The mindless ramblings of a bow shooting network engineer.
Archery Updates & NFAS Championships

Archery Updates & NFAS Championships

As you may know from my life updates entry a few weeks ago, the last twelve months have been pretty busy for us. As a result, I haven’t really had much time to indulge in my photography or archery hobbies. In fact, I have only been out with my bow four times since the 2022 NFAS Championships.

Normally, there are two NFAS Championships each year covering two different disciplines. The first is held on the weekend of the late spring bank holiday in May. This competition uses 3D foam targets used to represent realistic animals. These National Championships are commonly referred to as the 3D Championships. The second NFAS Championships are held around the third week in September. These use paper targets printed with pictures of animals. These are commonly referred to as the champs as they were the original national competition and were in existence long before the use of 3D foam targets became commonplace.

One Big Event

2023 was the 50th Anniversary of the National Field Archery Society. To celebrate they took the decision to put everything into the late spring NFAS championships and do “One Big Event”. This was to be held at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire. Luckily, this location is only around a forty-minute drive from our new home.

I thought it might be a good idea to enter a few local competitions before this year’s One Big Event and managed to get booked into four of them. It didn’t go too badly considering the lack of practice and I managed to place in the top three at all four competitions. I achieved two third places and two first places. These aren’t really a good indicator of how I’d perform against a field of competitors from all over the UK, they used to be when all the top archers in my class were from the same area, but those days have passed. That’s a whole other story in itself.

With just four competitions and no practice in the previous twelve months, I arrived at the event with no expectations and felt very relaxed. The usual nerves and pressure to do well were absent and I was just hoping for challenging courses and good shooting groups for the two days.

Day One

I arrived at my target on the first day and met my group. My initial reaction was this is going to be a long day! It turned out better than I imagined with some interesting conversations and friendly banter. My group consisted of myself and another male flatbow archer who was attending his first NFAS Championships. A very good primitive archer and a lady flatbow archer recovering from a hip replacement.

I didn’t bother with the practice range on this particular morning and my first few targets reflected this. It took me four targets to actually hit something with my first arrow. Consequently, I was bringing up the rear with regard to scoring after five targets. At this point, the primitive archer told me to get my shit together as I didn’t want to be beaten by a primitive bow. This turned out to be the kick up the ass I needed and my shooting improved from there with only a couple of lapses in concentration resulting in some dropped points.

The day ended at a reasonable time and we were off the course by 3:30 pm. I ended day one well ahead of the rest of my group but couldn’t help but feel I left a lot of points on the course. The course hadn’t been that challenging and I felt I was about 30-40 points less than I should have been. My score for the day was 718 and 10 spots. No results are posted at the end of each day, so I had no idea how I was doing relative to everyone else.

We headed off home to have some time with the dogs. We then made another trip out for a meal and a couple of beers with friends.

Day Two

My hopes for day two were pretty much the same as for day one. A good group and a challenging course. Chatting with a friend who happens to shoot the same style as me, I discovered we’d shot similar scores and he was only two points behind me. A last-minute target change for me was announced and I’d been moved to the same target as my friend Matt. This should’ve added some pressure to the day but didn’t. We both felt we hadn’t shot that well on day one and were too far away from what we suspected the leaders had scored. We decided to just have a relaxed day and shoot the course rather than against each other.

A friend and very good longbow archer had shot the course I was shooting today on the previous day. He’d shared his score with me the previous evening, so I had a target score in mind. Arriving at my starting target, it was clear that this would be a challenge. My first target was further than anything we’d shot the previous day. It was clear I’d need to stay focused to attain my target score.

Matt pushed me arrow for arrow all day. For thirty targets there were no more than ten points between us. Then we started to get tired, not helped by reaching the lunch break late. We both suffered as a result and dropped points over the last nine targets. I dug deep and I ended the day twelve points ahead of Matt with a score of 726 and 6 spots. This gave me a combined score of 1444 and 16 spots for the two days. This was just 24 points off my target number of 750. Matt was close behind with a combined total of 1430 and 17 spots.

The Results

Day two ended around the same time as day one, 3:30 pm. We then had to sit and wait while the results were calculated. This took much longer than anticipated, a full three hours longer. Eventually, after a drawn-out auction for old 3D targets, a raffle and a couple of speeches, they got on with it. My shooting style (American flatbow) is usually first due to alphabetic order. On this occasion, they did it in reverse alphabetical order. I try to keep my expectations down during the announcements, but there’s still a small part of you that hopes. After shooting for a while, you know when you’ve shot well, and when you haven’t. I truly didn’t have any expectation that I would be in the top three archers and would’ve been happy to finish in the top ten.

Finally, they were ready to announce the results of my class. They called me out in third place! This genuinely was a surprise, I may even have smiled. I didn’t hear the second place or winning score. I was still amazed I’d placed. As it turned out, I’d missed out on second place by 10 points. Even more amazing was the fact my score was only 22 points off the winning score.

Final Thoughts

After collecting my medal and having a photo taken, it started to sink in. I started to rue those first three targets on day one and the lapses of concentration for the last nine targets on day two. I also felt bad for Matt, having missed out by just 14 points. Then I realised that I just needed to accept what an achievement this was and be happy with it. This was the first time I’d placed in the top 3 at the NFAS Championships, well the 3Ds. I’d had one previous placing, a third place, at the National Championships. After hovering around the top ten and a few forays into the top five. This was progress. Hopefully, this is the first small step to eventually winning one of these events.

I take a lot of positives away from this event. The biggest one for me is to just relax and shoot. Don’t try too hard and don’t put pressure on myself to do well. Being able to shoot head-to-head with a competitor without putting pressure on myself is also a massive bonus. A few years ago, I would’ve gone to pieces if my competitor had outscored me early on. Now, I ignore it and shoot the targets in front of me. If I can maintain this mindset, who knows what I may be able to achieve in the future?

A big thank you to everyone involved in making the 50th Anniversary event happen. It takes so much effort, a lot of it unseen and thankless. It will certainly be memorable for me. For those interested, the full results are available on the NFAS Website

Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings. I realise this post is over a week after the event but I wanted to take time to reflect before I rambled on. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.

One comment

  1. Pingback: My Nikon Z8 has arrived! » Andy Betts Photography Blog

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