Hello gentle reader. It has been far too long. A lot of things have changed, and yet a lot of things have stayed the same. More on that later. Lets just jump right in with my latest passion/obsession/fixation.
In November, the Grizzly bear (aka my oldest child), having seen Brave, and Robin hood decides he wants a bow and arrow for christmas. I got my first toy bow around the age of 5. I consult with the wife and she's good with it. So my father (who bought me my first bow, and second bow) buy this for the Grizz. He loves it, and in teaching him to shoot I think fondly back on growing up shooting recurve bows in the back yard. I realize that I can backyard shoot where I live. The neighbours behind us have a good sized shed along the fence line so it is safe to shoot in our yard using the shed as a backstop. So I use some christmas $$ and on a lark buy a PSE Stalker, a few arrows, and a shooting tab.
Over the next month I start shooting not quite every day, but at least 3-4 times a week. It's a blast, and I get pretty good with it (inside of a 12" target anywhere within 20 yards or so). I start thinking about shooting small game, maybe going turkey hunting in the fall. I know that my good friend, and professor (the man who has awarded me each of my jiu jitsu belts) has been bow hunting for years. We start talking and he invites me to go hunt with him in the fall. Well hell.. Stuff just got real. While I'm pretty good with a recurve, I'm not going to shoot an animal with a weapon I'm not 100% sure is as accurate and quickly lethal as possible. So I head up to a local place to look at their archery range and talk to them about formal coaching. I also start trolling around craigslist for a used compound bow. Lets talk bows for a minute.
On the bottom is a compound bow (an old one, but a compound bow none the less). The limbs don't bend. Drawing the string spins a cam against cables that produce a tremendous amount of energy. The cam is designed to have a "let off" which is to say a 50lb draw with an 80% let off takes 50 lbs of force for the first 3/4 of the draw, but once you hit the let off point it only takes less force to pull it the rest of the way and only 10lbs to hold it at full draw. Makes it easy to pull back and hold while aiming, however one has to pull back to a specific length or either you won't hit the let off (if the bow is too long) or the string will actually stop (if the bow is too short). As such a compound bow needs to be fitted and tuned to the shooter. It has a sight in the string (called a peep) and a sight on the riser that one lines up with the target and as such one aims the bow more than simply shooting it (a massive oversimplification I realize but as good as I can do with the time and space allotted.. I may touch on this subject more later). Also a compound bow is generally drawn and released with a release, which is to say a mechanical device that clips to a loop tied to the string and that allows nearly instantaneous release of the arrow without any torque across the bow. It's smaller, heavier, more accurate and powerful than the recurve.
Ok, back to me. I head up to the range and pro shop. The guy I talked to was super helpful. He's also a traditional shooter who made the move to compounds. We talk releases, and keeping it simple (even the most basic gear is going to be such an improvement on what you're used to that you don't need to make it overly complicated). What's more they have a left handed bow on consignment. It's pretty old, but its a reasonably good brand, and It's long (I have crazy monkey arms for a guy my height, and as such draw longer than many bows on the market will adjust to, In other words I'm going to be luck to find a used bow at all. I try the bow, and it's a pretty good fit. Like I said it's old (best guess is 2008) but it's in good shape. I ask the guy to hold it till tomorrow. I talk it over with the wife, and go in the next day to buy it. I have been around compound bows my whole life, but have never shot one (lefty, and long. You cannot draw a compound bow across itself or it will 'blow up.') I have never used a release, I am a total newb that speaks the language, and what's worse the guy I was talking to the day before who knows that I don't know a damn thing wasn't there to slow things down and walk me through the fit of the bow. I got kind of left in the weeds by the guys that did "help me." I'm conflicted here. On one hand they were busy, and I was buying a fairly cheap consignment bow, but on the other hand I did drop $350 by the time I bought a release, arrows, and a couple accessories. So I'm simply choosing not to name or shame them. They weren't rude nor were they particularly helpful. So I will neither shame nor promote them. Fortunately I managed to get the bow basically dialed in (enough that I could do the rest myself) get a release purchased, arrows purchased and cut to length. Then I simply started shooting.
Once I was shooting tighter groups I started adjusting my sights. First I adjusted them at 10 yards. This was pretty simple as it's easy to shoot tight groups at 10 yards. Then I moved back to 20. For this I used a lot of patience. I'm not great. There are a lot of moving parts and I'm not terribly consistent, so I make sure that I get consistent data before I move anything. It's taken a while, but I feel good about where my sights are (for now). I'm just collecting data, and slowly dialling my sights tighter and tighter.
The last adjustment I made was just this morning. I have been having a really difficult time getting my bow hand in the right position. I've tried a bunch different things. Nothing has worked. I had an epiphany this morning. I loosened my bow sling (a wrist strap that allows the archer to be confident in a loose relaxed grip on the bow). The sling was keeping my hand too tight to the bow. Loosened up and my grip got right (well, better) and again.. better shooting.
This is a journey. I'm far from an expert, in fact, I'm just getting started. I'll keep you posted of progress. I shoot nearly every day in the back yard. 20 yards. Next mile stone is mid-April when I take the Washington state hunter safety course. Then it looks like fall turkeys. I'll walk you through shooting, education, buying gear, licensing and whatever else comes up.
*as an aside. I realize I'm making a massive number of generalizations about bows and other gear. There are a number of companies who have some really interesting designs that don't meet the above descriptions. This is a post and a blog about a beginner describing to people on the outside what things are and how they work. I will not respond to pedantry, however if I'm wrong, or anyone out there has advice, I'm all ears.
**I also realize that I'm very likely doing dumb stuff. That's kind of the point. I'm here to document the mistakes I make. Keep others from making them. I'm well enough educated to know that I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm trying, I'm learning, and I'm willing to admit those mistakes.