An Archer’s Journey: Frustration 1:7

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.


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