I was first introduced to archery in 2002.
We had met some new friends and when discussing our hobbies, they explained that they were into competition archery. In my mind, I pictured some crude long wooden bow with a flimsy string and some wooden arrows. You know, like you see in old 60s spaghetti westerns. I pictured them lobbing arrows at a red and white circular target nailed to a tree.
As they told us more, I realized I had a lot to learn about archery. I had never heard of a compound bow, it sounded complicated. I thought quiver was something you did when you ate something really cold (oh wait, that’s shiver) or something you did after the hubby found just the right spot. *wink*
When asking what they shot at, I then learned they shot at 3d foam animal targets, called McKenzie targets, or an indoor target with multiple dots. These weren’t your ordinary animals either. More about that later.
The First Lessons in Archery
We live on almost 30 acres of land and one weekend they brought their compound bows with them to show us. The two adults and both kids all had their own bows. The dad’s bow was carried in a large hard case, while the mom had a soft bow case with a cute Indian blanket type pattern. The kids each had their own cases as well.
I was really impressed, and I have to admit, a little intimidated, when they pulled out the bows. If you haven’t seen a compound bow, they are quite a contraption of strings and pulleys and that was just the beginning. They then begin to assemble them. First they screwed on this piece, Allen-keyed on this piece, etc. There were little pieces and scopes that all had a function. These things looked quite technical.
Then they were ready to show us how to draw it back. They were quick to point out that you never ever “dry fire” a bow. This means that you never release a bow without an arrow in it. It can damage the bow. If you draw it back and do not wish to release it you must slowly ease off. This can be difficult when you’re first learning. As we tried each bow I felt like Goldilocks trying out the beds of the three bears. The dad’s bow was way too difficult to pull back. The kids’ bows were way too easy. The mom’s bow was just right. However, mom shot left-handed. I thought this would be a problem since I’m not left-handed.
They asked me to try it anyway since I had never shot anyways. I inserted the arrow into the slot designed for it, drew back the bow and attempted to aim at the makeshift target we had set up in the field next to my house. Not only did I not hit it in the designated spot, I missed the entire setup. We had to retrieve my arrow yards away. Ooops. We tried a couple of more times with similar results. The dad had an idea. He took out a business card and covered my right eye while I aimed again. This time I was only slightly off from a perfect score. We tried that a couple more time and he announced that I was left-eye dominant and would always need to cover my right eye. You may be wondering why I had to cover my eye instead of simply closing that eye. For some wacky reason, I have never been able to close my right eye while leaving my left eye open. To remedy this, I would need to wear an eye patch to shoot. Aye, the pirate look. Much easier for guys to pull off, but being a female I wasn’t sure I was too keen on the idea of having to wear an eye-patch.
Bows for Everyone!
With a few weekend practices we quickly figured out archery was fun and something the whole family could participate in. We went out and purchased bows for myself, my husband, and found good used bows for my two children.
Purchasing a bow can be a stressful situation if you don’t have someone to help you. Obviously, our friends made our buying experience almost painless. There still are a lot of decisions to make. Things you need to consider:
- Brand-some people are very adamant about being brand specific. Our friends were like that. It had to be Hoyt bow and nothing else. It’s just like makes of cars, you’ll never convince a Ford man to drive a Chevy.
- Type-compound bows, traditional bows, crossbows
- Type of archery you’ll be participating in-field archery, indoor archery, dots, 3d foam targets
- Price-like most things, they come in every price range. Know how much you can afford to spend. Accessories for bows can easily cost more than the bow itself.
- Preference on release aids-some like to use their fingers, some like to use a release aid. This will make a difference in what draw length your bow will need to be.
- Poundage-this is determined by your size and arm/shoulder/back strength. Luckily, they cover a range, because your strength and ability to draw the bow back will improve with practice.
In the weeks and months that followed, we spent hours outside practicing at different yardages and invested in a McKenzie foam target of a large deer. Sometimes, we ventured to the nearest archery shops and utilized their indoor facilities, but I personally preferred the outdoors. We did find that archery shops are really pleased when women come to practice there. Most even allow us to shoot for free rather than pay a standard rental fee they charge the guys. This is for two reasons. They feel that men will buy more and participate more if their wives get involved. They also realize that men like to come shoot and show off if women are around.
Time for Competition
We located the schedules of some local archery clubs and found a competition we thought we were ready for. On an early Saturday morning, all 8 of us, 4 adults and 4 kids, headed to our first 3d archery shoot. I really didn’t know what to expect and wasn’t totally sure I was ready for it, with my eye-patch and all.
There were 30 targets set up in a large wooded area that had trails through it. As you came to an offshoot of the trail it would be marked that it contained a target. There were usually several stakes that showed you where you were to stand based on your category or class. Children shoot from the closest distance, then women, then men. On some shots, they may all shoot from the same spot. One at a time, you and your teammates take turns shooting at the target. At this particular event they used the standard group of deer, bear, turkey, and wild boars. We all did ok, but nothing outstanding. None of us placed.
The next competition was a blast. This club had purchased all the normal animals, but also the exotics. The first really odd critter we came upon was a panther they had painted pink. The kids thought that was great. My son, Kevin walked ahead to the next target and took a look to see what we’d be shooting at next. He turned to us and said, “You’re never going to believe it.” He was right. At the end of the clearing stood a life-sized velociraptor. We had to guess where the heart and lungs (kill zone) might be since we had never seen one before. At this shoot, all the kids placed as did our male friend.
We probably only participated in a couple more shoots before the season was over.
As things sometimes happen, friends part ways and people move on. My husband and I got a divorce, my son died, and everything, and everyone, headed down a different path. The bows we so lovingly enjoyed became dust-gathers under the bed.
As fate would have it, archery did end up playing a key role in my future. In my hobbies on a Yahoo online profile, I had listed archery. This one word is what my current husband had keyed into the Yahoo profile search engine to locate someone to talk to that enjoyed archery, one of his hobbies. Archery was the beginning of our relationship.
Here we are some 4-5 years later, now married, both with a Hoyt compound bow gathering dust under the bed. We’ve been thinking we should dig them out and go shoot us a velociraptor or something. Guess that means I need to dig out that dang eye-patch too.