Rob Jones explores the additional kit that’s come in handy for him over his years in field archery
Unlike many archers, I shoot outdoors all year round no matter the weather, but for many the new outdoor season may only just be starting. Well back in issue 105 of Bow International Patrick Huston wrote an article entitled ‘Escape to the Country’ where he encouraged more people to give the field archery element of the hobby a go, so I thought it might be worth noting the sort of items that might be beneficial to carry on a field course.
As a UK-based field archer I probably carry a little bit more than the average archer does. In fact, a friend of mine has in the past joked about my belt resembling the infamous Batman utility belt but without the batarang (thanks Jim). I guess I hold to the old phrase of I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
Of course there are other archers who like to travel ultra-light and carry the bare minimum; they have their bow quiver, a half-dozen arrows, arm brace and shooting glove. It is entirely a personal choice of what feels right for you.
However, I’ll carry a variety of items from spare arrow rests, bow string, tab, safety whistle, the list goes on. Okay, I can hear you asking yourself, why weigh yourself down with all this gear? Do you really need it all?
Think of it this way, I am potentially going to be on my feet walking round a field course from arriving at 8:30am to maybe 5pm, or even later at a Championships event. I need to carry everything I might need for the day with me as there is no guarantee I will be anywhere near my car. At more than one Championship I’ve attended, the walk out to the assembly point for the course was over a mile – and that’s before you even start walking round the course.
If you aren’t a field archer you are probably wondering what on earth am I talking about, the shooting line is only a few hundred yards, if that, from the car park. Well, on a normal field course you are probably walking around woods for several hours, and a long way from your car.
This means popping back to the car to grab something is not that easy, or even possible in most cases. Leaving a field course part way through normally requires being escorted off by a marshal and possibly walking around the complete course; at a minimum this is likely to mean you will not be able to shoot a lot of the targets.
Talking of being on your feet all day, one thing that isn’t on the belt but worth considering if you are wanting to give field archery a go are a pair of good walking shoes or boots. You are on your feet most of the day, so getting a decent pair of boots is worth the money.
The thing is, no matter how well you prepare for a competition, equipment can fail, you might need to fix a serving, fit a new arrow rest or nock onto an arrow shaft, and if you’re a long way from your kit box you’ll need the means to do this about your person.
What made the list?
There is all the obvious stuff like bow, arrows, and quiver, but there may be a few other things that you might find are useful to carry.
I’m a traditional archer shooting wooden arrows with feather fletchings. Feather fletchings and rainy British days don’t mix. So I tend to carry four arrows in my quiver and the rest in an arrow tube on my back. This keeps the spares dry and stops them weighing my quiver down. One quick coaching tip I give to anyone thinking of carrying arrows like this is to wear the arrow tube when on the practice range so you get used to the feel of having one on your back.
Speaking of water from the heavens brings me onto keeping hydrated. This is very important and you’ll be amazed how dehydrated you can become when on a shoot and it can greatly affect your performance, so keep hydrated. In the summer months I carry a small water bottle, while in the winter months I take a thermos mug with a hot drink to keep me warm. Being based in Britain, in the summer months I also carry a simple pac-a-mac which I can throw on if it rains.
One thing I carry whether I’m camping, skiing, hiking or enjoying field archery is a simple first aid kit, either in my day sack when hiking or on my quiver belt. I’m not talking about anything fancy, just a simple kit you can pick up from most chemists or outdoor stores. I’m no medic, but I have had call to use it over the years and found it amazing how few people carry such a kit. I’ve added a few extra items over the years like antiseptic cream, spare micropore tape, antihistamine cream, dehydration sachets, and so on. It’s one of those things you hope to never have to use but I am glad to carry. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst, as the saying goes.
Carrying one is all well and good, but you need to check everything is still in date as sterile dressings, antiseptic wipes and so on will have a limited shelf life. So about this time of year I go through the kit and replace anything required. Last year I found Cotswold Outdoors sold a refill pack for first aid kits, which is a good, simple means by which to restock.
A recent addition to my first aid kit has been a tick card, which is a small credit card-sized implement with a magnifying glass and simple prongs to help you remove any tick found. There have been a number of articles in the news in recent years about the spread of ticks and the increase in the number of reported cases of Lyme Disease.
Back to the core archery gear. In the quiver pouch I have a spare tab, bow string, stringer, a couple of pens for score cards and snack bar or two in case I get hungry. I’ve also found trail mix is really good for keeping my energy up, with mixed dried fruit and nuts.
A Leathermans multi-tool is incredibly useful, and when I used to shoot a take-down recurve I would carry a pocket allen key set in case I needed to adjust the bow on the course.
A small tube of fast-setting glue can prove quite useful if you need to replace a nock, just don’t drop it in your pocket and then sit on it, as a friend did at one Championships, which resulted in gluing his car keys into his pocket.
Despite my best intentions I don’t always hit the target, especially on a 3D course, so my arrows will occasionally disappear into the shrubbery. To help search for those wayward arrows I carry an arrow rake to help scraping through the undergrowth.
This is quickly beginning to sound really heavy and a lot to carry round, as well as being somewhat cumbersome. That’s probably why some archers have started using small day sacks, which they slip off their backs when shooting. Some of these packs even include a seat, allowing for a quick rest break for the feet while waiting for your turn to shoot.
Whether you want to travel light or, like me, prefer to have a few items on the belt, I hope you find this of use and maybe I will see you on a field course sometime soon.