscious (as opposed to the personal unconscious) of people the world over. Archetypes are universal; everyone inherits the same basic archetypal images. Common examples include birth, rebirth, death, power, magic, the hero, the child, the trickster, God, the demon, the wise old man, the earth mother, the giant, many natural objects like trees, the sun, the moon, wind, rivers, fire, animals, and many human-made objects such as rings and weapons. There are as many archetypes as there are typical situations in life. Endless repetion has engraved these experiences into our psyches (Hall and Nordby).

cave painting 2

Representations or versions of these common archetypes appear in cave drawings, myths, legends, literature and other forms of recorded history. Every infant throughout the world inherits a mother archetype. This preformed image is then developed into a definite image by the actual mother’s appearance, behavior and experiences the baby has with her. Archetypes are not fully developed pictures in the mind like memory experiences. Instead, think of them more like a (photographic) negative that has to be devloped by experience (Hall and Nordby).

We can have no idea of how, or indeed why the principle of shooting with a bow was first discovered and then used. There are plenty of speculations and assumptions untouched by either fact or, indeed, artifact, for little survives to provide us with concrete evidence. Much of the controversy over the Lars Andersen videos has to do with his unsupported assertions about archery history based on his assumptions about what a few paintings “prove.” However, evidence for bow usage is suggested in early rock drawings. These show animals driven toward a group of archers who are busily engaged in their culling; and what seems plausible is that by the late Stone Age, a simple bow for this purpose had emerged in common use around the globe (Soar). It shouldn’t be hard to hypothesize that many of our archetypes were established by our human ancestors’ experiences in the Prehistoric & Stone Age times.

vintage photo 1

Archery experienced a “golden age” in the United States that started sometime in the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Archery returned as an Olympic event in 1972. You can trace the beginning of many of the outdoor archery clubs and ranges to about this time (Camera). Many if not all of the archers I know who were involved in the sport during the 50’s through the 70’s liken archery’s current popularity to what they call “bubbles” of interest throughout the years that coincided with specific media events during that time; during that period you can count the number of such events on one hand, maybe two. They talk about it as if they’ve seen it before, as if this too is a bubble that will pass.

movies

So yes, the prevalance of archery heroes and heroines in the popular media has a lot to do with the popularity of archery. It seems like every action movie that comes out has an archer. There are numerous TV shows that feature archers. Archery is promininent in video games. The Summer Olympics are approaching. But it’s not just the popular media that is helping the archetypal image to develop. Social media is also playing a big part. Popular hunters, recreational archers, and Olympic archers update their followers daily (sometimes hourly!) about their activities. For better or worse, you can look up anything you want to know about archery on YouTube and other video media channels. Just multiply the handful of media events that sparked “bubbles of interest” during the Golden Age times a million and you’ll understand why Archery isn’t just popular; the archery archetype is being brought to the forefront of our psyches like it never has before – it is here to stay.

Cited References

A Primer of Jungian Psychology. Calvin S. Hall and Vernon J. Nordby (1999)

The Crooked Stick; A History of the Longbow. Hugh D. H. Soar (2004)

Shooting the Stickbow; A Practical Approach to Classical Archery. Anthony Camera (2008)

 

The Magic 7 Relaxation Points

Over the years I have seen more than a few archers with the word “Relax” plastered on their bow, obviously intended to help them do so.¬†Those I have spoken to about it share impressive techniques for managing what’s referred to as “the mental game” in archery; managing the things that one thinks about while shooting. Experts and other authors often write about the mental game as if it’s the only thing one needs to work on.

relax

Many people who take my beginner class express surprise that archery is relaxing – “It’s like yoga with a weapon!” Some make the connection to how often I coach them on how to relax in specific aspects of their form and technique, others just ackowledge the phenomenon. In this post I’m going to get specific and practical about relaxation – I will share with you what I call “The Magic 7 Relaxation Points.” Mental game relaxation and other skills like visualization will be addressed in future posts.

The Magic 7 Relaxation Points

Target Orientation

As you approach your shooting position (the shooting line, a stake on a field course, etc.), approach it as if you are walking up to a friend you’re really happy to see. Your step should be light, and there should be a playful eagerness to your stride. Stand on your mark as if you belong there and there is no place you would rather be at that moment. Calm the pace of your breathing, and “center” yourself, as you get ready to start your shot sequence. Now here is the important part: get in your T-shape with the bow arm extended, mock anchor on your face, and let your posture losely “drop” or settle into place – square up at the target. Are you “pointing” directly at the target in a “loose as a goose” manner? If not, you will use muscles in your arms and/or possibly your hips to aim yourself at the target at some stage in your shot setup. Great. However, upon release your body will “snap back” to the direction it is naturally aimed at, and this will most likely happen before the arrow has completely left the bow, resulting in a right or left miss. If you watch professional baseball or football you often hear the analysts comment about an athlete “throwing across his body” – this is the same thing.

Hips

Moving your bow arm independently up, down, left, or right to achieve your aiming goal or desired sight picture is a bad thing to do. It is the equivalent of collapsing your shot. Collapsing your shot means not pulling through the shot or achieving a consistent draw length; it also results in a poor release. Because¬†you reduce your draw length a bit, sometimes a lot, the result is¬†a major change in your equipment tune; your arrows are now too stiff. So, any aiming adjustments you need to make left or right are best achieved with proper target orientation as mentioned above. Small left/right adjustments can be made by slightly swivelling from your hips, but not too much. Adjustments for shooting at an uphill or downhill target, or targets closer/farther than your “point on” distance should also be made from the hips: you should maintain your T-shape and simply allow yourself to “tip” forward or backward from the hips as if your upper and lower body were on a “hinge.” These proper adjustments require a relaxed ¬†hip/waist.

Bow Grip

Every “how to” book that I’ve ever read about archery, whether Olympic, Barebow, Compound, etc. emphasizes the importance of a relaxed grip on the bow (we won’t get into “high” v. “low” grip in this post). Olympic and Compound archers strive for the heaviest possible bow mass weight they can handle and they essentially let the bow “float” in their hand. Most of these archers also use some sort of wrist or finger sling. In addition to sometimes literally keeping the bow from falling out of their hands, the sling sends a subconscious message to the brain that the bow will not fall out of their hand, even if the actual potential for that does not exist. Most people who shoot a lighter mass weight bow (e.g. 2LBS or less) find they need to grip the bow a little tighter. I have personally found that a non-modern “stick” style longbow requires a rather firm grip. In the end, you want the most relaxed grip your equipment choice will allow – a “death grip” or “choking” the bow results in undesired bow arm tension and bow torque, and travels all the way “down the line” or through your entire draw/aim/release unit (wrist-forearm-elbow-triceps-shoulder, etc., etc.).

Shoulders

For some reason tensing the shoulders is one of the first bad habits an archer develops and one of the most pervasive needing focus and attention throughout an archers participation in the sport. To the observer, the shoulders “rise” toward the ears – I’ve seen some archers whose draw side ear actually touches their shoulder! The best way to avoid this is to consciously confirm that your shoulders are relaxed as you start your shot sequence. There are too many shot sequence systems around to suggest exactly when one should do this (during the draw, before you anchor, etc.). But you absolutely should focus on this if it is a problem for you. Tense shoulders have direct a cause and effect realtionship to just about every possible form flaw – bow torque, plucking, collapsing, etc.

Neck

Your neck is the part of your body from which you achieve consistent and proper head position. I’ve found most archers have a problem with this aspect of body awareness, beginning or advanced. You need a coach or other outside oberver to video tape you so you can see what you are doing. Shooting in front of a mirror can work too. Where you settle your head in order to establish your desired sight picture is very personal. I do not believe there is any one right or wrong position. It simply must be effective, easily & subconsciously achieved and consistent from one shot to the next. Think of it this way. Your anchor and head position are equivalent to the rear sight on a rifle. If that sight was loose, not attached properly, and flopping around you’d never hit anything – at least not consistently. Your neck needs to be relaxed thus enabling you to settle into your consistent and effective head position. Think of that scary wobbly neck that newborn children have – I’ve always referred to that as a melon on a rubber band. Well maybe your neck shouldn’t be that loose, but almost.

Face

This is where archery gets comical. There are all sorts of opinions out there about shooting with both eyes open or with one eye closed. It depends on the archer, the style of shooting, and eye dominance. How one processes the visual information presented by the target is very personal from a neurological, psychological, and physical perspective. I’ll leave it at that. My only rule with people I teach and coach is this. If you decide to close an eye to help you aim, great. But, if closing that eye causes you to tense your face up, that facial tension is going to travel from your face to, you guessed it, your neck, your shoulders, etc. etc. It’s really fun to see how distorted people’s faces get when they decide they must close an eye to aim best. It’s also a funny moment when people forget about eye dominance and close the wrong eye – and shoot a perfect bull’s eye, on the target in the lane next to them!

Release

I recently read that a steady (not tense) bow arm is more important than a good release, and will actually help minimize the negative effects of a bad release. I don’t know if that’s true, but I DO know that I have observed lots of bad shots that were a direct result of a pluck or other bad release. I’ve also seen LOTS of people manufacture a release follow through because they (think they) know their release hand should dramatically fly backward with an impressive looking flourish. They have improperly convinced themselves that the felt backward motion of that draw arm is “good feedback” about their release. I get it – it’s something concrete that you can feel and others can observe telling you and the world that you are doing it right, and, it looks cool. I’ve also seen archers manufacture forward bow roll – they use muscles in their hand/wrist to make the bow roll forward upon release. To recap so far on this point: archers sometimes use muscles to force a dynamic follow through or forward bow roll – using muscles creates tension, the opposite of relaxation, and this is bad. I like the Zen teaching for a proper release the best. Imagine a branch on a tree collecting snow. At some point the weight of the snow becomes too substantial and the tree branch “gives way” to the weight and the snow falls off. This is a great analogy for an archery release. The bow arm is extended and steady, pushing forward in many systems, and you continue to pull through the shot (using back muscles and upper body chest expansion). As you continue this slow steady push/pull you relax your string fingers and allow the string to pull through your now loose fingers; you do not use muscles to open your fingers (that’s plucking), you relax them and let all that stored energy in the string from the drawn bow do the work. Depending on the amount of draw weight in your bow, your release hand, if relaxed, will most likely experience a bit of recoil or backward motion across your face; it may also have very little or no backward motion, what some call a “dead release.” In my opinion there is nothing wrong whatsoever with a dead release; it is certainly preferable to a pluck! Going back to my earlier comment about a manufactured release follow through: I’ve done video analysis on many archers which shows that the manufactured release follow through results in a bow arm that significantly pushes to the left (for a right handed archer). The release looks cool and impressive, but the shot misses left. Then the archer adjusts the windage on her or his sight, and the cycle begins . . .

Oh no, how do I fix this?!!!

Two terms: Blank Bale Practice and Process Goals.

If you are serious about improving your archery skills how and how often you practice becomes really important. You need to do more than shoot lots of arrows at a target trying to hit bull’s eyes once a week (or less) – very few of us are naturally skilled enough to get away with that. Most of the best archers I know shoot “1,000 arrows a week” or “6 hours a week,” etc. But what they do when they shoot that much is what matters.

Shooting at a blank bale from close distance (10-20 feet) allows you to focus on form and technique. 10 – 20 feet eliminates as much as possible the compulsion to try and hit something specific. I say “as much as possible” because trying to aim at and hit something seems to be hard to resist – most archers I talk to say it’s really hard not to try and hit that little spot on the bale, or create a pattern (like a 4 point cross). Something happens to the brain when we put a projectile in our hands – when we try to trick the brain by taking away that target with a bull’s eye that is begging to be hit, the brain seems to create one for us. Do your best. Shoot arrows that you don’t care about because you’ll most likely break nocks, tear fletching, even robin hood a shaft or too (cool, but expensive). Shoot no more than 3 arrows at a time and really FOCUS on one aspect of your form relaxation at a time.

This is where process goals come in. Process goals are different than results goals. We’re all familar with results goals – “I’m going to win the tournament,” I’m going to beat 250 points,” I’m going to shoot 10 bull’s eyes.” Process goals are focused on the things that ultimately allow you to get results. Example process goals include: “I’m going to shoot 50 arrows with a perfect release” (at a blank bale of course), “I’m going to work on my grip for 1 hour this week,” or, “I’m going to practice relaxing my hips for close distance shots today.”

An Exploration of Target Panic – Part 1

Target Panic is a phenomenon experienced by many archers. There are three common ways people describe it:

  1. Involuntary flinching, clutching, twitching, or jerking.
  2. “Locking up” or “hitting a wall” as the archer tries to anchor or aim.
  3. Releasing the arrow prematurely, before coming to full anchor.

I have some published research to my credit and originally intended to conduct a full blown scientific research study. Instead I decided to explore this topic more informally. However to be somewhat thorough I am including a few references and have commented on them to enhance the conversation.

Because I was going to conduct a research study, I started collecting accounts of Target Panic from people experiencing it. This written description provides a rich glimpse of what it is like: Target Panic Description. There is a LOT in this description worth noting. I wanted you to hear something personal and first-hand before reading published articles that include editorial comments and suggestions.

This NY Times article is a comprehensive editorial piece:¬†The Secret Curse of Expert Archers. What I find most interesting is the author’s claim that Target Panic could be psychological or neurological in nature. On the psychological front, the author notes that the anxiety people experience in response to Target Panic makes it worse. My favorite comment in this article is an appropriately cautionary one: a “cottage industry” of coaches, books, and accessories for cure have arisen in response to the phenomenon.

Here is a very entertaining article written by Ted Nugent:¬†Conquering Target Panic. Ted talks to us like he’s our friend and he wants us to have hope. What strikes me the most about this article is that Ted suspects Target Panic as a major cause of people giving up on archery – so sad! The other major point to take away from Ted’s article is that like the coaches cited in the other articles, he normalizes Target Panic as a very common thing.

This is the best article of the bunch:¬†Beating the Curse. It combines the down to earth writing style of the Nugent article with some very insightful technical information. For me though it is a little too emphatic in its emphasis on what the author calls “the real problem” (afraid to hit the middle and anticipation of the shot). The author spells out a very useful plan for battling Target Panic, albeit based on solving what he identifies as “the real problem.” If you are a Traditional Archer you’ll have to ignore the verbiage about “the trigger” and the (sight) “pin” in order to make use of his very sound advice. My favorite part of this article is Step 3 – Enforce The New Habit!

Summary

When you look at these four reference pieces some themes emerge:

  • An initial period of good performance.
  • A sudden and unexpected onset of Target Panic.
  • A lack of control; an inability to stop doing something undesired or do something desired.
  • Negative thoughts in response to the Target Panic.

I’ve struggled with Target Panic personally. Based on my experience I believe it can also be a stimulus-response problem. I became very good at shooting Compound Freestyle with a scope – I’ll never forget the day I shot a perfect 20 on the 70 yard walk up target – I won the Regional Championship that year! Shortly after that, I developed a flinching problem whenever I tried to center the spot in my scope. I found some effective strategies to manage the problem, but I had to constantly work at it and archery became a chore, lost a lot of its fun. Then I discovered that I did not have the problem if I shot a Traditional bow “instinctively” without a sight (see my Aiming Without a Sight post). Shooting this style brought the fun and passion back to archery for me, and allowed me to be competitive again, so I sold my compound bows and gear and made the switch. BUT, whenever I try to develop a more precise aiming method like “gapping” (again see the Aiming Without a Sight post) it comes back. Hence the stimulus-response theory. Like the person in the Target Panic Description, I also found that lowering my draw weight helped.

I also have a hunch that some personality types are more prone to this than others, but I’ll save that for another discussion.

If you have or in the future develop Target Panic I hope this post gives you enough information to find your way through it. As a coach, my fundamental advice to anyone trying to overcome a performance problem is:

  • Face the Problem; it’s a puzzle to be solved, don’t allow negative thoughts get the best of you. Don’t hide it or pretend it’s not there or that it will magically go away. Call it something different – like mentioned in the NY Times article you don’t have to use the negative, loaded term Target Panic – you can be more descriptive: “I’m doing such and such to help me come to full anchor; I’m doing so and so to keep from releasing too soon,” etc.
  • Play with Options; very rarely does one size fit all – experiment with solutions until you find one or more that work for you. There are a wide range of suggestions within these articles!
  • Be in Process; things like this are rarely “cured” right away, sometimes not at all – adopt a process mindset and come up a with strategy you can “plug and play” whenever the problem rears it’s head – chances are it will re-emerge from time to time.

Traditional Archery Tuning

If you decide you want to take your Traditional Archery to the next level (beyond recreational enjoyment) you will most likely want to focus more on your equipment. The attached Traditional Archery Tuning document provides a comprehensive overview of the relationship between the bow, the arrows, and the string. These are very important fundamentals, THEY MATTER in a very technical way. As the author explains, our goal is to create the most forgiving setup we can accomplish without sacrificing efficiency.

If your Traditional Archery setup will include the use of a plunger, you need to familiarize your self with Tuning For Tens.

If you buy a set of custom built arrows from Ohlone Archery I will bare shaft test your setup to ensure you get the best possible arrows for your bow, whether you are recreational or more serious. You can also schedule a private session to work through a more comprehensive tuning of your equipment.