As an avid fantasy reader, archery is something I’d been interested in for quite a few years but for the better part of the last decade, I never pursued it because it seemed a little intimidating to get into and I had the impression that it would be an expensive interest.
I guess, when you read a lot of fantasy and play a lot of RPG video games, you’re bound to get a little curious about it though. So many iconic characters are archers, huntsmen or rangers. And rogues/rangers are a popular pick in fantasy games. And I guess with that comes a mental impression of the art that maybe isn’t very realistic.
When I actually worked up the motivation to join an archery club, it put a lot of little misconceptions straight.
For starters, it was surprisingly affordable. There is no need to go and invest in equipment straight away, most archery clubs will host a beginners course where you can ease into the activity without having to invest in your own equipment. If you don’t like it, you haven’t lost anything for trying.
And if you do decide to stay, you’ll find a lot of clubs are very beginner-friendly. They want new members to stay on, so they’re trying to make a good impression on newbies. They’ll walk you through the setup and help you decide on your starting gear.
Then there are a lot of misconceptions you’re likely to pick up from pop-culture.
Like the perception that people take up archery because they’re not strong enough for other roles.
Archers definitely aren’t weak. It’s a lot harder than it looks to draw a bow. I started with a 24 pound draw (that’s really low btw) and I probably fired about 70–80 arrows on my first day. I’m a big guy, but it used muscles I’d barely used before, and by the end of that training session, I was sore, even worse later that night.
I’ve since moved up to 40 pounds, and every time I increase the power, I need an adjustment period for my muscles to strengthen. If I’m not careful, it’s just like that first day if I overdo it or increase the draw weight by too much. I’ll be in a lot of pain.
You might wonder why archers wear an arm guard or bracer. It really, really hurts when the string slaps your arm. You learn not to do that pretty quick, that bracer isn’t just an accessory, you need it.
There’s something you see in movies and games a lot, the character holds their bow drawn ready to shoot for a long time. That’s actually really hard, and a complete waste of your energy. Holding a bow at full draw really strains your body and within seconds you’re shaking uncontrollably and you’re no longer able to aim accurately.
You don’t get good in a few weeks, it takes a long time and a lot of practice. It takes time to improve, and you’ll spend a lot of time shooting at just 20-30 metres. Greater distances will take a whole lot more practice. So those books where the antagonist is a master archer in just a few months after starting are really unrealistic.
But, it was a lot of fun, especially once I found the right style for me. I started 2 years ago, and I’m still loving it. I practice whenever I can get to the range. I’ve improved my scores steadily over that time, even entered a couple of tournaments.
Being a fantasy fan, I gravitated towards traditional archery. I tried some of the more modern recurve and compound bow styles, but it just didn’t have the right feel. The simple approach to a traditional bow style really suited me.
It’s not as accurate, because you don’t have all the gadgets to help you out, but it’s so basic, a stick and a string… more or less. Less time adjusting gimmicks and gizmos, and more time actually using your bow.
Archery was nothing like I imagined it would be, honestly though, it’s better. I’m so glad I took the time to check it out.