Seasoned chemical salesperson finds time to instruct archery for beginners in Pasco

Oliver Sohn teaches beginner archers how to hit the bullseye.
Oliver Sohn at Tampa Archery School demonstrates the proper method of shooting an arrow. (Photo by Philip Morgan)
Oliver Sohn at Tampa Archery School demonstrates the proper method of shooting an arrow. (Photo by Philip Morgan) [ Photo: Philip Morgan ]
Published March 12, 2022

Times Correspondent

Oliver Sohn, whose regular job is as a salesman of chemicals used in the cement industry, started taking lessons at Tampa Archery School seven years ago with his son and “fell in love” with the sport.

At this time, Sohn, 58, has run Tampa Archery School for three years. He took over teaching at the USA Archery-certified school in Pasco County when the school’s owner and founder, Bryce Smith, moved to Fort Myers. The school holds shooting classes on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

The main bow used by students is the traditional bare bow, an Olympic recurve bow without sights, stabilizers, and other accessories that Olympians use.

“The school charges $20 an hour for lessons if the students use the school’s equipment; $10 an hour if they use their own,” Sohn said.

The archery teacher talked with the Tampa Bay Times about what it takes to be a ‘dead eye’ with the ancient weapon.

As a teacher, you must be good at this skill.

That’s a relative term. I’m okay. Good guys are in the Olympics and making big money. Can I make effective use of it? Yes. That’s a better way to put it.

What is the proper stance for shooting?

The easiest thing for new people to remember, be a letter “T” (arms out and level). Letter “T” to the target. That’s the way you stand, aimed at the target. You’re always a letter “T”. Any other shape and you’re not going to be doing too good.

How do you avoid having the string snap against your arm?

That’s (happening) because you’re not holding the bow correctly. And that’s what I tell the new people. I don’t have to teach you how to hold the bow correctly. The bow’s going to do that for me, because you’re going to snap yourself in the arm every time. The reason why you’re snapping yourself in the arm is when you’re holding the bow, if you’re holding it with a death grip, your elbow is turned right into the string. You hold the bow correctly, with your knuckles 45 degrees to the string. When you’re doing that, your elbow is more perpendicular to the ground and the string will clear your arm.

So, the idea is to relax the fingers of the hand that’s holding the bow?

Basically, the easiest way to explain it is don’t even think you have a hand. Think you have a stump, so that way… when your hand is relaxed, the only pressure point is right below your thumb … the meaty pad of your thumb, that’s the pressure point that you use to push into the bow.

What’s the proper technique of drawing the string?

You don’t try to pull with your arm. Archery is not about arm strength. …Three fingers on the string and then pull straight back with your shoulder. It’s a lot easier. …

Wherever this part of your hand is aimed (the heel of the thumb holding the bow), that’s where the arrow is going. You shoot the bow. The bow shoots the arrow. So you aim the bow first, aiming right at the target. Then once you have it all lined up, you look right down the tip of the arrow and you put that point right where you want it to go. … The other thing that’s very important, it’s called the anchor point. It’s one of the most important things in archery. Once you draw you have to come to anchor. Anchor is like the rear sight on a rifle. Your tip of your arrow is your front sight; anchor is your rear sight, so you can line the shot up. The easiest place for a new person to find for an anchor point is the corner of their mouth or their canine teeth, or some landmark on your face. So when you draw you bring the top finger right to that spot. That’s called your anchor point. Whenever you draw, you anchor in the exact same spot every time. Because if I move my anchor back, I put more energy in the arrow and the arrow sails on me. If I move my anchor forward, I put less energy and the arrow dies. If I move my anchor up, the arrow goes down in the dirt. If I move my anchor down, it goes up into the sky. Every time you’re moving it around your shot’s going to a different spot. … You draw and you anchor, and your hand has to be right on your face. … You put your hand solidly on your face.

Do you release the arrow when it’s at the anchor point?

Nope. ... (You) anchor, then it’s called expanding. Expanding is continuing that motion and getting your elbow in line with the arrow, without pulling off of anchor. What that does, it does something called setting the barrel of the gun. Because once you have all that, this point, this point and this point (the wrist, left shoulder and right shoulder) should all be aimed at the target, and that’s how you get the strongest shot off and it’s the most stable. Because once you have the barrel of the gun set, the bones are all stacked up in line and the force is no longer on your muscles, it goes right into your skeleton, and your skeleton is a lot stronger than your muscles are. It’s a lot easier to hold the shot and then fire.

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How long does it take a beginner to shoot decently?

We can get you shooting in 10 to 15 minutes, and you’ll be doing good. You won’t be hitting the bullseye every time, but you’ll be hitting at least the target, and then you’ll get better and better. … After that, it’s all practice.

What skill is involved in shooting a crossbow?

The crossbow is like a rifle. You just point and aim. You might as well be shooting a gun. When somebody comes out here and says, “Well, I’d like to learn how to shoot a crossbow,” I say, “All you need to do is put the dot on the target and shoot. Pull the trigger. It’s just like a rifle”. “Oh, it’s that easy?” Yeah, that’s why they exist. That’s why the pope outlawed them. (Reportedly, Popes Urban II in 1097 and Pope Innocent II in 1139.) The pope outlawed them because every peasant could be an archer, because all you needed to do was point and shoot.

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