An Archer's Story
My first experience with archery, other than cutting a twig off a tree etc. as a boy, was at the Burlington YMCA. My son and daughter, only 8 and 9 at the time, had been active for years in all kind of other Y activities. When an archery program was added they wanted to join it as well. Me, being a doer rather than a watcher, joined in on the fun and soon got hooked on it. The Y's equipment, for financial reasons, was not too hot, so we soon after bought some of our own equipment. A take-down recurve bow and some decent arrows were shared by the three of us. Brian soon became the champ of the family as well as darn good among the kids at the Y. His first 1st place trophy in his class was achieved at the age of nine. Nanette wanting her own bow after a while got the first compound in the family. Although the draw-length was too short form, I used it frequently for a couple of years. It was then time to purchase my own, then the state-of-the-art equipment. A Golden Eagle with a beautiful wooden laminated riser and wooden limbs was to be my prized possession. I must say, I bought it because of the looks, not knowing much about the technical side of it. Brian kept using, by now all his own, the recurve bow. He still beat the both of us most of the time, although when I caught up with his scores he was ready for a new compound as well. Since then I had not been able to keep up with him, well, till now anyway.
The activities and tournaments at the Y became too lame for us after two or three years, it was time to expand. A friend of a friend, you know how that goes, was a member of HAHA, for the ill-informed that is the "Hamilton Anglers and Hunters Association", I think. Anyway, a family membership was arranged and we participated fully in many of the club's activities. A great outdoor facility, with target and 3D courses was available for all to use. I remember the 3Dcourse being called the animal course, well everything changes over the years. You just needed to avoid the riffle range and the skeet and trap shooting area to stay on a safe course. Not having an indoor facility of their own at the time, a gym was rented from a local school for the winter months. An interesting tournament was held one summer, which included a couple of targets only accessible from a canoe on a pond. To the horror of some, we, having been proficient in canoeing for years, took the shots standing in the canoe. The old myth of 'One should never stand in a canoe" had been tarnished. The kids, in their late teens by then, soon found other interests after a few years. Nanette left for University, Brian was preoccupied with motor cycles and girls, not necessarily in that order. Old dad stuck with it for a while, until a move to the North Country. Without the kids at home one's life-style quickly changes, and some of the activities came to a standstill. I still had a couple of butts, for targets that is, one in the garage and one in the basement, either, including my beautiful bow, got very little use for ten years.
The urge to add something to my regular other hobbies and some needed relaxation from running a business prompted me to rejoin an archery club. Living relatively close to the York Bowmen facility, there was no question which one. On an exploratory visit to the range I met Terry little, he quickly produced all the right forms required to apply for a probationary membership. After an orientation meeting I was all set to participate in all activities. I tended to stick to the outdoor practice range trying to regain some of my slackened muscles, not to speak of a very rusty form. And I must say, I tried to do all this in private, when nobody else was around. You can't hide forever though, soon I met with others on the range. I got some odd stares, chuckles and even laughter, when the advanced members saw the bow I was using. It certainly revealed my age. I soon found out that technology had changed a lot while I was in recluse. People seemed to worry intensely about not only let-off but also arrow tip weight, velocity, single or dual cams, etc. This is nearly enough to take all of the fun out of the sport. Of course, there is the other group as well, the so-called traditional archers. I met this group on one of their Saturday tournaments in the summer and I visited one Wednesday evening. This group seemed more relaxed, although their primary object is to outdo each other by building their own, better-than-everyone-else’s equipment. Being a long time hobby type woodworker I was very impressed by some of their creations. I even got some excellent advice on what type of materials to use and on the technique of building children bows. In the meantime I build several of them, my grandchildren thank you.
My first trip into the woods was led by Elgin. I think he took pity on me being alone on the practice range so he invited me to shoot the 3D course. You think I needed practice on targets, where I knew the distance. I bet half the time on this course I spent looking for arrows, which were either buried in the dirt in front of the target or hidden in the bushes behind it. Elgin relented to tell me his estimate of distance at times so I actually hit an animal once in a while. Not in the right spot, but somewhere on its body. To say the least, I was not ready for a hunting trip yet. With my luck, the second time on the 3D course I was accompanied by no other than Jack Chapman. Between these two old-timers, I learned the history of the club if not of the sport of archery. Both also gave me excellent advice on how to hold the bow away from my protruding belly and to make sure to aim longer until the bow is steady. Never mind that my bow, set at 60pounds, only has a 20% let-off and my muscles were weak from under-use. When I did not comply with Jack's wishes, he even compared my stubbornness with that of his wife’s; I took it as a compliment.
In my first tournament, at the outdoor target course, I was paired up with a couple of hotshots. Dotty and Chris, from out west somewhere, Kitchener and London I think, were armed to the teeth with all of the latest equipment. In order to travel that distance for a shoot they must have been out for blood. Chris even used a range finder on the targets even though all the distances were marked. They were worried if they missed the X at an 80-yard target and frequently adjusted their sights between arrows. In the meantime I was happy as a lark not to miss the button any target further than 50 yards. It was a beautiful day though and we had a great time together, both of them were a lot of fun to be with. Chris, having worked in an archery shop, was also a fountain of information on equipment. It was right then and there that I decided I would need to invest in a new bow if I were to amount to anything. Soon after that I called my old friend Klaus Kleinschmidt, where I had bought all my other equipment. He even remembered me; I must have made an impression ten years back. Now the question came up what to get, I again went by looks and picked a pretty bow out of a catalogue. Klaus came to the rescue and provided some sound advice. I ended up ordering the same type as Klaus was using, I figured if it was good enough for him it must be great for me. Of course it didn't stop with the bow, for with that alone you can't do much. A sight, an arrow rest, a new stabilizer and not to forget a dozen arrows soon added up to near enough to put a mortgage on my house. The stuff was ordered and was supposed to take a couple of weeks to get here. We'll blame it on UPS if no one else wants to take the blame, six weeks later I was the proud owner of a spanking new bow and accessories.
During the long six weeks I kept using my old bow every Tuesday night. During those I received more different advice from a dozen archers than one needs to get really confused. Some good, some not so good, I just took it all in and made up my own mind of what to do, that's where the stubborn streak showed through. Terry, Brian, Tom and others all were very helpful and I certainly appreciated all they had to offer. I was for-warned of John, 'Never listen to John', I was told, and so I didn't. Then of course there is Howard, Howard likes to do the hands-on thing. I sort of had to fight him off so not to allow him to take my bow apart and rebuild it. Although he got hold of Joe's bow one evening and had fun practicing on it. I thought, just wait till I get my new bow, I'll be a lot better. With 65% let-off I'll be able to hold that thing till the cows come home, I am bound to find a spot on the target I like. The time came, so did the new bow. As I picked it up Klaus had set it up to perfection to fit my draw length and all other perils. I even tried it out at his range and hit the spot right on with two or three consecutive arrows. The first thing at home, I took it to my basement's 10-yard range. Of course the sight had been moved for some reason and I didn't have a clue where it was supposed to be for ten yards. I often guess well, but this time I blew it, the first of my new arrows landed about a foot below the butt in the concrete wall. I still have the S-shaped shaft to remind me. Now it was time to really try it out at the indoor range. Having received my key for the club by now, being a full-fledged member, I sneaked in to be alone with my bow and the twenty-yard range. I found that my performance was not any better than before with the old bow. It couldn't be me, so it must be the bow. I wondered if that paper test everyone is raving about really works, it must, for it was even mentioned in the instructions that came with the bow. So, I wheel the paper reel in place, even lower a new, untouched paper in place and shoot. To my disgust, the holes were all off according to the instructions, what the heck is wrong; it looks like the bow needs adjusting. I had my Allen keys and all and I am certainly mechanically inclined, so why not go ahead with the adjustments. A half turn here, a full turn there, oh yeah, the draw weight should be here or there. After about an hour of fiddling I wasn’t able to keep an arrow on the rest. So I packed up the bow and went home disappointed with my results. A few days after I took the whole 'Schlabeng' back to Klaus. A long way to go, but I am able to combine these trips with business. He didn't know whether to laugh or cry, here adjusted everything and gave me strict instructions in three little words, 'DON'T TOUCH IT. Hear that, Howard? So after that, I concluded it must be me. I spent one of the last warm, sunny afternoons in early December on the target course to calibrate the sight for all the distances up to80 yards. I met Jack Chapman with some other fellows on the course and showed off my new acquisition. Besides admiring it, he asked a very straight question, 'Do you shoot any better?' I answered honestly, 'No'.
In the meantime I have been practicing, and have accepted some valuable advice from Terry. With the fact that I am regaining some of the right muscles and the practice I feel that I have improved somewhat. During some of the shoots on Tuesday night and the January tournament it became apparent to me that the thicker arrows, some are using, provide somewhat of an advantage in getting higher scores. Since I need all the advantages I can get, I am now the proud owner of some tree trunk arrows. Believe or not, my score improved already, although I would like to believe it was me.
I hope I have not offended anyone by poking fun at them, it was all in good fun and that's what life is all about, isn't it?