Wherever I go I like to bring River, my Labrador retriever, with me. She is a great traveler, fits well in my 2006 Ford F-150, and enjoys seeing new places, especially those involving the outdoors and water. The other day I took her with me to practice 3D shooting. 3D archery is one of her favorite pursuits.
River and I generally go to Schrader’s Outdoors in Hendersonville, MD to practice 3D. In the warm months they have a 30-target course, which they reduce to 20 targets over the winter months. (The price to use the range remains unchanged despite the seasonal target reduction) On their range they have a number of stands from which to shoot; some that are fairly high. The land is low and there is often sitting water near the course that is webbed with small ditches and creeks.
We’d registered to shoot at the Club House. River always prances into the Club House as if she were walking a red carpet. More than once she’s walked around the reception counter to visit whichever employee is on duty. The staffers don’t get licks, they might get a wag, and she is opposed to strangers patting her on the head regardless of their good-natured attempts. When River finishes her ducking and weaving she leaves the attendants to their business. After paying the $15.00 range fee, collected a scorecard and pocketed the included golf pencil, we hiked out to shoot. (There is no additional fee for River.)
At each stake, as I prepared to shoot, River trotted up to the target, gave it a measure and headed back to me where she then stands or sits at my side while I shot. Often she whines, growls or barks instruction as I aim. The minute I’ve completed the shot, she runs to the target to view the arrow placement. Good shots or bad shots never receive any more praise or condemnation than a sniff.
As I hiked from stake to stake, River ran ahead hitting every bit of ground that was covered with standing or running water. When I approached the stakes she repeated the process of trotting up to the target, taking her measure, then returning to her sitting or standing position beside me. By the time I notch an arrow her complete focus is again on my posture and preparation. At some targets she utters a whine, growl or bark and at other targets she remains silent.
Stands are a game for her. As we near any stand she runs to it, places her front paws on the second step, turns her head and watches my approach. There is no keeping her out of these stands. She is either first up the stand, or climbs them after I am in place, her rise shaking the stand as I prepare to shoot. Occasionally a stand requires her ascension and descent before I am allowed to embark. No matter what, whining and barking aside, after the shot she invariably runs off, from a stand it is scary how fast she descends, to view my arrow placement up close and personal.
The whining, low growls and barking I am only now beginning to comprehend. On this trip to Schrader’s they had 20 targets arranged on the course ($15.00 fee regardless of the 33% depreciation on targets). River barked, whined, growled or made some other announcement 10 out of 20 shots. On the 10 when she was silent I shot an 11. On the 10 when she chose to communicate with me I shot an 8. It seemed she was trying to coach me when she recognized I was about to shoot something less than an 11. River seems to understand good versus bad form.
Departing from the Schrader’s 3D range River, having left no puddle, ditch, creek, stream, or pond unmolested, was completely soaking wet. She’d climbed every stand, measured every target and provided what I now expect is archery coaching. It was a big time for her. My ten 8’s made my day less big. After putting it on the line we’d arrive home in wet dog smelly truck.