Windy conditions can make archery difficult, but Crystal Gauvin has seven strategies you can use to help…
Whether you shoot target, 3D or field, one of the most intimidating things for new archers can be shooting in windy conditions. I still remember my first real windy tournament, where I missed the bail about eight times out of 144 arrows. I could have let that experience define my career, but instead I took it as a challenge. I wanted to learn how to shoot in the wind, so I never experienced anything like that again. Since that time, I have grown to love shooting in the wind. Curious how I went from being terrified to lose arrows to being confident I would win shooting in windy conditions? Here are my seven “secrets.”
1. Trust Your Shot
My number one piece of advice for shooting in the wind is you must have confidence. One of the biggest problems people have when it gets windy is they start panicking and questioning everything. The key is to remember the fundamentals of your shot process.
Next, pick a spot to aim at and trust it. Much like a 3D archer needs to trust their yardage once they have made the decision, an archer shooting in the wind must trust their judgement of how strong the wind is. Trust allows you to shoot a strong shot, which benefits you in two ways. First, even if the wind pushes it, the arrow is going to be less affected if it came from a strong shot compared to a weak, tentative shot. And second, you will be given the most accurate feedback possible, which allows you to adjust.
This is particularly useful if you are shooting a field or target style tournament with multiple arrows shot at the same target. To take an example, you make a shot and it is a left nine. If you made a strong shot, you’d be confident it was the wind that pushed your arrow left, so you just needed to aim on the right side of the nine ring to counteract the wind. If, however, you made a poor shot, you will then question whether your arrow hit left because of your bad shot or because the wind blew it there. In this case, you now wouldn’t know where to aim for your next arrow to hit the middle.
2. Use Available Resources
Wind can range from just a gentle, refreshing breeze to very strong, unpredictable gusts. Learning to judge both the direction and speed of the wind is important to keep your arrows headed to the highest scoring ring during windy conditions. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough regulation in archery field setups to mandate always having enough wind socks, and in proper locations. The little flags on each target can be deceiving at times, and can be hard to determine the wind strength. So what can you do?
Pay attention to other objects on or near the field. Are there trees, grass, sponsor banners or country flags nearby? By focusing on how these objects are blowing, you should be able to make a more educated guess on wind speeds and/or direction. Some archers go as far as tying a ribbon on the end of their front stabiliser. This allows them to see which direction the wind is blowing right in front of them, regardless of what’s available on the field. Overall, it is important to remember that you have a lot of time to shoot your arrow(s), so when you are shooting in windy conditions, take your time, and pay attention to whatever you have around you.
3. Train your Mind
Windy conditions can be used to your advantage as an archer. You are probably thinking, “But how, we all must shoot in the same thing?” The key is mental strength. Instead of showing up to a field and thinking, “Oh boy, it’s windy out here, this is going to be bad,” go in thinking, “It’s windy out there! This is going to be an awesome challenge!” Be optimistic and accept the challenge of shooting in the wind. The truth is, most of your competitors have already written the day off.
It’s also important not to be afraid. My second ever outdoor tournament was one of the windiest tournaments I’ve ever shot in. Having just shelled out the money for a set of Easton X10 Protour arrows, I was terrified of missing the bail and losing my arrows. I was on target A (top left of the bail) and the wind was a right to left wind. Out of 144 arrows, I ended up with about eight misses because I kept shooting the B target due to being so afraid the wind would blow my arrows off the bail to the left!
I had never experienced shooting in the wind, so my fears came from having to shoot in the unknown. Shooting a windy tournament requires 100 percent focus and concentration until the last arrow flies. If you have a bad end, shake it off, and move on to the next set of arrows. The way you think can be the biggest advantage you have on your competitors!
4. Build Up Core Strength
To shoot strong, aggressive shots in windy conditions, you need a strong core. Core strength gives you a steady base to shoot from, so you will be less affected by the wind blowing you around. There are many options for building core strength. You can invest in high-end equipment or join a gym, but many simple body weight exercises (such as push-ups, sit-ups, planks, and so on) will suffice. They can be done virtually anywhere and need no extra equipment.
5. Aim (or Bubble) Off
Aiming off is a technique that allows you to be very exact in where you aim each time. Essentially you are imagining your arrow hitting various spots on the target, not just the centre. This technique can help you compensate for changing wind directions and is fairly easy to practice. Aiming off is also very easy for most people to understand. You treat the target like a mirror and aim opposite of where your arrow is landing. However, for some people it can be hard to aim somewhere besides the centre.
In that case, bubbling off or canting your bow might be a better option. Bubbling off allows you to aim at the middle the entire time, while simply canting your bow into the wind. If the wind is blowing left to right, this technique would have your top limb angled left (pushing against the wind), which would mean the bubble inside your level would be right of centre. Along with being slightly more complicated to “think” about, and only really working with a compound setup that has a level, the main disadvantage of bubbling is it is considered less precise because there is no exact measure to determine how much you move the bubble each time.
The final option is to do a combination of both; such as bubbling off in light wind and aiming off in stronger wind. Whatever you choose, you need to learn how much to aim or bubble off in various wind conditions with your particular setup.
So which is the “right” way to score the most points when shooting in the wind? Talk to 10 of the top shooters in the world and each will give you a different answer on whether they bubble off or aim off for the wind. The key is finding what works for you through trial and error (also known as practice).
Truly the only way to get better shooting in the wind is to actually practice shooting in the wind. Should you go out and practice when it’s a hurricane? Probably not, but learning how you and your arrows handle the wind can only be discovered through trial and error. Take advantage of windy days where you shoot, and practice in them. Instead of avoiding tournaments that are known to be windy, make it a point to register for and shoot these events. If it’s always calm where you shoot, try to find an alternate location that has some wind, just to test things out one day. Knowing how to make accurate shots when it is windy gives you a huge advantage over your competitors, no matter what style of archery you shoot. Ultimately, the key is to practice in wind, but only up to the point where you can keep your form. Once your form breaks down, it’s not recommended to keep shooting (unless it’s in a tournament where you have no choice).
There are also many different strategies out there. You must remember what works for one archer may not work for you. The only way to truly find what works for you is to experiment during your practice. There are archers that like to follow the rule of not being the first to shoot when conditions are windy. Instead, they choose to watch other archers and adjust based on how they see the wind affecting their arrows. Another strategy you will see used by top archers is “timing” the wind. They will wait out the wind when it is really blowing hard. By watching and feeling what the wind is doing, they will do their best to draw back so they are anchoring between the strongest gusts of wind. This allows them to shoot the shot during the lull (if there is one). Just like anything in archery, this takes practise (and patience) to get right!
7. Prepare Equipment
You should always make sure your equipment is ready for the conditions you will face (including wind). For example, arrow selection is very important. If you know you will be shooting in windy conditions, your best bet is a heavy, small-diameter arrow compared to a larger line cutting arrow. Much like a bullet, these small-diameter arrows won’t slow down as fast, or drift as much as lighter arrows will when the wind picks up.
Finally, make sure your bow is set up to handle the wind. For some this means shorter stabilisers (sometimes called wind bars) to help hold the bow more easily, for others this means a wider launcher blade to keep your arrow from falling off the rest as easily. The key (just like any change in equipment) is to test the changes you make at home before you get to a tournament, so you will know how everything reacts.