Well, with the CA 2021 Indoor Championships this weekend and the Vegas Shoot in the New Year, it’s that time of year. As we move from summer into fall it is time to begin getting ready for indoor archery season.
While some archers have two Barebows, one setup for 50 meter outdoor and another for 18 meter indoor, others will be retuning their bows. The first choice is, “Do I stay with my skinny outdoor arrows, or opt for fatter indoor arrows?”
There are advantages to both. By staying with the skinny arrows such as X10s, A/C/Es, or A/C/Cs, you don’t have to change your tune but simply increase your crawl. But you may be pulling added poundage that is not needed for 18 meters. The advantage of going with fat shafts, such as the popular Easton RX7-23s, is cutting the line and getting the higher score. If two arrows were to hit the same place, one skinny and one fat, the skinny one may not cut the line for the higher score, while the fat arrow may pick up the added point. In the picture above, you can see where two of the RX7s cut the X ring, while with skinny arrows only one may score X.
My choice was to go with two identical Hoyt Xceeds – one with 38# limbs for outdoors and the other with 34# limbs for indoors. For 50 meters I’m shooting Easton A/C/C 3-28s with 60 grain points; and for indoor, Easton RX7-23s with RPS inserts and 125 grain screw in points (162 grains total).
I’ve been running Hoyt Exceeds with Velos limbs for both Indoor and Outdoor training and competitions this season. I’m averaging 4,000 arrows per month since last August, so a total of almost 40,000 arrows with no issues and no complaints. Got ‘a love Made in the USA.
To advance in any sport, it is important to not only put in the training time but to have a training plan. Part of that plan is a series of attainable goals.
While an aspiring athlete may have dreams of making the US team or competing in the Olympics, it takes considerable time, effort, and planning to turn those dreams into reality. So while most elite athletes work on a quadrennial training plan to coincide with the summer Olympics, the rookie athlete will begin with an annual plan with monthly metrics.
These metrics are the methods of tracking progress through improved performance and improved scores. In other words, attainable goals. These are tracked daily and and weekly, but it usually takes a month or two to see progress in precision shooting sports. It is also important to track if the improvement is a fluke higher score or a consistently repeatable higher score.
Keep in mind that the time it takes to attain these goals is directly related to the amount of time spent in well structured training. For archery, this is a combination of working on form and shot process, professional coaching, and putting in the time on the range. That said, the quality of training is more important than quantity of arrows. Shooting a lot of arrows with poor form just reinforces bad habits, while every arrow shot with good form builds the neuro-muscle memory for consistent precision and accuracy.
For the novice archer who has a grasp of the mechanics of archery and is committed to improvement and ultimately competing at the national level, the attainable goals and metrics, may look something like this.
The first goal will be to focus on technique and shot process while working to keep all the arrows on the target at 20 yards. Why 20 yards? Because indoor competitions are shot at 18 meters / 20 yards. At this distance, competitions are shot in a series of 10 ends of 3 arrows, for a possible score of 300.
For the Barebow archer, the next goal is to progress to 50 meters and be able to keep all the arrows on the 122cm target, since this is the standard distance for outdoor Barebow competitions. Considering the size of the target, you would think that this is no great challenge, but you will see more than one archer looking for his or her arrows behind the bale at competitions.
From there, the goal in training is to improve your score by first eliminating any arrows in the white (scoring 1 & 2) and black zones (3 & 4). This doesn’t even require keeping track of the actual score, but simple training with a focus on form and staying inside the black rings. Be patient – it may take a couple of months to stay inside the black and to develop consistency and repeatability at 50 meters .
The next goal is to get out of the blue “Smurf Zone” – scoring rings 5 & 6. This may take another couple of months of diligent practice – but still an attainable goal. Concurrently, if there are opportunities to compete in archery competitions, these are good practice and experience even for the novice archer. Just don’t expect to shoot the same scores in formal competition that you shoot in training since you will be contending with match nerves.
The next goal is to track how many arrows you can get into the gold zone (Xs, 10s and 9s.) At first you will be getting 2 or 3 out of 6 arrows in the gold. Then the occasional 4 out of 6. Since competitions are shot in six ends of 6 arrows, your possible score will be 360. So you can also begin working your way up from 250 to 260 to 270, etc. Again, you are looking for consistent improvement not just the occasional high score.
By the time you are getting consistent 3 or 4 out of 6 arrows in the gold, you will also be scoring 48-50 out of 60 and 280-300 out of 360. But you will probably be over six months into your training program. This is assuming that you are shooting upwards of 150 arrows per day and 900 per week. Again, the focus should be on good form and a repeatable shot process. With these, the scores will improve. However, you will also have bad days or bad ends where you are throwing low 5s and 6s in the blue zone, usually because of a weakness of collapse in your form. That is when you have to concentrate on good form, a repeatable shot process, and holding hard on the 10 ring.
The next goal will be 6 out of 6 in the gold at 50 meters, which is not that easy with a Barebow and no sights. The point of the arrow can completely cover the gold 9 and 10 rings if you have to hold high. This may also take 8 months of training 6 days per week, but you are now a contender for the nationals.
A score of 56/60 with 6 out of 6 in the gold 9 & 10 rings.
Another metric is to track your average arrow score. For example, if you shoot 48 out of a possible 60 your average is 8; while 300 out of 360 is 8.3. But if you shot 1100 out of 1440 your average is only 7.64. For most Barebow archers, the goal is to become a 9 average shooter, 54 out of 60, or 324 of a possible 360. For the Olympic Recurve and Compound archers shooting sights, it is all about 10s and Xs and perfect scores separated only by X counts.
Finally, just to keep yourself honest, write your training goals in a training log and then track your daily performance in a training log or in your computer. Track the date, the time, number of arrows shot, best scores for 6 arrows, best scores for 36 arrows, and the running total. My personal outdoor training program calls for 48-60 arrows four times a day, or 72-84 arrows three times a day at 50 meters. But I will periodically shoot several sets of 36 arrows with breaks in between to simulate a 1440 match (4 x 36 arrows). In the winter, the focus is on indoor training at 20 yards shooting 60 arrows three to four times a day.
Word of warning – as you increase the number of arrows being shot each day, it’s critical that you’ve established good form so as to avoid repetitive motion injuries. Good form with good skeletal alignment, with adequate conditioning and rest periods, will protect you from injuries, but poor form can result in painful tendonitis.
There are many good books and DVDs on virtually every aspect of archery – so much so that it can become a little overwhelming for the novice archer. Sometimes it is useful to distil it all down to a few motivational training tips.
Focus on the process not on the result. In other words, as you are at full draw, you should not be hoping for a 10, but rather focused on your form and process. This is especially true during the early months of training where you are still working to build the neuro-muscle memory for a relaxed shot process.
Alignment is everything. Most archers will agree that a solid skeletal alignment, from bow-hand to draw-hand elbow, is critical to consistent, injury free archery. The test of this alignment is feeling the draw-hand upper arm and shoulder rotating into the back muscles, and how steady you can hold on target
Don’t let bad shots or a bad group define you. Maintain a positive mindset and continue practicing and applying the basics. The more you practice the more your shots and groups will move into the center of the target.
Don’t underestimate the value of a good coach. Also try to train with other experienced archers who can help you through the rough patches and plateaus. Shooting alongside successful competitors will motivate you to become a better archer.
Use failures to fuel your training. While the athlete doesn’t learn much from wins, he or she will analyze failures to find solutions. How we handle losses and failures, and how we bounce back, is a good marker of personal determination and tenacity.
Keep a training log with scores and daily lessons learned. It’s fun to look back 6 months or a year to see just how much you have improved.
Ensure that training is always fun or at least satisfying. The sheer joy of watching an arrow in flight and then impacting in the 10 ring, should be a positive motivator for continued training.
At the end of the day, remember that you selected archery as your chosen sport. Something inspired you to take up archery, but to truly find enjoyment and satisfaction in this endeavor, you need to practice regularly. Moderate amounts of frequent practice are more beneficial than infrequent day-long training sessions.
While barebow rules do not allow the long stabilizer rods used in Olympic archery, they do allow for a stabilizer weight below the grip. The only requirement is the bow with stabilizer fit through the 12.2 cm (4.75″) ring. This necessitates that the weights sit close to the riser.
To meet this requirement, Hoyt has developed integral weights molded to fit the Xceed riser.
The Riser Weight adds 32 oz of weight below the grip adding both balance and stability to the Xceed barebow.
For those of you new to archery or barebow shooting, “Barebow” is now a very popular form of competition archery and growing every day. So what is the difference between traditional archery and barebow?
For me, traditional archery has been centered around my Black Widow bows, such as my PMA-III and PSR-II, shooting off the shelf with no sights. This is a pure form of traditional barebow archery.
Now, the type of barebow this series of articles is centered around is the barebow division being shot in events such as the Vegas Shoot and Lancaster Archery Classic. For this, and going by the World Archery rules, an archer can shoot his or her Olympic target bow, less the sights, clicker, and long stabilizers.
The rules require that the entire bow must fit through a 12.2 cm ring (4.75”) – or the same size as the gold on a target. This still allows for stabilizer weights but they must be below the rest and sit close to the riser. In this manner they will still fit through the 12.2 cm ring while giving the bow vertical balance and stability after the shot.
For this project I selected the Hoyt Xceed 25″ riser and Hoyt Carbon Velos Long limbs. These both arrived this week. The first step was to assemble the bow, after reading the owners manual, and then string it to get the initial stretch or creep out of the string. I do this before putting twists in the string just to give the strands a chance to stretch equally.
With no twists, this produced a brace height of 8 inches, but the Hoyt manual recommends 8.75″-9′.5″ for a 70″ bow with long limbs. The next day, 20 twists produced a brace height of 8.5″; 30 twists measured 8 5/8″; 40 twists 8.75″ and 45 twists 9.0″ — so have settled on 9.0″ for now. As you know, it will take at least a 100 arrows for the string to settle down – so that is next on the list.
Initially I will be running a Beiter plunger and Hoyt Super rest, but plan to go to a Zniper rest when it arrives from Lancaster.
Fortunately this form of barebow competition shooting has been around long enough for others to have done significant experimenting in real world competitions, and then generated a good number of books and videos. So rather than “re-invent the wheel” I am taking the advice of past and present barebow champions, plus watching the videos from the 2019 Lancaster and Vegas shoots.