Teetering Between Life & Death

April 11th, 2019

My roommates were loud and obnoxious, but I stayed behind the closed door to the quad family room and kept my nose in the books. I needed to get in as much studying as possible. My exam was the next day, and I still felt a little shaky about a lot of what would be on it.

Anxiety always smashed me in the face as I prepared for college exams. Unfortunately, the anxiety usually followed me into the classroom, and my eyes would stare at the paper as my mind went completely blank. I could study for hours on end and not gain a thing from the studying. Although I wasn’t cramming on this evening, I had a similar feeling that coursed through my veins. My adrenaline spiked so I could feel my heart rate accelerating.

When that happened, I knew it was time to take a break. I would go to the dining hall on the hill above my dorm and grab a bite to eat before finishing my studying. Knowing what I wanted to eat, I drew the two types of insulin into the syringe and injected it into my upper leg. A quick pinch made me acutely aware that diabetes sometimes requires people to go with the grind and fight each battle when it presents itself.

When I got to the dining hall, I went for the quick and easy food. I had a few pieces of pizza and sat by myself to eat it. Although I wasn’t on any type of schedule, I knew I had to get back to study. Random thoughts raced through my mind, and all of my attention was on the exam I would be taking the next morning.

After finishing my meal and heading back to my room, I knew I had to have enough insulin to compensate for my meal. That’s when I made a critical mistake that would’ve cost me my life if it hadn’t been for my roommate, a guy I never knew before meeting him that first day of my freshman year. We were able to coexist quite nicely, with him doing his thing and me doing my thing. Things worked so well the first year that we decided to be roommates the next year. In that time, he educated himself about diabetes and what to watch for in case I ran into any problems.

A few hours later, I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and my head fell gently onto my pillow. The studying had taken its toll, and my body needed the rest.

The Next Morning

I’m not sure how to start this, but I’ll give you a brief history of what happened according to my friends. My roommate got up and went to his first class. I didn’t get up because I didn’t have a class until 10:00 a.m., the class in which I would be taking my exam. When my roommate returned, I was completely unconscious and didn’t respond when he tried waking me up. Now, I’ll let you inside my world as I saw it, felt it and heard it the next morning.

Seeing a handful of nurses and a doctor standing over the bed in the ER, I could sense an organized chaos. My limp body laid on the bed while a part of me floated above it and looked down. Extremely bright lights surrounded me, and I could hear the people talking — actually shouting as I remember.

With my back on the ceiling of the room like I was lying on my belly in mid-air, I watched the people. The doctor shouted, “Get him, Get him again. You’re losing him.”

With that, I saw my body convulse as the paddles jolted my body on the bed. Then, I could hear the people’s voices, but none of the voices said anything that I can remember after that original statement from the doctor. Instead, I could hear a few of my relatives that had died many years earlier. I could hear them as clear as I could when they were alive, but like the other people, I couldn’t grasp what they were saying. Voices I would never forget, voices that belonged to people who were once a part of my life.

All of the commotion lasted only a few seconds before the lights faded and everything went black. It happened in the snap of a finger. I’m not sure if I fell, if someone whacked me on the head with a pan, or if I just got lost in a really deep unconscious state. I will never know.

When I opened my eyes, my parents were sitting next to the bed. They asked me if I knew what was going on. I had been in this situation a time or two in the past, so I knew I was in the hospital due to a low blood sugar problem. I tried processing how they could’ve gotten there so quickly. They lived over two hours away, and I knew I couldn’t have been under for that long.

Living Quietly

For a long time, I never said anything to anyone about what happened in that room in the ER that night. I was scared that nobody would believe me. Would they think I was crazy and want to send me to an insane asylum? Would they think I was must messing with them? Would someone else share a similar experience with me? I didn’t know what to expect but figured I would be better off if I just let it go.

A short time later, I read in a magazine about someone who had an almost identical experience. This allowed me to dive straight in and share my happenings with others. As I began talking about it, people reacted in many different ways, but it was therapeutic for me in a way that is unexplainable. I shared it in print, then I went on to talk about it a few times here and there. Although I never felt totally comfortable with it, I never shied away from it.

Today

I’ve thought about that day many times since it happened. The 30-year anniversary of it is coming up in a week or two. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it, but I always remember it like it happened last night. It opened my mind to possibilities that many people will never experience. I feel fortunate for the way everything went down and how it worked out. I’m thankful that my roommate knew what to do to save my life. I think I love life more than anyone I know, at least anyone to whom I have spoken with over the years. I love everything it has to offer. Yes, there are some downs with all of the ups, but the challenges along the way are what mold each and every one of us. I wake up every day and can’t wait to live every second of it to the fullest. Everyone says I should slow down and not always be on the go. I don’t like living in the slow lane. I’m only going to be here so long, and I want to take advantage of the time I’m given. The next time I begin to float into bright light and see my lifeless body below me, I might not be able to come back and tell my story to others. That is why I will be on the road again this weekend making more memories with my friends and family.

Bohemian Rhapsody: A Look Back in Time

March 20th, 2019

  Not knowing what to expect, I sat down last week to watch the movie about Queen. If any of you think this is a movie review, you are in the wrong place. Instead, the movie brought me back to a time in my life that became vividly clear as one scene rolled into the next. I could see sights, smell aromas and hear noises.

  It was the early ‘90s, and I had recently completed my undergraduate studies. I was working two jobs, not knowing what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. Then, my world was turned upside down when my mom sat me down and informed me that she was going to have a major surgery. After being filled in on the risks, I tried ignoring the many thoughts running through my brain and did so for the next few weeks. 

  When my brother walked through the front door of my parents’ home a few days before the scheduled surgery, I suddenly became aware of the depth of what we were facing: moving on in our lives without my mother there to experience our ups and downs and comfort us along the way.

   The surgery would take a full day and not many of the same type had ever been done. The long list of complications associated with it were mind-numbing, especially the one that generically shows up at the end of any precautionary warnings that people are handed before they go under the knife. I had been informed enough about this surgery to know that the last thing on the sheet of paper was an actual reality with this surgery. I could only hope and pray that things would work out in our favor, but I had also learned that when it’s our time, it’s our time. There’s no stopping it, and in this game of life, nobody gets out alive, even though some will last much longer than others while trying to navigate inside the walls of the maze.

  So why did the movie about Queen and Freddie Mercury bring so many emotions to the forefront for me? Well, my brother had come home a few times prior to my mom having surgery, and during his trips, he had brought many different friends with him, friends who had a unique way of dressing. They wore flashy sport coats and unique hats, almost emblematic of the things seen on Michael Jackson’s videos and in Prince’s performances. These people – and my brother – seemed different, like they were living on the edge, in a world that hadn’t become socially acceptable yet. Maybe, just maybe, they were changing with the times and I hadn’t caught up yet to what was happening in the fashion world.

  Although my brother had dated a very nice girl before he left for college in Montana, I now suspected that something was different. My brother seemed to mix well with his new friends, and some of the friends seemed feminine.

  It was in the low ‘80s the day my mother got operated on. I made sure I didn’t have to work so I could be there while the doctors tried performing a miracle. Sitting in the waiting room, my palms began sweating and my breathing became choppy and shallow. I needed to get out of the sterile building and allow my eyes to take in the bright blue sky. 

  Watching my brother, I sensed that he needed the same thing. He clenched his hands together and cracked his knuckles before reaching behind his head and locking his hands together around the back of his neck and extending his head up and back while rolling his shoulders. He tapped his left toe against his right toe and pushed them into the floor and pushed his heels into the air. I could see the tension in his calves when he held the pose for a few seconds before dropping his heels back onto the tiled floor. His fidgeting made me concerned that there was something beyond my mother that was worrying him.

   When he asked me to walk out of Albany Med and go to Washington Park to sit down for a bit, I accepted his offer. My inner-self had made it clear that I couldn’t do a damn thing in that waiting room – except wait. I could wait outside in the fresh air just as easily I could wait in the stale, dull waiting room, where sickness and death were permeating through the walls and down the halls

  As we made our way down the narrow sidewalk toward the park, he began talking. Although he wasn’t really feeling me out, I don’t think the words that were coming out of his mouth were exactly as he wanted to put them. He seemed in tune with the ways of the world and knew a lot about the phenomenon that was creeping across America – AIDS. People had been dying, including some of his friends, and he seemed lost in a world filled with people who were running scared from gay men. People, in their stereotypical fashion, believed that AIDS could jump off these men and find a new home in others’ bodies. At that point, the odds were not good for anyone diagnosed with the disease, and most people knew that a positive diagnosis was a death sentence.

  After making our way to a bench in front of the pond in the park, we silently observed the ducks in the water. Five ducklings followed their mother in single file, some sticking their heads into the water to retrieve unlucky minnows for a meal. The V that formed behind them gave me a gentle reminder that as quiet as it seemed, another creature’s world was being rocked by the tiny movement of water cast aside as the ducks continued swimming toward the fountain, just as my world had quickly begun to experience something that could be compared to thunderous waves crashing against an ocean dike.

  The few minutes of silence was deafening. Although I couldn’t hear my brother’s thoughts, I could see them racing around the track inside his mind, not knowing how to free themselves from captivity. Then, as clear as the blue sky above us, I listened to his voice as words began to flow like the rays of sunlight finding their way through the leaf-covered trees across the pond.

  Within minutes, I came to learn that the wait was eating at him like a pack of hyenas devouring a freshly fallen gazelle that was battling to stay alive. The tone of his voice never changed when he told me his nerves were shot from waiting for the results to a “test.” Although he never told me the name of the test, I was certain that it wasn’t the last civil service examination that had been given a few weeks earlier. 

  With numerous people, including famous actors, musicians, and some of his friends, falling like flies, he was waiting for the results from the same test that had told many of them a story they never expected to hear. After all, the disease came on in full force, and the players had minimal to no chance of survival. I realized that he needed to share his thoughts with someone. At the time, it probably seemed safe to share them with his youngest sibling, so I sat quietly and listened.

  After the brief exchange, we got up and made our way to the waiting room. As we walked up the hill along the side of the street, we shared a few laughs and truly enjoyed the rays of sunshine that could be seen in every direction. The dark shadows from the large buildings kept us hidden, but they couldn’t hold us back. I gently patted my brother on the back and said, “Everything is going to be okay.” 

  I’m not sure if I was trying to convince myself, him or the unknown presence in the sky above us when I spoke. I was talking to anything that would hear me, and I was praying with everything I had that my mother would come through the operation. Not only was that weighing on my mind, now I had to worry about my brother. I loved him, and it didn’t matter if he was straight, gay, bi, yellow, purple, black or red: he was my brother, my only brother. 

  After that day, we never spoke about what happened. As the years passed, it seemed like the moment in time that I experienced with him was a dreamlike image that found its way into my thoughts every now and then out of nowhere. Although I still worried about him, I came to learn during that week that when it’s your time, it’s your time. There’s nothing you can do about it when the time comes. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, and it doesn’t matter how rich or poor you happen to be. Death has no favorites, and nobody survives the game of life: there will be no last man standing.

  Now, almost 30 years later, “Bohemian Rhapsody” found it’s way onto my television, and I was thrown back to this time.  Along the way, I had almost forgotten the battle my brother faced in one of the scariest times in the United States. The younger generation probably doesn’t have a clue about it, or if tit does, it certainly will never grasp the fear and paranoia that spread across the heartland, from the big cities to the mountains. People were afraid to touch anyone who might be carrying the AIDS disease. Maybe I was ignorant to the ways of the world, but I always looked at my brother as my brother, and I’ll be forever thankful that he survived the scare. I was always sad for him, knowing that he had lost many close friends and even a few iconic people he looked up to, including Freddie Mercury.

  I’m not sure why I wrote any of this when I sat down, other than it’s the first thing that found its way into my mind. I’ve always respected my brother. I would do anything to be as smart as him, and I’ve always been fascinated by his intelligence. There are very few things in this world that he doesn’t know something about. He also has more historical knowledge stored in his brain than most people could comprehend. When he was chosen as one of the top students in the “Who’s Who of American High School Students,” they picked the right person. Although he’s a family member and I might be somewhat biased, I haven’t met many people who can compare to him.  I have always admired the variety of people he knows and speaks to on a daily basis. His circle of friends and acquaintances never ceases to amaze me.

  Now, we have drastically different lifestyles than we did when we were growing up, but each of us has found our place in this world, and we have flowed down the river of life just like the water that trickles down tiny streams, finds its way into rivers and eventually mixes in with water from all over the world when its journey begins again in the ocean. 

  My mother still looks over both of us as if we are still young children. She has survived the test of time, and both of us couldn’t be happier about that. We never could have asked for a better mother, a mother who gave so much of herself to make sure we found our way on the paths we chose to follow. She never discouraged either one of us, and she has always given us confidence and reassurance that we are doing the right thing. She let us make mistakes and learn from them, even if she knows she should step in and warn us of what might happen.  It has always been obvious how proud she is of both of us, and that pride can carry a person a long way, especially when you know your existence means the world to the one who gave you life.

  I’m glad that “Bohemian Rhapsody” brought me back to that summer day when my world could’ve easily caved in and the sinkhole could’ve swallowed me. Instead, we all learned a lot about each other, and we have never stopped learning. Change is constant, and we cannot predict what might happen from minute to minute, day to day, week to week, month to month, or year to year. That’s why we should all enjoy every day for what it is: another day to be ourselves and enjoy the life we have been granted. You don’t get a second chance so go create your own music and sing your own songs. You might just be amazed where the trail will lead you if your willing to take a chance and follow it when it appears brushed in and hard to see.

An Archer’s Journey: An Eye Opening Hour…1:8

March 25th, 2018

 

This past week was a blur. I had far too many irons in the fire. Having to get my presentation ready for the Big East Outdoor Show made things on the archery end a little difficult. On Tuesday afternoon, I made my way to the physical therapist’s office for the first time in about six years.

Since my therapist is always concerned about my progression as an archer, he knows how to give me the proper guidance to rehab injuries the right way to get me where I need to go with the bow and arrow. It made me feel pretty good when he looked at my reports from the orthopedic surgeon and told me that he thought he could have me right back on the right track in a short amount of time. Of course, it would be up to me as to how fast the recovery comes along, as I will have to stick to the plan and do the necessary exercises.

When I was at work on Tuesday, I listened to Episode #206 of the Wired to Hunt podcast:

Wired To Hunt Podcast #206: Taking Control Of Your Archery Future and Target Panic with Joel Turner

 

Everyone should give this a listen. I’m pretty sure that many of you will greatly benefit from this, as I know I did. For many years, I thought was doing the right thing when I focused on my process. I always talked my way through the shot and when I got to certain steps, I consciously told myself what to do next. This became a problem at different times because my conscious mind went into overload, especially indoors when I felt a little bit of pressure.

A call the monster the Evil Monkey. The Evil monkey sits on my shoulder and talks nonstop. All of my friends know about the Evil Monkey. When I come off the range, some of my friends tell me that they had a lot of monkey chatter going on. This is when your mind won’t shut off while you’re trying to shoot. The mind runs wild from the time you draw the bow and runs right through the entire shot. That cute little pet monkey on your left shoulder can — at times — turn into a raging gorilla.When the monkey chatter starts, it overtakes your mind.

After listening to this podcast and applying what was said, I couldn’t believe how easy it became to shut my entire mind off by occupying the conscious mind with the perfect thoughts, thoughts that do not interfere with my shot routine. After listening, I also think that some great shooters don’t have to worry about things like this, however, many shooters like us Joes need to focus extremely hard on that stuff. Each person reacts to things differently. Finding your own process to follow is extremely important. I’m excited about this new chapter I’m going to begin working on. I have a great feeling that the way I will focus on the process going into the future will make me become more consistent and help with my nerves, which sometimes come out when the raging gorilla begins punching my brain.

As long as we’re on that topic, I’d like to give a shout out to my buddy Andy Bush, who shot 59 xs at the New York State Classic to win that event. I met Andy three years ago at the IBO World when I was lucky enough to have him in my group. Although he struggled a little bit that day, I could easily tell that he had great potential. His shot looked pretty clean, and I really liked him as a person. To see him come out with that win made me feel pretty good. He obviously had the pet monkey on his shoulder today and not the raging gorilla. Great job, Andy.

After listening to the podcast, I began working on my new process. I shot a couple of 660 rounds. I shot a 638 on one of them but felt like I executed a lot better than the score indicated. I also shot a 628, and the execution that night felt even better. I seem to be having a little problem with the arrows missing out the left side, barely. I think it might be from not trusting myself to move the sight. I shot a 447 in league this week. I ended up going back to my 35′ 3D and hunting bow, which makes me feel the most comfortable. I felt pretty good about the scores I shot with my 3D setup and small arrows. Hopefully, I keep progressing in the right direction. Here’s one of my rounds…….the very last end.

This week I’ve been fielding a few questions from people about a variety of questions. It made me think back on a day in the early 2000s. Although I had been doing well, I felt like I had suddenly hit a brick wall. I was performing like Jeff Hopkins on my personal 3D range, then I’d head to the national tournaments and fall well short of my capabilities, you know……..I’m Roger Staubach in my own backyard. I like the way my buddy Chuck Weeden put its, “I’m Chuck Beaubouef in my basement Nerves were making me come unraveled, something I’ve battled for many years. Sometimes I’ve beaten the beast, but the beast still rears its ugly head from time to time.

When I knew I needed to do something to calm my nerves and allow me to relax while shooting, I began searching all over the internet for different things I could do. Finally, I settled on a few of them. I signed up for meditation classes and Tai chi classes. I knew Tai chi was very similar to archery in the ways that mattered the most. I also figured that the meditation would help me to have a clear mind.

After going to meditation classes for a week, I stayed after one of them finished and told the instructor about the issues I was having at national events. I asked him for any advice he could give me since I was headed to the ASA Pro-am in Battlecreek, Michigan, the next week. He looked at me and said, “Do this: after every shot, get a little bit behind the group, and focus solely on your breathing. Do this every single shot of the tournament and see what happens.”

I had nothing to lose………….so I gave it  whirl. When the scores were totaled after the first day, I couldn’t believe that I was sitting at the top of the pack. I knew the next day would be really tough, but I went in with the same plan as the first day. I could feel my nerves, but I stayed to myself and focused on my breathing. The little bit of meditation that I had done in the classes was already beginning to work. I was finally able to clear my mind. Evil Monkey quietly slid down my arm and walked into the forest around the targets. He blended into all of my surroundings. Evil Monkey disappeared for those two days. When I walked off the range at the end of the second day, everyone was patting me on the back and congratulating me. They all thought that I had won the event, but my buddy Johnny had snuck up from a few groups behind me and got the victory. I was happy for him, and I was ecstatic about my progress. I shot to the best of my ability that day……….I simply got beat, and I didn’t beat myself. That was an incredibly feeling.

After that day I continued to meditate. I got to the point where I could do it easily, and shooting became much easier with a quiet mind. Along the way, I got off track and stopped doing it, even though I encouraged others to do it. I’ve realized recently that I need to start doing it again. It helps you in every aspect of your life. My buddy Chuck Weeden can vouch for it. I told him he needed to try it. His entire family noticed the difference, then he went on to shoot he highest score in a tournament shortly thereafter. That’s how I knew that this little thing that might take only 5-8 minutes a day has great effects. I challenge everyone reading this to attempt to meditate for seven solid minutes. See what happens and let me know. You can google how to meditate. It’s not a hard thing to learn the basics and what you need to do. You will be amazed at how incredibly hard it is to have a quiet mind. If you can get to the point where your mind is quiet for even 30 seconds when you try it that first time, I will be really impressed and might even give you a prize. Try this exercise and let me know what happens.

Okay, enough of all of that. It’s time give my archer of the week profile. This week it goes to Mark Meyers.

I’ve known Mark for a very long time. Mark has always reminded me a little of myself. He kind of blends into the backdrop and watches stuff around him. He’s one of the most observant people you will ever meet and one of the best people you will ever know. Although I’ve helped a lot of people along the way, I always send people to see Mark when they get to a place where I think they need more than what I can offer. One of the best things about Mark is that he’s never satisfied. He wants to offer people the best of everything. Although he’s a very successful coach, he even sees other coaches, like Mike Price, who he respects a great deal, to help him with his own shooting. Between those two coaching minds, I’m sure they can figure a lot of things out. If you ever want to advance your game, both of these guys are great choices.

Anyhow, back to Mark. He used to always be in the hunt at every type of tournament he attended. Eventually, he decided to focus more on bettering other archers and spending less time on his own game. Amazingly, when he does shoot, he still shoots well. He made the cut at the IBO World a few years ago and had a great showing. Yesterday, when he made a post about Jacob Slusarz, his student, I could see his pride. But his pride wasn’t for anything he did, rather, it was for Jacob’s win. Mark has helped many people become better archers. I’m extremely fortunate that he lives in my area and I can call him a friend. I know I can be a pain the ass at times, but he’s always willing to listen to me and give advice. A few years ago, he even watched me at the Lancaster Classic when the camera was on me for an extended period of time. He told me to call him when I got home because he saw something I might be interested in learning more about. I respect that about Mark. He knows I would never be insulted because he’s just trying to make be better. I feel fortunate to have his eyes on me, as well as Mike’s help from this winter. Between the two of them, I’m hoping to improve as time moves forward.  Mark also represents Darton Archery. I know that Ted appreciates everything he does, but until you actually see what he does, it’s hard to imagine. If you see Mark on the 3D range in New England or New York this summer, make sure to say hello and ask him any questions you can about the Darton bows or coaching. He’s extremely knowledgable about a lot of things. After conversing with him, you’ll feel a little smarter on your way home.

 

An Archer’s Journey: Frustration 1:7

March 18th, 2018

Now that it’s staying light later into the day, it makes me want to go outside and shoot my bow. Unfortunately, this weather is making that all but impossible, at least to do it comfortably. I made the dreaded trip to the orthopedic surgeon on Wednesday morning. When I made the appointment for my shoulder about six years ago, it was much different. I knew that something was seriously wrong. The elbow issue hasn’t struck me like the shoulder issue did. Instead, the elbow issue has been a nagging injury. It has never felt like anything too serious, but I also know I can’t let it go. I needed to ease my mind.

The visit went about like I had expected it would go. When I injured the elbow last summer, I never really took the time to let it heal. In hindsight, my choice wasn’t the best thing that I did last year. I gritted through the rest of the summer and added insult to injury. Although my shooting went extremely well, the pain never subsided. On many days, I could barely hold the bow steady while aiming.

I let the elbow rest for the three fall months when I spent the majority of my time in the woods, and it was relatively okay for the first few weeks of shooting indoors. Now, I know that the issues I’ve been facing are the result of a former injury and the loss of strength in my arm, which affected the area from my elbow to my wrist. I’m going to start physical therapy for it on Tuesday and take it from there. My mind feels pretty relieved.

After I found out that I couldn’t damage it by shooting, I headed to the range to gut it out. I’ve always been one of those guys who needs to shoot arrows to stay fresh. I can’t pick a bow up after not having shot and shoot well. I’m not sure why, but that’s just the way it goes.

Although I didn’t spray arrows all over the place, I definitely wasn’t too excited. I spent Friday night working on feeling my shot. I’m not sure why, but I can’t find it. It feels like it jumped off the side of the boat while I was drifting around without any paddles.

Things improved a little today. I have my 3D arrows shooting okay out of my 3D bow. Although the arrows are small, I shot a round to see how they were working. The round definitely wasn’t anything spectacular. I ended up with a 444 and not many Xs. I took it as a plus since I haven’t shot at all in a few weeks. Looking at the target, my first two bullseyes had most of the arrows in the 10-ring. The final bullseye that I shot didn’t look so good, and I’m not sure if it’s because I was tiring out. All in all, none of the arrows missed the 10-ring by very much. Something about the bow felt a little bit off, so I went home and started trying to figure things out.

I took the 29′ module out of one of my bows and put the 28.5 back in it. That was definitely a good start. I also put four twists in the string of my other bow to suck it up a little bit. Afterward, I went outside and shot both bows at 40 yards. I was impressed with the groups I shot, and I even broke a few arrows. The bow I changed the module in felt much better than the other one. I think the reason is that the back wall is rock solid with no give to it at all. I think that feel is important for me right now, as I’m trying to determine what draw length is going to allow me to perform at my highest level. I’m shooting 57 lbs on both bows, and that poundage seems to be comfortable.

Throughout most of the winter, I’ve been looking after Logan, my buddy Aron Stevenson’s kid, on Friday nights at league. He’s been working on some things, and I’ve been a silent private eye in the background. Like most seasoned archers, he got stuck on the score thing and started getting irritated when he wasn’t putting all of his arrows in the middle from 20 yards. Meanwhile, for his age group, he should be shooting from 10 yards. The little guy is competitive but almost too competitive.

We all know what that attitude can breed. Sometimes it can make us try too hard and other times it makes it hard to get the pin up into the middle. I had to convince him that where that arrow landed didn’t matter. This was a chore! All of you should remember this lesson, too. Don’t try too hard and put so much pressure on yourselves to score well. Do all the little things the right way and the good score will just appear on your scorecard.

That’s when his mom had to step in and give him a little speech about shooting to have fun and not taking all of the enjoyment out of by getting upset about a score that didn’t live up to his expectations. As the weeks have passed, he has gotten a lot better. He has been asking me to watch his shot and critique it. His shot has been looking fantastic the last few weeks. The only problem he’s been having is pulling through the click on his release at times.

When we approach the target to score his arrows, he tells me that his pin wasn’t anywhere near the middle when it went off, and there’s no way the arrow should be in the white. That’s when I had to tell him a story, a story I’ll share with all of you because I’m sure many of you have run into the same issue along the way.

Have you ever shot those shots that had no business being in the middle? Well, I have, and I know exactly why some, not all, end up in the middle. Many years ago, I attended a shooting class with Alexander Kirillov from PSE, and he put a laser on my bow. I couldn’t see where the laser was hitting, but I knew he had it set up so the movement could be recorded on a target a few lanes away.

He told me to shoot five of the best shots I could shoot. When I drew the first arrow, my legs began to shake, and my upper body joined the party. After shooting all five arrows, I couldn’t believe that they were all inside out Xs on a 5-spot target. I walked over to my father and said, “I don’t even want to see the video.” He responded, “I think you’re going to be surprised.”

I knew that I had seen the dot in the blue ring two times, and I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how those two arrows got in the middle. Well, as he was going through the videos and showing how different people held on the target, I was amazed at what some people did while executing their shots.

Then, he got to my video. He told everyone to watch closely because he couldn’t believe how steady I held the bow. When I saw it, I was amazed. Instantly, I saw why all of the arrows were inside out Xs. The two times I thought I saw the dot fall into the blue ring, it actually just barely hit the bottom of the X before bouncing back up toward the center. As nervous as I was while he was filming me shooting, I couldn’t believe my pin stayed that still on the target.

When the class ended, the coach asked if he could see me in private in one of the back rooms. I gladly obliged, and I’ll never forget what happened. He pointed his index finger at me, and said, “Listen closely. I have some advice for you.”

Then, he grabbed my left ear before latching onto my right ear with his other hand. He said, “Do you feel these?”

I responded, “Yes.”

He said, “You must learn to work on what is between the two of them. If you do that, you can compete with anyone.”

It’s something I have never forgotten. So to make a long story short, I told Logan that he was probably seeing his sight pin in a different place than where it actually was when the bow went off. He was unsure of what I was saying, and I could tell that he was trying to process it…………..just as I had tried to process everything I saw on the video that day.

Is it confidence that helps us shoot well? You be the judge.

The weekend after attending that class with Alexander Kirillov, I shot in the annual Guan Ho Ha Vegas tournament. Like any tournament I had participated in, I was pretty nervous at different times throughout the tournament. I had shots that were pounding out the center and had no idea how the arrows were finding their way to the middle. But I really did know how they were getting there, even though I didn’t want to acknowledge it. The same thing was happening that happened when I was being filmed, and I just trusted my shot. Trusting your shot when you think the pin is dancing all over the map makes shooting much easier. Over the years, I’ve become a master at trying to over aim. I’ve also become a master at letting my conscious mind talk to me throughout my shot process, which slows everything down and makes every shot a battle. When I peeled the target off the cardboard at that Guan Ho Ha shoot and tallied the score, I had shot 41 super Xs, and I knew it was because of the confidence I brought with me. It’s amazing what can happen if we allow ourselves to trust our shot.

 

This week’s shooter highlight goes to my longtime New England shooting buddy Rick Baker.

 

I’m not sure when it was when I first met Rick, but it was a long time ago. It could have been at one of the old Budweiser shoots in Merrimack, NH, back in the day, or it could have even been at one of the New Hampshire state shoots or one of the IBO Northeast Triple Crown shoots. Anyhow, none of that matters.

In my opinion, Rick is the best all around shooter in New England. Many guys are fantastic shooters at one thing. Some are great 3D shooters; some are great indoor target archers; some are great field archers; and others are great outdoor target archers. Rick is always at or near the top of every venue he performs in. When I shoot with him, he always seems to make it look easy. Going back 20 to 25 years, I feel like he has always pushed me to be better. I think we have a pretty even record if we go back across the years. We both never get too high or too low, and we shoot our bows because we love to shoot arrows. I know that it helps both of us to deal with personal stress.

There are two things in Rick’s career that I will never forget. The first one is when he smoked the field in the qualifying round of the IBO World at Snowshoe. He was basically unstoppable. Unfortunately, he did a little too much celebrating the night the qualifying wrapped up. The next morning didn’t treat him so well, and he paid the price for it. I don’t look at the final day, though, because I have to excuse it due to the unforeseen circumstances of the night before. If I remember right, I think Rick thought he had won the tournament. He didn’t realize that he had to shoot the next day until it was too late. Any way you look at it, he put on an incredible shooting display.

I also remember him going arrow for arrow in a shootoff at the Lancaster Classic while hundreds of other archers stood on the line watching. I probably would have come undone, but he stood there like he always does and just kept on shooting. I’ve always been amazed by his ability to hold the bow steady under pressure. If I could transfer anyone’s nerves into my own body, I would probably take Rick’s. It seems like he never gets too wound up about anything. I think that’s probably why I shoot well with him when we shoot together. Although, I can’t prove that by any of last year’s performances when we shot together.

I’m always appreciative of his advice, and I’m thankful that we met back in the heyday of 3D archery in New England.

 

Until next week ——————-> shoot straight.

 

An Archer’s Journey: On the Shelf for a While 1:6

March 11th, 2018

 

 

This week passed quickly, but the archery part of it dragged. I’m fairly certain that the dragging action is going to make its presence known as I look toward April. Although I spent Monday and Tuesday working on some bows, the pain in my elbow wouldn’t give in and allow me to shoot. I realized that I need to leave my bow in the corner when I look at it and thoughts of shooting it cross my mind. The elbow has not improved at all and has steadily declined into an area that made me realize that I need to make an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. I’m going to get on that tomorrow.

This winter has walloped me with unanticipated problems. Unfortunately, I haven’t been healthy enough to make any forward strides involving the changes I’ve made. It’s rather discouraging, but I guess it’s one of those things that I must face now that I’m headed toward the senior class. Things don’t heal as quickly as they did in the past and paying attention when your body talks to you is important. I’ll keep you updated on this as time moves forward.

Although I wasn’t able to shoot this week, I did talk to a lot of people about many different things that relate to archery. Recently, I’ve followed a few things on the internet that make me laugh a little and realize how long I have truly been at this game. Many people who are relatively new to the sport don’t have a clue about the past and the people who helped to bring this game to higher levels. It’s amazing to see and listen to the people who admire people who have never won anything. I guess it’s all about how you carry yourself. When it comes to archers who aren’t professionals, I’ve noticed that I usually gain the most from the quiet ones, the ones who don’t have to pump themselves up for the rest of the world to see. Humble people have a tendency to draw me in. I like them because they act like they’re one of me. I’ve always tried to do the same. Although I’ve never won a professional event, I’ve won some pretty big money tournaments in which professionals participated, and I’ve won in the SPM class as well as all of the amateur classes I’ve shot in. Most people wouldn’t have a clue, and it reminds me of a few things that I’ll share that I’ve never been able to forget.

I can remember being in the top one or two peer groups going into he last leg of the IBO National Triple Crown on three different occasions. Since I’ve never worn a collared shirt or a shooter shirt — unless I was told I had to — I can usually fly under the radar, which is exactly what I like. On more than one occasion, I’ve had people look at the score cards after receiving them and do a double-take at me before saying, “You’re Todd Mead?”

I usually look around, raise my eyebrows and say, “Yup, I guess I am if that’s what the scorecard says.”

Then I get, “Wow, I always imagined you were a tall guy.” I still haven’t figured out if that’s an insult, but I always think it’s funny. It brings me to a point I’ve thought about this week and I know it happens to other people. Sometimes shooters get intimidated just by a person’s name, even without knowing the person. If you find out you’re on the same bale as one of the big dogs or if you have followed a person’s success and realize you are now in the same group as that person, it can quickly deteriorate your mental game if you aren’t prepared.

In all of my years of shooting, I’ve always performed my best in peer groups, and I think that’s because I feel mentally stronger than my competitors. I think that many amateurs get intimidated or they worry about the outcome. They become overly nervous and the train can run off the tracks if they don’t get everything in check. Although I’ve never been great when I shoot in peer groups that have some of my friends in them, I usually excel when I don’t know the others that well. I think it’s because all of my concentration and focus is in one place, and that place is where I put everything I have into finishing the job. I will never forget the time I rolled off 9 11s on a 10-target loop at the IBO National Triple Crown while in the top peer group. One guy looked at the other guy in my group, shrugged his shoulders and put his palms out to his side and held them upward while he mouthed, “WTF” after I shot an 11 on the last target of the loop. I saw him do it when I turned around, which made it even funnier. It was probably because my equipment looked like I had dragged it through the mud, with my 20-year-old sight on it and rusted bolts from not having moved the stabilizer connectors in as long as I could remember. When you’re in a peer group, all of your energy should be focused on getting the job done, not trying to avoid the pressure. I think it’s a learned skill and I feel fortunate to have gained that knowledge along the way. Although my equipment looked like hell, my mind was centered. When I was done that day I was mentally drained.

I’ve realized that you have to have that killer instinct when you have a chance to win. I’m never happy with an “also ran”  congratulatory hug when I’m done with my round. Our chances to win are so few, that when you have once of those chances, you had better be mentally prepared to take full advantage of it. The chances are fleeting in the amateur divisions, otherwise you wouldn’t find yourself there. Instead, you would be somewhere in the pro ranks.

So what have I done to allow me to get it done when the time comes? I always mentally rehearse the scene. I do it for every tournament I go to that I might find myself in a peer group or on a top bale at the end. I take the time to think ahead and see myself shooting winning shots over and over and over. I also write in my performance to remind me that I’m a winner. I also focus on things I need to work on. If the same item keeps showing up, I know I need to nip it in the bud and get after it. For anyone who wonders what my performance journal might look like, this is an entry from 2015, one of the years I won the IBO World Championship. When I drew the bow on the last target, I knew I needed a 10 to at least secure a tie. Amazingly, when I drew the bow, the pin settled and the arrow hit a lick below the 11. I made a perfect shot when I needed it.

Here’s a journal entry from late May of that year, and I’m referring to one of the New England IBO state championship tournaments:

“I started off OK today but hit a few speed bumps on the way out of the gate. I was tense most of the day and found myself stagnant at times. I need to work on my shot timing in the coming days. I need to continue working on letting my subconscious mind shoot the shot. Once again, I proved today that I can grind out a good performance when I’m struggling with my shot. I made some fantastic shots, including one on a strutting turkey, one on an antelope, one on an alligator, and one on a walking black bear, along with many others. Overall, I shot a lot of good shots. I earned the win today because I was mentally stronger than the field. I’m a finalist at the IBO World Championship because I know to perform well at big tournaments. I don’t over emphasize the importance of any shot. I’m a champion because I shoot one shot at a time. I shoot my best under pressure. I’m the IBO World Champion because I’ve shot the same winning shot thousands of times, whether it was in my backyard or on the tournament trail.”

Yup, it might sound corny when you read it, but that was in May of that year and the IBO World Championship was in August. I wrote this down every day in my performance journal after I practiced or shot in a tournament. Then, when the time came, the shot I needed to make was incredibly easy.

I won’t carry on about this, but you get the idea. If you want to achieve goals, you need to write them down and put yourself in the place to win them before you get there. Otherwise, you won’t be mentally prepared and the moment could suck you up and swallow you. I’ll be the first to tell you that most of the big tournaments I’ve won in the last 25 years weren’t because I was the best shooter. Instead, I won because I was mentally stronger than the guys I was shooting against. It pisses people off when they get beat by a person whom they don’t consider as good as them. People talk shit and say, “Oh, the best shooter didn’t win.” Yup, you got that right, but I was the most mentally prepared and my shooting was good enough to beat the so-called best shooter. Instead of saying stuff like that, people should take a step back and realize that maybe, just maybe, they should spend more time working on their mental game because great shooting will only get you so far. The winners do things that others don’t see and that is how they know how to win. That is also why you see the same people return to the winner’s circle or always be within sniffing distance of it. Do yourself a favor this spring/summer and be diligent with writing in your performance journal and working toward goals. A goalless archery will never achieve a goal……….and isn’t it everyone’s goal to do something? Isn’t that why we shoot?

Well this week’s shooter recognition award goes out to the person who has driven me to be better since the early ’90s. I can still remember reading about him in 3D Times, which was a big publication at the time for 3D archery. Everyone read it and everyone subscribed to it. Everyone hoped to see his or her name in it from a big finish at a national event. I read all about how Scott Tozier had won the IBO Indoor World, which was a big tournament at that time. He took down some of the big guys in doing so. When I read about it, I realized that this guy lived in New York, and I wanted to meet him to see what kind of game he had as compared to my own game.

 

That’s when I decided to head out to Active Bowhunters in western New York to shoot in an IBO qualifier. I wanted to see where I stacked up against this guy. Putting too much pressure on myself to do well, I shot a 5 on the first target, a strutting turkey that was down off from a steep bank. The next target I got an 8 on a ram. I figured I was done, so I just started shooting my bow. By the time the day ended, I had a score of 289, with 10-8-5 scoring. I only shot one more 8 on the next 28 targets, and it was a tough course. When I got home and saw the scores, Scott Tozier had beaten me by 2 points, meaning he also shot a 5. That was the kickstart to my competitive nature in the 3D world. Since that time, we have both been in and out of archery, and we have both found a lot of success along the way. Scott also has that killer instinct. Sometimes both of us have a hard time getting going, but when we do get it right, we usually finish the job. I’ve lost track along the way, but I think Scott has won four or five IBO World Championships in at least four classes.

Having said all of that, one of my most memorable times is when Scott beat me by an X to win our indoor state championship, and he and I shot together in the team event and only dropped one point between the two of us on  a Vegas round, which gave us a win. That’s what I love about archery; it gives people some unforgettable moments.

I’m glad that I’ve been able to call Scott one of my best friends over the years. We spend a fair amount of time talking about different things, and I know that it has helped both of us. I’m appreciative of his ears and his knowledge. If you surround yourself with knowledgeable people who shoot well, you will definitely get better. Having this guy in my corner for 20-s0me years has worked wonders for me.

An Archer’s Journey: Shooting Well and Having Luck on your Side, 1:5

March 4th, 2018

Well, the past week had a lot of highs and lows in it. I was looking forward to going to Turning Stone casino to participate in the Wintercam Classic with my buddy George. Unfortunately, George fell on some black ice and did some damage to his knee. Without being able to put any pressure on his leg, he was unable to make the trip with me. The incident kind of reminded me of what happened to my good friend Scott Tozier last year. He was peaking and shooting some of the best scores of his life when everything went out the window due to an unforeseen injury. It’s always disappointing when this happens, because you never know if you’ll get back to that level after rehabbing a serious injury.

The week started off incredibly bad as far as scores go. When I headed to the club to shoot in my Tuesday night 450 Vegas league, I didn’t feel well and knew I shouldn’t go. Instead, being bullheaded, I hopped in the truck and headed to the range. My energy was at the lowest it had been in a long time, and my body ached. Without very much energy, I didn’t know how things would pan out.

It didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off the bus. Instead of pulling over into the breakdown lane, I kept the throttle on the gas. When I help people, I always tell them to carry it through until the end, even if it’s one of their worst days of shooting. You never learn much on your very best days, but you can learn a tremendous amount on your bad days if you pay attention and write it down in your performance journal. Yes, everyone should keep a performance journal if he or she truly wants to track problems and find solutions to fix the problems. If the same things keep showing up in this journal, you will know that you’re not working hard enough to correct those issues. If new problems arise, it gives you faith when you look back at your journal and realize that you can figure out methods to combat your problems and confront them head on.

Well, when I was done for the night, I had shot the lowest score I’ve ever shot on a Vegas round since around 1992 if my memory serves me right. I shot a 430, and I even totally missed the target one time. Being tired, I lost back tension and couldn’t save the string from lunging forward. The end result was an arrow that hit the bale on top of the target. Yup, shit happens. When the night came to a close, I didn’t need to write anything in my journal to analyze at a later date. Instead, I identified that I shouldn’t go to the range when I’m that tired and my body aches. Sometimes, even if you’re committed to a league, you just need to stay home on certain nights. I won’t put myself through that again. Without having any energy, it was impossible to function at an acceptable level. That was the lesson of the week as far as leagues go.

I spent some time outside since the weather was so nice. I worked on my long-range shooting. It felt really good, and I shot some good groups. I don’t have much to report on that front, other than I had really good marks heading into the indoor 3D Wintercam Classic.

When I got to the Classic, I was able to shoot a handful of practice arrows, but I’ve never been much for shooting a lot of practice arrows before a 3D round, so that didn’t bother me a bit. When I came to full draw for my first scoring arrow, I was surprised with the wave of nerves that hit me. I didn’t really expect them, but they were definitely there, front and center. With the nerves going full bore, I was unable to hold well enough to shoot at the bonus rings, so I tried to hold as good as I could in the 10-rings and execute the best shots I could. As with any tournament, I calmed down as the shooting progressed. By the seventh target, I felt like I was holding well enough to start aiming at some of the bonus ring. I hit my first 12 on shot number eight and ended up shooting six 12s and a few eights in my last 12 shots. I considered that a really successful round.

As with any tournament, I didn’t know what to expect when the bell rang for the second shooting session. When I hit full draw, I was surprised to have no extra pin movement. It didn’t take me long to understand what was happening, and I knew I had to take advantage of it. I put the pin on top of the 12-ring and executed a great shot. The arrow found it’s mark. The same thing happened to the next two shots, and I barely missed the 12 on the fourth one. I knew I was rolling. I had a few long shots on the next end, so I played relatively safe and aimed where the 11 and12 rings connect. One arrow found its way into the 12 and the other just missed. With confidence building and sitting at a solid 12 up, I decided to go for it. Unfortunately, I had a little bit of a bobble on the next shot, and it hit a hair below the 14 ring and in between the 12 and 14. The arrow scored as a five. The next arrow barely missed the 12 ring and landed in the eight-ring. Between the two arrows, they probably missed by a combined total of 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch.

That right there brings me to my next topic. Think about this……….there’s a lot of luck in this game. If I had about 1/8 of an inch on a ruler, I could have accumulated 13 more points, putting me at 424. But then I have to think about all of the ones I got lucky on, too. I had two arrows that were on the bottom side of the 12 and were barely licking the line. They are four points that easily could have gone the other way, which would have put me at 420.

Far too often we get overly concerned about the score. We talk about other people and say, “what the hell happened to so and so………..or I can’t believe so and so shot that well.” In the end, should we really even look at anyone’s score and pass judgment? No, we shouldn’t.  I shot really well this weekend considering all of the changes I’ve made. I’m thankful for Mike Price offering to help me, and I’m trying my hardest to work on the things he told me I needed to work on. It has been tough.

In my adventures on the tournament trail, I’ve been really lucky to have won some really big things. I’ve learned one thing that is constant in these wins; you definitely have to shoot well. But you also have to get a little lucky. That’s why we are Joes and not pros. Many pros don’t need the luck because they repeatedly pound the same holes and have no flaws in their execution. I’ve won some things in which I definitely didn’t shoot my best, and I’ve lost many more things in which I couldn’t have shot any better. You should always keep that in the back of your mind. I’ve also learned that if you put yourself in the position to win and you’re not winning, eventually your time will come, but when that time comes, you need to be mentally prepared to drop the hammer on your competitors. That’s why you can’t lose confidence and consider yourself the first loser when you don’t win. I barely missed the cut with my new shooting form this weekend, and the main reason I did that was because I had too much tension in my release hand. But I did put myself in a position to have a shot at it, and I couldn’t ask for more than that. You should never forget where you came from if you start winning. In my opinion, the best winners are the humble ones. If you’re a Joe, or even if you’re a pro, you can quickly go to that arena of fallen bull fighters. It only takes getting poked in the ribs one time by the bull to knock you out. Some people recover, but others never find a way back to podium.

I’ve also learned that many of my friends battle the same things. Paul Bertrand shot a great score, but he said tension in his release hand held him back in the beginning. It happens to everyone, so don’t think you’re the only car on the highway when you’re driving through the place in your mind that can become really scary at times. There are others who are on the same road that you’re traveling. Take a step back, look around, see the shooters on the line and realize that 98% of those guys are on the same exact road that you’re on that you think nobody else is traveling on.

I apologize for being so long-winded with this one, but many things came up over the weekend that made me think about a variety of things. I did realize that I really need to find a way to work on relaxing my release hand while setting up and executing. I’ve always battled with finding the perfect amount of tension to have in my hand while holding the release. It feels as if it’s too tight or too loose at different times. I’m fairly certain that if I can figure out how to beat that demon, I will be able to be much more consistent.  Here are my cards for the weekend. Although I would have liked to have done better, I’m really satisfied with it. It could easily have been a 424 with a hair tiny bit of luck.

After seeing Jon Brown post his staff shooter profile appreciation things lately, I’ve decided to do the same thing on here. Every week, I’m going to try to say a little something about certain people who have been a part of my journey and have had an effect on my game. The first one to get the nod in this is Shawn Couture.

I think I met Shawn when he was still in the youth class. Although he’s not much younger than me, he’s young enough so that I’m glad I never had to compete against him in the youth class. Shawn has always been one of those people in New England whom I respect the most. It’s probably because he’s  humble. The guy is a phenomenal shooter and has posted some pretty impressive scores in target archery and on the 3D range. How many people can never judge yardage and still show up at a regional 3D event and run with all of the big dogs? Well, Shawn has done it on more than one occasion. I can’t remember if it was when I was shooting in the Open B class or if it was when I was shooting in Semi-Pro, but I was the last one to show up at my stake at the ASA Pro-Am in Roanoke, Va., and I was glad to see that Shawn was on the same stake. I’m not sure, but that might have been about 20 years ago. Shawn wasn’t the only lefty in the group that weekend. Rob Luke, from Pennsylvania was the other one, and Rob ended up winning the tournament. Over the years, Shawn has always listened to me as I exhale all of my issues I’m battling. It’s pretty hard to find someone’s ear who understands my language, but Shawn has always been that guy. Next time you see Shawn on the range make sure you give him a nod. He puts a lot into archery and always has a good attitude. He also works toward making the sport better in our region. I’ve even heard that if everyone keeps their ears tilted, he might be working on a project that we will all appreciate. Anyhow, thanks Shawn for always listening to me babble and giving me the vote of confidence that I need from time to time. It has never passed by me without being appreciated.

An Archer’s Journey: Injuries, confidence and good friends

February 25th, 2018

Since I enjoy shooting a bow so much, it sometimes becomes rather difficult to listen to my body when it talks to me. For the last few weeks, my joints, tendons and muscles have been telling me that I need to take a break. Being bullheaded, I blazed forward and figured I could beat the damn pain. Well, sometime that’s just impossible.

This week I wasn’t able to do very much with my bow(s). The injury in my elbow has gotten progressively worse and really flares up when I shoot one of my bows. I’m pretty sure it’s because of the amount of shock that is distributed into my arm when the arrow jumps off the bowstring and is launched forward. Trying to deal with the pain has been a chore and has eliminated most of my actual training. This week I was only able to shoot on my two league night, and I probably shouldn’t have even done that.

My hold was halfway decent on Tuesday night. I made a lot more good shots than bad ones. I ended the night with a 446 and 27 Xs. I feel like I’m finally starting to flatten out a little and gain some consistency. Amazingly, I can easily identify why I miss when I miss now. I also know that it I follow the steps properly, I will shoot every arrow in the middle. If I leave something out or try to rush through a step or two, I will usually miss, even it the miss isn’t by much.

I’ve been missing a few arrows at 6 o’clock lately, and after talking to George about it, I’m pretty sure we figured out exactly what is happening. I’m getting a little dipping and bobbing as I get into the shot and it fires right when the pin is at the bottom of the circle. I’m pretty sure I’m losing just a tiny bit of back tension, which is resulting in the low misses. I will make sure to work on maintaining the same pressure throughout the shot to keep this from happening in the future. If the same thing continues, I will know that I haven’t properly identified the 6 ‘o’clock problem.

I was unsure what to do on Friday night because of the pain in my elbow. I knew that I couldn’t shoot the bow that jars my arm, but at the same time, I felt like I could shoot as long as the bow didn’t beat me up. I quickly sighted in Mark’s bow and put his sight back on it. To my amazement the arrows hit right behind the pin when I made good shots. This was an incredible difference from last week when I struggled with the bow while trying to get it to group. Looking back at it, I found the problem. I recently traded a sight online and the problem was in the sight. Supposedly, it was a brand new CBE Vertex. Upon receiving it, I could see where there were a few scuff marks on it, so I knew that someone definitely had their hands on it, even if he didn’t use it. The quick detach would not lock down without having all sorts of slop in it, either. With the sight doing that, it wasn’t returning to the same place after the shock of the bow moved it, causing the arrows to spray. I lost all confidence in the bow, but in reality, it wasn’t the bow.

After shooting the bow through paper and getting the arrows to make a bullet hole through paper, I knew that the tune on it was pretty close to where it had to be. I knew I shouldn’t be getting the shots that were appearing in the target. As I continued shooting the bow, I started losing confidence. I thought it was me making bad shots, even though I knew the shots weren’t that bad.  Finally, I made two perfect shots. The arrows both scored as inside out Xs on the Vegas target. The third shot was as good as the first two, and the arrow landed dead high in the 7-ring. That’s when I instantly realized I wasn’t the reason behind the bad grouping. After further study, the sight was to blame.

Although I tell people all the time to pay attention to this stuff, I ignored what I tell them. If you are a good shooter, and you’re making good shots, the arrows should hit behind the pin or pretty damn close to that spot. If the arrows aren’t hitting there, there is most likely a problem with the equipment. You have to trust your form before your confidence takes the hit. Confidence gan be extremely hard to regain once you’ve lost it, and in turn, it could lead you to begin making bad shots for no reason at all. Trust your form, trust your shots and don’t be afraid to blame it on the equipment. But be careful when you start transferring the blame to your equipment. There’s a fine line between equipment problems and YOU problems. If you don’t shoot well in a tournament or on league night, don’t start blaming the equipment for something that has to do with your imperfect execution.

So by the time Friday night league got done, I felt pretty good about my shooting. I had an extremely hard time holding the bow steady because the draw length on Mark’s bow was about 1/2 inch short. I’m going to get the modules from him tomorrow to see if it makes things better. Although I only shot 51 Xs, the round felt a lot better than that. I got out of the gate with five Xs, but the next round saw the round take a downhill turn when I only anchored two Xs. Once I got into the round, I felt like I could shoot really well with the bow if I had a little more draw length. I went from hating this particular bow a week ago to realizing that I think I really like it. Actually, the only reason I didn’t like it last week, was because it was frustrating the hell out of me when the arrows weren’t hitting behind the pin when they should have been. The handle on the bow felt good, and I liked the way the bow reacted when I shot it. Now, after adding in the right let-off stops for me, the draw length became too short. I’m excited to try it with the correct mods on it not that I have the right stops on it.

I won’t be shooting much this coming week due to the elbow issue. Although I’m headed to the Wintercam Classic next weekend, I don’t expect much. It’s really hard to set something up this time of year to shoot at 3D targets when I’ve been shooting at paper. I also don’t have much ambition to stand outside and wing arrows in subpar weather. I did go outside on Wednesday when it was 70 degrees to make sure my marks were close. I shot a pretty decent group at 50 yards, so I think I’ll be able to keep them in the scoring rings.

Remember as we make this final push of the indoor season to concentrate on the things you’re working on. If your main objective is to have a successful 3D season, then you need to really make sure you focus on making good shots. The size of an average 10-ring on a 3D animal is considerably larger than an X. Pounding Xs isn’t that important as long as you can make good shots and keep them in a kill that’s the size of a small deer. That’s why many times in the amateur ranks of 3D, we see people win who don’t necessarily pound paper. It’s a different game that doesn’t require the pinpoint accuracy in many cases. Have fun and don’t over-aim. Confidence is everything in this game. As you saw earlier in this post, it comes in goes in the snap of a finger. Pay attention to your confidence, because as your confidence goes so does your shooting.

Here’s the group I shot at 50 to get my 50 mark.

 

An Archer’s Journey: A Sore Elbow 1:3

February 19th, 2018

 

 

  The last week has been rough on my body. My elbow injury from last summer doesn’t want to leave me alone, and this week it kind of came to a head. A few of the days, I dealt with a substantial amount of pain. With that being said, I wasn’t able to do too terribly much with my bows.

The week started off well, though. I headed to the range on Monday and worked solely on executing my shot with a relaxed hand. I have realized that it is essential to relax my hand and forearm to execute a perfect shot. To do this drill, I went to the club after work and shot a 450 came from 12 yards again. I pounded the center out of the target, and I made 43 perfect shots. It’s amazing how easy it is to shoot a bow when there’s minimal movement in the sight picture and when there’s no payoff for where the arrow lands once it is launched from the bow. As the old saying goes, “I’m Roger Staubach in my own backyard.” I’m sure some of you younger people won’t get the reference, but I’m sure most of you can relate to the quote. Although I can remember days that I’ve felt the same on the tournament trail, I’ve never sustained the test of time.

When I finished practicing on Monday night, I felt like I could do anything. The process was locked in and everything seemed easy. I knew I would find out how it really worked when I went to league the next night. When I attend leagues, I still feel a little bit of nerves. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been nervous when I shoot. I’m even nervous in my basement. I guess it’s just who I am as a person.

When I started practicing before Tuesday’s league started, I felt really good. The feeling continued throughout the round. I have to go back to about 2004 to find the last time I felt like I did on Tuesday night. My shot felt so good that I felt like I couldn’t miss; shooting was incredibly easy. In the middle of the round, I let my mind wander around a little bit, causing me to miss a couple of steps in my process. When the scores were tallied, I ended up with a 446 and 25Xs, however, my execution scored a 447 with about 38 Xs. I only missed one arrow that I shouldn’t have missed. I made a good shot and the arrow landed just below the 10 line at 6 o’clock. The paper was torn, and the arrow probably could have gone either way if the line was reconstructed. It was my bad for not changing the target. The other shots missed because I got a little tense and let the shot get out of my back and creep into my shoulder. Instead of letting down and starting over, I figured I could put a little extra tension on the release to get it to fire. Well, I found out that, unlike my old shooting form,  it’s not going to work with my new shooting form. All three of those arrows hit dead center at 12 o’clock in the 9-ring. I was easily able to identify why the shots landed where they landed.

Wednesday and Thursday I needed to take time off because of my elbow. I didn’t go near a bow, figuring it would serve me well for the weekend. I decided to shoot the annual Guan Ho Ha archery tournament on Friday night with George. I met him at the club for a few minutes to shoot a few arrows before heading down there. I could tell that it wasn’t going to be one of my better holding days, and I would probably score as well as the pin floated.

Surprisingly, I was pretty wound up during the first scoring end. Of the six practice arrows, I shot four 10s and two 9s. The best thing was that I made good shots. On my first two shots I hit dead center low under the 10-ring down near the bottom of the nine and a hair to the right. I gave the sight a few clicks and figured I would be ready on the first scoring end. Well, to my amazement, I began shaking more than I had mentally prepared for, and my sight picture was considerably different than it had been the last few weeks. I didn’t pay much attention to it and kept pulling. When the shots broke, they hit where the pin was and I ended up with two 9s and a 10, and every arrow was to the left of center.

The rest of the round got progressively better, and I felt good about at least half of my shots. I did notice that throughout the round, my release hand became tense, which transferred into my shoulder. When I felt it in my shoulder, I didn’t fully rotate the shot into the back and tried chicken-winging it. Mentally, I felt it here and there, especially near the end of the round when I was getting tired. Although it was in my mind that I was doing that, I wasn’t completely convinced because my shots still felt pretty decent.

When I finished my round, Mark Meyers told me that I looked a little bit short on draw length. I’m fairly certain that it was because I didn’t rotate and transfer into my back properly near the end of the round. Although I could feel it, I didn’t make the adjustment. I need to work on that in the future. I love having people who are knowledgable and share their knowledge with me to help me figure things out. I appreciate Mark’s eye, especially when he could have been watching a lot of other people. He knows what I’m trying to accomplish, and I trust his judgement. That’s what make things easy and saves time.

When we added the scores up, I ended up with a 440. I never paid attention to my score after the first end. I just stood there and tried to execute the best shot possible. I feel like I did a pretty good job. I also feel like I shot as well as the pin held. Most of my misses were to the left, other than the ones in the practice round and first scoring round. Looking at the target I didn’t miss my much considering how the bow felt like it was holding. I felt really confident after getting done. I thought I was going to shoot my all-time low score in a tournament, which wouldn’t have bothered me, but I ended up tying it. Scores aren’t important when you’re working to improve something.

My buddy Rick Baker came over from New Hampshire to shoot on Saturday morning. I watched him shoot about half of his round. He looked really smooth. I always like watching him shoot because he makes it look so easy. He told me his pin was shaking around quite a bit, too, but I never would have noticed. He looked pretty solid to me.

In between lines, before I headed home, I tried out a PSE PerformX 3D. I liked the way the bow felt. It felt really good when I had the shot in my back, and it seemed to hold well. I also executed good shots with it. Mark Meyers also let me bring one of his bows home to try. With the elbow pain I’ve been having, I’m fairly certain that I can link it to the bow I’m shooting. There seems to be a lot of shock going into my forearm and ending in my elbow.  I need to do everything I can to alleviate some of that.

Saturday and Sunday I spent some time shooting the bow that Mark let me borrow. I love the handle on the bow, and it feels pretty good at full draw. I’ve tried every let-off module and can’t seem to get the feel I need. I’ll keep working with it to get that feel. Jacob and Mark have both given me a lot of input on this bow. It’s always nice to have people who willingly share information about things they have learned. I appreciate that with all of my archery friends. It seems nice to know that I have so many friends in the archery community who go out of their way to answer any questions I might have. Thanks to all fo you, and that includes way too many people to list.

It’s weird how I need a certain feel to make the best shots possible. I know I might be unlike a lot of people who can pick anything up and shoot it, but I also am beginning to realize what I need to help me make the best shots that I’m capable of making. I’m glad that I’m starting to figure that part out. It has taken about a month of playing with different bows, but I feel fairly certain that I have a pretty good idea what I need. I guess time will tell with that.  Here’s a picture of the Guan Ho Ha target. If I eliminate the big misses in the first two practice ends and first scoring end, I feel pretty good about how it looks. Sometimes the score is not reflective of how we actually shot. I shot a much better round than I scored.

 

 

An Archer’s Journey: A Bumpy Road 1:2

February 11th, 2018

 

 

 

Trying to get back to targets like this, which I shot with a BHFS set-up. One day at a time.

 

Over the years, I’ve realized that shooting bows can be easy if I allow it to be easy. I’ve also noticed that it can be incredibly difficult if I let my conscious mind become overly involved. Quieting the mind has always been something I’ve worked hard to achieve. When I was practicing this week, I had an extremely difficult time quieting my mind. I will need to focus more on that in the coming weeks. Sometimes archers have no idea that working on these things is essential for people of my skill level. Although I can’t confirm it, I don’t think that all archers face this battle. I believe that some people just shoot and don’t have to deal with the outside noise. I could be totally wrong, and I will never truly know because it’s impossible to interview every archery in the world.

This week was trying for me because of all of the bad weather we had. Having to shovel three times this week and break ice in the driveway made it really hard to hold the bow steady when I had time to shoot. I started the week my working on my aiming since aiming seems to be coming along the slowest of all of the things I’m working on. I spent about a half hour working on my aiming on Monday night without firing an arrow.  I pulled back, set the shot into my back, kept my finger of the trigger and just aimed. I aimed until the sight picture  broke down. I noticed that it was more difficult than I had imagined it would be due to my breathing. I never think about breathing when I’m shooting, but my breathing came into play during this exercise. After I finished my aiming drills, which consisted of sets of 10, I ended the session by shooting a dozen blank bale shots.

Tuesday found me at the range for my weekly Vegas league. I decided I would work on the transfer into the back for the entire round and focus on that. I would do the best I could with the aiming, but the transfer is what I decided to focus on. When the dust settled I ended up with a 446. I was happy with the score, but realized it could have been much better or worse. A few centimeters one way or the other could have made it an incredible round or a bad one, which is usually the way it goes for everyone. Sometimes we don’t realize how lucky — or unlucky– we are when we calculate scores.

Wednesday was a busy day for me, so I didn’t get to do too terribly much with my bow, but I did take the time to do some blind-baling. I always find it amazing how easy it is to get the shot to go off when blind-baling as compared to when your eyes are open and you’re aiming at something. For me, I all comes down to tension. I run into issues when I have tension coursing through my body.

I got out of work early on Thursday to run down to Flying Arrow Sports to see my friends Jim Despart and Paul Bertrand. I texted Jim the day before and asked if he had a module I was looking for, and he told me he had it. I figured I would run down and get it so I would have enough time to put it on and shoot a little bit that evening.

After eating dinner, I ran to the club to see how it felt. My shot felt pretty good, and the transfer seemed smooth. I felt that the draw was still a hair too short, so I put four twists in each cable to give me a little bit  more length. When all was said and done, I felt good about it.

Friday was a miserable day for me at work. I also had to do some running around to check on things for my parents. When I got settled in, I barely had time to do sit down before I had to rush out to Friday night league. When I got there, I couldn’t hold the bow steady to save my life, and I also couldn’t hold the shot in my back. I didn’t have any energy. Since those days happen every now and then when I’m attending tournaments, I decided to stay and push through the round. In hindsight, it was a horrible decision. I ended up shooting two arrows out of the white, and both of them went out of the white because I lost back tension, the arrow crept forward, and it couldn’t save either of the shots. After doing that, I stood straight, imagined what would have happened if I followed the steps correctly, then I watched the arrow go into the center of the target in my visualization. After doing that, I moved onto the next arrow. I never focus on the bad part of anything. Instead, I visualize the right thing with the right outcome and move on. I ended the night with a 298 and low 50 X count. I guess it’s not all that bad because the last time I shot a 298, I shot 57Xs. If you do that math, it’s painful to think about. This 298 didn’t hit as hard as that one. I’ll keep plugging. After having shoulder surgery a few years back, the 5-spot round has always given my trouble due to the number of arrows. Unfortunately, it’s like speed shooting when we’re shooting in the league and there’s no time to rest in between ends. I need the rest.

I ended the week this morning by working on transferring the shot and holding it in my back. I put the stock handle back on my bow to see if it felt any worse or better than the Shrewd handle I’ve been using or the no grip that I used for the last week. After shooting, I’m unsure if I liked the handle or disliked it. I’ll have to shoot it a little more to make a solid determination. After practicing the anchoring and transferring, I decided to shoot a 450 round. I was happy with many of the shots. It seemed like I made two great shots out of the three on every end. I’m still not shooting very many Xs, but I think I’m shooting as good as the bow is aiming. I ended up with a 446 and 25xs. I need to work to improve the number of great shots. When I make a great shot, I will not miss. I feel like I was horrible with that at the beginning of the week, but I steadily improved up until today. The week ahead will be a new test.

I will be shooting the annual Guan Ho Ha tournament this coming weekend, and I’ll be shooting the annual tournament at Reedy’s Archery on Sunday. Although I was hesitant to sign up for either of these, I can’t get any better if I don’t put myself out there and take it on the chin if that’s what needs to be done. I feel much better than I did a few weeks ago, but I still feel like I have a very long way to go. Usually, the average person’s scores go down a few points in tournaments, so I don’t expect any miracles this weekend. I’m going to work on the changes I’ve been making and see if I’ve made any progress in a tournament type atmosphere.

Until next week—————>  keeping grinding……….because that’s what I’ll be doing.

 

An Archer’s Journey: Pulling out of the Parking lot 1:1

February 3rd, 2018

 

 

Well, I got enough feedback to make me realize that some people wanted to hear about the journey. I’ll do my best to chronicle my progress this year and share the highs and lows and all of the work that I put into it. Although I’m not a great shooter, I’ve been reached some successful points along the way. I’ll never be a Jim Despart, because there are very few who can ever reach that level, but I do love archery and put a lot into it. This is more for the average Joe’s who are trying to get better and dedicate a lot of their free time to it.

On Jan. 15, 2017, I headed out to see Mike Price. I made plans to see Mike because I figured that through our longtime friendship, Mike wouldn’t pull any punches, and he would do his best to help me fix any issues that needed attention.

After spending the day with Mike, we determined that I needed to work on having better posture in my daily life,  and I definitely needed to add draw length to my bow. Mike told me I could probably go an inch to an inch and a half longer. He believed that would take the pressure off from my shoulders.

Somewhere along the way, I got dragged into the hype of having to go shorter and shorter. The best year I ever had indoors, I averaged 59.4 Xs in my indoor league, and shooting was really easy. I aimed and the shot went off. I never thought about the shot itself. Along the way, I lost the ability to do that, and I began thinking about all of the things I needed to do to make a good shot. On the days when I was nervous, I couldn’t hold the bow still to save my life.

Well, this week I finally got the draw length on my bow to a good starting point. To my amazement, my draw length is now pretty close to what it was back in those days when I shot my highest scores and didn’t think about my shooting. I’m back to the same draw length I was at when I finished at the top in every class I shot in at the national level, including Freestyle in NFAA, MBR, MBO and SPM. I had top 3s in every one of those classes at the national level before I ran into the shoulder problems. I’m proud of those days, too. But somewhere in my travels, my draw length ended up at 27′ and the tension started to build. Looking back on it, I can now trace my problems back to when I kept shortening the draw length.

It felt really good this week when I measured the draw and saw that it is now at 28 3/4. It seems so long to me, and when I changed it, I didn’t think it would be possible for me to be comfortable. I’m already beginning to feel more comfortable, and it has only been a couple of weeks since I made the change.

On Monday night, I dedicated a solid two hours to aiming at arrow holes from 5 to 10 yards and executing shots with the new form. My main focus was on transferring the shot into my back during the draw. Once the shot settled into my back, I focused on following the steps in my shot sequence and remembering to hold steady pressure on my hand against the handle and in my back. During this two hour process, I played with some stabilizer weights to get the bow to settle down a little bit. I switched back and forth between a 27′ and 30′ front bar. Finally, I decided on the 30′ front bar. I have 2 ounces on the front of it and 14 on the 12′ back bar. It’s  not that much weight as compared to what many archers are currently running.

Tuesday night found me at my weekly Vegas league. When I got there, I had a very hard time holding steady and making good shots. Since I brought two bows with me, I decided to roll with the one I started with. After getting halfway into the round, I realized I needed to try something different. After the seventh end, I hung that bow on the rack and grabbed the other one. The next eight ends, I only dropped two 10s and ended up with a 441 17xs. The bow I changed to had a tad shorter draw length, which is what helped with my execution and aiming. While a 441 isn’t great shooting, it could have been a lot worse. I’m not overly happy with where I’m at because I feel like I’m shooting better than I’m scoring.

On Wednesday, I spent a lot of time blank baling and shooting at huge dots from close yardage. I’m not sure of the exact amount of time, but I shot arrows on and off from around 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. My shot started to feel repeatable that night. I realized that I needed to work on my hand pressure on the riser.

I went back to the range on Thursday when I got out of work. I worked on my drawing, settling and aiming. After I got done working on execution without caring where the arrows hit, I decided to shoot a 300 game on a Vegas target. I didn’t expect much since I was shooting my small diameter 3D arrows. I got through the first 5 ends clean and shot a 150 with 8xs. The next five ends, I began feeling the wear and tear from the previous two hours, as I was headed toward hour number three of firing arrows with this new system. When I finished the round, I had a 298 with 15xs, and I dropped both 9s in the same end. When I dropped the points, it was because I didn’t stay in the shot. I need to focus more on that going into the future.

Friday night is 5-spot league night. I knew that 60 arrows was going to be rough because I kind of over did it this week. I figured if I could get through the night, I would take Saturday off and get back at it for a few hours on Sunday.

When I was warming up, I had a really hard time holding the bow still. When the round started, the sight picture calmed down and the pin held much steadier. I’m still having some trouble holding the pin super still, but it feels like it’s improving, after all, it still is a very new process to me, and I’m using different parts of my body that I haven’t used in a long time.

I didn’t start very well out of the gate, but everything seemed to go right in the beginning of the round. I’m not sure if it’s because of the new paper. I waited three rounds before clicking the sight, and after that, I seemed to be dialed in the rest of the night. I ended up missing two Xs in the first end and two Xs in the last end. Besides those four, I only missed two other ones over the course of the round. I shot a 300 with 54Xs. I also shot the two practice ends and may have missed an X or two in them, but I can’t really remember those two ends.

Looking forward to next week, I know I have to continue the grind if I’m going to be ready for 3D season. It’s a work in progress in will require a lot of work to get back to where I feel like comfortable and confident with the new changes. In the few rounds I shot, I quickly realized that I need to let down as soon as I lose back tension. If I try to struggle through it, the weight goes from by back into all sorts of places in my body that it shouldn’t be. Last night, when I lost the tension a few times, it moved into my shoulder, forearm and hand. If I feel that in the future it’s a red flag……………GO BACK TO START. When I shoot shots the right way, I know I won’t miss, and it’s a tremendous feeling.  I really like it.

This week I saw a few guys on Facebook who were talking about shooting their best rounds, and a few other guys who said they were working on things. After reading this, how may people work this hard? Remember that most of us aren’t pros, we are just Joes. Sometimes it seems like Joes just don’t put in the work. I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t believe that’s true. Sometimes Joes put in a lot of work, but the work doesn’t come out on the other end. My only advice it to keep plugging and have fun doing it. I just love shooting arrows. Hopefully, I will get a little better, but either way, I’ll have an awesome time while I’m trying.

The target below is the one that I shot in league on Friday night. 300 54Xs…………..I’m making progress. This round felt really good. I’ll work on front and rear pressure this week and making sure the steps in my process are firing like a well-oiled machine. How is everyone else out there doing? Now, is the time to work toward spring when we all start winging arrows at 3D targets.