Traditional Field Archery Round Guidelines

By Nico Gallegos

The standard Field Archery course layout with 50% of the shooting positions at 40 yards and beyond is unrealistic for the rapidly growing segment of archers who:

  • Have newly chosen to shoot traditional or technical barebow archery without a sight; they have no idea yet how to “gap shoot” or are new to string walking, etc.
  • Are shooting a bow with 25 LBS or less of draw weight
  • Have a short draw length; they may be shooting a bow with 25-30 LBS of draw weight, but for each inch of draw length less than 28″, the bow loses 2 LBS of draw weight
  • Have only recently developed the skill to shoot at 20 yards
  • Are traditional or primitive archery enthusiasts shooting heavy wood arrows off the shelf

I decided to create guidelines for a Traditional Field Archery Round that makes more sense for the short distance practitioner and establishes a standardized round for friendly competition and skill progress tracking.

Sure, you can just go out and wing it, but if you want to score it with a reasonable semblance of how it all works normally, this is good training. If you are an experienced Field Archer, this can be a walking course workout where you focus on form (that’s how I use it!).

General Guidelines

The basic idea is to match distance to target size:

  • 65 CM targets are shot from 30 yards
  • 50 CM targets are shot from 25 yards
  • 35 CM targets are shot from 20 yards (often as marked)
  • 20 CM targets are shot as marked

In order to do this, one needs to start from the farthest stake for a given target and walk forward if necessary until the target size can be identified and see if there is a stake (of any color) at the required distance for that target. If not, one needs to walk a number of “paces” in front of or behind that stake to get to the required distance. For example, you get to a 65 CM target and the nearest stake to it is 20 yards, but there is also one at 40 yards – simply stand as close to the middle of those two stakes as you can estimate. It would be a good idea to practice how many “paces” you need to walk for marking off 5 yards and 10 yards, etc.

Target size identification is only potentially difficult for the 50 CM and 65 CM targets; the 35 CM target is almost always one of four targets on a bale, and the 20 CM “birdie” targets are always in four vertical columns of four targets.

Specific Guidelines

To make sense of the downloadable conversion charts, remember that the Hunter Targets are the black targets with white spots meant to be shot from the red stakes. The Field targets are the white targets with a black 3 ring and a black spot meant to be shot from the white and/or blue stakes.

Target scoring is as follows – four arrows per target, 14 Hunter targets and 14 Field targets for a total possible 560 points.

Downloadable Conversion Chart with guidelines

Traditional Field Round Guidelines.full

Downloadable abbreviated Conversion Chart (for those who already know a Field Course layout)

Traditional Field Round Guidelines.abbrev

My hope is that this will catch on more broadly – I would ultimately like to maintain an ongoing digital leader board where people nation wide can submit or upload scores themselves.

3 Mental Management Tips for Archery Performance

By Nico Gallegos

I got through a shooting slump over the past year by working on my mental game more than anything else. I thought it would be fun to summarize what I learned with a little pop culture wisdom from my favorite movie characters. Sure, I always work on my form and shot process, but in the end, managing these thoughts was what helped me improve.

1. There is no Spoon

A quote from The Matrix, spoken by Neo in reference to a bit of wisdom he learned from a child bending spoons with his mind. It signifies that we cannot truly manipulate reality, we can only manipulate ourselves. Only when we change ourselves can we change reality.

What “spoon” do you need to see past? For me it was a few things that made me tense; tension is bad for archers, it causes us to shoot badly and often spirals out of control.

  • I had a bad flinching problem.
  • I was self conscious.
  • I was (am still) easily distracted when shooting.

Flinching is often associated with a phenomenon called target panic which I now believe does not exist (I’ll write more about that in another post). For those of us who flinch, no target panic remedies help – it is an uncontrollable physical thing that happens, and, to my knowledge (I’ve looked pretty hard) there is no research sufficiently explaining it. Our reaction to the flinching is the problem (see no. 2 below). When I flinch now (which isn’t often), I treat it like swatting an annoying fly, let it pass, disregard it, and finish my shot. I DO NOT let down and start over which is the recommended solution; in my mind (which is the whole point of this post) I refuse to give the flinch the power to make me start my shot over. It is actually part of my shot cycle when it happens – THERE IS NO FLINCH.

Being self conscious about what others think of you when you shoot is the epitome of performance anxiety. Performance anxiety IS very well researched – non-commercial solutions and strategies abound – Google it. I suggest you refine the search by specifying “sports” performance anxiety – if you don’t, you’ll get LOTS of results for sexual performance anxiety, and well . . .  Anyhoo, what I came to realize is: no one else really cares about what I’m doing when I shoot, they are too busy worried about their own shooting! If they ARE paying attention to me, so what?! THERE IS NO PEANUT GALLERY.

I see this all the time in my shop. New archers get really good shooting at 10 yards. They are hesitant to venture beyond that, not wanting others to see them try, and in their minds fail. They also over-fixate on the extra distance when going from 10 to 15 or 20 yards – their bodies tense up and the form they’ve worked so hard to master vanishes when they tell themselves things like, “that extra distance is SOOOO different or SOOOO much harder.” THERE IS NO EXTRA DISTANCE.

This next one is half real and half mental: going from a standard indoor field target (dark blue face, white spot) to a FITA target (multi colored target with yellow spot). There is a reason you can buy color adjusting glasses for FITA target shooting – those glasses dull the color contrast and help many archers. There is a reason you can set your phone to grey scale before going to bed at night – research has shown that staring at a blue screen with vibrant colors before going to bed triggers something in the brain and makes it hard to fall asleep. In short, those colors mess with your eyes and brain. That said, you CAN train yourself to keep those colors from making you tense. THERE IS NO COLOR.

My very good friend and mentor Paul Fender and I have gone to a LOT of shoots together. When Paul & I shoot together, it takes a lot to shut us up. One of our favorite moments happened at the Maya Archers Stickbow Classic one year. We were crossing the bridge over a very full and flowing creek to get to the next target, talking up a storm and laughing, when we both stopped dead in our tracks because we saw these HUGE salmon swimming in the stream – it was stunning!  From that moment on for the rest of the shoot, every time we got distracted (we both seem to have that problem), one of us would say “Salmon!” like that cartoon dog that gets distracted and yells “Squirrel!” when it sees one. My point is, for whatever reason, I am very easily distracted when I shoot. A stray thought pops in my head during my shot cycle and everything goes to hell. I suffer from what some Eastern philosophies call monkey mind. When shooting in my shop, I notice a dirty spot on the floor, wonder if I should spin the fletching jig on those arrows I’m building, you name it. I have to work really hard to stay in my shot, not get distracted! THERE IS NO SALMON.

2. Despair is a Useless Emotion

In Terminator 3, Rise of the Machines, poor John Conner is the future but reluctant savior of a world heading towards apocalypse. When he encounters real mortal danger for the first time he freaks out. His guardian protector, the good terminator, grabs him by the throat, lifts him off the ground, and flatly admonishes: “Despair is a useless emotion.”

As previously mentioned, tension is bad for archers. Getting bummed out or freaked out about shooting badly when you shoot makes matters worse.

The most important skill to develop is to be able to identify why you miss when you do. A high right miss means you did X. A low left miss means you didn’t do Y. When you know which form or shot sequence failures cause specific misses, you can correct them and shoot better. Sometimes you can do this in the moment, sometimes you have to note it and commit to fixing it during future practice.

My personal struggle with this was to “shoot angry.” I had convinced myself that I could just muscle through it, that next shot or the next end would be better if I just “tried harder.” This was a vague, unfocused, tense mental state. It was an unproductive mental loop. I was tricking myself into believing I was in control and could fix this with vague notions of “will power” and “positive self talk” – these mental strategies can be helpful, but usually aren’t without the proper foundation.

3. A Man’s Got to Know His Limitations

I’m a male Baby Boomer and Clint Eastwood is my childhood hero. I mean no disrespect to anyone when I use the word “man” – this is the line from the character in the movie Dirty Harry.

I discovered two major limitations in my effort to improve:

  1. Draw weight.
  2. Shooting frequency.

Draw Weight

If you’re going to shoot with control, you need to shoot a draw weight you can handle. If you are fighting the bow, if you tremble when you draw it back, if you hurt in the wrong places – you are “over-bowed.” Swallow your pride, reduce the draw weight and start shooting with control.

I went from shooting 45 LBS of draw weight to 30 LBS in less than 5 years. Part of that is me aging and losing strength. The other part: I’m not sure I was ever shooting 45 LBS with control. I think I talked myself into believing I should and could shoot 45 LBS. I’m not sure I ever had the muscle mass or proper training to shoot that much draw weight with control. Things got better for me with each reduction in draw weight. CAUTION – too little draw weight does not enable a clean release. Each person has their own perfect draw weight that will allow control AND a clean release; take the time to find yours.

Shooting Frequency

Archery is a plateau endeavor. You will get better and hit plateaus of performance. The ONLY way to get past a plateau is to shoot a LOT. You need to practice properly, not just empty your quiver and fling lots of arrows. A trite but true archery dogma is: Perfect practice makes perfect. THIS is where most of us need a coach – a coach can help you make a plan and practice the right stuff.

My coach’s time & effort would have gone to waste if I had not gone from 4 hours a month of unfocused practice to 3-5 hours a week of focused, structured practice.

The bottom line: you have the time you have. Set realistic expectations for yourself based on the quality practice time you are going to put into this. That quality practice time is best guided by a good coach, at least initially. If you are unable or unwilling to work with a coach, and you are unable or unwilling to “perfect practice”, your plateaus will simply last longer.

And, this is not part of MY story, but it is a third limitation:

Equipment Choice

I don’t want to assume everyone knows this: you must have a matched set of arrows properly matched to you and your bow. Your arrow rest and nock locators must be properly installed. The nock fit of your arrows on your string must be right. Your arrow rest must be the right one for your bow and in good condition.

For traditional archery, the fork in the road is metal ILF bow or wood bow. Very few people can shoot a basic wood bow competitively. Metal ILF bows have more mass weight for stability and can be as technically complex as a compound bow.

In short, your ability to shoot accurately at variable distances will be hindered or helped by your equipment choice; lower your expectations if you choose to shoot a wood bow.

If you choose to shoot an ILF bow you should prepare yourself to get up to speed on how to adjust all that stuff. You NEED to know what each little tweak does to your shot. A coach or pro shop can realistically only get you half the way there – they can’t see or feel what you see and feel when you shoot. The other half of well adjusted ILF stuff is YOU knowing what that stuff is and isn’t doing. If you are not mechanically inclined and are unwilling to learn how to adjust rests and plungers and tiller and brace height, etc. you probably should not shoot an ILF bow and expect it to help you shoot better – improperly tuned technical equipment can become a limitation.

An Alternative Indoor Barebow Setup

We are deep into “Indoor Season” and all the compound archers have re-tuned their bows for fat shafts, or are shooting their 2nd “indoor bow.” Some Barebow archers do the same with a slightly different twist: they tune for fat, heavy shafts that will not only “cut lines” but also lowers their point of aim if gapping or reduces the crawl length if string walking.

So let’s review the Barebow strategy. Slow the arrow speed down for a better aiming reference, and improve the chances of catching a line with a fat shaft. Restated: overcome the force curve of a 30-50 pound bow by shooting a big heavy shaft and increase chances for cutting a line on shots with less than perfect execution. Great strategy!

Here’s an alternative though; one that I stumbled upon in my journey to control target panic.

For me, getting control over target panic meant starting with mastering indoor 20 yard archery. I narrowed my target panic down to three controllable issues. One, I flinch when I have to get too precise with aiming. Two, I freeze/lock when I have to make elevation adjustments. Three, too much (for me) draw weight leads to control issues that trigger target panic. I won’t get into all the target panic “cures” I have tried, but I can tell you that the breadth of it’s manifestations was far greater than these three issues, so I’m in a good place!

With three “variables” to control for in solving my problem I did these three things:

  1. I lowered the draw weight to something that would allow me to shoot COMFORTABLY and WITH CONTROL, but that had enough tension to promote a good release. If the draw weight/tension is too low for an archer’s particular strength, a good release is thwarted.
  2. I shot thousands of arrows at a blank bale and a target at 20 yards to establish what was a natural, comfortable posture; I established THE posture that my body naturally settles into, THE posture that would be compromised if I had to make an elevation adjustment.
  3. I meticulously and tediously shot dozens of different shaft types, spines, and lengths at 20 yards with both feathers and vanes and different lengths and point weights to figure out WHICH COMBINATION would hit the gold while in that natural comfortable posture. I of course had to fiddle with draw weight/tiller adjustments, center shot, and plunger tension on my ILF bow to get the windage right once the elevation variable was established. In the end, it LITERALLY came down to increasing the arrow speed on my chosen shaft by using low profile vanes instead of feathers – it got THAT precise.

Important side note: for me, establishing a 20 yard “point on” is NOT a good thing considering one of my target panic variables. Everything described in no. 3 above was done in service to “lolipopping” the arrow point below the spot: I aim “peripherally” on the line between the black and the blue ring – my brain can do this without triggering the flinch response.

So, let’s bracket the target panic aspect of this discussion for a moment and look at this as an alternative indoor Barebow strategy.

Existing/Common Strategy

  • Slow down the arrow speed of a 30-50 bow for a better gap/string crawl at 20 yards.
  • Shoot fat shafts for optimal line cutting benefits.

Alternative Strategy

  • Slow down the BOW speed (draw weight) for a better gap/string crawl at 20 yards.
  • Shoot standard diameter (v. skinny) carbon or aluminum shafts (e.g. shafts that fit a 9/32, 5/16, or 19/64 point) for sufficient line cutting benefits.

Many seasoned archers will tell you that a “fast, flat trajectory” enables top scores. I believe that is true for field archery where one needs to hit targets from 10 – 80 yards. It’s also true for unmarked 3D field shoots. I’m not so sure that it’s true for the fixed indoor distance of 20 yards.

An archer who can shoot comfortably and with control is an archer who is going to be happy with their results. This alternative strategy admittedly won’t work for outdoor field archery where one must physically adjust to countless variables. In fact I don’t suggest going down this path if your ultimate goal is outdoor Field Archery. But it could work for fixed distance long range shooting.

A Perspective on Instinctive Aiming

By Paul Fender

For those new to archery the term “Instinctive” describes both a general way of not precisely or consciously aiming and a specific style of archery developed and written about most notably by G. Fred Asbell.

It is briefly described in a document attached to my 2015 post, “Aiming Without a Sight”:

https://ohlonearchery.com/new/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Aiming.pdf

World Champion Paul Fender goes into greater depth about it in this new post:

A Perspective on Instinctive Aiming by Paul Fender

Over the years I have accumulated personally witnessed evidence that what is commonly called “instinctive shooting” just doesn’t work worth a darn. However, at the CA State Broadhead Tournament I got to witness evidence that it does work. I, a confirmed gap shooter (reference to this also in my above mentioned post), took third to two confirmed instinctive shooters. Oh, the horror!

I have always had a hard time with the idea of instinctive shooting. We’re told “It’s just like throwing a baseball.” A moments reflection though and we realize that that can’t possibly deliver the accuracy necessary for either hunting or target shooting. Sometimes it’s called “proprioception”, the unconscious perception of the relative position of our various body parts. Think about that for a minute. I don’t know it for a fact but I find it doubtful that this sense of proprioception is so precise that it can drive the difference in elevation of the bow arm to accommodate for a 25 yard shot versus a 15 yard shot. But I have seen instinctive shooters do just that. Then of course there is the argument that there is no such thing as instinctive shooting as humans are not born with any instinct for shooting a bow and arrow. It is a learned behavior.

I have run across apocryphal (accounts of uncertain validity) stories of informal studies of instinctive shooting. In these studies, the performance of shooters who consciously aim is compared to instinctive shooters. The most common format is to have the shooters shoot at a “target” like a laser dot projected onto a wall in a totally dark room. In some of these “studies” the instinctive shooters perform best, in others the aimers do best, and in yet others there is no measurable difference in performance. So even if we do accept these stories as being valid, it’s still a wash. However, let’s just keep these stories in the back of our mind for a bit, OK?

Some time ago I read in the 5/2010 issue of Scientific American an article titled “Uncanny Sight in the Blind” by Beatrice de Gelder. She is a professor and the director of the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at Tilburg University, Netherlands. Turns out that people who have gone blind due to injury to the visual cortex in the brain, yet whose eyes remain basically healthy have a “sense” termed “blind sight”.

People who have demonstrated blind sight are able to distinguish colors, shapes, and even emotions portrayed on other people’s faces, even though they are not conscious of having seen anything! One particularly striking case is that of a blind man who was able to successfully navigate an obstacle strewn hallway. Here is a link to a video of him accomplishing this:

What I found to be important and what has lead me down this long and tortuous path is that upon questioning, the blind man was not consciously aware of having perceived anything or having made any maneuvers to avoid the obstacles!

So, by accepting the stories about the instinctive shooting studies and their equivocal results, (yes I’m going out on a limb here) and combining them with the concept of blind sight I have arrived at a theory of instinctive shooting. For one thing, yes it can work. In order for it to work though, the arrow, or the bow’s shelf, or sight window, or other reference MUST be visible to the eye. These references are actually processed. They are used to drive what the shooter does with his body, much like the blind man in the hallway. However, the instinctive shooter has managed to train himself into a sort of blind sight condition in which this processing is no longer happening consciously. This processing is occurring in the more “primitive” areas of the brain. An oversimplified view of brain functions, but think of it as if this processing is occurring in the “reptile brain” we all have. Perhaps the term “instinctive” isn’t quite such a misnomer after all?

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)