Wild Tales from the Old Line State

When I return to Maryland after an extended absence I look up a few friends. Most work regular jobs  during the day I can’t visit them. A few are employed at shops where I’ve purchased gear for triathlon and archery. These ‘friends’ are easy prey for my intrusions.

A bike shop was my first attempted visit. Sadly, since my last return to Easton it closed and consolidated to another location. The second attempt was an archery shop where I’d spent many hours shooting indoors.

So far in 2015 I haven’t shot there. To be honest I’ve not been in “Old Line State” too often or for too long at a time since January. But, I’ve dropped in for a visit during each trip back. The guys always have stories of super human feats that have occurred since my last call. This time was no different.

During this encounter I learned the deer in Maryland had exceeded all prior known records. I also heard of local adventurers who’d traveled the globe seeking rare and exotic prey and of three demi-god archers that competed in their winter indoor league.

Everyone naturally agrees that the verbal expression of facts and figures associated with massive deer and super-mutations are undisputable. And, I think anyone can agree that the typical hard working hunter can drop work and family to jet around the globe in search of and bagging lost world dinosaurs with a bow and arrow. But, demi-gods on the planet? Here’s the tale of this next generation of hallowed archers.

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It seems that a few months ago two young boys, mom chauffeured, arrived at this particular bow shop. Each purchased an “Elite” bow and neither had until that day participated in archery. With the purchase the boys were shown how to shoot an arrow. Having school homework on which to concentrate the two young men (by order of mom) cut the archery lesson short and were driven away. Later, they returned with a friend, an unfortunate boy, so that he could buy a bow. This one was less wealthy and had to settle on a lower priced Bear bow.

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The boys weren’t seen again for many weeks. Then, out of the blue (or to be precise – out of the cold), one of their mother’s drove them back to the archery shop in order that they might compete in the  evening league competition. The event lasts six weeks and the targets were the 5-spot from 20 yards. The boys were prepared with a partial archery coaching session, hunter style “Elites,” a “Bear,” their arrows, several weeks of bow ownership and wrist strapped trigger releases.

Over the course of the contest one boy’s or the other’s mom would drive them to shoot on a weekly basis. Throughout the six weeks, the two youthful “Elite” contestants never missed the center X, each scoring perfect 300’s week in and week out. The “Middle-Schoolers” had schooled the more senior and practiced competitors.

The trio, aside from the rigors of eight grade academics held part-time employment. Their weekend jobs had become the source of their responsible savings and cash (parent subsidized) for their archery purchases. Sadly, the one kid (lacking parental cash flow) who failed to purchase an “Elite” and got the entry level Bear wasn’t as mythical. The Bear owner hadn’t acquired enough money for an “Elite” and to his humiliation only shot a nightly 299 for each of the 6 league shoots.

What amazed me was how straight faced the storyteller remained throughout his recital of these amazing children. He spoke of them with reverence. Now, understandably, the previous tale of a 475-pound Maryland white tail buck must be true, who would ever exaggerate, but I found it a bit of a stretch regarding the boys. Obviously, there was no point in questioning the legend, the speaker was a true believer, and so I kept my thoughts unspoken.

Before I left, the storyteller tried to sale me an “Elite.” I departed financially intake.

Practice in the cold rain and snow

On March 27 it was cold and raining in Easton, Maryland. The next day it was colder and it snowed non-stop. Back in Savannah the Azaleas are blooming, the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade has past. There on the 27th and 28th it rained and the temperature was 74° and 60°, respectively. At our place in North Carolina, the same two days reached 64° then 43°. But, I was in Maryland until I drove onto Harrington, Delaware where I’d compete for a spot to compete at the 2015 IBO World Championships.  In Maryland it was freezing. (Actually, it wasn’t that warm)

Before the world qualifying 3D shoot I had to wait in Easton, Maryland. There are places where I could go practice on indoor ranges. However, shooting paper at 20 yards doesn’t help me judge yardage on a 3D range. Despite the nasty winter-that-won’t-go-away weather I drove to Schrader’s Outdoors in Henderson, Maryland to practice on their 3D range.

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The Club House, photo taken on a nicer day.

Schrader’s has decreased their number of targets. They’ve taken the old animals that are shot to pieces off the course. The old targets were piled up against the side of the clubhouse. Before I headed back to North Carolina I’d talked then out of a coyote, a mountain lion, and a turkey. If I’d had more room in my truck I’d have tried to pick up a few others.

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This bear, or one of his kin, is often at the max distance.

Over the 20 targets that remained on the range I shot  each 3 – 4 times from the hunter class distance then from the open class distance. The rain on Friday wasn’t too bad while I was shooting and the snow on Saturday, when I repeated Friday’s session, was a non-stop flurry. With a major qualifier on Sunday, and Sunday’s weather forecast was more cold and wind. It was good to practice in the bundle of clothes and gloves I’d need to wear on Sunday.

Spring isn’t making an overwhelming effort to break through this year. Thankfully, I was able to spend a great deal of time in Georgia over the winter. The cold and wet of Maryland weren’t enough to keep me out of the woods or off the range. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to feeling my toes thaw out.

Sometimes I forget, has it ever happened to you?

All my life I have competed in sports. Beyond high school athletes I’ve competed in cycling, running, duathlon, triathlon and now archery. One of the concerns I always had is showing up for an event and not having all my gear.

That happened to me once in cycling. At a race from Jacksonville, Florida to St. Augustine, Florida and back, around 80 miles, I discovered just prior to the race I’d forgotten my cycling shoes. This was in 1973 and we still raced using toe clips and straps (those cages on the bike pedal that you stuck your foot into and tightened it in place with a strap). Thanks to that pedal arrangement I was able to compete wearing my well-worn Converse All Stars. It rained for about 30 of the 80 miles and I recall water squishing out from a hole at top my shoe near the big toe on my right foot.

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In a triathlon it can be tough finding your stuff even when you have all of it.

That is the only time I’ve forgotten gear needed for any competitive event. However, more than once I’ve forgotten something while rushing to a training session. I have forgotten my swim trucks (jammers) and had to skip swim training. I’ve forgotten my bike helmet and couldn’t ride (I don’t ride without one) and have shown up for a run without my running shoes.

Today, I drove from Hertford, NC to Easton, MD. That is a 5-hour drive. Before I left I made certain I had all my archery gear for a 3D tournament being held in Delaware this weekend. When I got to my house in Maryland I unloaded my bags. One of them contained my quiver and release. My bow and arrows were safely packed in the truck and not removed.

Once I checked on things at the house there was plenty of time to drive over to Schrader’s Outdoors in Henderson, Maryland and get an hour or two of practice on their three 3D range. It would mean another 35 minutes of driving each way, but it would be fun. I loaded River, my lab, back into my Ford F-150 and we once again hit the road.

When we got to the range, River was really excited. She knows the property, enjoys the 3D range and was eager for the opportunity to run around while I shot. We parked got out of the truck then walked to the clubhouse to check in for the range. After signing in we returned to the truck so I could collect my gear.   That’s when I realized I’d left my quiver and release in the bag I’d unloaded back in Easton.

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There was nothing to do other than hop back in to the pick-up and go home. River was almost as disappointed as me. This won’t be the last time it happens.

All Day Playing Outside

Yesterday, Tuesday March 24, the weather was slightly warmer and the wind slightly less. It was a pleasant day for being outside and I took full advantage.

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Up before sunrise I took my coffee and walked out onto the dock. As the sun broke through geese that have become permanent residents honked past, a few ducks swam by and eagles pasted overhead. Sunrise on the water is a great part of any day.

After breakfast, River and I headed out for a run. Friends naturally, greeted her and one followed us home in search of a cookie.

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“Cookie, cookie, cookie” – River’s rather crazy friend

Cookies provided and dogs gone, I took my bow out for practice. The wind was blowing with a bit more force with occasional gusts to 15 mph ( 24 kph) and a rather constant 10 mph (16 kph) push coming off the water. Aside from 3D events, which are often protected from the wind being held in forested areas, I’ve never shot an outdoor competition. With all the practice I’ve had shooting outside and dealing with wind I should find a field archery tournament and give it a try.

After morning practice I was able to get in a decent ride on one of my bikes. This one was a retro steel frame Peugeot that covered the bumpy country rides like a luxury car.

Back with plenty of time for afternoon shooting I took a foam deer and moved it around in the woods to get various shots at unknown distances and have some protection for the afternoon wind.

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This deer is out there a ways
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There he is…

It was another nice day for playing outside. I got to shoot, run and ride – my kind of day. It was followed by a good night’s sleep.

Running with the Dogs!

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Game On!

When I run with my dog, River, we collect a crowd of canine followers. River and I both enjoy a good run. Typically, we head out in the early morning, but there are days we take a sprint in the afternoon. No matter what time we run there are always some four-legged characters eager to join the game.

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This guy is an exceptionally good runner

Excluding races, where the crowds can reach 40, 000 runners, I’d estimate that during the past 5 years I have run with more dogs than people. It is remarkable how when River and I go past a yard containing a free-range dog, the animal happily, eagerly, and frequently tags along.

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The black lab on the right has perfect manners

This morning another Labrador Retriever joined us. She’ll run the entire distance and return to our home for a post-run cookie. I have a policy that any dog ending up on my doorstep following a run gets water and a cookie.

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Homer, the beagle mix, thinks 10 miles is a warm up and knows where the cookies are kept
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A great old fellow, he is a slow short distance trotter. We walk with him until he turns back. He always seems reluctant to let us go.

Most dogs know there limit and turn back after less than a mile. Some, more confident and with longer legs have no qualms over distance. A few are too old to do more than a short trot and greet. Others, reaching my home, act like they want to move in and if a door opens acknowledge the gesture by entering the house.   Brenda, my wife, who also likes dogs doesn’t chase the out unless they’re wet or muddy – often the case. I am less strict regarding cleanliness matters.

Watching dogs run, I am envious of their ability to sprint and they, at times, seem to wonder at my endurance, especially on hot days. On those hot tongue-lolling days we have a nice set of stairs that leads into the Little River for a refreshing dip.

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A beautiful sight of raw pleasure

Meeting and running with dogs is always an experience. Over the years our furry following has grown. Several of dogs have learned where we live and occasionally drop by for a visit. Thus far, none have been rude, tried to bite, or pooped in my yard.

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See y’all later, come back anytime

A Challenging Course in Beaufort County

On Sunday March 22nd, the Beaufort County Archery Club, near Washington, NC, held its second 3D shoot of 2015. The drive to the range from Hertford was, as usual, a picturesque trip through rural eastern North Carolina. River, my lab, who’d loaded herself into my Ford F-150 and made the trek with me. Once there, she made a few new friends and so did I.

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River keeping a watchful eye on me as I head to registration

On the warm-up range I began the game of finding others to shoot with on the course. I noticed a guy shooting alone and asked if he was waiting on a group.  He didn’t have a group so we began putting together a quartet. Within a short time we’d added two others and our newly minted a band of four was on the challenging course.

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Angelo, John and Carlson

Let me qualify what I mean by challenging.   This was my second time at the Beaufort County Archery Club’s range and what I’ve learned is that they don’t shy away from yardage. The scores posted after the first shoot averaged 157. The Pro average was 189 and the bow hunter average was 160. (Twenty targets)

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Registration

Our group held two shooters taking aim from the white stakes, 45 yards maximum, and two from the red stakes, 40 yards maximum. It seemed the white stake distance variance was usually on the long side. Shooting with pins and hoping for 12’s is a haul from 45 to 50 yards. But, long shots are so much fun and increase the challenge!

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Angelo at the white stake in the foreground. John at the red stake in the distance. Ahead among the pine trees is the target, a boar.

The event gathered a lot of archers. By stake 6, our group, Angelo, Carlson, John and I decided we’d cut over to the back side of the range and shoot targets 15 – 20 in hopes the congestion would thin when we returned for targets 7 – 14. The planned worked and we held a decent pace.

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From stake 5 looking down range 

Our troop harmonized, quickly. It wasn’t long before there was good humor and friendly exchange of legends, accolades and advice. Despite the week’s prior rain we’ve had here on the east coast the range was high and dry for the most part. However, getting off the beaten path, for example in search of a rebellious arrow, would land a stray in mud, muck and swamp water within a matter of a few feet.

During the day I ran into Phillip and his son Hunter who I’d shot with at the Pitt County Wildlife Club last week. True to their form they were all smiles. Hunter was still finding humor in the prior week’s “turkey butt shot.”

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We all had this little guy’s number

Archers that put it on the line during 3D competition are as a rule good folks. Aside from having to be accurate with a bow they must be good at judging distance. All of them have good days and better days. Among them there seems to be an unstated understanding that a good shot or bad shot can be yours at any stake. As such, the people on 3D ranges are for the most part pleasant, humble, and generous. The crowd at the Beaufort County shoot today and the guys I shot with exemplified what is best about sport.

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Time to relax, share stories of victory and get warm

 

No archery today, but there was cycling

Friday was a rainy day until around 2 PM. Then there was break in the weather. It happened to be a rest day from archery. But, cycling was still on the menu.

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At least it has stopped raining

I wanted to ride a steel bike. I have two steel frame bikes, a Peugeot and a 3Rensho. Yes, that is correct a 3Rensho. The 3Rensho it is a track bike, meaning single speed and brakeless, intended for racing on a Velodrome. The Peugeot is an old retro frame rebuild in the 1970’s fashion including down tube shifters. Most of today’s racing bikes are aluminum or carbon fiber although it is still possible to get a really nice steel frame.

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Not riding this today, but man it is one nice bike

The last time I rode my Peugeot I got a flat. I wasn’t able to recall whether I’d replaced the tube. After I filled the tires with air the answer presented itself – I’d not changed the tube. I spent 30 minutes trying to get the tire off the Rolf rim and only succeeded in breaking my tire tool. That wheel will be going to Cycle Gallery and Fitness in Elizabeth City where the experts may have better luck. I changed bikes and took the LiteSpeed for a spin.

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There is a bit of history behind this Nalini jersey. Vincenzo Mantovani who’d won a silver medal in the 1964 Olympics for the team Pursuit started the company. I got the jersey while racing in Florence at the Cicli Sergio Bianchi shop around 1999. The jersey is as good as new.

There are few forms of exercise I enjoy as much as cycling. It is a great way to enjoy a lot of scenery while blowing cobwebs out of muscles and brains. Even though I didn’t get to ride a steel frame, titanium is a close second for providing a smooth ride.

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Local swamps are over flowing thanks to the rain

Dealing with Winter Storm Ultima

On Thursday as Winter Storm Ultima approached the Mid-Atlantic States the temperature dropped and wind increased. Being outside meant dressing warm. Finding a spot from where to shoot meant finding buildings or trees that could act as a wind barrier.

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Despite the harsh conditions there was plenty of time to practice archery. With a storage shed as a wind barrier I was able to take aim at a foam deer from 20 to 30 yards. My porch provided a well protected and elevated 27 yard shot. Occasionally the winds would decrease enough that I could shoot from open ground out to 50 yards.

The weather is predicted to be worse on Friday (that prediction turned out accurate) so Thursday I stayed outside as long as possible. In fact, I got in about 4 hours of shooting broken up into three sessions.

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Saturday the weather should begin to improve and by Sunday, tournament day, conditions are forecasted to be sunny if a bit cold. In the meantime, from my office I’ll keep an eye open for a tropospheric lull with hopes of brief escapades outside.

 

Some differences between city life and country living

Living in a city is okay. I’d done it and found it enjoyable. Living in the country is good as well. There are obvious differences.

When I write that I’ve lived in a city I mean in the heart of the city. When I lived in Atlanta I was near Buford Highway, inside the parameter, but in 1976 not the center. Later, living in Kennesaw, GA it was a little like living in the country, however, by the time I lived there, mid 90’s, Kennesaw was the suburbs for Atlanta. A good example of the heart of a city was when I lived in Cleveland, Ohio. There I lived at 12th and Euclid, pretty much the SA Node of the city.

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Hertford, NC

When I write that I live in the country I don’t mean suburbs. From my home in North Carolina, the closest town, Hertford, is 14 miles away. Hertford has a population of 2176, about that of a large apartment complex in Atlanta.

City life was fun. There was always something to see and do. If you don’t mind crowds and have patience with traffic it’s a good life. Riding a bicycle can be a challenge, but there is always a path to follow. Shooting a bow means an indoor range or driving to a club outside the city limits. IMG_3334

In the country there is also a lot to see and do. The scenery and activities are different from a city. Riding a bicycle is easier – there are a lot less cars. In fact, during my ride of 20 miles yesterday only 2 cars and one truck passed me.

Another country life advantage is that if I want to shoot all I need do is step out of my front door. In fact, I can shoot from my front porch at two sets of targets. It certainly makes practice convenient. Other unique advantages to where I live is I can fish and crab from my bulkhead or off my dock. And, if inclined, I can hunt from a tree stand after a 4-minute walk from my house into the woods.

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The down side is if we need anything that has to be purchased I’m making a long drive in the truck or car. Despite this very slight inconvenience, I find living in the country is generally better. If I need to get back to a city, I’ll make the drive knowing I’ll be back in the woods or on the river momentarily.

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