Wednesday, April 16, 2008

New hobby: Archery

In fall 2007 I decided to take up another hobby: archery.

My first experience with archery was many years ago at summer camp. I remember spending many hours on the range, shooting at close range targets with light weight compound bows. Fast forward to fall 2007, when out of the blue one weekend I decided to go to an archery range and spend a few hours shooting on the indoor range.

My first range experience was pretty good. One of the guys at the range volunteered to teach me about archery. He walked me through the different types of bows, shooting techniques, etiquette, and most importantly, safety. After the initial walk-though, I decided to focus on traditional archery. I can still remember that time on the range... I was shooting a rented 25 lb recurve bow. I didn't hit my paper target much that day, but it didn't matter much to me as I was happy to just hit the white target blocks at 15 yards. Later that day the owner of the range allowed me to take a couple of shots with his 40 year old magnesium recurve bow. That was a sweet bow and shot very nicely!

A few range visits later I learned how to aim properly and started to improve my accuracy. I was starting to hit my paper targets fairly regularly at 15 and 20 yards and my arrow spreads were getting smaller. I quickly moved up from 25 lb to 35 lb and finally to the 40 lb draw recurves.

In January I decided it was time to look into getting my own bow. I spent a couple of hours one day at Cabela's testing out different bows... I tested every recurve, takedown recurve, and longbow they had in stock. It was at this time I decided to see what my draw weight limitations were at that time. At that time, I found out that I could easily handle a 50 lb - 55 lb draw weight bow comfortably, and was able to draw and shoot a 60 lb bow with some difficulty.

With this in mind, I started to do a little more weight training in order to strengthen my arms. I was quickly able to build up my strength so that I could use a 50 or 55 lb bow for at least an hour without killing my arms.

Fast forward to March... My friends decided it was time for them to pick up a bow. They happened to decide on a 50 lb Fred Bear Montana long bow. At that time, I was eyeing a 55 lb Fred Bear Super Kodiak recurve. Let me tell you, both bows are great bows, and they feel about the same to shoot. Although the longbow requires significantly more practice than a recurve.

A month later, I decided that it was time for me to get my bow. On Friday, April 11 I went to Cabela's in Hoffman Estates, IL and spent some time on their archery range trying out and comparing the 50 lb Fred Bear Montana longbow and the 55 lb Fred Bear Super Kodiak recurve bow. I must have shot at least 100 arrows down range, but was unable to make up which bow was to come home with me that day. Finally something happened which decided it for me: I Robin Hooded with the longbow! Needless to say, I saw the sign and decided that if I could Robin Hood with it, it must be the bow fated to be mine.

So why did I get a longbow? I enjoy traditional archery because it is a challenge. I really enjoy shooting recurves, but I wanted to do something different. I wanted to be respected for taking up something difficult and mastering it to the best of my abilities. I wanted to be somewhat unique and shoot something most archers wouldn't even consider. Finally, I just thought it was cool and really damn fun.

One of the things I noticed at the various ranges is that archers treat each other like family. We may show off our bows, but we are usually very friendly and welcoming. We talk and have a lot of fun while shooting at targets. In many ways it is an easy way to have fun and share some sort of commonality. For the most part, it is about the individual hitting their target while bonding with a group.

One of the things I always tell people is that in archery I am the asshole responsible for the outcome of my shots. I am the one who draws bow. I am the one who aims my arrow at the target. I am the one who decides when to release my bowstring and send my arrow down range to hopefully hit my target. For the most part, there are no excuses when something goes wrong. I have started applying this thinking to the rest of my life and it seems to have helped me focus on what matters to me.