Novice 50-Meter Practice

Well, crap – I didn’t see that coming.

I’ve signed up for the NC State Outdoor Championship. From what I understand it is a two-day event. The targets are set 50-meters away from the archers. Everyone shoots 72 arrows then you do something else.

I have no idea what the something else might be or why this tournament needs to take 2 days. Two days means extra time on the road and more expense.

I tried an outdoor 50-meter tournament once before in Georgia. Among the instructions was a recommendation to be at the range by 2:00 PM. I arrived at 1:00 PM to make sure I knew, at least, where the event was being held. The complete directions were somewhat cryptic.

On that day, I left before the event was completed. It was 7:00 PM when I threw in the towel. It was the dumbest sporting event I’d ever attended.

Later, I heard that soon after I drove away the sprinkler system under the field where the archers were shooting activated. This cleared the range and caused a significant delay. They finished shooting under lights at 11:30 PM. When I learned this, I decided 50-meter competition might not be for me.

The primary time suck, leading to the sprinkler and archery intersection,  at that 50-meter contest orginiated with judges and officials having stories to tell and a captive audience. Here’s the thing for an event official that has a story, a sagely bit of advice, a weather report, short comic routine, or sermon – keep it to yourself.

From that day I sort of remember how to score. Sure, it seems easy; an X ring counts 10 points, then a 10 ring that counts 10 points, 9 ring, 8 ring, etc. But, the little X ring on the indoor target is no longer an X ring, it counts 10-points, it’s the sole remaining 10 ring, leaving a larger yellow 9-ring. Has USA Archery made a similar change for outdoor shooting?Whatever, I’ll shoot what everyone else is shooting and try to put my arrows into the center part. I just hope it doesn’t take 6 hours to shoot 72 arrows.

For practice, I ordered, what I think is the outdoor target people shoot toward when firing arrows from 50-meters. I was shooting pretty good today, at least what I think might be good since I have no idea what is a decent score until I had a run in with a snake.

River not patrolling for snakes, prefers chewing on a stick while waiting for me to finishing practice

Now, I see a lot of snakes out here. Mostly, we meet, I look it over, and the snake flicks its tongue at me. And for the most part we go our separate ways. Today’s snake was not so liberal – you know, live and let live. It had an attitude and fangs.

If I need to cross paths with the locals. these are just fine with me.

It wasn’t large, maybe 18 inches, but the snake, a water moccasin, was coiled on the edge of the shooting lane, in grass and preparing to bite me. Now, I admit, I always wear snake boots in these woods this time of year and I had them on. For one second I considered stomping on the snake with those boots. (Yes, we were that close to each other) I reconsidered, noting to myself there really is no reason to “test” the boot manufacturer’s marketing claims. Imagine a failure:

“Dear Mrs. Lain: All of us here at Big Bite Snake Boots want to offer our sincere condolences regarding the recent incident between the late Dr. Lain and an alleged snake bite. Our attorneys have reviewed the matter closely and determined our products are not labeled or warranted or designed to stomp on snakes.  We regret your loss. Enclosed please find a 25% off discount coupon good for your next purchase. Valid though the April 2018.”

Instead of stomping, I shot the snake with a pistol.

If shooting 50-meters is anything like shooting a snake with a pistol then I need to stay home. The first shot was so far off the snake didn’t even move. The second got its attention. The third caused it to move a little. Shots four and five did the trick. Now, the pistol is only a 380 and I am not shooting snake shot or rat shot. I heard snake shot and rat shot causes the Ruger 380 to jam.

These little ‘Rough Green Snakes’ are not a worry

So, you might ask, like a friend of mine did, “Why didn’t you just shoot it with an arrow?” You may even think that would be your first choice. Before you commit to arrow versus bullet let me give you the setting.

You have a compound bow set for 50-meters. Your arrows are those skinny ones that all the field archery specialists and 50-meters experts shoot (only yours are the less expensive variety because you’re not to sure about 50-meters and you don’t want to waste money).

Next, this isn’t a huge snake, only 18 inches of pissed off water moccasin. (You didn’t piss it off; it is that way in general.) This angry viper is clearly intent on biting you. It’s also at the edge of some tall grass.

The taller brush is next to a creek. Snake paradise.

Lord forbid, but say you fire an arrow at the snake and miss. Say you miss and it slithered off. Remember, tall grass. Now, when are you going to reach your hand it those weeds and retrieve that arrow? By the way, I’d bet money, you’d miss even though the snake was just three feet away. Why would you miss? Well, have you ever practiced shooting an object that is maybe two inches thick and 18 inches long from three feet? No, you haven’t – miss!

Even if you hit it, you’d probably screw up an arrow shooting it into the ground. One last thing, that bow is twenty-five yards away right where you left it sitting when you went to pull arrows. You do have six arrows in your hand. Trying to poke a water moccassin to death with a field tip would really piss it off.

Nope, bullets are inexpensive and plentiful. Heck, I shot at it five times and hit it twice for good measure. After that I shot 18 more arrows at 50-meters and took a break having completed my morning quota of archery shots. During the afternoon practice, I carried a 410 shotgun loaded with Remington 6-shot. I always get snakes on the first shot with that gun.

Still, after shooting 50-meters, 84 arrows in the morning, 84 in the afternoon I’m not sure about the upcoming State Championship. Oh, I scored only 72 arrows during each practice. I shot 2 ends of 6 as a warm-up because I think that is how they are going to do it the day of the competition. The afternoon was snake-free. Snake seems to know when I am carrying that 410. They are braver when I have that little pistol.

Critters in the Woods

There are all sorts of critters that hang out on my 3D range. Deer during the day have occasionally walked within a hundred yards. Of course, there are plenty of squirrels, rabbits, turtles and snakes. Coyote were a problem but seem to have migrated toward chicken coops about a mile up the road.

Practice in the woods one always has to keep an eye on the ground for copperheads and water moccasins. I’ve not encountered any rattlesnakes but have heard that they are out and about.

Turtles are about as abundant as frogs. The birds, including turkey, and constantly in the trees, bushes or pecking at potential meals on the ground.

At night, possum, raccoon and fox are everywhere.  I’ve not seen any bears and I am okay with their absence. The bears are nearby, I know from the complaints of local farmers.

You know, it is a very nice place to practice archery.


Man it has been hot.

Yes sir, it has been hot. How hot? I have no idea. Brenda told me with the heat index was over 100°F two days ago. Beyond that, I have not checked. There’s no need since I can’t make it cooler. And believe me – I am not complaining!

When I think back to winter and shooting out of my shed while standing next to a wall heater trying to stay warm, well I’d rather be hot.

I keep a water bottle (I use TriFuel) with me in this heat. The iPhone is on the chair so that I can set my timer for 5-minutes during each end of 50-meter practice.

There may come a time when I can no longer take the heat. I’ll have to wait and see. Until then, bring it on.

There’s no need to be foolish in hot weather. Stay hydrated, run more easily, and push a little less intensely on the bike.

I took this picture before I moved my gear back into that shade. The bow was getting ‘hot’ between ends and my TriFuel was warming up.

During archery practice the biggest problem is sweat. It makes my grip slippery. It’s only a concern for a few seconds. Since the bow is just resting on and against my hand, not really being gripped, once it settles into place all is right on the range. The sweat is a bit more of a problem when it drips into an eyes.

All in all, I’d rather not be cold.

There’s not a lot of cheating in archery – or is there?

To be sure, I’ve not noticed any of the people I shoot with cheating. I hear about cheating from time to time. But, the stories are pretty much as far as it goes. Old legends about someone that others claim to have known of or heard about that didn’t shoot by the rules.

There’s a tale about a father and son that had multiple scorecards, a second set to complete in privacy before submitting to judges. The couple would hang around after shooting and listen for incoming scores. Once they gathered enough intelligence they’d slip away, create winning numbers on their backup scorecards and turn those theorized results over to officials.

There’s the story of fans delivering yardage information to their favorite archer. That seems to be a method of foul play that might be easily detected. It’s hard to imagine one archer in a foursome that is being whispered to by a spectator before the shooter approachs a stake in 3D and that not being suspicious.

“The deer is at 32 yards”

Another unlikely way to cheat that people have written about is the sprint and pull. This is where an archer jogs ahead of others toward a target that has been shot. The sprinter arrives at the faux-animal, pulls his arrow, and yells back to the scorekeeper his preferred score. This too seems an unlikely activity. There’s not an abundance of joggers competing in archery.

The miss-call of a line cutter is sometimes employed. It rarely works. This is when one archer, the shooter for example, claims his arrow is cutting the line. Whether it is or isn’t becomes a group decision. Maybe the line cutter can gain a point with a strong debate. Maybe not. If the point or two is given, based on a group consensus, then I don’t think this is cheating. I’ve gathered that lawyer/archers have better success using the miss-call debate technique.

The “Special” arrow is another technique that has floated around the range gossip. This is where an archer has a “special” arrow that is outside the weight range of a 3D competition. The “special” arrow is kept hidden in the quiver.  Should a judge ask for an arrow to check the weight a regular arrow is provided. The “special” faster arrow is never offered to the judge. On the range, however, the “special” arrow is employed to sink top marks on target after target. Seems a bit desperate.

No, I still think there is very little cheating in archery. There is sandbagging, where archers win time and again in a specific class and refuse to move to more advanced shooting. Even that isn’t too big a deal.

The biggest problem I see is doping. Yep, doping. And that’s not even an issue for IBO or ASA. USA Archery probably turns a blind eye to doping in the age groups over 50. The reason being the dope of choice for archers is a beta-blocker. It also happens to be a drug that helps keep a whole lot of archers over 50 from dying due to their hypertension. You can’t require folks with high-blood pressure to stop taking a potentially life prolonging drug in order to play.  If you did, you’d lose a lot of participants.

Cleary for archers, the dope of choice is a beta-blocker. Beta-blockers lower the heart rate, reduce anxiety and decrease muscle tremors. That is why FITA, ISSF and the USA Archery ban drugs like propranolol in archery. FITA and ISSF ban them during and outside of competition.1

From a competitive standpoint, this is what makes beta-blockers so interesting: they seem to level the playing field for anxious and non-anxious performers, helping nervous performers much more than they help performers who are naturally relaxed.2

Part of the problem is, about 75 million American adults have high blood pressure, or about 1 in 3 adults. About 7 out of 10 people with high blood pressure take something, like a beta-blocker, to treat their hypertension. And, high blood pressure is on the rise, up 13% since 2001.3-7

If you compete in USA Archery events, have high blood pressure and are on medication to reduce your odds of dying from that condition there may be a therapeutic exemption. I don’t know, I didn’t check.

The IBO’s statement on this matter is:

“Using performance enhancing drugs. Recognizing the IBO/3-DI affiliation with FITA; the IBO is developing a substance abuse policy. We may be recognizing guidelines along the same structure as those utilized by FITA in their International competitions. Be advised, these guidelines may be implemented in the near future and may come into use with no further warning after this advisory” 8 That’s fairly vague.

I could not find any statement from the ASA and I didn’t check NFAA. It didn’t matter that much to me to search any longer for the ASA and NFAA. I think that if you have a blood pressure problem it is more important to treat it than to worry whether or not you have a potentially slight competitive advantage, unless you are making a living through archery. Then, there is a problem; because it is highly likely you will perform better with the beta-blocker.

Of course, very few people are actually making a living-wage as a professional archer.  Most of those are in a lower risk group for hypertension.  The older folks earning money shooting may or may not be on beta-blockers.  But, we’d rather have them shooting and on beta-blockers than putting their lives on the line to earn a few thousand dollars a year. If they’re older and not on beta-blockers and still winning, well they’re just that good and the hypertensive archer is not an issue.

Can someone tell if you are taking a beta-blocker? Well, not without evidence. But, it isn’t hard to guess, especially for someone that’s spent decades studying hypertension. Rather, a medical professional can tell who is likely to have high blood pressure; whether or not they are treating it can’t be told by looking. For that, you’d have to pee in a jar.



  1. FITA, ISSA Statements
  3. Merai R, Siegel C, Rakotz M, Basch P, Wright J, Wong B; DHSc., Thorpe P. CDC Grand Rounds: A Public Health Approach to Detect and Control Hypertension. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016 Nov 18;65(45):1261-1264
  4. Mozzafarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2015 Update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2015;e29-322.
  5. Heidenreich PA, Trogdon JG, Khavjou OA, et al. Forecasting the future of cardiovascular disease in the United States: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2011;123:933–44.
  6. Palar K, Sturm R. Potential societal savings from reduced sodium consumption in the U.S. adult population. Am J Health Promot. 2009;24:49–57.
  7. Guide to Community Preventive Services. Cardiovascular disease prevention and control: team-based care to improve blood pressure control.
  8. IBO rules

Bottoming Out

Ever leave your best shots on the practice range?

Seemed like s start for a good day of shooting.

This past weekend was likely the final 3D tournament for me for 2017. The IBO World Championship remains a possibility however low. It’s not that I can’t go, it’s that the expense might truly not be worth it. I’d have to really be on the mark to place in the top 5 and shoot better than I’ve done all year to be in the top 3. Still, it is a possibility.

From last week: That’s a skunk at about 28 yards. I thought I’d hit the 10 ring. Wrong, it was a 5. Seriously, felt good for a few minutes. And so went the day

I’d go if my practice average hits and remains about 10.4 points per target. The guys that have been winning the IBO World’s I’d shoot against have been winning in the small class for a few years. At this point, they’d beat me – statistically speaking.

My friend, Mike, max’ing out on real estate.

On the other hand, there’s the North Carolina Outdoor State Championship in a few weeks. To win that, I need to focus on 50-meters.

After the 3D tournament, I shot for awhile at 50-meters. Needs more practice.

Plus, despite an important 3D win two weeks ago, I shot my lowest 3D score of the year this past weekend. The results haven’t been posted so I don’t know how I ended up. In any case, regardless of how tough a shoot might have been, I know when I am not shooting in tournaments as well as during practice.

River offering encouragement or using dog telepathy to get a cookie.

Maybe a nice break shooting 50-meters exclusively will liberate my 3D shooting.

Violence From Above

Slightly damaged catfish in my yard

Catfish falling from the sky! An osprey had it. An eagle wanted it. If the fish wasn’t available, osprey tastes good if you’re an eagle. In the osprey position, drop the fish and fly away, live to fish another day.

What I Thought

Recently, I wrote about a campsite near Staunton, Virginia where I stayed during the Virginia IBO State Championship.  I wasn’t pleased with the facility. In fact, I left a day early.  No, they did not reimburse me for the unused day.

Here’s what I clicked online when I booked my site:

Here’s what I got:

Notice the ‘camping’ space for my RV is so small there is no room for a vehicle. I had to park my truck in that parking lot you see in the background on the side of the hill.

To say the least, I felt robbed.

Light makes a difference

You know you’ll see something like the photographs below during your next 3D shoot. The terrain might not be as flat, but the light can be an issue.

Light makes a difference and can make things seem different. A target can be bright or a silhouette depending on its placement and the time of day.

This and the two photos above are the same target in low, medium and bright light

It is a good idea to arrange your training so that you can become accustom to variations of light.

Going Long

Of course, the day started by running with River. We’ve been disappointed for the past few days since Coco has not joined us. Coco has an injured leg and been absent during her infirmary.

River and Coco checking things out on a trail. River has missed her friend over the past few days.

And certainly, next on the list was a bike ride. Riding a bicycle remains one of my favorite activities.  Cycling is as close to flying as we humans can do under our own power.  Yes, I know there are one or two experimental human powered flying machines, but you and I aren’t going to be climbing into one of those things. We can get on a bicycle and ride.

People pay to take tours to view scenery like this. I see this everyday.
More of the swampy areas I passed on my ride

Then, it was down to business – archery. Yesterday’s practice informed me of where I need to train. Long shots. To be specific, long 3D shots. Knowing a big blue, red and yellow ringed level target is 50-meters and hitting yellow is easy. Not know the distance, having all the targets a different color and size, then wedging them among trees over uneven terrain is more difficult. So, today, I didn’t shoot any foam target under 35 yards.

45-yards seemed long enough on this coyote. I don’t care who you are – this is a long shot at a small target using fixed pins. And it feels real satisfying to hit 10 or better.

I shot 10 arrows, two sets of five, at 35, 40, and 45 yards at a lot of fake animals. I didn’t make it to all my targets. I’ll finish them tomorrow and will skip the bobcat and rabbit. Not that I wouldn’t like to try them at long distances, their not positioned to be shot longer than 35 yards.

There’s not enough cleared woods to back off from this target more than 35 yards. I doubt I’d ever see it at that distance. I doubt I ever see it in a tournament. But, I will see a gator and that target’s center ring is lower than this bobcat’s.

It was tempting to shoot from fifty yards. But, I’m not real sure about my 50-yard pin. If my foam animals were larger I’d have tested that bottom pin. It seemed wiser to examine the fifty-yard pin later against something larger than a cinnamon bear. Of course, where the ten ring is on the cinnamon bear there’s a leg below it. If I’d shot low the arrow would probably have ended up in the leg. A high shot and goodbye arrow. I wasn’t up to shooting $18.00 into the woods.

Fifty yards was tempting. I stopped here at 45

What I can say is that after an hour or so, 35 yards seemed close.

Met up with this critter on the run home this morning. The wildlife I see every day here in rural North Carolina is amazing.

Interesting Day In the Heat

This was a long day in the heat. When I stopped for the day the temperature was 93°F. I was sweaty and stinky. It was time to call it quits when I overshot my 50-meter target. But, 50-meter is still secondary at this point in my training. The focus had been on 3D. (50-meter was my second session of the day. 3D was the primary practice session.)

My 3D average has dropped during the year. I mentioned this to a friend of mine who is a competitive pistol shooter. He asked, “Think you’ve developed any new bad habits?” I answered, ‘No, I’m still exploring the old bad habits.”

3D practice was slow and purposeful, today. It was an effort to discover why I’m getting worse instead of better. Worse and better here are relative. Certainly, I’m better than I was, but not progressing at the moment.

For this practice I selected 10 targets: a badger, cinnamon bear, turkey, coyote, small black bear, two small boars, a deer, a mountain lion, and a javelina. Then, I’d shot them each at 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 yards pulling the arrow and scoring each arrow after each shot. It’s slow. I ended up walking 2.15 miles as measured by a Garmin wrist GPS. It took 2 hours and 5 minutes to complete.

I did take a break because of the heat and for lunch. While on a break I paused my GPS in order to get an accurate measurement of the practice distance. That does not mean that breaks in heat are not part of practice. It only means that I did not want to have that time and distance included in my data.

The canopy helps with the heat

The walking wasn’t bad in itself, but I had a two-mile run and 10-mile bike ride in my legs when I started shooting. And it was in the low 90’s. I was  sweating like the pig that knows its dinner despite a canopy of leaves blocking most of the direct sun. But, I’ll take the heat over the cold.

The archery practice alone is good. In order to have it mean more I study my numbers. The data from today’s 3D shots are revealing but not surprising.

At 20-yards I averaged 10.6 points per arrow. At 25-yards the average was 9.9. You guessed it, as the distance increased the average points per arrow dropped. Makes since, the longer the shot the greater skill it takes. At 30-yards, the average was 9.6, and then at 35 and 40 yards, the average was 8.1 and 8.7, respectively. (Yes, 0.6 points better at 40 yards compared to 35 yards.)

This ole cinnamon bear is the first target on the range. It gets more than a fair share of arrows

The targets were medium to small. A javelina at 40 yards is a pretty tough shot. Especially when the varmint is sitting in a dark hole. Throughout all the targets, I try to make them difficult. They’re lined up in tight areas, on logs, across a creek, or with ground cover to make judging yardage more difficult. Some are in plain view because occasionally we get to shoot at targets stuck up in the middle of nothing except wind.

There really is a small black bear in that hole. No, I can’t see it either when shooting as conveyed by an average on this target of 7.8. (Shot two 5s at 30 and 40 yards)

This bit of practice, aside from indicating I need more work at 35 and 40 yards, resulted in an overall average score per arrow of 9.35. That’s lower than my average in 3D tournaments since January 2017, which is 9.45 points per arrow. (My best single day for 2017 was 10.1 points per arrow) The practice today, was also, an average of 2 yards further per all targets than normal.

Indeed, that yardage is an estimate. I try to record, once I get home, the targets and the distances shot during tournaments. I’m getting better at remembering what I faced on a competitive range.

Miss this shot and you can say goodbye to an arrow

My best guess is the average distance per tournament is 28 yards per target. It’s those animals at 35 and 40 yards that have been hurting throughout the year. Since going back to fixed pins for 2017 my maximum distance is 40 yards versus 50 in past years.

I wasn’t alone in enjoying the day

I log and record my archery practices and competitions. Doing so helps set goals as well as prepare training plans. After practice and tournaments I set down and study my data. It does aid in providing insight and plotting development.