Author: Taylor Walston
England’s royal couple William and Kate tried shooting archery in Thimpu, Bhutan, during their recent tour of Asia. Archery is Bhutan’s national sport, so it was fitting that the famous Brits experienced this rich part of Asian culture.
Duke William, “affectionately known as ‘Wills’ by the U.K. public,” as Archery 360 reports, shot the first arrow. Both royals tried to hit a small target from 50 feet. Duchess Kate is no stranger to competition, so she embraced the challenge with an open stance.
“Past coverage of the royals confirms the Duchess of Cambridge’s competitive streak,” Archery 360 reported. “She’s been known to challenge the duke to croquet, polo and even abseiling. So when given the opportunity, ‘Duchess Katniss,’ as ‘Today’ dubbed her, gleefully approached the shooting line and released an arrow.”
Images of the couple during the shoot featured smiles and obvious warmth … even though they didn’t nail bull’s-eyes. Their joy matched Bhutan’s reputation as a country that measures economic success by its “Gross National Happiness.”
Videos of the royal archers circulated on the “Today Show” as well as “Good Morning America.” Maybe this widespread coverage will encourage more people to give archery a shot. (Pun intended.) “It starts with an idea, a thought of ‘That looks fun,’ and grows into something more: A desire to pick up a bow, and arrow a target,” Archery 360 reported. “Maybe you’ll compete one day. Maybe you’ll try bowhunting. Maybe you’ll even be an Olympian. Or maybe you’ll stick with arrowing targets in the backyard. And that’s OK. Even the royals had to start somewhere.”
1950s Bow and Arrow Golf
Although archery has gone through many phases and evolved in different ways, the sport has been around for centuries. Each era featured its own version and aesthetic. Initially used as a weapon of war and hunting implement, archery gear morphed from necessity to recreation. The 1950s even found a middle ground between sport and recreation by combining archery with golf.
“Bow-And-Arrow Golf took off, requiring archers to shoot arrows along an 18-hole course,” Garden & Gun reported. “The Miss Florida beauty pageant in 1958 featured the sport.” Instead of aiming at targets, competitors aimed at the golf holes (or cups) in the ground on a golf course. This is similar to present-day 3-D archery courses, where participants follow a course that presents targets at varying distances.
A vintage newspaper article beneath the “Garden & Gun” post reads, “One thing is certain: Any archer making the rounds … is never troubled by the ‘ball’ overrunning the putting green.” Imagine the 2016 Masters competitors (in full 1950s attire) trying this sport. Do you think Danny Willett, 2016 Masters winner, would have excelled at it?
Why Bowhunters Should Mix Up their Targets
Athletes in every sport eventually run into a problem during their training. For archers, it’s becoming so comfortable with shooting a specific target that their eyes become fixedly trained on that specific visual. As a result, they can’t adapt when seeing new targets.
Tyler Freel discussed the benefit of switching up practice targets on “Outdoor Life”: “If there’s one bowhunting proverb stated more frequently than any other, it’s the admonition to ‘pick a spot’ when you shoot. When we pick a particular spot on a target or animal to aim at, we almost always are more accurate.”
“Visual confusion” ensures such precision. Practice with targets of various colors and sizes, which forces your brain to make the mechanics second nature. This also frees your mind to find the changing bull’s-eyes. Making sure your shoot by muscle reflex helps you adapt to visual cues when they present themselves.
“The more things I try to think about — proper form, consistent release and target cognition — the more my shot falls apart,” Freel said. “That’s why it’s so important to build muscle memory through repetition of perfectly executed shots, and why blank or blind-bale shooting is one of the archer’s most valuable practice tools. Instead of shooting a target that’s white-on-black or black-on-white, add targets that are brown-on-black, or dark brown on lighter brown, and targets that vary in size or shape.”
Freel said pinpointing the bull’s-eye on any target is the ultimate goal: “As you repeatedly practice picking and focusing on that one tiny spot amongst all the clutter, you’ll get better at shutting out all the other variables that can draw your focus away from where you want the arrow to hit.”