Part 2: The Wind Master
How I Learned to be a Wind Master...
In 1991 I competed in a tournament in Houston, TX that would prove to be the worst weather I have ever shot in. The first day started off with a thick fog that made 90m hard to see and within the first hour the rain started coming down. It started gently at first and then would stop for moment just long enough for the wind to pick up between the rains. When 70m shooting started, light hail began coming down and the temperature changed fast. Within a few ends the winds had picked up and gusts of 40 mph would come and go. The entire day was spent with temperatures changing constantly, the wind blowing heavily most of the day, and the rain just kept coming with down pours every 15 minutes.
I managed to survive the weather and keep my scores up in the process. I fell back at 90m, but shot an amazing 70m in the weather to gain back the lead. My 50m went well and 30m was a cake walk. I ended up shooting a 1324 FITA that weekend and added another check mark to the win column. The reason for my success on that weekend… I became a Wind Master.
Shooting in the wind is tricky enough and I have never actually met anyone that has said they like to shoot in it. I would never say that I enjoy shooting in the wind, but when the weather comes in I know that I had an advantage over most. Game on!
Growing up in the Panhandle of Texas afforded me the constant ability to train in the wind. I did not have much choice, especially in the spring time. Basic wind skills were useless due to swirling winds that changed in direction and speed from me to the target. With a lot of practice and a very good understanding of physics and sailing, I was able to change the odds into my favor.
As I stated in Part 1, shooting in a steady wind from any direction can be adjusted by aiming off center and letting the wind drift you back. Simple in comparison to shooting in vastly changing winds that not only change direction but actually blow differently during a single shot.
Using the basics of shooting in the wind, this is where you need to focus on all the little parts to this and add it when the time comes.
Wind Where You Stand
Knowing the wind where you stand on the line is simple to gauge just by feeling it, but knowing the wind down range is where this article will help you.
Unlike a sailor who is looking for wind on purpose, we tend to wish it would just go away. The way a sailor looks for find is exactly what you need to know. The wind where you stand could be different than down range and you need to know the wind on the line first. For this entire example we will assume you are a right hand archer and the wind on the line is a light breeze coming from the left. The breeze isn’t strong enough to push you over, but enough that you really feel it.
Your natural reaction is going to be to push back and aim off since the wind is blowing enough to almost push you. At this point you do not want to push back and aim off at all. Being able to hold your aim steady on the target is the key goal for this to work. If in a breeze you cannot hold on center then I recommend more basic training and practice to get that part down. You have to be as solid as possible. I have opened my stance up to 5 inches wider to give a more solid base in heavy winds. I have also changed my alignment to the target if the wind is constant enough. This alignment change allows you to float back to center by the time you shoot your shot. We aren’t talking much of a change but just enough so that the shot is completely as normal as possible when you release the arrow, just as if there wasn’t any wind at all.
A little secret to wind from the side while on the line is to use your opponent on the line to block some of it for you! It really is funny to use them as a wind blocker, but it does help.
Using the Flags
Ever notice those pretty flags down range? Nope. Not the one on your target. The ones down the target line on the far target ends. These are the flags you need to be looking at during this process. Wind is rarely constant or consistent enough to use the flag on your target. The wind has to travel a long ways before it ever gets to your target and gets changed by obstacles in its way that will help it change direction and speed. Unless your bow shoots an arrow over 1000 fps, by the time you read the wind direction on your target and shoot, the wind can change before the arrow reaches the center. Basic concept, but you get the idea for what is next.
Wind BEFORE the Range
If you don’t know how to sail a boat then you are in luck because this is where you learn how to find the wind to be a sailor and use that wind knowledge to help you shoot archery outside. Just like a sailor, you want to watch and know exactly what the wind is doing at all times. You want to know how it will blow before it ever reaches you and your target. This art is a tad difficult to master but you can learn it with some practice.
Watch the trees, bushes, grass, or anything at all that moves when the wind blows. Observe how it moves in the wind. It is blowing from your left. That means left to right wind. Watch those objects to the far left off the field. If you pick a tre,e try to pick the same one every time and make sure that it isn’t higher than the height of your arrow path. On average it is something about 8ft taller than your target. Is it a very light breeze at your target but a tree off in the distance looks like a gust? Let the gust you saw at the tree make its way to your target. Watch how much the tree or bush moved, then watch the field flags down the line. See how long that gust took to get from the tree to your target. On average if a tree is 100 yards away and a gust hits it, if it takes 5 seconds to reach your target flag then the wind is blowing 20mph. That is a heavy gust that will affect the arrow on center. My general rule of thumb is that if it takes 10 seconds or less to travel 100 yards, then the wind is only at 10mph and barely effects my shot at all.
With some practice and learning how to watch the wind from a distance you will be able to know how fast it is blowing and how long you have before a gust hits the target or you.
Did you get all that down? If so then you are a very strong wind shooter, but not yet are you a master. Keep an eye out for part 3 about the “Dancing Winds” and some tips on equipment in the wind.