Tignall Turkey Trot, Part 2 – “No Turkey for you!”

The deer had no problem stepping away from their cover and an arrogant coyote stared at me just out of bow range.  Eastern box turtles were mosying about, as were black snakes. However, the Tignall Turkey stayed away from this hunt.

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Better to see these guys than rattlesnakes or copperheads

We know the property is thick with turkey.  If we were not interested shooting them they would be strutting in plain view.  They are not shy about poising for trail cameras.  But while hunting today, turkeys are not what ventured out to taunt me.

The first to sneer at me was a coyote.  Flanking a trail ‘road’ it watched as I gathered my gear to hike in to hunt. He was smart enough to make his observations before I had my bow together. Scanning him through binoculars I could have sworn he was spitting out turkey feathers.  Coyote are a problem here in Georgia, and these critters are not on any endangered list. This one moved off with plenty of time to spare for his personal safety.

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Wyllius Vermitius Coyotium

After Wyllie Coyote trotted off, it was time to walk to the area where we’d seen lots of turkey tracks and where they had had their glamour shots taken with trail cameras.  Embedded in the red clay, remained dozens of deer and turkey tracks.  Following the tracks they led past the stand from where I’d hunt.  Feeling optimistic, I climbed into the stand, and once concealed, prepared my gear.

For hunting I use a Mathews ZXT, Axcel 7 pin sight, and Maxima Blue Streak Carbon Express arrows.  The turkey calls I use are a MAD Boom Box and a Knight and Hale Long Spur.  Before I started calling, I sat in the stand listening and watching.

After about 20 minutes, the sun was up, and a few deer wandered into an opening near me.  They probably knew I was in the stand and were aware that it isn’t deer season.  Working the Boom Box was enough to get them to meander back into more densely forested area.

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Response to my turkey calling

The Boom Box and Long Spur are great calls.  With a little practice they really make a decent mimic of various turkey sounds.  They worked so well that within a short time I heard return gobbling in a thicket 50 yards in front of me to the right and 25 yards to my left.  But, the boys would not buy it.  Practice and patience did not pay off today.  Using the calls, I clucked, putted, tried assembly calls and purred to no avail.   I just could not sale it; they refused to avail themselves for an arrow.

After a few hours I called it a day.  Walking out I passed a box turtle that showed little worry by my passing. As far as turkeys are concerned, I remain optimistic and have even lined up a taxidermist for my trophy.* There is still time to get that turkey before I head back to NC and MD. Plus, it is hard to beat spending time in the woods.

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This turtle barely paused to be bothered by me

(*Taxidermy in Washington, GA by William Lloyd Johnson III, known for his personalized service and attention to detail, has won Best of Category at State, Regional and National Competitions and is a SCI Official Measurer. A master taxidermist certified state and nationally in all categories, Lloyd has won over 150 awards. First in the nation to win the WASCO Award for The Most Artistic Entry (Currently a 4 time winner). City, state and federally licensed to receive and mount trophies from around the world, you can be assured that your trophies will be mounted with the finest quality materials and techniques available. http://www.masterswildlifeservices.com/index.php)

Setting Piggy Free

Wild hogs, Sus scrofa, are harmful vermin. They eat the eggs of bob white quail and wild turkey. They also eat roots and acorns, reducing the supply of acorns for deer; they destroy vegetation and tear up cornfields. When food supply is low nomadic feral pigs will move to a new territory in search of food and can become a threat to humans and domestic livestock.1 We do what we can to help reduce the population of them on our property, as such, we trap them, and get rid of those captured – most of the time.

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Sus scrofa

“The wild swine in Georgia are descendants of pre-Colonial time, when the early settlers released European swine. Hernando DeSoto, the Spanish explorer who meandered across the South in the 1500s, is reputed to be one of the first to inadvertently add feral hogs to the native mix of North American wildlife.”2

“A survey by the Wildlife Resources Division and University of Georgia Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study shows the destructive pests are capturing territory faster than previously thought. The results were stunning: portions of 137 of the state’s 159 counties now have feral hogs, with more areas likely to be invaded in the future. ‘These animals impact at least 100 species of native wildlife, easily,’ Kammermeyer, of UGA, said”.2

There are plenty of pigs to harvest. However, we are not inclined to shoot them without plans to eat them. Another method to control their population is to capture them and move them. It is not illegal to move wild hogs because they are not natural wildlife.

For us, moving wild pigs means finding someone to take them and that person will need to have the pigs seen by a veterinarian. Typically, these pigs then can be vaccinated, raised, and harvested under control. The small pigs we capture are perfect to give to someone that will properly manage them. So, we trap them and give them away.

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Trap for wild pigs

Our trap is a large pen with a one-way door. Inside the pen we place corn – they eat corn like pigs.  The varmints enter the door, eat the corn, root around, and find themselves trapped.  We keep the pen under constant watch so animals aren’t left trapped for very long.

Today we had one nice pig, not large, a good size to eat, but no one wanted to eat him. It was this little piggy’s lucky day. We set him free with a belly full of corn and no worse off for the temporary inconvenience. We’ll reduce their population on another day.

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One Lucky Pig

Reference:

1) Christine Dell’Amore: Wild Pig Explosion May Spread Disease to Humans, National Geographic News pub May 2, 2011. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/05/110502-wild-pigs-parasites-animals-pork-science-health-nation/

2) SavannahNow, Savannah Morning News, Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Country Ride Commentary

With each shoot an archer puts it on the line.  Many things we do of significance can put us on the line.  How we handle those gambles, whether a business venture, sporting event, or social opportunity help define us as an individual.  (I won’t get anymore philosophical) Of all the activities, beyond science and medicine I’ve enjoyed, cycling has been a major pursuit and sometimes it requires a bit of stepping out of my comfort zone.

Today, the weather was warm, 78 degrees, and sunny, so I headed out for a bicycle ride.  I know some of my friends shoot and ride.  Others shoot and run. Some do one or the other and neither.  In any case, today’s ride was worth a short commentary because it became one of those defining moments.

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Entering Wilkes County

 

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View across rural Georgia

Cycling out of Lincoln County into Wilkes County Georgia the roads cover rolling hills and have minimal traffic.  Although these roads are almost void of traffic, they are heavy with dogs.  Dogs here are free range and will give chase.  Most get winded after a few hundred yards of sprinting to catch me.  One such fellow managed to misjudge his angle and distance and got too close.  Realizing his mistake he tried to hit the brakes, but his footing failed him and he slid into my rear wheel.  Neither of us crashed but my rear wheel’s spokes on his ear gave him a bite he’ll have difficulty explaining to his buddies.

The dog and bike confluence was the most heart-pumping interval of my ride.  Of the more sedate exchanges was a short meeting with two Wilkes County residents sitting on the porch of their modest home.  When I rode past them the first time, we exchanged a wave.  They waved as I was making the return trip.  Pedaling away for the second time, I decided to turn around and speak to these apparently friendly country folk.

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Local residents enjoying the weather

Riding up to the house I hoped two things: 1) they would not put their dogs on me, and 2) I would not get shot.  Meeting people while wearing Lycia is a bit uncomfortable in most settings, particularly in extreme rural environments.

A short hello and introduction displaced all anxieties.  I think they were more suspicious of me than I of them. Sitting outside they explained they were, “enjoying the nice weather.”  They talked about their dogs, their daughter, and cautioned me to be careful while riding.  Nice enough people, easy to talk to and quick to make a new friend.

In rural Georgia the range of homes and property is enormous.  Stopping again I briefly spoke with the owner of a magnificent estate and acreage where cows and horses grazed over massive fields.  His hearty hello and down home conversation was just as congenial as my previous interactions.  When I went to leave, his five dogs wanted to give me a close up chase but were barred by a fence.

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Not so atypical of the homes in rural Georgia

It is a bit of a risk, a bit of putting it on the line, speaking to strangers out here in the country.  But, the risk is low for personal harm, and as a rule, people are welcoming. Meetings with strangers, even brief, are often enriching and opening yourself up to the opportunity can enhance an already enjoyable activity.

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Putting it on the Line

Tignall Turkey Trot, Part 1

Driving from Easton, Maryland to Tignall Georgia is a haul.  For my wife, Brenda, our two dogs, and me, the drive began as a three-week adventure to look at property, ride bikes, go fishing and hunt in our home state.   Because it rained during the final two hours of the drive, unloading the truck meant soggy gear and tracking Georgia red clay into my father-in-law’s lake house.

Gear and provisions included two bows, one gym bag of clothes, a tackle box of archery tools, another gym bag containing photography equipment, a bicycle, bicycle gear, running gear, and dog food.  Brenda’s provisions were contained in one carry-on style suitcase and an overnight bag.

We arrived in Georgia too late to check out our 679 acres (the Calloway Track) where we’d hunt turkey.  We’d get up bright and early the next day to survey potential sites from where to begin our hunt.

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One of our less substantial stands
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One of our more substantial stands

Bright and early meant up no later 9:00 am. Brenda and I were up at 5:00 AM and again at 6:30 AM. The Tignall homestead was filled with a crew for Easter and hunting.  Well, mostly for Easter, only Ray, my father-in-law, and I planned to hunt.  (Brenda, Ray and I also planned to fish) Among the entourage were:  My wife, her two brothers, Wade and Ron, two of our nephews, Drew and Colin, her dad, Ray and four dogs, River, Nixie, Penny and Molly.  Later that day, Heather, one of our daughters, her husband Bill and their son Sean would drive over from Athens.  The two nephews, both allergic to morning, rose sometime just before lunch. The exact time was undocumented because, Brenda, Ray, and Ron and I left to purchase more provisions.  Wade, who stayed behind, recorded no account of the awakening  event.

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River, one dog that refuses to be left behind

For additional foodstuffs we drove to Elberton, GA and shopped at Ingles.  Grocery shopping at Ingle’s was a $210.00 affair, which made everyone hungry.  We were so hungry; in fact, we couldn’t make the return trip without stopping at ‘the’ restaurant in Tignall, The Kum Bak Café.

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The Kum Bak Cafe in Tignall, GA

The Kum Bak Café will never be reviewed in “Fodor’s” but you can be assured of a belly full of gravy slathered chicken fried steak, hamburger steak plate, and decent sweet tea (served by the pitcher that remained on the table). Friday night fried catfish was on the menu. Kum Bak Café is basically a calorie oasis between Elberton and Lincolnton.

Inside the Kum Bak Café patrons, including our party, socialized in typical small town southern fashion.  Even though tables separated groups, conversation soon overlapped the room and included calls to and from the kitchen.  Food was ordered and served, sometimes incorrectly and plates were shifted from table to table, but eventually we were all eased of our hunger pains and could continue our drive in pursuit of turkey.

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The good staff at Kum Bak Cafe
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Getting served at the Kum Bak Cafe

The pursuit of wild turkey sent us back home to drop off groceries.  There we added another truck and Bad Boy Buggy, needed for the rugged terrain, to our turkey convoy. Before we could head to the woods, full from our meal at Kum Bak Café, we paused so our food could settle.  After we awoke from our digestive naps, took care of our biological needs, we finished loading one of two Bad Boy Buggies and headed to the hunting land about 15 miles away. The afternoon woodland adventurers were Ray, Wade and I.

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One Bad Boy Buggy ready to go

As mentioned, it had been raining in Georgia. If you are familiar with Georgia you know about red clay.  Wet red clay is tough to drive on and the inexperienced can quickly find their vehicles sunk in the mess.  Once we reached the land and drove off the road we slid around a tad but neither truck was ever in danger of becoming trapped.

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Unloading onto red clay

Over the next couple of hours we checked stands and the pig trap.  The recent rain, wetting the clay, recorded fresh deer and turkey tracks throughout the woods. While taking stock of fresh signs, Ray retrieved the memory cards from several trail cameras.  The Bad Boy Buggy, with is low torque handled the mud, wet red clay, and water without pause as it bounced us through the woods.

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Bad Boy Buggy cutting through mud and water

As late afternoon approached we decided to head back to the trucks and trailers.  Tacos were on the menu for dinner and our Kum Bak Café lunch was long behind us.  Arriving at our vehicles, we loaded and headed back home, the thought of Mexican cuisine activating our salivary glands.

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Fire ant mound – you don’t want to mess with these guys
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Wade posing without his banjo (think Deliverance)
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An empty wild pig trap

This first day of the turkey hunt we didn’t actually see any turkeys. We did see tracks and when we down loaded the trail camera, images verified the woods were filled with turkeys.  We’d be back for them very soon.  In the meantime, we spent time perfecting our turkey calling using a MAD Boom Box turkey call and shooting arrows around our outdoor range. There’s plenty of turkey in the woods, we’ll catch up them tomorrow. (The tacos were delicious)

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The slide home to tacos

 

 

 

 

Trying to hide from the wind.

Living on the water means living with wind. Wind and water are a good mix for sailing.  Wind and archery are not such a great mix.

On Wednesday and Thursday at our home near the confluence of Little River and the Albemarle Sound the wind blew non-stop. It was steady at 20 mph with gusts up to 35 mph.  The sun was shining; the temperature 43 degrees, not too bad for October, but it is mid-April.

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Chop on the Little River

Trying to find a place out of the wind to practice was a failed exercise.  Extending a bow, drawing, then being punched by wind gusts up to 35 mph has an impact on accuracy and patience.  Determined to get in some shooting  here is what I did:

First, I set up my target at 20 yards.  The target’s stability was a problem; the wind kept knocking it over on its side. I was able to steady it with a forty-pound cinder block. Once the concrete fortified target stopped falling over, the challenge was wind oscillating off the river.  Getting in harmony with the undulations I tried to match my motion to the center of the cinder block reinforced target.  The twenty-yard arrangement did not work.

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The cinder block is just visible behind the target. This was a fresh target with I started. All the holes are new. It was rough.

Next, I backed up to 35 yards, stood between azalea bushes and some other green plant (no idea what type of plant) with my back toward the house.  The side wind did me no favors. It didn’t matter; my wife chased my out of her plants. The porch seemed like a better location.

Actually the porch made a pretty decent wind block. It didn’t last – my wife chased me off the porch.

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Shooting off the porch was good while it lasted

So, I climbed up onto our upper deck near the chimney (out of view of my wife). The wind there was a vortex and blew off my hat.   After retrieving my hat I decided to climb onto the roof, position the chimney to my right side and see if that would do the trick.  On the roof, the only trick I could envision was an ambulance ride to the hospital.  I hopped back off of the roof and moved the east side of the house.

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Shooting off the top deck and roof didn’t work

At the east side of the house I took up a firing position next to the HVAC and across from the boat trailer.  That turned out to be another hat sucking wind tunnel.  So I backed further away from the target (50 yards) and stood at the summer kitchen.  Again, nope.

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Positions near the HVAC and summer kitchen

I tried to find a spot in the woods. However, I was losing the enjoyment of hiking around with a target and its cinder block support brick. It was in the woods I gave it up for the day.

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Last try in the woods

There will be days where the wind is not going to cooperate while shooting outdoors.  The past two days have be those days and there was simply no hiding from the wind.  Despite the wind hindrance it was better than trying to shoot in the wind and rain. An unplanned benefit of the wind experience was the resistance training acquired while hauling around a cinder block.

 

Tuckahoe: A Perfect Day for 3D

Sunday was a perfect for a 3D tournament at the Tuckahoe Bowmen Club in Queen Anne, MD.  The day was sunny, temperature in the upper 60’s, and very little wind.  Paul and his henchmen arrived early to set the targets.  The registration table was manned and parking was nearly filled before 8:00 AM.  At my home, we’d had company for the weekend and topped off this visit with a series of libations on Saturday night.  I was late pulling in for the tournament.

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Heading to register for the shoot

It became evident I was one of the last people to make the shoot.  Everyone appeared to be on the course.  The calls of birds, voices and laughter floated from woods.  Fortunately, Mevko and Dave (two companions just entering the course) were at the first target.  If I rushed I could join their group.  Quickly signing in, I snatched my gear and took one warm up shot at 20 yard.  Smacking a bull’s-eye, taking it as an omen, I jogged to catch up. The impotent omen shot was my best of the day.

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The impotent 1 warm-up shot

Paul has a reputation for setting up a challenging course. There is a legend of how he once placed a raccoon target inside the hollow of a tree.  Today, Paul was true to form.  The first three targets were big, clear, level, long shots – easy for pros. Of these targets, Mevko did the best, Dave lost an arrow, and I hit a 5, 10, and 5.  However, it was target number four where Paul’s creative genius shined.

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Paul, master designer of tough 3D courses

On target four there stood that infamous, hollow dwelling raccoon, snarling at us from down in a steep dark ravine, positioned slightly twisted, 32 yards away.  The critter’s eleven spot was so small it was nearly impossible to make out with binoculars.  As each of our group silently murmured an obscenity, we in turn approached the shooter’s stake, secured as best as possible our footing (fearing a slip would land us at the little furry bandit’s perch below), took aim and let loose an arrow.  Mevko smacked a 10, Dave got and 8, I embedded my arrow into a stump.

Mevko and I had afternoon family obligations so we hurried over the course.  He had a birthday party to attend and I had friends waiting at home. It didn’t take long to catch the group ahead of us, Paul’s.  In this mix were the “Big” boys, among them Wes, Lee and Norm.  Bart, another ace shooter, unable to compete because of recent shoulder surgery, was among the entourage, there to practice sighting distances.

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Paul looks on as Norm sizes up the target

These men are all shooters.  On bad days as a whole their average score will hover above 300.  Lee and Norm were attired in their Whitetail Outpost professional archer’s shirts. Paul was adorned in a T-Shirt obtained from competitor’s swag during an IBO World Championship. Wes’ apparel was less intimating, his shirt respectful of the Master’s underway in Augusta.  As Mevko, Dave and I played through, I silently prayed for a non-embarrassing shot.

Walking away, I overheard these professional archers in conversation, Bart, “What if I woke up in the morning and was an …..hole? What would I be then?” Norm, “Well, you would be Paul” Next, a call directed toward our group, “Hi, can y’all take Bart with you?” Such are the words of wit and wisdom exchanged by professionals.

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Mevko’s fletching sliced by Dave’s arrow

Mevko, Dave and I continued to miss-fire over the course. Mevko and Dave hadn’t shot since the end of deer season.   Overall, we had as many 11’s as lost arrows.  I finished the day with a new record low having left one arrow stumped in the woods.  Paul had done his worst to us on this beautiful Sunday.  Nevertheless, the pro-guys left the course high in both spirit and score.

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Traditional archers pausing after completing the course
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Mevko, after the shoot and before the birthday party

 

The Puke of Dawn

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Some folks relish being up before sunrise.  They head out of their homes for to run, swim, ride a bike or attend a spin class while others of us sleep.  It is part of their fitness lifestyle. For those other people, hitting the fitness trail is better accomplished after 9:00 AM or  during the evening.  Subsets of both groups enjoy friendly competition. Sadly, for those after-niners, most races start at 7:00 AM or earlier. In archery, start times are much more humane.

You might be an early riser. You love getting up before the sun and birds, having your coffee, reading the paper, taking care of your morning constitutional, then heading out for a run or other activity.  You might even be that hunter in the stand or blind before your prey has any suspicion.  If so, great for you, the world needs people like you.

On the other hand, you might be a “let me sleep” person.  You see no reason to race the sun or beat a bird to the worm. That is not to imply you don’t maintain a fitness program; your program is tailored to a less “up and at ‘em” lifestyle.  If this is you, well God Bless you!

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Not yet fully awake

For decades I have rolled out of bed between 5:00 AM and 5:30 AM in order to train.  On race day I’ve dealt with start times from 6:00 AM to 7:00 AM.  Those days I needed to climb out of bed around 4:00 AM.  This “puke of dawn” rise time is applicable to some hunters and fishermen.  If 4:00 AM matches your physiology, well carpe diem.

My circadian rhythm is justly more laid back.   Granted, I have unjustly forced myself to meet the demands of early risers, but I prefer a lenient approach to daybreak.  What I have discovered is that archery offers a more benevolent attitude toward sport and morning.

Indoor archery tournaments offer a selection of shoot times.  3D Tournaments are frequently “show and go” events with archers entering the course over several hours. League competition is typically in the evening.

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3D Shooting while wide awake, around noon

With other competitions my primary stress was never the race, it was always the start time. In archery, start time stress is essentially non-existent. Where hunting is concerned, I’ll go with my father-in-law, he heads out to his property to hunt at an informal pace.  He might not get the early bird (or deer or pig) but he’ll bring home the less eager to get shot game. We apply a similar rule to fishing.

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Fishing or hunting with Ray (Father-in-law) can be done well after sunrise
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Rolling out of bed late can still net a good catch

As tournaments grow in size and prestige, I may need to put it on the line earlier in the day.  One thing I know for certain, shooting outside won’t occur before sunrise.  I still train in the morning, but rarely before 7:30 am.  I still race often, that still sucks the life out of morning.

 

 

Carlita’s Toes

Today, while running, my brain cleared – it didn’t take long, there wasn’t a lot of clutter floating around upstairs.  When my head opens thoughts and ideas pop into mental view.  On this run what popped in to my consciousness was Carlita’s foot apparel worn during Sunday’s 3D Tournament at Mid-Del Archery in Harrington, Delaware. (This isn’t weird in the way you might think)

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Running and “Trying” to think

The 3D tournament was an IBO Qualifier held at the Mid-Del Archers’ range.  It had been raining for weeks and the course was a mud hole.  Carlita is married to Wes and both are archers.  They were shooting during the tournament and grouped with a couple friends, John and Paul.  All four are excellent archers.

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Carlita

The tournament was a major event and as such the course was crowded.  There were assemblies of four or five archers weaving and crisscrossing the range to avoid the mire and standing water.  The soaked course could not be circumnavigated so some folks were shooting the front 15 targets then retracing their steps to the back 15 and vica-versa.  Sloshing about, I’d started on the back 15; I crossed paths with Carlita’s assembly on the front 15.  I hadn’t seen the four of them since we’d finished the Indoor League Competition at Cypress Creek.

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Wes

They are a wholesome group of people.  All of them are friendly, helpful, encouraging and quick to laugh.  I was pleased to see them.  The guys were ready for the potential of a muddy day having worn rugged footwear.  (Among all the competitors I noticed an abundance of work boots and knee high rubber boots.)  I’d chosen incorrectly and worn running shoes.  Having stopped to say hello to the quartet, I happened to glance down and noticed Carlita’s feet.

Carlita was wearing white, slight, flat, girly-strapped sandals.  They and her feet we mud free.  My mental conclusion was that someone, perhaps Wes, had been giving her piggyback rides.  What I’d tactlessly blurted out was, “You are wearing those!” Rather than a comment from anyone in the crowd in agreement with the obvious sandal blunder, Paul immediately focused onto Carlita’s possible need to have her toenails painted. Paul had initiated a toenail painting controversy!

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John

As argument and pontification on proper toenail artistry elevated it was suggested that: 1) She could have her toenails painted professionally, 2) she should paint them, or 3) Wes could paint them.  It was observed that since Wes was shooting so well, exemplifying steady hands, that he could certainly paint Carlita’s toenails.  The choices being debated, each with merits and detriment, heads bobbed from feet to speakers, the cluster of compadres centered on toes and painting. Meanwhile, their ignored arrows protruded from a headless coyote target 30 yards away. The conversation seemed mismatched to the mud, the guys, the bows, the targets, arrows and the swampy outdoors.  All I could do was listen and wonder. Paul smiled with satisfaction having ignited a fuse that threw vocal flame toward silent toes.

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Paul

Eventually, the debate floundered so that arrows and scores could be collected and recorded.   We moved away in oppose directions allowing more stoic archers’ to approach the headless canine. While I slopped along in mud I glanced back to see if Carlita was indeed being carried or if she was somehow levitating above the muck.  She was on her own, skillfully ambulating the high ground.

The shoot in Delaware was fun and aside from the muddy course a nice day.  I will have to ask, when I next see Carlita, how did her feet and shoes fare over the back 15. Such are the thoughts that float through my head while I run.

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Busted, Again!

A new night and a new league competition or so I’d hoped. The cool thing, this shoot was only 30 minutes from my home.  It was going to be great, a short drive there, shoot, and head home. On that initial night, I’d arrived early to get a feel for the range. There I was sitting in my car thinking, “This is weird . . . no one has shown up to open the facility for the 7 PM shoot.”  Something did not feel quite right. Time 6:15 PM.

The sign out front verified I was at the correct location.  The GPS in my car confirmed the address.  Yes, according to the Internet information, the date and time were right.  Everything appeared to be in order other than the locked building and absent archers.  Time 6:30 PM.

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Mid-Del Archers, Harrington, DE

Growing more anxious, I made some calls.  Contact was achieved with the second attempt.  A lady answered the phone and I asked, “May I speak to Clyde?” Clyde is the Vice President of the Mid-Del Archers, the organization holding the competition. Once Clyde was on the phone I explained my predicament.  “Oh, well, no one is there because that shoot is at Delaware Outdoors in Smyrna”. He was referring to Smyrna, Delaware another 25 miles away, time now 6:40 PM.

Clyde did not have the exact address for Delaware Outdoors.  He explained, “It is easy to get there, where are you now?” I replied, “I am at the Mid-Del Archers Club House in Harrington.” “Well, “ he began providing directions, “go right, then when you get to XXX road, which is about a mile or so, go straight until you reach the intersection of ZZZ and RRR, from there go about 3 or 4 miles, then turn left at TTT which is not too far from the firehouse.  You can’t see the fire house….you’ll pass….then see….” Having not the slightest idea where Clyde was sending me, I thanked him, hung up, used my iPhone Googled and found Delaware Outdoors, got their phone number, called them, got their address and entered it into my GPS.  It had started to rain. Time 6:45 PM.

Come hell or high water (it was now raining hard) I was going to find Delaware Outdoors to at least see where the folks were shooting and take a look at the range.  Through heavy rain, congested traffic, and an advancing fog I made the bumper to bumper road trip to Delaware Outdoors.  Time 7:20 PM.

There, the parking lot was filled with pick-ups, Jeeps, and customized rigs designed to meet road and off-road travel demands.  I parked a very out of place Mercedes SLK between a jacked up Dodge Ram and a Ford Excursion, opened the door, stepped into the rain and walked to the entrance of Delaware Outdoors. Time 7:24 PM.

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Delaware Outdoors, Symrna, DE

At the front desk sat Steve.  At first he was a bit reserved but warmed after some conversation – mostly me complementing the wonderful store.  I explained how I’d come about to be in his shop and asked where were the shooters.  Time 7:30 PM.

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Steve, at Delaware Outdoors

Steve directed me to the back of the shop so that I could see the range and watch the competition now underway for the past 30 minutes.  Reaching the range, the door was closed, its window for viewing covered with a sign warning readers to stay out and not open the door.  A few heads were visible at the gaps between the sign and window but nothing more could be seen. The visible heads held faces masked serious by intent.  I obeyed the posted warning.

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Notice to be observed and obeyed

Retracing my steps, reaching Steve, we exchanged a few more pleasantries before I headed back into the parking lot and my car – it was still raining, the fog intensified. The ride home was going to be nasty.

I returned home three hours after departing.  My bow remained in the trunk, not a single arrow had been fired.  The trip had been a total bust.  Sadly, this league was, after all, not drive worthy.  I would not be making this weekly trip.  Even though, this night, I’d not met anyone from Mid-Del Archers, I did end up having a nice call with Clyde (we’d eventually meet).  However, for more indoor league competition, unless I was willing to spend two and a half hours of transit time per week to compete, this would be a busted event. Time 9:00 PM.

 

 

 

 

 

The Archer in the Attic

It was another rainy, cold, dreary, and windy day on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

At our home in Hertford, North Carolina, we are up at the ‘puke of dawn’ to open the door and release River, our three and half year of Labrador retriever, to savor the smells in the air and do her business.  At our wooded rural home in NC, River is free to wander with little or no human observation.  Here in Easton, MD, leash laws prevent River from managing her own affairs, so after putting on several layers of clothing and donning myself in foul-weather gear I am off to roam about the tundra with River.  During our walk, with River breaking our cadence to stop, sniff, stop, sniff, stop, sniff…MARK!…with amazing frequency, we plod along as she searches for the perfect place to poop.  During our trek, Willy Nelson’s song “Georgia” is floating through my mind and I am thinking about where can I shoot on this miserable day.  The fall back for me is always Shore Sportsman on Route 50 in Easton.

Shore Sportsman
Shore Sportsman

The Shore Sportsman has been around for over 25 years.  I’ve been buying things there for ten of those years.  It is where I purchased my Mathews Apex 7 and Mathews ZXT.  When I purchased the bows I was taken upstairs, to their attic storeroom, where they have a one-lane range for initially sighting new bows.  This small, 15 yard, attic range is one of the most frequent places I shoot.

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The attic range

When time is limited or conditions prohibitive, the Shore Sportsman is a great fall back to not shooting.  One very nice benefit is that I am typically alone upstairs. There, I take all the time and space I need to work out difficulties, perfect my form and analyze errors.  The only eyes that see my mistakes are my own, and the ever-staring glass orbs glued open on a deer’s head and in a stuffed goose, both relegated to the attic in favor of more substantial trophies now hanging in the rooms below.  Of the things I like most about the attic is that beyond the popping of arrows and the occasional demonstrative duck call from downstairs, it is silent. In the attic, I can hear myself think and focus my attention.

On this day in Easton, I am driven indoors by the not-so-Springy 42-degree temperature, and the rain and wind.  I was working out with my ZXT.  My internal debate was which bow I should use for 3D, the ZXT or the Apex 7.  The 3D reviews for the ZXT are not glowing.  The Apex 7 is well established as a target bow.  Both are so much fun to shoot and both are very different.  The ZXT feels better in my hand.  The Apex 7 is, well, an Apex 7; res ipsa loquitur. My scores and patterns are essentially identical using either bow.

At Shore Sportsman, Kenny heads up the archery department.  When he is not busy with customers, we get to talk archery.  If I don’t include my youthful recurve days, Kenny has been shooting longer than me.  So, I listen to his advice. He has been trying to convince me to take a stab using a thumb release versus my hinge back tension.  He’d found a thumb release at a garage sale and brought it in for me to try.  He said, “I picked this one up for a buck and a half.”  Later, I would search for it on the Internet; it sells new for around ten dollars.

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Kenny working on a bow at Shore Sportsman

Operating Kenny’s thumb release, I shot about the same as with my back tension, and that may have been an indication I should try a high quality thumb release.  I’d only held Kenny’s garage sale release for a minute or two before I began shooting with it.  I wonder how I’d shoot with a really nice thumb release and a bit of practice? The practice is a problem, not having a thumb release product, especially with IBO 3D qualifiers on the horizon. And now, there is the bigger problem – doubt.

I shoot with a Scott Longhorn Pro Advantage release.  It feels great in my hand.  It “clicks” when the angle to release is nearly met. The click drives me crazy.  There is a way to stop the click but I’ve avoided any attempt to remedy the problem for fear of destroying the release.  I’ve learned to manage the click by causing it to activate as I am drawing the arrow, thus avoiding the aggravating noise in my ear.  It works, but this trick causes me to occasionally loose an arrow early, about once in every 200 shots.  Or, in full disclosure, it could be that I screw up the shot more than usual every 200 shots. Today, upstairs at Shore Sportsmen, I was due for the screw up.

Drawing back and preparing to aim at the middle X on a FITA 5-spot target, the arrow was away.  When the arrow released, I hadn’t yet lifted the PEEP to my eye. By the sound, I knew the arrow had struck the bail – but where? Happy the arrow didn’t go into the wall (that would have been embarrassing) I looked through my binoculars and found the arrow not too far from the X I’d hoped to hit. How it got there is a miracle.

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The miracle in the middle

The guys at Shore Sportsman are typically busy.  If they are not helping customers they are active managing the store.  Nevertheless, whenever I come there to shoot I am welcomed and brought into friendly conversation, sometimes brief if they are busy, but sometimes a long and interesting conversation.  They used to charge me to use their attic range; these days they let me shoot at no charge.  Free range usage is a bit awkward for me and I’ve commented several times that I am willing to pay. About this Kenny said, “Just remember us when you get famous.”

I doubt I will ever become famous, but I will certainly remember Shore Sportsman.  The hours upon hours I have practiced in the solitude of their attic range is unforgettable.  Thanks guys, more than once you’ve provided a warm dry place to shoot and have helped me to put it on the line.