Archive for category archery

More Japanese Archery

In addition to Kyudo archery, there are two other kinds in Japan I learned about. One is called Toshiya, and is a contest each January at Sanjusangendo, a temple I visited in Kyoto in 2012. I wrote about it here . Although it was originally a competition to see how many arrows could hit a target and also in a specific time period (12 or 24 hours), it is now just two arrows per contestant and seems to be more of a celebration by enthusiastic amateurs than a serious competition. Just watch the first minute or two of the video above.

I also found two videos about archery from horseback, called Yabusame. Most interesting in the bottom one is how the rider practices on a moving, wooden simulated horse. And that the rider was part of a family that had excelled for 1000 years.

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Kyudo Is The Way Of The Bow

Kyudo is another sport I encountered during my recent visit to Japan. It was very slow, deliberate and even a meditation, as time slows down for the archer and the observer.

You can test your own patience level by watching the video above. It takes five minutes from the time the archers come on stage before the first one even begins to shoot an arrow. This will illustrate immediately–or maybe I should say eventually–how the experience felt when I watched it. If you know you are too impatient to wait so long, there is a shorter video second from the bottom.

Spiritual Japanese archer with 6.5 foot bow

Spiritual Japanese archer with 6.5 foot bow

During my visit last week, perhaps six archers were on an identical indoor “stage” as in the videos firing outdoors into rain-protected targets. After launching just two arrows, each archer slowly left the wooden dojo floor in a specific, ritualized manner. In fact every movement and gesture on the stage is choreographed minutely: moving on and off the floor, notching the arrow, drawing the bow, releasing the arrow. Hitting the target isn’t even the primary goal, although if the archer carries out the movements perfectly and has the correct spiritual development, the arrow will pierce the 14-inch-diameter target, which is 92 feet away.

the draw is high, above the head

the draw is high, above the head

There are many steps to learning this ancient sport, and beginners must pass a number of tests, before they are even allowed to move to the dojo stage and, I assume, wear the traditional clothes. The techniques of the eight stages of shooting are meticulously prescribed here , and it is nothing like Western-hemisphere archery and Robin Hood-movie shooting. Although I had seen still photos for years, and noted the extremely large bow, above-the-head draw, and that the arrow was released from the bottom third of the bow, rather than in its center, I had no idea how slowly and deliberately the whole motion was.

A German who didn’t speak much Japanese, Eugen Herrigel, studied Kyudo and wrote a book (1948) I read in college, Zen and the Art of Archery, that changed my life forever. It was a huge influence in bringing Zen philosophy to the west, even though some of the translations may have been misunderstood or inaccurate.

The bottom video is of a Japanese Hawaiian who couldn’t hit the target until he spoke in a dream to his samurai ancestors who told him to shoot with his eyes closed. It worked, and he and the target became one…

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Major Mongolian Sports

The Naadam festival is the biggest festival of the year for Mongolians. Usually occurring in July, it runs for three days in all parts of the country and highlights the greatest athletes in horse racing, archery, and wrestling: Mongolia’s most popular sports. Women participate in all but the wrestling category. The word Naadam means game or competition in Mongolian. Competitions take place on the first two days, and merry-making is reserved for the third.

This festival has been held for centuries as a form of memorial celebration, as an annual sacrificial ritual honoring various mountain gods or to celebrate a community endeavor.

soldiers participate in the opening ceremony in Ulaan Bataar

soldiers participate in the opening ceremony in Ulaan Bataar

The festivities kick off with a colorful parade of athletes, monks, soldiers marching in perfect uniformity, musicians performing powerful military tunes, and Mongolians dressed in Chinggis-style warrior uniforms.

HORSE RACING

Mongolians have a high regard for horses, which they have relied on for centuries for transport, sustenance, and companionship. During the races, up to 1,000 horses can be chosen to compete. The horse races are broken down into six categories based on the age of the horses. For example, two-year-old horses race for 10 miles and seven-year-olds for 17 miles. The race is conducted on the open grasslands with no set track or course. Children from the ages of 5 to 13 are chosen as jockeys, because this guarantees that the race tests the horses’ skill and not the riders.

18 mile race, no saddles, jockeys all under 13 years old

18 mile race, no saddles, jockeys all under 13 years old

The small size of the jockeys also increases the horses’ endurance. Even still, jockeys train for months before Naadam, and the horses are given a special diet. The winning jockey is praised with the title tumny ekh or “leader of ten thousand” and the five winning horses are talked about and revered in poetry and music. The losing two-year-old horse is also alloted special attention by being serenaded with a song. Music is very important before the race too, as the audience sings traditional songs and the the jockeys sing a pre-race song called a gingo.

Eating and drinking is the other “sport” during the Naadam festival. The horse races are held in the steppes, behind people who stop to drink tea and airag, fermented mares’ milk, cold meat pancakes, and other popular festival foods.

WRESTLING

The wrestling competitions begin around noon on the first day of the festival and end on the second day. They are quite unlike American wrestling matches in form, and they have two other important differences. First, there are no weight divisions. A small wrestler can be pitted against someone two times his weight. This can lead to some very interesting matches. Second, there are no time limits.

The loser of a match is the wrestler who falls first. A fall is when any part of a wrestler’s body, except his hands or feet, touches the ground.

colorful and traditional wrestling at Naadam

colorful and traditional wrestling at Naadam

Titles are given to winners of a number of rounds: Falcon to those winning five rounds, Elephant for seven rounds, and Lion to the one winning the whole tournament.

One elite wrestler was once given the title “Eye-Pleasing Nationally Famous Mighty and Invincible Giant.” Wrestlers honor the judges and their attendants with a dance called devekh, or eagle dance. The winner also performs the eagle dance after the loser of the bout takes off his jacket and walks under the winner’s arm. Wrestlers wear small, over-the-shoulder vests called zodog, and snug shorts called shuudag. The heavy, traditional Mongolian boots are called gutuls.

ARCHERY

The sport of archery originated around the 11th century. Contestants dress in traditional costumes and use a bent bow constructed of horn, bark, and wood. The arrows, made from willow branches and vulture feathers are shot at round, leather targets with grey, yellow or red rings. Men must stand 75 meters and women 60 meters from the target. Judges, standing near the targets, assess each shot with a cry, called a uukhai, and a raised hand. The winning archer, or mergen, is the one who hits the targets the most times. As close as the judges stand to the targets, none of them appears to ever be hit by an arrow.

mong_02

Incidentally one of the advantages the Mongols had during their conquests is that their double-curved bows were made of many components and different materials and could launch an arrow farther (500 yards), faster and more powerfully (can penetrate steel armor) than the famous single-curved, English longbow (350 yards) used by other cultures. This meant they could decimate their enemies without risking a response. The Mongol bow is harder to draw, so men had to develop upper-body strength from boyhood. They also learned how to shoot from a horse in any direction, even facing backwards.

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Unimaginable Archery Achievements In Kyoto

Toshi-ya_00

A block from my hotel in Kyoto was the Sanjusangen Buddhist Temple, a 400-foot-long wooden structure that houses 1000, 25-armed, life-sized wooden statues of the deity Kannon, along with statues of 28 other gods.

But it is the amazing athletic achievements of archers here that continues to awe me. You won’t believe what I am going to describe. In 1606 a Samurai gave a demonstration of his Kyudo (archery) prowess by shooting 100 arrows in rapid succession the entire length of the Temple. He hit the target 51 times. This started the annual Toshiya festival and competition, which turned into an event of archery marathons held for 255 years. The main contests were:

The Hyakui: Most target hits with 100 arrows.

The Seni: Most target hits with 1000 arrows. The 11 year old boy who won the 1827 competition hit the target 995 times (only this one was at 200 feet).

The Hiyakazu: The number of target hits in 12 hours. In 1774, 13-year-old Masaaki Noro fired 11,715 arrows with almost all of them hitting the target. That’s an average of 16 arrows a minute for 12 hours with no break.

The Oyakazu: The number of target hits in 24 hours. The 1686 winner, Wasa Daihachiro, hit the target with 8,133 of 13,053 arrows he shot. He averaged 544 arrows an hour, or 9 arrows a minute, and became the record holder.

So think about this—shooting over 500 arrows an hour for 24 hours. You can see in the woodblock print above that the archer is seated and a second person is feeding him the arrows. People at the temple told me that when the target was full of arrows, someone would replace it with a new one (and hopefully not get hit by an arrow arriving every 4 to 6 seconds). There had to be bathroom breaks? Food and water? I was told that the targets were lit by torches at night. Can you even picture how this could be done? I really can’t imagine it.

You can read more details about Toshiya here.

A modern version of Toshiya has been held annually since the marathons ended and is for about 2000 20-year old boys and girls (Japanese coming of age) who shoot just two arrows at 200 feet and are eliminated as soon as they miss the one-meter target. You can see how colorfully the girls dress, how large the bows are and the technique of starting to aim and release above the head.

modern Toshiya

modern Toshiya

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Lars Andersen’s Instinctive Archery Technique Is Fast Faster Fastest

A reader sent me this video that shows archer Lars Andersen using an ancient technique he discovered to shoot arrows faster than any modern day champions. He can shoot 10 arrows in 4.9 seconds, while it takes others 13-35 seconds. He is even faster than the fictional archer Legolas in the Lord of the Rings series.

The secret is to hold the arrows in his pulling hand, not put that hand to his cheek, not necessarily even raise the bow, and to do it all instinctively. He is amazing…

There is a common kind of present-day archery called snap shooting that is also very instinctive and does NOT involve aiming. I will have to ask some of my archery friends about this ancient technique. We can also utilize instinctive performance in other physical challenges, especially tennis for me! Did you know there is a book called the Inner Game of Tennis? It also describes a non-thinking way to play that game.

Below is an excerpt about instinctive shooting from The Archery Library :

How to Aim

The first time you shoot a bow and arrow, the whole business feels awkward. Your shooting glove or the “tabs” feel thick and clumsy, the arrow may keep falling away from the left side of the bow, and your first shots will seem futile. Persist in your efforts and you will soon be able to shoot an arrow in the general direction of your mark. To shoot with a fair degree of accuracy means practice and lots of it. Sometimes a novice will pick up a bow and at once shoot with some precision—it is instinct with some—others must follow the slower road of practice.

INSTINCTIVE SHOOTING. We don’t know just exactly how we aim a stone or a baseball when we throw it. Some coordination of muscle and mind directs the missile and with practice we become accurate throwers. Just so with the natural or instinctive method of shooting a bow. This “snap-shooting” is used in roving, hunting and by some target shots. The arrow is usually drawn to the cheek or jaw, and the pull and release is quick and snappy. The writer has a quiver full of assorted arrows, no two of which are alike, but, because the peculiarities of each arrow are known, excellent snap shooting can be done with them. The writer has always admired a good snap shooter or an archer who is an instinctive shot. It is real archery, and if a fellow can go out and hit rabbits, stumps or any other mark at from thirty to fifty yards and do it regularly, then he is an archer of the true breed.

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Lillia Stepanova Also Uses A Bow And Arrow With Her Feet

Watch this video first!! There is a spoiler in the copy below…

Over 800,000 people have seen this video. Lilia Stepanova (born 29 July 1987) is a contortionist. She was born in Chişinău, Moldova, to parents who were also contortionists. She started training with her mother at the age of five.

As of 2010, Stepanova is living in Las Vegas, where she is known for performing at many NBA halftime shows. She is also known for her ability to perform archery with her feet while on hand-balancing canes, the piece she performed on Season 1 of America’s Got Talent.

The video is a Danish commercial for bank loans. One comment on Youtube points out that “the arrow is still on the bow after she shoots?? hahaha.” And of course it’s not certain that she hit the target after the arrow was launched. But it’s still a hell of a trick!

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Armless Archer Matt Stutzman Wins Silver At Paralympics

Champion Archer Matt Stutzman

Matt Stutzman calls himself the Inspirational Archer (which he certainly is) on his web site , but he’s better known as the Armless Archer. What an achievement. He also has a sense of humor, with the site subtitle, A Foot Above the Competition.

Born without arms, Stutzman inserts the arrow using his left foot, lifts and steadies his bow with his bare right foot, and uses his teeth, shoulder and jaw to pull back and release the arrow. He only took up the sport two or three years ago.

At the 2012 Paralympics, Stutzman won silver for the United States, placing behind Finland’s Jere Forsberg, 6-4, in the final contest of the Men’s Individual Compound – Open event on Sept. 3. It turns out Matt was aiming for the Gold, so he was probably disappointed with this result.

According to USA Today, Stutzman’s competitors were all wheelchair users but had use of their arms.

“My goal was to inspire somebody, even if it was just one person, with my positive attitude,” Stutzman told the Herald-Sun after winning his silver medal.

The excitement around Stutzman’s performance was palpable in the archery final. Whereas his opponent, Forsberg, shot his arrows in silence, the Telegraph likened the sound of camera shutters going off around Stutzman to “exploding birdshot.”

If you jump immediately to 0:41 in the video below, you can see how Matt inserts arrows into the bow with his feet and uses an off-the-shelf wrist device (although he has it on his shoulder) to draw (pull back) the arrow, and then his jaw movement releases the arrow for flight. All his equipment is standard and not adapted to his unique situation. What a talent.

If you go right to 2:00 in the video below, you can see how Matt uses his foot and toes EXACTLY like able-bodied people use their hands and fingers. Amazing.

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Sports/Exercise Report for May

May results set some good records. I was active 23 days, up from 20 in April, though below my record 25 days in November. Being out of town for my son’s college graduation was a welcome and happy break.

I played tennis or practiced during 17 days over 37 ¾ hours, which is up from last month’s 15 days/31 ¼ hours and is greater than my high of 16 days, though below my record of 41 ¾ hours. I was fairly tired the day I played with three different groups over 5 ¾ hours, and temperatures in the high 80’s and 90’s exhausted me. Many days I played tennis matches in the mornings and then hit balls with a friend in the afternoon. Forcing myself to fit in crunches is the ultimate challenge, and I usually failed at it.

My nine crunch session equaled my high in December. I set a new record of three sets of 450 (1350 total), up from my previous record of 1050 total in January. Then to vary my routine, I started just doing different stomach exercises for 30 minutes a session. We’ll see if I can fill in that one missing muscle, because I really only have a feeble five-pack at the moment. I was told that if you don’t change your routine, your muscles get used to it and don’t grow as much. Jason Statham’s abs still look better than mine.

There were also two squash sessions for two hours total, way below my record of 8 days and 7 ½ hours. I went bow and arrow hunting for wild turkeys four times for 19 hours and also spent two days (3 ½ hours) chain sawing shooting lanes and clearing trails in the woods. Never even took a shot though this year. Too few birds. And two few weight lift days—just two. But my wrist and shoulders are healing—even swam some butterfly laps yesterday and felt no shoulder pain.

Sports/Exercise Report

April results were a bit inhibited by a sore back for 10 days. I only had 20 days of sports and ab crunch activity, down from 21 in March and a record of 25 physically active days in November My crunch sessions totaled eight, up from just four in each of the last two months (my record is nine crunch sessions in December). I did increase to 1000 total-in-a session ball crunches (three sets) up from highs of 750 in March and 550 in February, but below my record 1050 in January.

For the month I played tennis 15 days and 31.25 hours, up from last month (record is 16 days and 41 3/4 hours), squash two days and 2 hours (record is 8 days and 7.5 hours), practiced archery twice and went hunting for turkeys with a bow once for seven hours. I also lifted weights at home three times.

It’s nice to see my abs showing again and to be improving my tennis game with more outdoor practice possible. Spring is definitely here at last.

Helluva Week For Physical Stuff—From A (abs) to Z (zumba)

Back home to normal life: signing checks, initiating roof replacement, selling a horse. But still awed with the increased physical activity of the last week. I will post specifics later of my time:

hot tubbing with Palm Beach girls,
eating enough desserts in Florida to gain five pounds,
swimming in the country’s biggest hotel pool,
tennis playing/practice (four times in six days),
squash practice twice, including a one-hour group lesson,
ab crunch workouts twice,
practicing archery for upcoming hunting of wild turkeys,
two gym visits for mi latissimi,
Zumba dancing with 26 mostly Latina ladies,
skipping Connecticut meals and exercising enough to lose five pounds,
driving a newly-leased, “brilliant red” car like I was on the race track, and
making 25 green-headed, red-faced, white-ring-necked pheasants feel drunk, so they wouldn’t fly away as I set them in bushes.

I am determined to rebuild my abs and play better squash and tennis, and this burst of body energy better jump-start the effort.

Using Tennis Advice So That Ira Can Finally Drop His Turkey

I shot a turkey yesterday morning, only the second time with a bow in eight years (that’s 16 seasons).

first bird with a bow in five years—5/27/09

first bird with a bow in five years—5/27/09

Before I describe the whole hunt in another post (which may not interest you), I want to tell you how tennis prowess and peak performance was used in my turkey hunting. And I think it can be applied to other sports as well. This had all been explained the day before by my friend and tennis coach, Frank, when I asked him what allowed the very top players to dominate the game.

One squash coach told me (see April 21st post) that it’s easy to swing the racquet perfectly, but adding a ball that you’re supposed to hit on the swing changes the dynamic enormously. Similarly, aiming at and hitting a stationary, life size, 3-D turkey target is one challenge. But shooting a moving, walking turkey that might see you raise your bow and fly or turn away from you at any second is totally different.

Turkey stories aside, and in accordance with Frank Adam’s advice, I was able somehow to enter a kind of numbness or zone. I was on automatic, totally instinctual. I never calculated distance to the bird, the angle down, what the horizontal length was (see the May 2nd post about Bow and Arrow Lessons). It all just sorta, kinda happened. I wish I could explain it. Read the rest of this entry »

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My Perfect Turkey Hunt (Non-Hunters May Want to Skip This Post Except For The Type In Boldface Below)

The most amusing thing about this hunt was how many things went wrong. When I woke at 3:30, I could hear the raindrops on the roof and down the gutters. I put on a bathrobe and went outside to actually feel how bad it was. Only slight. I would be drenched and cold by the end of the morning. But the season ends on the 30th, so I had run out of time.

Once at the farm where I hunt, I walked through wet grass in the hayfield that was up to my waist. Damp and chilled already in 43 degrees darkness. A quarter mile later I am in the forest at meadow’s edge, decoy set up. I wait an hour for light and the first gobbles. Nothing, but cold.

After another 30 minutes, I give up, assuming there are no turkeys in this roost where they often spend the night. Just as I put my arrows back in the quiver, I hear the cluck of a tom, already on the ground and looking for a hen. I talk to him for 20 minutes, trying to attract him in my direction. I never see him, but do hear a hen come in toward him swooning and then the quick fluttering and clacking as they mate briefly. More silence.

At last I do give up, stand and walk towards a pasture. Shockingly, after I move 25 yards, two birds fly away. One goes southwest and the other northeast. I head toward the bird to the north, laughing at how they laughed at me. Maybe watched me. Usually by this time, they would have been on the ground for over an hour…at some distance if they were nervous at my presence. Bad enough they didn’t make a sound. So much for all my patience. Maybe the drizzle and cloudiness kept them in the trees so much longer.

Anyway I circle around and never spot the bird to the north, even after creeping slowly past the openings to two pastures. Along the way, I almost step into three coyote scat markings. Continuing to the west, I do see the bird who went south. He is three fields away, at least 200 yards, and making a gobble that is more like a baby gurgling. Subdued and as if he has a berry stuck in his throat. Nothing firm and resonant.

I consider circling around through the forest behind me, so that I can move 100 yards closer to him off to the right. But my instinct orders me to just stay put near where I am. So I get into position on the edge of the forest, next to the second pasture, behind a tree but a foot wide. I cut some bushes in front of me with clippers and wait to see what will happen.

Just then a young scrawny deer darts out to my left, pauses, walks about five yards in front of me and heads along a trail to my right. I thought she would smell me and bolt, but she moves easily, and neither starts nor stops. Ahhh, the surprises from Mother Nature.

Meanwhile the turkey has continued moving in my direction and cleared a stone wall. He is about 150 yards away.

Next a real surprise. A coyote comes along, following the deer gradually. Again just five yards away. I am waiting for him to sniff my presence. But I am invisible to him too. Maybe the wind is blowing towards me, so that my scent is behind me. At this point I am a tiny bit nervous. I’d rather not have a hungry coyote face -off and have to pull a knife. The hunter might become the hunted.

coyote

coyote

One time years ago when I was calling toms with the sound of a hen in heat, a coyote stalked me. When I stood up to see what was making the sound on the leaves, I was staring at a coyote three yards away ready to spring. And I had no weapon in hand for defense. We looked in each other’s eyes for what seemed like 10 or 15 seconds. Then he turned and ran off. I didn’t like being so helpless. Though these animals weigh about 40 pounds and look like mangy dogs, I have seen the deer and sheep they have killed with a bite and rip to the throat.

But this time nothing happened. Although I was listening a bit for sounds from behind.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Can You Serve a Tennis Ball While on Your Knees? Or Win Points by Walking or Not Moving?

Went to a pro squash match in Wilton CT. These players rank from 56 to 120 or so, and the quality of their game was way above college level. They can really whack the ball and retrieve seemingly impossible shots. Lots of long rallys. However I have to say the general play was not as strong as the other pro match I saw, when some players were as high as 24 or 36.

I’d invited a former college roommate to meet me there. Michael had never before seen a squash match. His droll comment was that “You had to be in pretty good shape to play this game.” It definitely takes endurance and flexibility. He did say he had heard over the years of heavyset guys who could place the ball so well that they won points and games in spite of their inability to move very fast or for long.

He also told me about a grossly overweight tennis coach in high school he would watch who could just stand in the middle of the court, barely move his feet, switch the racket from one hand to the other, and then win many points against his students. It was because he could place the ball so perfectly. Hard to imagine, even though I face excellent placement from many of the older guys I play doubles with. This coach would also SERVE from the baseline ON HIS KNEES, again to emphasize that you don’t need a powerful serve to win points. Just place the ball with great dexterity.

I’ve played against a guy who shifts the racket back and forth between hands. Weird. So I can vouch for that skill. But what do you think? Can anyone be even a decent competitor without a strong service game? Read the rest of this entry »

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A Week of Casual Conditioning—Frisbee, Tennis, Squash, Beach Running, Hiking After Turkeys

It’s been a busy week. I went to NY City last Wednesday (the 6th) to pick up my son from the end of his junior college year. I thought I could take it easy when we arrived home. However within five minutes of returning from my seven-hour round trip and unloading the car, I was “invited” to play Frisbee. Turns out my son wants to try out for the NYU Ultimate Frisbee team next fall and needs to practice. It was too good a chance to bond with my boy, so I re-learned how to throw and catch. I still have some bruises almost a week later.

After an hour of running after the spinning disc—no leaps, jumps and falls—I gave up and admitted I was tired. I had really been pushing hard and hoping he would want to stop first. In fact he played for another hour with his friend who happened to drop by shortly after I called it quits.

The next morning I was playing tennis doubles for 90 minutes, then an hour plus of practicing my spin serve with one person. My tennis game is really improving. Yet I am impressed that players who are not as good as I am overall are very comfortable correcting my game. And you know what—they often make good points, even if I think that I should be the one giving advice.

Then I fit in an hour of squash practice—mostly return of backhand serve. Read the rest of this entry »

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You Need to Keep on Exploring Even If You Keep Receiving Different Advice From Different “Experts”

Well it’s been a month, and I am still exercising and playing sports. Blogging—even just to myself, because I haven’t yet designed my web site—is forcing me to stay on track. And also knowing that I am going to go public puts some good pressure on me. I know that I am improving.

Yesterday I fired some arrows, lost one in the grass, missed the target lots of times…until I finally started hitting it. Later in the afternoon, I even scouted the farm I was going to hunt this morning, when the turkey season started for three weeks.

I woke up at 4:15, but it was raining pretty hard, so I went back to sleep—no fun sitting in the rain when it is 40 degrees. At 6:40 three toms (males) were gobbling in my garden 25 feet from the bedroom window! Sounded like they were laughing at my laziness and worries about a little rain—did I think I was going to melt? Didn’t that happen to one of those wicked witches in the Wizard of Oz?

Yesterday I also took another squash lesson, this time from the head coach at another prep school only 30 minutes away. Read the rest of this entry »

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Two Basic Life Lessons from the Bow and Arrow.

Some more thoughts about the importance of practicing correctly that come to mind when you use the bow and arrow. When you draw the arrow and string back, you should repeatedly place the same part of your hand that is holding the string on the same spot of your cheek. It is called the anchor point. That way for every shot, your eye is always looking at the target when there is a constant relationship among the bow, arrow, and the released arrow’s flight path.

My initial practice each season is out in the open, with nothing between me and the target. I am always kneeling, because that is how I will be positioned on the hunt. Once I am able to hit the target consistently—and I do this by finding the same anchor point for each shot—I change my location. I was smart enough all these years to realize that I had to be behind a tree when drawing the bow on a real turkey—if I drew out in the open, the bird would see the motion. So I’ve practiced shooting from behind a tree. First I draw slowly with maximum concealment. Then I lean over to the right, peering gradually to minimize my movement and still see my prey. And then I often miss the 3-D target and in the field the live bird.

What I noticed three days ago is that as I leaned over, I was not making sure that my hand was connecting with my anchor point. So my alignment was off, and I was shooting high and/or wide. Lots of frustration. But then I figured it out. Lesson to be learned: re-examine what might be going wrong when things aren’t going right. I have “only” been hunting with a bow for maybe eight years. No wonder I have taken just one bird in all that time.

The other technique I learned recently is that when shooting down at the bird from a higher elevation, like a hill, one should NOT aim based on the actual distance between me and the turkey. Pretend it is less, and shoot as if it is less.

I was complaining to an engineer friend of mine who bow hunts how often my arrows went over the bird’s back. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Hunters Like About Hunting

Was determined to reach the gym—need two more visits this month to make eight total. But also wanted to practice archery in preparation for the turkey-hunting season, which starts on May 6th. So at 6:30 pm, I went out to the life-size, three-dimensional rubber turkey target and fired off a few arrows for the first time since last fall.

The first two hit the bird; then I started missing. In the second group of eight arrows, only three hit the target. But by the end, 8/8 were in the turkey. This is really good for me. So I stopped and raced off to the gym, which stays open until 10 pm.

I learned how to hunt in Connecticut (many many men do it here) with a shotgun in the early 90’s. My neighbor used to own a hunting and fishing shop, and he introduced me to this aspect of rural life. I discovered that I loved the outdoors, the silence, the aloneness, the commune with nature, bumping into deer and coyotes and bobcats and many birds singing their different songs. I learned that I loved the taste of wild turkey, which is nothing like a domestically raised bird. I loved the challenge of finding the turkey, calling it in close with a noisemaker that simulates a real bird, hitting it, plucking it, gutting and dressing it and learning the different ways to cook it.

It’s all part of a hunting/gathering tradition that humans have known for thousands of years, and almost all city-folks are totally unaware of. I felt like I was connecting with my roots, my past, unknown ancestors and the present natural world at the same time. I must confess that I was such a city guy, so naive and uninformed about the outdoors, that I did not realize until I was 46 that birds had different sounding songs that could be used to identify them. Can you believe that? I am still astonished that I was so out of touch with Mother Nature. Read the rest of this entry »

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