The Archer’s Paradox

The archery club in Washington, D.C. meets Saturdays at a park in Derwood, Maryland. I used to think I was a good archer until I met up with the club before Christmas 2021. I have been shooting arrows since I was in elementary school, but haven’t really started to study the craft of archery until I attended a Father and Son camp at Turtle Island in Boone, North Carolina. They had a round-robin activities session and archery was part of it. The archery instructor had a set of bows that he had made and introduced me to bowyering, the art of making your own bows. He recommended The Traditional Bowyer’s Bible series, explained the archer’s paradox, and told me about other intricacies of the sport I had not heard of. The archer’s paradox, as I understand it, describes how an arrow shouldn’t be able to hit the aimed for target, as it’s original trajectory is at angle to the actual target, but its spring in the arrow shaft recoils the velocity vector to the target.

When I was a kid, we set up a hay bale in my backyard and would shoot at it with the fiberglass recurve bow we had from a short distance away. I remember my dad telling me what recurve meant, but can’t recall any other set of instructions for form, technique, breathing, back squeeze or anything else. This field was also our BB gun range, baseball field, garden, pine tree nursery, hide-and-seek arena, fantasy world, and held other portals to unknown universes.

I have also been shooting at the Scouting events my sons have attended the last four years and thought I was pretty decent. I can hit the bullseye some of the times from 10 yards, but wasn’t consistent or knowledgeable about the what and why. I finally bought two youth compound bows and a takedown recurve at Dick’s last summer after years of debating if it was worth it to spend the money.

I found a local indoor archery range in Gaithersburg at the Invicta fencing club. This location is convenient, but the instructors are focused on the fundamentals of archery, not necessarily advanced techniques or equipment, such as anything beyond a 25 pound recurve bow.

This past summer I passed the online and in-person courses to earn my USA Archery Level 1 instructor certification. I hoped to be able to lead a basic session for youth wanting to learn how to shoot. Much of the instructor materials focus on lesson plans for teaching young people about the sport of archery, for competition and balanced against other sports and school.

After over a year of forgetting about it, I found the Lake Needwood archery club. When I first moved to DC, I found the club’s website, sent a message to the information email address, but never heard back. So when I had my own equipment I went there on my own a few times. A week before Christmas I took one of my sons to the park and found the club there. The members are very knowledgeable, friendly, and welcoming. There are archers who focus on recurve, compound, traditional Asian archery, and one member who made his own crossbow from a kit. Some equipment is for sharing for new members, both to use during the afternoons and to see how you like a certain bow before buying your own.

So now I have a crossbow, a Genesis Gen-X compound bow, a recurve riser, a Bear Cub longbow, and two youth compound bows, along with a score of other safety and accessory gear. And I know so little about archery.

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