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Home > Books > How to Train in Archery > Chapter V: How to Keep a Length
Chapter V
How to Keep a Length

KEEPING A LENGTH in archery nomenclature, is shooting the same distance with each arrow. If you shoot in line as directed in the preceding chapter, and keep a length as this one bids you, you will have the pleasure of seeing all your arrows find the central part of the target, a thing very difficult of accomplishment over the long ranges of the York Round.

Keeping a length comes of drawing always the same, elevating always the same, standing always the same, aligning your arrow always the same, holding your bow always the same, and nocking and loosing always the same. In fact, this keeping a length is the crowning achievement of the master bowman. To attain to reasonable proficiency in its execution requires long and painstaking practice. Indeed the York Round demands careful training at every point; but nowhere are alert intelligence and exhaustless patience so absolutely indispensible. Every, even the minutest operation of shooting must be perfectly performed and uniformly repeated at each shot. If one finger in the slightest possible way slips on the string - if the nock of the arrow is a little awry - if the merest fraction of an inch varies the aim - if the bow is held a little loosely - if you lack the eighth of an inch of drawing the full length of arrow - if you draw just a little lower or higher at the chin - if you hold a quarter of a second longer or shorter in aiming - in a word, if in anything one shot is performed differently from another, the result will be a noticeable, if not a disastrous variance in keeping the length.

Any one who has hunted game with the longbow and arrows as long and has attained to such proficiency in keeping a length with hunting shafts as have the authors of this book, will see difficulties in target-shooting not dreamed of by the novice. It may seem marvelous, nevertheless it can be practically demonstrated, that a painted and graduated target, 4 feet in diameter, the center of which is placed 4 feet above the ground, is as hard to hit at 100 yards with an arrow as a bird the size of a wild turkey standing on the ground at the same distance. In fact, the larger your target the more difficult it is to fixedly at its central part. The painted circles of a target, too, have the effect to confuse the eyes and tend to prevent concentration of sight. This peculiarity will be curiously demonstrated when you first attempt the York Round. Your shooting will be proportionally better at the longer ranges, especially in keeping the line. Now keeping the line has much to do with keeping a length, wherefore the York Round should always be practiced at targets and not at staves, because after having learned to keep a line and a length by staff shooting, you will be confused and will blunder when you go to the targets.

One of the most difficult elements of keeping a length is to so accustom the eye to the necessary elevation, at each of the three ranges, that, in shooting, the bow-hand and the eye mechanically operate together in fixing the point quickly and surely. To make this more easy shoot the same bow at all distances. It is true that a few of the best shots of England shoot a light bow at 60 and 80 yards and a heavy one at 100 yards; but we condemn this practice as injurious and out of all form, unless it were possible to have three bows so graduated in power as that in shooting each at its respective range the elevation would be uniform. The only safe theory as well as the only perfect practice for keeping a length is to use precisely the same weapons at all the ranges; the only change being in the elevation of the bow-hand.

See to your arrow feathers very carefully before shooting a match and after each shot; for the least damage to a vane will seriously endanger both line and length. It is quite often the case that the best arrow-makers, with all their care, suffer a slight difference to be made in the width of the feathers to their shafts. Of course, the arrows having the broader vanes will fall shorter than those having the narrower ones. It requires very close observation and nice practice to detect defects of this kind; but the York Round demands just this sort of observation and experiment, especially on the two longer ranges, where almost undiscoverable errors work such sad havoc with promising scores.

The points of arrows, too, have a decided effect on keeping a length. Arrows must be made pointed so that they will surely enter the target; but it is demonstrable that an arrow with a pointless head will fly further than a pointed one. Hence, if one of your arrows gets the point even slightly dented or flattened, it will prevent the keeping of a length.

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