My father’s bows – part II

The wait has been difficult but my new traditional flemish bowstrings finally came in!  They are made of dacron which is common among old school bows of this vintage. More modern bows that have been made to withstand today’s new string materials can use the many low to no stretch string options out there now.

Flemish bowstring

Because these strings stretch more you have to keep an eye on the brace height, which is the  distance from the bowstring to the deepest part of the bowgrip and adjust your bowstring accordingly, this is done by adding or removing more twists to the bowstring to make it longer or shorter. This practice in old Saxon days was referred to as fistmele which is the measurement of a clenched hand with the thumb extended or 6 to 7 inches.There is an interesting description of this in Saxton Pope’s book, Hunting with the Bow and Arrow, in Chapter 8 ” How to Shoot”.


Having the brace height right will keep your bow quiet and shooting at it’s peak.

My cousin John who originally had stored and sent me the bows also sent me an archery cabinet that had been my father’s. Aside from having great fatherly history, the cabinet has been great, providing a place to keep a lot of my archery tackle (which I am accumulating at a steady pace). It’s also been nice to look at, something to come home to.

I recently borrowed a hanging scale from work to find out what the poundage of these bows are. The Hoyt came in at it’s marked weight of 35 pounds, I tested this at 28 inches of draw length. The other bow is a Drake and was unmarked, came in at 45 pounds.

Steve Dunsmore at Lakeside Archery suggested stringing these bows and pulling them a little each day, then a little more, and a bit more until I was pulling the full draw weight over the period of a couple of weeks. He suggested this because these bows haven’t been used in a long time. This seemed like a good breaking in routine to me and I’ve anxiously and un-patiently followed this regime. I say that because it’s a bit of a tease, you get to handle the bow, pull the string back but no beautiful arcing arrow flight, “sigh”. That though my friends changes today! Hah!

A fast end of arrows – video

I thought It’d be great fun to do a video, so I put one together yesterday. It was my son’s, Dakota, idea to put the camera at the target so you could see the incoming arrows. Great idea laddie! Just glad we didn’t shoot the camera out!

Reedy’s and X’s

Two good, great, and gratifying things happened to me this week:

1. While in Middleboro, Massachusetts I discovered Reedy’s Archery, great shop, great guys. Once you spend a little time there it’s easy to see why.

Reedy's is very well stocked with bows.

I walked in asked to shoot at the range the whole time I could hear the steady lighthearted banter between the staff, lots of laughter amidst the work, although these guys weren’t just laughing, the whole time they were setting up bows, helping customers in the range, fletching arrows, checking shipments in, there was a lot going on.

Some of the shop space at Reedy's

The shop is owned by Chris Reedy, I had a chance to talk with him a bit while he was serving a string for a young girl’s longbow.

Chris Reedy owner of Reedy Archery

Can you see the slight smirk in his face, an air of mischievousness, if you can you’re dead on. Chris is a bigger than life guy with a big personality and although I didn’t spend a ton of time there I walked away impressed. He seemed to always have time to have a word with his customers, stop by and see how your shooting was going, offer advice, share a laugh with you, take some interest in you. I mean really what else would you want from a business owner? The other thing I noticed is that these guys are fast, good at what they do. Chris spent a little time helping me out with a twisting peep and a couple items on my bow. He did high quality work quickly, the whole time telling me bear hunting stories, motorcycle adventures and the such.

I also met Mark there who told me that he’d worked with Chris for 18 months but had hung out at the shop for 20 years. You see a lot of that attitude Reedy’s.

Should you find yourself in Middleboro, Mass check them out at 31 Center street. Tel 508.947.4653

2. The other good, great and gratifying thing that happened to me is I found that I’ve improved a bit recently and shot my highest score so far at 20 yards while at Reedy’s.

I was shooting at a NFAA (National Field Archery Association) five point blue target under NFAA indoor rules. (I hope I have this right) This is shot at 20 yards and is scored as follows:

Usually you shoot one arrow per each small target, this is to avoid shooting Robin Hoods (when you shoot an arrow into the end of another) and ruining arrows.

A perfect score for a round is 300 points with 60 X’s. A round is 12 ends of 5 arrows each. So that means that you shoot 5 arrows, walk up to the target, score and pull your arrows. You’ve just shot one end of arrows. Maximum score for per end is 25 points. 12 ends of 25 will give you 300 points.

More than that the X’s are also noted, so if you are in competition and you shoot a perfect 300 score with 57 X’s and one of your competitors shoots 300 with 58 X’s they win. An X is shot when you hit anywhere on the smallest circle, to include the line.

I’ve been scoring myself during practice to help me gauge improvement, my recent scored practices are as follows:

3.5. 12                   270         22 x’s

3.6.12                    271         27 x’s

3.9.12                    290         23 x’s

3.13.12                  289         23 x’s

3.19.12                  285         23 x’s

3.19.12                  294         30 x’s

3.20.12                 295          33 x’s

My goal of course is 300 with 60 x’s. My immediate goal is 300 with any number of x’s.

Shooting the 295 at Reedy’s with 33 X’s has me pretty happy and I’m looking forward to being in front of a target again to see how I do.

Shoot straight! C.

Going the distance

After doing this for  a few months in a hardcore sort of way I’ve gotten pretty proficient in the 20 to 30 yard range and have been able to begin focusing on refining form and a little of the mental part of aiming and letting your mind do some of the work for you but now and then it’s a great release to not deal with the details and have fun with the broad picture.

That’s when I love to shoot distance.

I have a target in my yard which I’d measured for 20, 30, and 40 yards. It then occurred to me that maybe I could shoot 50 and as soon as I did  I rushed to 60 yards. I was satiated with 60 yards for a long time (3 weeks) until yesterday.

I got home nobody was home yet so ran inside got my compound bow and started shooting my love for 60 yards, when poison trickled into my mind and I wondered If I could shoot 70. 70 what a number. I hurriedly paced it off, took a guesstimate at the sight and thwack! hit the target. I didn’t even get one other shot off when 80 entered my mind. It was getting dark and I thought I could do it, I started pacing it off and paced myself into a loose thicket (oxymoron) of pre-spring brush and thorny stuff, no matter, wild guess at the sight and, loose an arrow and then lose an arrow straight into the woods somewhere. Ok, deep breath, relax, steady, release breath, let the release surprise you and … that didn’t help either, I heard another arrow bounce around the woods. Shit… those are expensive arrows. Walk the 80 plus yards, stumble around in the semi dark and luckily found my arrows. Phew…

Today another day – Got home with this firmly lodged in my mind except this time with my passion for 60,70 and 80 somewhat subdued, I got the 100 foot tape out and measured out the exact 70 and 80 yds. 80 was still in a “loose thicket”. This is what it looks like:

70 yards

You can see the yellow target at 70 yards, illustrated by das red arrow on the picture. It helps to have a pair of binoculars so you can more or less see what you shot and adjust or not, plus you feel like the cool archer guys that do it..

I then looked at my sight which is a one pin HHA brand sight, in which you calibrate the distance, they have cool tapes to help you do this but I was happy with their blank tape and a pencil, see picture to better understand what I’m talking about.

HHA single pin Sight

On the picture It’s set at 60 yards, so now I have to calculate where to set it next for 70 yards, I just estimated the distance from 50 to 60 and added a hair more because an arrow decelerates as it travels.

My 70 yard guesstimation

I then proceeded to shoot off 5 arrows hearing the satisfying thwack of safety. Walk up to the target to see how I did.

Not bad on the target anyway, ok they are all over the place and i was aiming for the center, I adjusted the sight slightly as the majority of the arrows were low. Next end (an end of arrows is a set number of arrows that are shot before going to the target to score, usually 3, or 5).

2nd end at 70 yards

Better, starting to get them in the same plane and definitely grouped the middle two, still low but once again the light is waning, so off to the thicket at 80 yards.

My "loose thicket" lots of thorny stuff in there

I threw a piece of firewood at the 80 yard spot where I had to stand, you can see it in the middle of the picture.

I went to set the sight and maxed it out, I knew it wasn’t enough so I’d have to aim a bit high.

My sight maxed out before hitting what I think should be 80 yards.

80 yards

I loosed an arrow, then 2, then 3, each time hearing the target, then i shot one and silence, maybe a little soft thud, must have gone in the dirt. Nock a last arrow, relax, breathe, tension the back and let my thumb slip over the release. Thwack. Back on target.

First and last end at 80 yards, for tonight..

Low and right from the centerline, next time will have to aim higher yet. You can see the bottom arrow at the edge of the target where the target is thinner, its actually gone through the target and is sticking out the back 20 inches. Only four arrows on the target as one is out there probably buried in the mud but I’m secretly pleased! 80 yards, wow! how exciting! Now I wonder if I could shoot 100….

My father’s bows

I recently received an email from my cousin John Shillinger in Colorado, he had noticed my interest in Archery and wanted to send me my father’s old bows and arrows which he had been storing for some time now. The story goes like this:

My father had been an archery enthusiast for approximately ten years when in 1960 he was transferred within his company to a job in Venezuela, he could not take everything with him and so stored with his sister Norma a bunch of his archery tackle. John reports that they stayed at his mother’s house for 25 years in NJ, then after a move to Colorado stayed with John another 25 years or so.

John hadn’t specified what he was sending, other than to say that he had some archery items and I would like what was in the box. I didn’t want to presume that bows would appear as it could have also been archery tackle, feathers, nocks and things of the sort.

I had been checking UPS everday, even when I knew it was too quick for the package to have arrived from Colorado and sure enough one day the UPS man unloaded a tall box, my heart rose.

I unpacked it right away and found two beautiful recurve bows and a lot of cedar shafted arrows. Thanks John! I drove home that day excited and curious to know more about the bows.

The smaller of the two bows is labeled and is a 35 pound 62 inch Hoyt. Hoyt is still in business today and makes some of the worlds best bows, they are found in target competition circles as well as for recreational and hunting uses. If you happen to see the Olympics in London this year you may see one of this country’s best archers, Brady  Ellison, shooting his Hoyt recurve for gold.

1956-1960, 35 pound, 62 inch Hoyt recurve bow.

Feather arrow rest

Fine riser and very nice leather grip.

The other bow is a 45 lb Drake recurve.  Pics below:

Harry Drake 64 inch 45 lb recurve

laminated riser

Arrow Shelf

I also received a lot of arrows, I received two types, cedar shafted arrows fletched with turkey feathers and early fiberglass arrows – Microlight brand, which curiously where  pioneered by Frank Eicholz.

Cedar shafts with turkey fletchings

This decorative part of the arrow is called an arrow crest.

Steel points

Because the wood is dried and the glue is brittle I will reglue the points, I have a trip to Lakeside Archery today to get proper glue and strings for the bows and to watch the kids shoot at JOAD.

In my excitement when these bows came in I took  the string off my modern recurve bow which is the same 62 inch size as the Hoyt and strung it and shot two arrows at our backyard target. I later found out while researching that I probably should not have done that as modern strings have little to no stretch, the modern bow is designed to accommodate that. Older bows want a more stretchy dacron string, so I will bide my time now, get proper strings, which will most likely have to be ordered, and dream of shooting my father’s bows…

Robin Hood, not again…

So I shot my 2nd Robin Hood today (when you shoot an arrow into the end of another arrow). I had been very excited when I shot my first a few weeks back but since then I had been careful to shoot the type of targets that help you avoid that by presenting 3 to 5 small targets or spots, then you shoot one arrow per spot and all the arrows are nice and far away, plus at 14 bucks per arrow and you wipe out two in one shot it’s just not as exciting as your first time.

My Robin Hood of a few weeks back and today's Robin Hood.

This type of target let's you shoot, one arrow per spot. The other side of the target is a regular single target.

Robin Hoods are a rare event for sure but if you are grouping your arrows tight you start hitting the other arrows, ruining fletchings (  feathers and vanes at back of arrow ) and the it gets expensive after a while, then your wife starts to look at you sideways because of all the money you are pouring into your new “hobby”.

Some of the cooler Robin Hoods are Howard Hill’s who was a famed archer and bowhunter extraordinaire who tried to split an arrow all the way to the base for the 1938 movie ” The Adventures of Robin Hood”, the one with Erroll Flynn, hitting them wasn’t the problem it was splitting the arrow end to end  apparently they achieved it with a special bamboo arrow and a little Hollywood.

Howard Hill's Robin Hood

The new and really cool Robin Hood though I think falls to Pixar in their upcoming film “Brave” check it out below:

   Good shooting, C.


I am in Rhode Island for schoolwork related to my job, I thought that I’d bring my compound bow along, something to do in the evenings after class at the local ranges. I was however worried about walking up the hotel’s front desk for check in with a black lethal looking compound bow and a quiver full of arrows and thought that having a case or bowbag would be a good idea. I looked around a bit to see what prices where but with my archery budget sorta maxed out I wasn’t hopeful. Then Laurel suggested why not make your own. In the past I’d made any number of different types of bags and other stuff usually related to boats and sailing.

Off to Joann Fabrics in Topsham for cloth, webbing, foam and velcro. The ladies there spotted me as the lost looking guy right away and helped me out. They were very knowledgeable and gave me a lot of suggestions on making the bag that I hadn’t considered.

This is Alistair and I sewing it up. It looks like that short stint in sailmaking finally paid off. Here’s a picture of the bag itself.

I’m staying just at the border of Mass and Rhode Island in a town called Westport, since I’ve been here I’ve had a chance to shoot at a couple of ranges. The first is Buckley Family Archery. This is a small start up family shop with 10 and 20 yard lanes, they are in the 2nd floor of an old mill in Fall River, Mass at 126 Shove St. Tel. 774.627.4091

Brian showed me around, set me up to shoot, and told me a bit about his business. He has an extensive JOAD (Junior Olympic Archery Development) program and lots of support from parents and families involved in archery. He also setup his chronograph and let me shoot through it to see what my bow was shooting for arrow speed.

Brian setting up his chronograph for me to shoot through.

The chronograph recorded 263 feet per second, that is with a 70 lb Bowtech SWAT that has been powered down to 50 lbs and a 364 grain arrow. It was really nice of him to do that, he didn’t charge me for it, although I’d gladly would have paid him, he just did it as we chatted about his range and plans, great guy.

Yesterday I went to Trader Jan’s Archery Pro-Shop, they have a full pro-shop plus 20 to 40 yard lanes for shooting plus a 3D archery shooting range. They are located at 288 Plymouth Ave in Fall River, Mass. Tel. 774.627.7743

40 yard shooting lane

Pro Shop

I’d spent some time shooting on the 20 yard lanes and I went to switch to the 40 yard lanes, I chatted with another archer who was shooting there, then picked up my bow, set up on the line and dry fired it! Dry firing a bow is to shoot a bow without an arrow. This is the biggest no-no in archery, as you can damage a bow very badly, the bow needs the resistance of the arrow to be ok.

I think I was distracted, who knows.. The string jumped the cams on the bow and broke some of the serving (tight wrapping around the bowstring) on the upper part of the string, it also distorted the peep sight, (small plastic circle on the string that helps you aim). Don and Jill at the shop were great, they put it in the bowpress right away and checked it out and told me they could have it for me the next day.

I went straight from school the next day and Jill had done a beautiful job, she also put on a new peep for me, she is obviously very skilled. Don seemed to be the front of the house and I watched him helping kids and new archers, giving them tips and setting them up, nice guy. He also showed me his Bowtech Destroyer with custom strings from Jill which he is selling, so if you need a bow…

Jill and Don

I spent an hour shooting at the 35 yard line, happy that I lucked out and the damage wasn’t great and that I’d been fortunate to be in good hands.