Monday, April 4, 2011

Creating Friendships By Paying It Forward
Sunday was a good day for the archer. I made a new friend and it all happened because I sold a quiver.

Last week, I sold a quiver to someone I had never met, but who was just getting started in archery. During the course of our conversation I found out that like me, Chris is also a graphic artist, has a love for deep-sea fishing, and, like many of us, is living on a budget when it comes to new archery gear. When he mentioned he was an archery newbie, I mentioned and also offered up any knowledge I might have tucked away in my head. One of my goals for 2011 is to help out new archers (especially bow hunters) in any way I can. They may not realize it, but they also help me learn, so it's a win-win situation.

Chris and I exchanged a few emails and decided to hit up the El Dorado Park Archery Range in Long Beach on Sunday morning. Chris and were both very excited to get out there to shoot and swap stories.

The range greeted us with open lanes and beautiful sunshine. When Chris left his house, he said it was raining and almost stayed home. I am happy to say he made the trip! I had the target set up by the time Chris arrived, so we got right after it. Normally, I would warm up by starting at 60 yards and then move in towards the target and finish at 20 yards, but the set-up Chris was using wasn't built for 60 yard shots, so we started in at 20 to loosen up. 

It didn't take long to get the kinks out of our muscles and for us to start punching holes in the plate duct-taped to my target. For being a new archer, Chris shot well. When we started, we both noticed his arrows were all hitting left. Not a lot, but just enough to drive him nuts. I had a good idea what was happening, so I watched his next round. Sure enough, he was gripping the bow a bit to tight and was torquing the bow to the left. One minor change to his grip and he was back on target. While it is something very simple, and correctable, it is often overlooked.

A few times I noticed a slight shakiness in his bow while shooting and offered up one of my 4oz stabilizers to adjust for it. After mounting it, he shot and his half dozen arrows were all in the plate with three that knocked out the bullseye. Thinking it might be just the 'confidence' from a new piece of equipment, I watched him shoot again. Right on target! His stance, grip and posture was greatly improved from when he first got out there. Well done, Chris!

Now, you might think that as the teacher I didn't learn anything, but that's not true at all. I always learn something when I shoot. Out of all of the arrows I shot, I had three or four hit off target. Not badly, but enough that I knew exactly what had happened. Earlier, Chris and I had discussed rushing the shot and that's precisely what I was doing. I hadn't let me body seat into a good position before I let those arrows fly. Once corrected, I was drilling holes into the 3" black circles on the target.

When Chris was done shooting, I moved back to 60 yards to fling a half dozen to keep my confidence up. It felt good watching the arrow bury itself in my target and hearing a 'WHUMP!' It sounded SOOOOO damn good hearing that! I could almost hear the air being let out of the lungs of a bull elk in the mountains of Colorado. It felt good!

Now, I am not looking for praise, nor do I want any, for what I am about to share. It's just something I believe in. Paying it forward. I am a bow hunter that has been blessed throughout my years and I don't take that for granted anymore. I firmly believe that if I can help a fellow archer I will - without asking for anything in return. In this regard, I knew that Chris needed a stabilizer. He didn't ask for one, so I offered one of mine up to him. I have been blessed with a couple and I like to share what I have been given. Besides, this one was a perfect fit!

Now I am going to ask all of you to do the same. Pay it forward. Forget about following the script of the movie, just get out there and share with someone else. Sharing my time with someone that wants to learn to shoot, hunt, learn more about archery makes me feel good and helps promote the sport. If you have some time, spend it with a fellow hunter or an up-and-coming looking for some guidance. If you have a few spare parts that they could use, but have been collecting dust on your work bench, share them. 

If I learned anything from my wife, it is that you may be surprised by what blossoms out of one simple random act of kindness. I am amazed by it every day.


  1. Al,

    Good job on getting out there and helping the new shooters! Even though we haven't got to shoot together, you have always been more than helpful with all of my questions. I appreciate it!

    People who are willing to help others learn are an invaluable asset to have. I probably would have started bowhunting much sooner if I had someone take me under their wing and show me the ropes. Learning on your own can seem to be a daunting task.

    Good catch on the grip torque...every time I start missing off to the side just a bit, I check my grip and that is usually the culprit. Glad to hear I am not the only one. I used to hold a pretty vertical grip, but now my hand angles slightly away from the bow, and that helps me relax.

    Great post, thanks for sharing!


  2. Al,
    Just wanted to acknowledge and thank you for spending time and sharing information with me at the range on Sunday. I truly enjoyed your company and am truly grateful for the opportunity to learn more about archery. I know you're not looking for accolades but you do need to know how valuable the experience was for me. Your pointers, your knowledge, your willingness to share with a new guy are a big part of what I'm finding out is a great community.
    Since getting my PSE in February I've been shooting at a public range in Santa Ana and have been welcomed with open arms by many other archers, some new and some who've been around a long time. Much like fishing, my other mistress, everyone seems to have an opinion, a technique or a philosophy they want to share with other people. I’ve watched a couple of the guys actually invite an observer onto the range and let give them a short lesson with their own equipment. From policemen to painters, men, women and kids each and every one that I’ve met has been genuine in their desire to share with others. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a group like that?
    Al, I agree with you completely about helping those new to the sport. From my experience in life as a whole, the hardest thing to overcome when starting anything new is not knowing what questions to ask to get started. Oh, I’ve read magazines, a couple of books and even checked out some videos but each one caused me more angst and confusion that the other. Just like learning to swim, I realized that I just had to jump in and get my hair wet. I took a couple of group lessons with a recurve, enough to know I like flinging arrows and enough to know I needed a compound to be accurate. After I pulled out most of my hair and landed on the PSE Stinger I couldn’t wait to get started. I took another couple of lessons and had the bow set up to the way I shoot and it was time for me to get to it. This was supposed to be easy. It wasn’t. All of a sudden different questions were popping into my head and driving me crazy. How do I find the real answer? Online, the pro shop, books, magazines or the guys at the range are all good options but which is best? I began bringing up questions at the range to the guys and started getting two or three answers to the same question each time. Multiple answers always lead to discussions and everyone learns something.
    My point here is that when the experienced offers help to the inexperienced both sides do win.
    Thanks again Al, I look forward to shooting with you again!
    Chris Benson

  3. Chris,
    The pleasure was mine, for sure. I always enjoy seeing someone get as excited about archery as I am and you certainly showed that on Sunday. One of these days I will have to come on down to Santa Ana and we'll hit your home course. It'd be great to get out and meet some other archers, too. I am looking forward to getting back out there already!

    Keep at it and before long you'll feel comfortable helping someone else out, too!


  4. That's awesome, Al! You don't always see hunters helping out others. A lot of people want to keep things "secret" or don't want to be bothered with the "new guy". Chris obviously had a good time! Nicely done!