How to Shoot the 101-Yard Bigfoot Target in Redding, Calif.

Every year, the Straight Arrow Bowhunters in Redding, Calif., host the Western Classic Trail Shoot and NFAA Marked 3D Championship.

And one of the iconic targets featured at this combined event is a custom-built Bigfoot, which is shot from a distance of 101 yards.

In this video, we talked to professional archers Christine Harrelson and Chris Bee to get some tips on how to attack the Bigfoot target.

Yes, you can adjust the draw weight on certain recurve bows

Compound bows are well known for their ability to have the draw weight adjusted. Most have a 10-pound adjustment range, but there are some that can be adjusted from 5-70 pounds.

Did you know it’s possible to adjust the weight of some recurve bows?

In an episode of “Behind the Riser,” filmed by Shrewd Archery, which follows U.S. Olympian Brady Ellison during the 2018 Lancaster Archery Classic, Ellison talks about “taking three turns out of” his Hoyt recurve bow after the first day of competition. That action changed the draw weight from 52 pounds to 47 pounds. (Ellison went on the win his second consecutive title at the Classic in the Men’s Recurve Division.)

Brady Ellison

So yes, you can change the draw weight of certain recurve bows. The only bows this will work on, however, are those Olympic recurve and Traditional recurve bows that have ILF limbs and fittings.

ILF stands for “International Limb Fitting,” which is a universal limb attachment system that allows ILF limbs and risers from various manufacturers to be mixed and matched. Several Hoyt recurve bows employ a modified ILF connection system that uses the same hardware as ILF bows, but the hardware spacing is distinctly different than ILF. This unique limb connection system is the Hoyt Formula system. Formula bows adjust in exactly the same manner as ILF bows.

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ILF limb being inserted into ILF riser.

An ILF or Hoyt Formula riser will have dovetail pockets to capture the dovetail bushings on the limbs. And they’ll also have limb bolts. The limb bolts on these risers are adjustable. Turning the limb bolts clockwise lowers the bolts closer to the riser and increases draw weight. Adjusting counterclockwise raises the bolts and decreases draw weight. Also, nearly all risers with adjustable limb bolts use some type of locking screw to keep a limb bolt in place after adjustments have been made. It is very important to unlock these screws before adjusting limb bolts, and then lock them again when adjustments are complete.

According to John Wert, who heads the TradTech division of Lancaster Archery Supply, which produces ILF and non-ILF recurve risers and limbs, the bolts on ILF recurve bows have a recommended best working range. Starting at a maximum height of 20mm (13/16 of an inch) for lowest draw weight and adjusting in to a minimum height of 15mm (5/8 of an inch), for the highest draw weight.  Those distances are measured from the underside of the limb bolt to the surface of the limb pocket beneath it.

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“This is the best range for the entire sphere of ILF bows,” Wert said. “You can take some in or out farther, but then you are in a gray area that can lead to problems. If you know what to look for, you can adjust to as low as 12 mm and as high as 25 mm on some limb and riser combinations.”

The chief problem with turning in a limb bolt shorter than 15mm is the leading  edge of the limb bolt cap can start to dig into the limb surface. Back the limb bolt out more than 20mm, and the dovetail limb bushing can bind in the riser hardware– or even worse, the limb could fly out from under the bolt altogether.

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Left photo shows a limb sitting under a bolt set at 15mm, while the other is set at 20mm.

The number of turns an archer can put in or take out of a limb within that 15-20mm frame varies, according to Wert. Some screw patterns on the limb bolts are more aggressive than others, which would affect the total turns.

It’s up to each archer to figure out how many turns the limb bolt can withstand to stay within that 15-20mm gap. Likewise, the amount of weight that can be added or subtracted varies from bow to bow. It’s up to the archer to figure that out, so he or she knows how many turns are possible, and how much weight each turn gives up or puts back on. But generally, a set of limbs has an adjustment range of 8-10% of the limb’s draw weight.

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Turning a limb bolt with a hex wrench.

During the Lancaster Archery Classic, Ellison was able to reduce his draw weight by about 5 pounds by taking three turns out of his Hoyt limb bolts.

It’s important to note that equal turns must be put into/ taken out of the top and bottom limbs in order to maintain the tiller. Unequal turns will affect a bow’s tiller measurements, which can affect the bow’s tune and the way the bow sits in your hand.

Bow manufacturers vary on how they determine limb weights. Some, like TradTech archery, stamp their limbs with the low end of their weight range. So a TradTech limb rated at 50 pounds would draw at a minimum of 50 pounds at 28 inches with the limb bolts backed out to 20 mm. The weight would increase from there as the bolts are turned in and the limbs would reach a maximum weight of approximately 54 pounds.

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Other companies, like Hoyt, use the middle of the range for their limb ratings, and some rate their limbs at the top end of the adjustment range.

So all of this begs the question, “Why would I change the draw weight on my recurve?”

In the Shrewd video, Brady said he was having trouble holding his bow still at the higher draw weight. So he lowered it to gain more control. Other archers might find more control by increasing the draw weight.

Another reason to adjust draw weight might be to get an arrow to tune better. If the tune is close at a set draw weight, changing the weight just a little could be all that’s needed to get perfect flight.

Traditional archery aiming techniques

In true traditional archery, the bow – recurve or longbow – doesn’t have a sight for aiming. But the archer still has to hit what he or she is aiming at. So how do you do that?

In this video, Matt Zirnsak – a die-hard traditional archer who produced a series of films and does a podcast all under the name “The Push Archery” – demonstrates three common techniques for aiming a traditional bow.

He runs through instinctive shooting, which involves staring at the spot you want to hit and then adjusting your bow to make the arrow hit that spot. This technique requires lots of practice so you can learn how to hold the bow to get the arrow to hit your aiming point at a variety of distances.

Then he talks about “split vision aiming.” Using this technique, Zirnsak is aware of where his arrow tip is in relation to the target, but he doesn’t focus solely on it. He uses his instincts to guide him in aiming, while making sure his alignment is correct, based on the location of his arrow point – thus splitting his vision between the target and his arrow point.

Finally, Zirnsak talks about “hard dedicated aiming,” which is the technique he uses. Zirnsak focus on his arrow tip, placing it directly on the target spot he wants to hit. Then, depending on the distance to the target, he moves his tab down the bowstring before drawing.

Moving the tab up and down the string is called “string walking.” This changes the pitch of the arrow for shooting. Generally, the farther below the arrow an archer moves the tab, the closer the target is. But his arrow tip is always on the aiming spot.

That’s Zirnsak’s technique for target shooting, When he’s hunting, he has a spot marked on his string that indicates where he should place his tab to shoot 25 yards. He anchors his tab there no matter what distance a game animal might be, but he adjusts his arrow tip up or down, depending on the distance. By having a fixed reference point, he doesn’t have to fumble around – possibly in poor light – trying to string walk to the exact spot that matches the target distance.

Using release aids to cure target panic

Can certain mechanical releases help compound archers squash target panic?

It worked for me. When target panic nearly ruined archery for me in early 2016, a mechanical release turned everything around and made the game fun again.

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It’s been suggested that most archers will come down with target panic at some point during their shooting careers. The reasons why it happens vary from person to person. Same goes for its severity. The path to beating target panic has been fairly well charted through the years, although there is no quantifiable recovery time and there’s no guarantee it won’t return.

Since anticipation and the resulting anxiety are classic calling cards of target panic, one of the best ways to kill both is to be surprised when the string is released at full draw. To do that, you generally need to remove a traditional trigger.

The Stan PerfeX Resistance, Stan Element and Carter Evolution are three resistance-activated releases. They have no trigger, nor do they operate on a hinge. They fire as the result of an increase in tension between the release jaw and the bowstring.

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Stan PerfeX Resistance

These releases feature a safety that is depressed during the draw cycle. At full draw, you release the safety, and the release’s tension should be set heavy enough to hold the string. At this point, you start squeezing your shoulder blades toward one another, which causes you to pull straight back on the release. That’s increasing the tension on the string, and eventually, the release fires. You can adjust the release tension so that it fires with only a slight increase in resistance or with a lot.

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Stan Element

However the release is set, shots are always a surprise because there is no trigger. You can’t punch this release like a thumb button or index finger release, nor can you roll through it like a hinge. That’s why it’s favored for curing target panic. Only a steady pull – what you want to do with any release – will set it off.

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Even after you’ve been using one of these releases for a while, shots still come as a surprise, because any slight changes in the pressure you put on the bow pushing forward, or on the string pulling backward at full draw, affect the release. It’s difficult to anticipate exactly when it will go off. That’s sure to help lower your anxiety.

These releases are not just tools for curing target panic. Many archers use them as their primary releases. Or, they’ll keep a resistance-activated release for training sessions when they feel like they’re anticipating shots using their normal release.

I used a Stan Element for several months after I came down with my case of target panic in 2016. I credit it for helping to ease my anxiety and for eliminating my shot anticipation. Eventually, I was able to use a hinge, thumb button or index finger release without anxiety and without punching the trigger.

How Shot Trainers Can Help You Be a Better Archer

Practice makes perfect.

That applies to many things in life, and archery is no exception.

One of the unique aspects of practicing archery is you can’t just shoot an arrow into a target anywhere. You need a safe place for that, and for a variety of reasons, a shooting range might not always be readily available.

That doesn’t mean you can’t practice every day, no matter where you are. You just need a shot trainer.

Shot trainers are devices that mimic the action of shooting a bow, without actually launching an arrow. Some work in conjunction with your actual bow, while others allow you to practice shooting without your bow.

There are shot trainers made for both recurve and compound archers, so all archers have training devices available to them.

In this video, LAS TechXpert Dan Schuller, who lived for several years at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., talks about the benefits of using a shot trainer. He talks about how they promote muscle memory and help archers improve and/or maintain their form.

Then, Schuller demonstrates a few different types of shot trainers, while talking about their benefits and features.

If you’ve never considered using a shot trainer, or if you’ve been thinking about buying one, but you’re not sure how they work or what they can do for you, this is a must-see video.

 

Proper nutrition fuels the successful archer

Everyone can benefit from good nutrition. Healthy living is better living.

When it comes to sports, nutrition often is discussed with high-intensity games like football, basketball, soccer, etc. Proper nutrition fuels the body for those sports.

Proper nutrition also is important for archery, even though it doesn’t require the same energy level as other sports.

There is physical exertion in archery. For example, a recurve archer shooting a 50-pound bow in a 120-arrow competition would pull a total weight of 6,000 pounds by the end of the tournament.

To maintain peak performance throughout a competition, you’ve got to eat and drink the right things to fuel your body.

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HYDRATION

The human body is nearly two-thirds water. To maintain proper hydration levels, it’s recommended people drink as much as 10 glasses of water per day. That’s especially important if you’re going to be active and outdoors in the sun.

Studies have found that athletes who don’t drink enough can see as much as a 30-percent reduction in performance.

Heather Pfeil, head instructor at the Lancaster Archery Academy, regularly tells her students to drink a lot of water starting two days before a tournament to make sure their bodies are hydrated properly. That includes proper hydration for the eyes, she said, which have to be in perfect working order for an archer to be successful.

During a competition, Pfeil recommends archers continue drinking water or Gatorade to keep their fluid levels up.

Stay away from caffeine! Caffeinated drinks will make you jittery – if you’re not already feeling that way due to nerves. Jitters and precision aiming don’t go well together. Also, caffeine is a diuretic, which means it can lead to dehydration.

PRE-TOURNAMENT

For at least a couple of days before a tournament, a lot of professional archers like to cut out fast foods, heavy foods and fried foods from their diets, and opt instead for lean, clean-burning foods. Chicken, turkey, pitas and fajitas are favorites for Mathews pro Braden Gellenthien, according to an article published by Archery 360.

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Foods that are high in carbohydrates also are good for pre-tournament meals. Baked potatoes, oat bagels, brown rice, spaghetti with tomato sauce, pancakes and pretzels fall in this category according to MayoClinic.com

COMPETITION DAY

Two-time reigning Lancaster Archery Classic Women’s Recurve Champion Mackenzie Brown, who was the lone female to represent the U.S. in the Rio Olympics last summer, has lived at the U.S. Olympic training center in Chula Vista, Calif., the past several years.

Mack Brown

There, nutrition is discussed in depth with the archers as they train and compete. For competition days, Brown said, the coaches and nutritionists stress eating enough of the right foods to maintain a high energy level throughout the event.

“The idea is to have sustained energy, so a lot of granola bars like Clif Bars are good, and fruits and vegetables too,” she said.

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The Easton Foundation mentions baby carrots, broccoli florets and cherry tomatoes, along with bananas, grapes and apples, as good foods to have on hand during a competition.

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Watch out for foods with lots of processed sugar – like candy bars. They will give you a nice boost of energy, but that boost is always followed by a crash.

What to Expect at your first archery tournament

So you’re heading to your first indoor archery tournament? Maybe you’re feeling a little intimidated. Maybe you’re feeling nervous. Maybe you’re feeling like you’re not ready.

Maybe you’re feeling all of these things and more.

Don’t worry. Everyone is anxious in some way the first time they step to the line alongside dozens of other archers to shoot for an official score.

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But guess what? The archery community is one that welcomes new competitors to the game. It’s likely the people standing on either side of you will offer a tremendous amount of help and support.

But in the interest of helping you be as prepared as possible – both mentally and physically – we asked two experts to share some insights and advice about attending a first archery tournament. Whether you’re a young kid or an adult, take heed to their words.

Our experts are Heather Pfeil, program director and head coach at Lancaster Archery Academy, and Alex Wifler, 2015 Vegas Shoot champion, 2016 LAS Classic Men’s Open Pro champion and member of the USA Archery team.

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Heather Pfeil is Lancaster Archery Academy’s program director.

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Alex Wifler

In a Q & A format, we’re going to switch back and forth between the two.

LAS: What was the first indoor tournament you entered?

AW: My first tournament was The Presley Shoot, which became the Midwest Open in Bloomington Illinois, at the age of 12.

LAS: How did you get up the nerve to enter it?

AW: It was the excitement to enter the tournament and opportunity to see if I could compete in this new sport that I was embracing. I was more focused on having fun than being nervous.  I knew that I was able to shoot and the experience of being there was not about being nervous. I was just going to try this and focus on having the experience.

LAS: Is there anything I can do to minimize anxiety?

HP: Pack your gear the night before, so you can take your time and make sure you have everything you need.

Arrive an hour early. This will leave you plenty of time to find out where you need to go to check in, where to store your bow, where your lane is and where you can practice. If you are rushing around at the last minute trying to figure all this out, your mind won’t be in the right place when it’s time to shoot.

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Arrive early and find your target assignment.

The week before the tournament, practice with uncomfortable music on, and visualize that you are shooting with lots of people around. This will prepare you for being in an unfamiliar environment.

LAS: What, if anything, caught you off guard about that first tournament?

AW: Standing with all of the other archers and meeting the pros.  I was not prepared for the number of people that also loved the sport of archery, and the pros were just normal people that also loved promoting their sport.

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Everyone around you at an archery tournament shares your passion.

LAS: What are some things I need to know about the competition?

HP: Know if they have any special equipment rules, and make sure you’re following them. You are going to have to keep score, so know how they do it. Remember your archery etiquette – when to walk up to and off of the line; what to do with your bow in between ends; when to walk down to pull arrows; all of it. Consciously remind yourself what target you are shooting every time you go to the line, so you don’t shoot the wrong one.

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Be prepared to keep score.

LAS: What should my goal be?

HP: Something achievable, like have fun. Make it your goal to finish the competition, no matter what happens. Make a new friend. Don’t worry about your score or how you place. You want to come out of this tournament feeling good about yourself.

LAS: What advice would you give a new archer for dealing with nerves on the line?

AW: Breathe and focus on shot execution, not the score.  Tell yourself over and over again that this is fun and that this is what you have trained to do.  Enjoy the moment.

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Remember to have fun at your first archery tournament.

Bowhunting Tech Tip: Shooting from a Tree Stand

The merits of bowhunting from a tree stand are long proven. People hunting with archery equipment have been taking to the tress since prehistoric times.

Often time, unfortunately, bowhunters forget proper archery form when they hunt from elevated stands. That can lead to errant shots.

In this video, LAS TechXpert P.J. Reilly demonstrates the proper way to shoot a vertical bow from a tree stand. The main element stressed in the video is bending at the waist to shoot at a target on the ground, as opposed to simply lowering your bow arm.

Bowhunting Tech Tip: Proper Bow Grip

Positioning your hand properly on the bow grip is arguably the most important aspect of shooting accurately. Yet – pardon the pun – it’s something many archers don’t have a proper grip on.

In this video, LAS TechXpert P.J. Reilly demonstrates the proper way to grip a bow. This applies to target archers and bowhunters alike. Establishing a proper grip will help eliminate problems with bow torque – twisting the riser as an arrow is released. If you’re having issues with arrows occasionally hitting the target left or right of where you’re aiming, and you can’t figure out why that’s happening, bow torque caused by squeezing the bow grip could be the reason.

Reilly also talks about a product that’s designed specifically to encourage proper hand placement on a bow. It could be just what you need to cure your bow grip problems.

How to introduce someone to bowhunting

The world is a different place than it was 30 years ago. People are losing their connection to wild places and things.

The number of hunters across the U.S. has been on a steady, downward spiral, while urbanization is growing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 census, 81 percent of U.S. citizens live in urban areas. That’s up from about 75 percent in 1990.

In 1970, there were about 40 million licensed hunters in the U.S. Last year, there were about 17 million.

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A 2010 article by the Associated Press quoted Mark Duda, executive director of the natural resources research group Responsive Management, as saying, “Fifty years ago, a lot of kids would hunt and fish and be outside. Now it’s easier to sit in your playroom and play video games.”

For those who remain in the hunting game, though, the fire still burns. And that can be contagious to others who don’t hunt. Also, as more information is learned – and concerns grow – about the quality of meat produced by factory farms, there is an increasing interest in wild game.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2011 famously announced that in the name of healthy living, for one year he would only eat meat from animals he killed.

Historically, the path to becoming a hunter is laid by family. Young hunters are taught by older members of their family about being safe and about the habits and habitats of wild animals.

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Photo courtesy of Bowhunting.com

What’s happening today as the number of hunters drops, however, is hunting is skipping generations. Some people are developing an interest in hunting, but they have no family to turn to for guidance. And so they turn to hunting friends. Those friends are then faced with the question, “How do I help someone become a hunter?”

And specific to our mission here at Lancaster Archery Supply, “How do I help someone become a bowhunter?”

Coren Jagnow, the human dimensions specialist with the PA Game Commission, has a simple answer.

“Take them with you,” she said.

When you go out scouting, hanging stands, checking trail cameras, hunting, tracking shot game, etc. – take the prospective hunter along.

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Photo courtesy of Bowhunting.com

“Let them see and experience everything that’s involved,” she said.

Take them to the practice range when you go shooting. Maybe let them start out by shooting your equipment or a friend’s – something that is at least close to fitting their size and abilities.

Introducing someone to archery hunting is a bit more involved than gun hunting. Simply put, it takes more time and practice to become proficient with archery equipment than it does shooting firearms. So that’s going to mean more instruction time on your part bringing your novice hunter along.

Taking novice bowhunters to 3-D shoots at your local sportsmen’s club is an excellent way to simulate the act of shooting a bow and arrow at game.

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Essentially, Jagnow said, train these people the same way you’d train a kid in the family.

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Wildlife agency officials are seeing that the traditional route for people to become licensed hunters – take a hunter-safety training course and then buy a license – can be viewed as a roadblock.

A person might be thinking about taking up hunting, but they don’t want to go through the hunter-education process or buy a license, to find out if it’s a good fit for them.

That’s why many states, including South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina and Oregon, are creating mentoring programs. Pennsylvania has mentor programs for both kids and adults.

The mentor programs allow prospective, unlicensed hunters to go out hunting under the guidance of licensed hunters.

“The mentor program gives them the chance to see what hunting is like, without having to go through the formal licensing process,” said Travis Lau, the PA Game Commission’s spokesman.

Check with your local state wildlife agency to find out if it offers a mentored-hunting program. If it doesn’t, you can still take someone along with you to experience every aspect of the hunt, except for actually taking the shot.

Start out with small game, Lau suggested. Squirrels, rabbits, grouse and other small game are plentiful, and pursuing them usually is an active adventure that keeps you moving.

Spending all day sitting in a tree stand waiting for deer potentially could turn off a prospective hunter.

“You don’t want them to start out thinking hunting is boring,” Lau said.

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Keep the initial hunts relatively short. It takes a while to develop the drive to stay out all day hunting – especially in cold or foul weather. When your mentee shows signs of boredom, call it quits.

Contact your local chapter of organizations such as National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, etc. These groups often have structured mentored programs in place that can help you help your prospective hunter.

If your novice is old enough, direct them to resources such as Archery360.com, Bowhunting.com and LancasterArchery.com, where they can read up on all sorts of bowhunting information. Many of the questions they have can probably be answered on those sites.

“Patience is probably the most important thing you have to have,” Jagnow said. “Be patient with these new hunters. They don’t have your experience.”