Wild day on the river

Each morning, while having coffee, I walk out to my dock. Lately, eagles have been using it as a dining table. Today was no different. Before I got to the dock River was already they’re barking. She was letting me know eagles had just left and not finished their meal of duck.

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“Get out here – look what the eagle left! can I have it?”

When I found the partially eaten duck, on the steps of my dock, I left it alone. Usually, I need to sweep away feathers or sometimes fur. This duck was fresh and knowing these big birds would want it, it remained untouched.

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Unfinished meal of duck

One of the eagles was sitting in a tree with his back to me. He seemed a bit put out over having his breakfast disturbed. They, or at least one of them, flew back later and finished the meal. I made certain our smaller dog, a wirehaired dachshund, stayed indoors. She weights 20 pounds, a hefty catch for an eagle, but I am not taking any chances. Brenda would not take it well if her dog became dinner.

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Leaving the eagles to their dining River and I headed for a run. It was only 5K today and she was full of pep staying ahead of me all the way. Afterwards I got in some decent archery practice. All the while the eagles flew overhead, looking for a small dog I suppose.

Outside in the country

As most often the case my day began with a run. It was followed by archery practice, lunch, a boat ride, more archery and finally grilling fish for dinner. When the weather is as nice as it was yesterday, it is nearly impossible to stay indoors.

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Beginning of a good day

In the morning, running with my dog River we have two agendas. I run for fitness as much for pleasure. For River running is all pleasure and is followed by a swim. Before she hit the water she was already soaked having run through every creek, puddle and ditch we passed.

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There is no keeping River out of water

My morning archery practice was devoted to a 5-spot at 20 yards. In that morning session I worked on form and mental relaxation. As the day warmed, I put down the bow and readied my boat for time on the water.

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My 5-spot for the morning

There was little wind so the river was very flat. Flat water is great in a Carolina Skiff. Rather than head out to the Albemarle Sound we, Brenda my wife and I,  took a cruise of the more swampy parts of Little River. The clear sky and bright sun gave us an inspirational view of nature in in North Carolina.

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Brenda at the helm

 

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My iPhone camera didn’t do this duck justice

The boat ride over I began my afternoon archery session, this time working at longer distances and odd angles. I didn’t shoot any further than 50 yards. Because my bow is slow (thanks in part to a short draw) it is as much fun waiting to hear the arrow strike the target, as it is shooting from further away. Because we live in such seclusion the main sound we hear are those of birds and animals. It isn’t difficult to hear the pop of an arrow at even 60 yards.

IMG_2908It was dark by the time we began dinner. Today it was grilled perch and striper, cheese grits and green beans. The fish was cooked slowly over lump coal and wood – pretty incredible.

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Living in the country is the best.

One Percentage Point

In the past, I’ve mentioned keeping records of my shooting. I keep scores, where I trained or competed, the bow, arrows, tips and other bits of data. The other data often includes physiological and nutritional data. The physiological and nutritional data remains a bit too sparse to draw conclusions. The equipment data is more enlightening.

One of the most frequent paper targets I shoot is a 5-spot. The data on this target spans twelve months, January 2014 until January 2015. The earlier data scores are lower than the scores recorded later in the year. There is a clear progression of improving scores. However, the improvement is not statically significant.

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Morning practice target

Statistical significant is important when determining whether or not a test method difference is meaningful. In sports, data that isn’t statistically significant doesn’t mean that something important has or has not occurred.

A great example are data that were collected during my cycling career. For months I repeated a 10-mile time trial to measure the effect of a training technique. The data wasn’t statistically significant. The improvement in time to complete the trial was a major improvement – about 2 minutes. Two minutes could be the difference between 1st place and 10th place.

In archery, the data collected revealed that over the course of the year I had a 6% improvement in my scores, which leveled out after a few months. What is interesting is that over the second half of the year, my average is a 1% below a consistent 300 (100%), or an average score of 298. Is it me, or is it the equipment?

Scoring a 300 every time I practice on a 5-spot isn’t likely. Still, improving my 5-spot average is possible. So, where do I make minor improvements that can defeat one or two poorly placed shots?

There are little adjustments that must be made in the physiological (form) of my shooting. These seem somewhat apparent when I lose form. In the meantime is there anything else missing?

In all sports, there is the equipment. In cycling there was a time I competed on a mid-level racing bike. Not the best bike and certainly not the worst. Then, I was given a bike that had been ridden by one of the professional cyclists in the Tour de France. Not a replica, the very same bike ridden by Rodolfo Massi before he was disqualified for using performance-enhancing drugs. When I rode the bike, it was nearly 3 pounds lighter than my previous one; it felt like I was cheating. I wasn’t taking performance-enhancing drugs, but in this case, the change in my equipment was significant, especially during climbs.

In archery very minor adjustments have an impact. My bow is a Mathews Apex 7, a bow with a good track record in tournaments. My sight is a top end Axcel with a high end SA Scope. My release is a Scott Pro Advantage. My arrow rest is a mid-range model that has raised eyebrows and earned questions.

Thus far I have been fairly pleased with the arrow rest barring a time or two when it didn’t drop and once when it broke. But, a bow technician asked way did I have such nice equipment and still used a mid-range rest. Does my rest account for a very slight variance in accuracy?

If it does, that occurrence might only happen less than 1% of the time. Maybe it is that 1% of time when a very slight “arrow rest” variance led to a less than perfect shot. If so, maybe it accounts for the 1% gap recorded from my average to perfection. (I do occasionally shot a 300)

In practice today, I used my mid-range arrow rest. I shot a 5-spot for training this morning. Later, today I’ll work on yardage. Later this week, I’ll investigate changing my arrow rest to a top end model. Today, I shot a 298. The lessor shots where entirely not the fault of the arrow rest.

Venison burgers

Many of you have grilled and eaten ground venison. Probably some of you are excellent chefs of wild game. From those of you that have another or considered better way to grill please share your recipes. Yesterday, I grilled venison burgers and this is how I cooked them.

I used deer with a 4 to 1 ratio of bacon. The bacon adds fat to the deer. Brenda formed the venison into patties and seasoned with salt and pepper. Real simple.The patties were cooked over lump coal and wood. The fire was started using a chimney starter – no lighter fluid. Something else I do is clean the grill and grate between each use. I don’t mean only removing the coal ash, I thoroughly wipe down the interior, exterior and wash the cooking grate.

Once the coals were ready, I spread them over the coal rack, and then replaced the cooking grate. The grate I’d coated with a non-stick cooking spray. The spray burns off a bit, but helps to keep the meat from sticking – an infrequent problem. (Don’t apply the spray over the burning coals. Non-stick cooking sprays are flammable)

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After the grate has gotten very hot I placed the burgers on it to sear the meat. Once seared I lowered the flame. When cooking with coals this is accomplished by physically lowering the flame using an adjustable coal rack. Lowering the flame means cooking more slowly allowing the wood smoke flavor to saturate the meat.

I prefer grilling over lump coal and wood. When I have enough, I use wood only.   The flavor meat takes from wood and lump coal is excellent. These burgers were no exception.

Setting up the Axcel Achieve CX

During indoor competition I’ve used the Axcel Achieve CX for the past year. It is pretty simple to use when there is only one distance to shoot. For 3D tournaments, things become a bit more complex – at least for me.  With a 4X magnification on the sight it seemed likely that if I could use it properly it would be better than pins alone – this came home to me during the last two 3D tournaments.

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Axcel Achieve CX

In Georgia, I shot in the Open class with pins. Only once (or twice) did I seriously misjudge the distance. You can’t misjudge by 5 (or more) yards and expect to do well.

In Georgia, the others, in the Open Class, all had adjustable sights and magnification. The longest shot was only 47 yards and I hit it well. Nevertheless, there were many targets beyond 35 yards where magnification might have helped.

The next tournament was an indoor 3D competition where, in the bow hunter class, archers were prohibited the use of binoculars. The furthest foam animal was only out 34 yards, but the lighting led me to believe a 4X magnification would have helped.

The Axcel CX sight is fairly easy to set. First, take a couple of reference shots then match a yardage tape to the graduated scale on the sight. For this exercise I took numerous shots from 20 to 60 yards in 5-yard increments. (I have that kind of time.)

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Sight side with the graduated elevation scale

Next, choose the yardage tape that most matches the graduated scale values. My bow is slow (50 lbs, 26 inch draw – you can see the arch on my shots with ease) so the corresponding tape was the largest in the adhesive backed yardage scales included with the sight. It was a relief that the yardage on the tape matched so well with the graduations on the sight for all tested increments.

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Sight side with the corresponding yardage tape applied.

In practice using  the Axcel sight and 4X magnification has been fun. My pins are best at distances of 50 yards and less (really best at 35 or at least that is where I am best). Beyond 50 yards, with pins, it is as much instinct as skill because the center ring is impossible to visualize. (One reason we archers have the best ‘working memory’ around). While an eight or ten hit on an animal will kill it, those scores won’t win tournaments (especially when summed with the 5 that occasionally pops up).

The past few days practicing with the Axcel CX and 4X magnification were rather cool. The additional confidence, at known yardage, and clearly seeing the center of the target is a treat. I am looking forward to giving the rig a try in my next tournament.

Getting outside in January

A few hours after shooting today, following lunch and a short nap, it was time to run. The weather remained less than excellent, but it was not raining – at the moment.

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My Rudy Project shooting glasses have more than one function.

One thing for certain is that where I train is beautiful. It is common to see eagles above our river, in the woods, and at times in our yard. Yesterday, we had two in the trees beside our house.

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With all the rain the little creeks that led to the larger river were over flowing. River, my full time running partner, jumped in nearly every creek we passed.

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Shooting and running outside in the winter can be a challenge. But, if you are like me and enjoy being outdoors, you will find a way to get there.

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Where there is a will, there is a way.

There was another short break in the rain here on the river. The ground is soaked and the wind continues to whip white caps across the water. It has warmed up to 35°F. There was a way to shoot!

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(IMG_2862 is a short clip of the rain – it might play if you click it)

We have two storage sheds on our property. Both are at the limit on capacity housing some of the furniture and other items moved into them for the on-going renovations underway on our home. Adjusting the contents of one of these sheds I’d be able to stand inside it and shoot out.

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The target was, from the cleared area of the shed, a modest 25 yards away. The benefit of the shed was being able to stand shielded from the wind and blowing mist.

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This wasn’t my opinion of the best practice range, but not bad considering the weather. Where there is a will there is a way.

 

A cold, wet and windy run.

The weather has played havoc with my training. The cold, wind and rain have been relentless. Today, I wasn’t able to shoot outside.  My friends that have an indoor range had other matters that keep them from shooting so I had no where to shoot. Alas, I’d run despite the adverse climatic conditions.

Lately, I’ve been competing in shorter events, 5K runs. Five kilometers is quick, the pain is over shortly after starting and they don’t take all day. But, I am running in a longer event, a ½ marathon, in April so it is time to increase my mileage.

The rain decreased to a light misty drizzle so I took that as my chance to run. The run was only a 10K. The wind was coming off the river and for the first 5K I’d have the wind to my back.

Heading out, that first half of the run felt great. With the wind to my back and wearing plenty of clothing to stay warm, I worked up a sweat. Then, I turned for the 5K-leg home. Sweat gets cold fast.

Some people enjoy the cold. I expect many of my friends in more northern latitudes would have made the 31°F run in shorts and a light jacket. Not me, I wore several shirts, a super heavy jacket, gloves, a thick cap, and dense long cycling tights.

The wind would have felt worse on a bike. In fact, I’d considered cycling, but my training plan called for a run. Still, the gale force wind did its best to stop me in my tracks.

I’ll admit it was great to get outside. An hour back from the run I was taking a nap. I never did get around to shooting. I didn’t thaw until around 4 PM. My toes are just coming around.

Tomorrow doesn’t look much better. Nevertheless, I’ll be out there – running.

Elizabeth City Indoor 3D Tournament

On Saturday January 10, the Fountain of Life’s Soul Hunters Archery Club held an indoor 3D tournament in Elizabeth City, NC. A large crowd of shooters and supporters turned out for the event that lasted from eight in the morning until noon. For those people spending hours at the competition food cooked on a grill was available and despite the outside cold temperature the indoor range was toasty warm.

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Registration

The course consisted of twenty targets and five shooting stations. These station, they’d be stakes if they were outside, stood 12 to 34 yards from the targets. The yardage “sounds” fairly shootable, however, the masters of the course have worked to make the shots a real challenge.

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On the first four targets the set up was: first a deer laying down at about 12 yards, then a coyote at 18 yard, over the rear of the coyote was the really tough shot, a skunk at 22 yards, and the final deer at 32 yards. To increase the difficulty binoculars are not allowed.

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Over the rear of the second target, there is a small dark spot – that is the third target, a skunk at around 25 yards.

The animals are placed in rows. Each of the rows contained at least one unusually difficult shot. The exception being the final row that held two very tough shots.

On the final the final row the second target was a large wolf. The next two animals, a coyote and a deer, where angled so that the wolf and a tree made hitting a center shot on the final two targets most difficult.

The weather, as happens every winter, was cold outside. The large propane powered heaters had the cavern within which we shot warm. Actually, by mid-morning, it was quite comfortable.

On this day the competitors from North Carolina and West Virginia ranged in age from around 6 years to 83 years old. It seemed  everyone knew one another despite the size of the crowd attending the tournament. There was a lot of joking and laughing throughout the day.

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Awards were presented to the top three finishers. After the awards ceremony everyone was invited to stay and shoot another round for fun. A great way to spend the morning and ten dollars.

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The winners