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M&J Outdoor Communications » Archery 101


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Archery 101

Ten minutes in the archery section of a local sporting goods store had me slipping back in time to my second quarter of German in college. Sometime during the summer sabbatical from all that was education, each and every one of my classmates had visited Germany , lived for three months with German hosts, and lost all touch with things English. Or so it seemed. I, on the other hand, had spent 90 days hunting groundhogs and fishing. In other words, I was lost.

And so it was again, and I felt foolish. Here I was with 25 years of hunting experience under my belt, and I didn’t know the first thing about the pros and cons of wheels, cams, and pulleys. Draw length? No clue. Would my arrows be spined to match my draw weight? Another shrug of the shoulders. At the prompting of my soon-to-be wife, an avid archer herself, I had decided to venture into the realm of the arrow slingers and try this thing called archery. But where did I start?

Enter Archery 101. My plight, as I was to discover, was not all that unusual. As much of the nation’s hunting contingent ages and progresses through the traditional five steps of the hunter, many avid outdoorsmen and women are stepping into new fields and hunting endeavors. And one of the most popular and fastest-growing of these arenas is archery. Many of these folks, experienced hunters like myself, were faced with the somewhat daunting task of starting from scratch in terms of equipment and training.

Fortunately, the United States is home to literally hundreds of thousands of knowledgeable archers, archery manufacturers, and dealers in archery equipment, most of whom welcome the opportunity to work with this new and upcoming school of talent, and all of whom are quite receptive to serving as mentor and as professor in a well-attended, “I won’t sleep through this”class known as Archery 101.

Toddville , Iowa ’s, Matt Yamilkoski is one such “professor.” A well-travelled hunter and angler, Yamilkoski possesses an outdoor resume’ that has made more than one listener perk up and take note, and an experience level both with archery equipment and firearms that far exceeds his 29 years. An active member of the Safari Club International and the Iowa Bowhunters Association, Yamilkoski has trekked over much of the United States in archery pursuit of both big and small game, and most recently journeyed to Africa where he harvested a variety of well-known trophy species that included dikker (a small antelope), eland, impala, kudu, guinea hens, and francolin, a small and very challenging grouse-like bird.

Yamilkoski’s archery background, which began in 1983, was formed as many hunting foundations are, both at a young age, and in part thanks to the help of his parents.

“Mom and Dad bought me a bow, a Browning Deluxe Nomad. I don’t even think they make then anymore. Anyway, they bought me this Browning youth bow and six arrows, and I started shooting. I shot fingers, no sights - nothing. And I just went out and starting throwing arrows. After a while, I ended up going to my local pro shop to get a little bit of information on how you were really supposed to do this. And even today, I still spend a lot of time at my local archery shop because this is a continuous learning process,” said Yamilkoski.

First things first - The bow

An archer without a bow is, well, just another camouflage-clad individual standing around looking forward to yet another hunting season. And with this statement in mind, it becomes clear that a bow is without question one of the first considerations to be made by the neophyte archer.

But, as some might assume, isn’t one bow just like any other bow? In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. And choosing the right bow does indeed entail more than simply walking into the local archery pro shop and saying, “Hey, that’s the one. I’ll take it.”

“There’s a couple considerations when choosing your first bow. Price is one. How much can you afford to spend. Next is what you’re going to do with it. Are you going to shoot 3-D targets, paper, or are you going to hunt? And then availability. And by that I mean you’re not going to want to buy a top-of-the-line bow if there isn’t a dealer within a reasonable distance who can assist you with things like tuning, repairs, accessories, and such,” said Yamilkoski.

Homework or research prior to the purchase is without question one of the best ways to prepare yourself for making this “first bow” decision. Local archers, as well as members of your neighborhood archery pro shop provide excellent sources of information when it comes to developing a list of possibilities. Good, too, are any one of the many bowhunting-specific outdoor publications on the newsstands today. Such magazines typically devote several pages each month to reviews of the current bows, arrows, and archery accessories on the market, and will often include field reports from readers and tournaments shooters actually putting the equipment to the test. And finally, it never is a bad idea to call the manfacturer and speak with their public relations representative or one of their technical support personnel. Who better to answer questions about a product than the person who makes it?

Today, many beginning archers opt for one of the nation’s leading brands of compound bows, and there are several reasons for this. Modern compounds, of which there are several dozen different makes and models from the country’s leading manufacturers, have become very lightweight and very reliable. Most come in an array of camouflage patterns, and each can be tailor-fit to the individual. Combined with the use of a mechanical release (a modern version of using your fingers to launch the arrow), these compound bows can, with proper tuning and practice, have a fledging archer shooting consistently and with confidence in a relatively short period of time.

Regardless of the make, model, price, or color of the bow you choose, one factor must be met - it has to fit you. The world’s most expensive bow won’t make you a better shooter if it doesn’t fit. And while fit is of the ultimate importance, it’s an easy matter for the novice to address, thanks, again, to the expertise and knowledge of the archer behind the counter at the local archery shop. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of these individuals, as it’s their goal to make sure you’re content and comfortable with this new equipment.

What’s a bow without arrows?

“If you’re not shooting traditional (recurves and longbows), I’d rule out wood. There are a lot of good wood arrows, but for the beginner, I’d stay away from wood. In today’s industry, there are two basic choices - the synthetics such as carbon or graphite, and all aluminum. Both are fine choices,” said Yamilkoski.

While finding the right bow might prove a time-consuming process, a statement based primarily on the variables of individual wants and personal preference, choosing the proper arrow for the bow you’ve selected is as easy as looking at a chart.

“Archery shops will have an arrow selection chart on the wall that will tell you what kind of arrow you need for the bow you’ve bought,” said Yamilkoski. Choosing the right arrow first involves taking a series of measurements that include draw length (the distance from the riser or that portion of the hand grip where the arrow rests to the bowstring at full draw) and draw weight or poundage (the pounds required to pull the bowstring back to full draw). These figures then translate into arrow length and arrow spine, or the thickness of the inside walls of the arrow shaft. It’s important that arrows be properly spined as mismatched shafts will result in poor accuracy, decreased arrow life, and possible damage to the shafts themselves.

Today’s archers have their choice of using either real feathers on their arrow shafts, or plastic imitations known as vanes. Both serve the same purpose, that being to stabilize the flight of the arrow from the bow to the target by putting a slight spin on the shaft, much in the same way a quarterback puts spin on a thrown football in order to achieve maximum accuracy. Feathers, while more traditional, can become matted during wet-weather hunts, and can make noise as they’re brushed against clothing, other arrows, or the bow itself. Vanes, on the other hand, are unaffected by rain and snow, and produce no sound when brushed. Beyond that, however, it’s again, a matter of personal preference.

It’s the business end of the arrow that many newcomers put the most emphasis on, and it’s here where the faltering begins in earnest when it comes to making a decision as to broadheads and practice points. Fortunately, says Yamilkoski, the choice as to the right broadhead and practice point is basically as simple as picking the right arrow.

“A lot depends on personal preference and what you want the arrow and broadhead to do. A two-blade, all blade broadhead offers the ultimate in penetration. A four-blade (replaceable blade) head can offer less penetration, but cuts a larger hole. And because archers rely entirely on hemorrhage for their harvest, a larger entry hole that allows better bleeding, and consequently a better blood trail, is often what folks want. For whitetails, a two-blade, three-blade, or four-blade broadhead from any decent bow set at what the state regulations hold as the minimum poundage (states vary, but most set 40#) will provide more than enough penetration and sufficient blood loss. This provides the situation was an acceptable shot in the first place,” said Yamilkoski.