NFAS 3D Championships
Alex Tyler was out in the woods
You may not think that ‘challenging’ and ‘downright sneaky’ are compliments but these were welcome comments for the course-layers at the National Field Archery Society’s (NFAS) annual 3D championships on the late May bank holiday weekend. With good weather and Thoresby Park Estate offering two thousand acres of mixed woodland across gently undulating terrain, the conditions were perfect for competition, which ended with only four of 2018’s winners retaining their trophies.
Unsighted remains the most used approach, with over three-quarters of competitors not using sights. However, with the introduction of Traditional Bowhunter (non-compound, no sight or stabiliser, metal arrows) in 2018, the
majority of the five hundred competitors were shooting metal arrows for the first time, though the most popular of the eleven available styles remained Hunting Tackle (recurve bow, no sight or stabiliser, wooden arrows). Archers each shot two of the four courses over the weekend, with all archers of the same style together.
X and Y courses offered contrasts for the metal-arrow classes, with X considered more deceptive and Y more technical. With patches of open grassland without references to help distance judging, X course (set by Phoenix Archers) had a number of longer shots to test accuracy. Some targets were particularly unforgiving: on X6, a crocodile sat on a steep bank, heading down towards a pool. Because the whole target is only approximately 20cm high, misjudging the distance by a couple of meters sent the arrow above or below. The difficulty in X2 was not the distance but the angle: taking advantage of a manmade feature of the wood, a frog was set in a gulley with archers shooting almost straight down from a wall six feet above.
The denser, more coniferous woodland on Y course meant trees and vegetation could be deployed to add difficulty. The only requirement in NFAS rules is that the kill zone should be visible, so targets were set behind tree forks or in the midst of ferns which concealed the full shape of the animal. When laying the course, setters The Unknowns made an effort to mix up the distances between shots, so an open shot of red deer stag on the edge of a plantation at 65 yards was followed by a 10-yard raccoon against a fallen log. The lower light levels on Sunday made aspects of the course trickier, with archers using a scope finding it difficult shooting at a mosquito set at 5 yards underneath a pine tree.
Following a rule change in April, Unlimited (compound, adjustable sights) archers were allowed to use binoculars for the first time at a championships. As all NFAS courses are unmarked, the archer has to judge the distance and set the sight before using the binoculars only to identify the higher-scoring kill zone. "Having binoculars makes such a difference," Tony Weston (Orion Bowhunters), winner of Compound Unlimited (adjustable sights, release aid) commented. "New targets are coming out all the time and this allows you to check where the kill is so you can place your shot. This will greatly reduce the cases where you make a great distance judgement, a perfectly executed shot and hit exactly where you aimed, only to find that when you approach the target you had got the position of the 24 score zone in completely the wrong place and you end up with a 20 or 16."
The effect showed in the scores; Weston’s
A FROG WAS SET IN A GULLEY WITH ARCHERS SHOOTING ALMOST STRAIGHT DOWN FROM A WALL SIX FEET ABOVE
tally of 69 spot kills (out of 80), compared to 44 for Chris Smith’s (Independent) winning total in Compound Limited (fixed sights, without release aid). The highest total for an unsighted archer was 30 for Paul Anstee (Forest of Arden Bowmen) on the way to the Bowhunter trophy, improving on his second place in 2018.
However, the only class where medals were decided by spots was an unsighted one. After shooting B course on Saturday, only 8 points separated the top three in Longbow. David Wylde (Pines Park Archers) on 634 led by 2 points from Karl Tonks (Paget de Vasey), with Stephen Blackhall (Delamare Field Archers) on 626. However, a storming 698 from Gerry Tierney (Archers of Battle) on Sunday saw him move up into third place, leaving Wylde and Blackhall tied on 1314, meaning that the result was decided on spots, with Blackhall taking the trophy by 13 spots to 9.
For wooden arrow archers on A (set by Pines Park), the distances were generally shorter but this did not make them simpler. Targets were placed behind dead ground to conceal distances and natural features such as overhanging branches required archers to kneel or alter their stance. Rhododendrons coming into bloom acted as an attractive backdrop and provided a framing window for a frog target. On this course, a mosquito was placed behind dead branches, with the shooting pegs on an upturned stump.
Hunting Tackle shot A course on Sunday and saw both overnight leaders overtaken by archers shooting the weekend’s highest scores with wooden arrows. With 660, Ruth Hanlon (Cobra Archers) overcame a 14 point deficit to win by a convincing 50 points, while the men’s trophy went to Antony Wildon (Cheshire Oak Bowmen) after his Sunday score of 744.
Spirit of Sherwood deployed a number of psychological tricks on B course. A baby bear may have been only 15 yards away but it had been set to lean to the right forming a diagonal line, meaning that distance-judging needed to be exact. On B1, there were also other elements to consider: a carp target had been set up as if on a barbecue, complete with a nearby fishermen enjoying a beer – you had to be close to realise it was a just dummy in the camouflage outfit.
With the 3Ds back in their containers, the focus now shifts to the paper face championships in September. Entries will be open for NFAS members from July.
It was *this* big, apparently
x6: aka the difficult crocodile
spot the... ah, there it is