I Felt Ready – I Wasn’t

The 3D season started with a warm-up on an indoor 3D shoot taking aim at tough, small, well-distributed targets. I’d won the event. Even so, it had been close with me earning 214 points and the second place archer taking 208 points. Still, this had been a range where, in the past, I hadn’t done better than second place. I felt strong going into the main stream of coastal North Carolina 3D.

Over the winter I’d done a lot of practice shooting 3D. My long shots had been over 50 yards and my shortest ones against a mosquito. Overall, my practice had, in my mind, replicated what I might see in regional competition. That competition began last weekend at Lenoir County Archers and Pitt County Wildlife Club.

Lenoir County is nearly 3 hours from where I live. It was the first of the two shoots for the weekend. I’d gotten up early, fed and played with my dogs, loaded them into my Ford tF-150 and arrived just at the opening of the 3D day. Despite my early arrival what I observed was the range beginning to back-up. To make timing worse, I needed to find a group to join.

It didn’t take long before I was teamed up with Chad, his son Chase, and Willis. Chad a youth shooter and his dad, in the Bow Hunter competed a bit closer to the target than Willis and I.

Chase, his dad Chad, and Willis

Willis is an elite archer that has competed in the US and Europe while a member of the US Air Force archery them. He’d been off the circuit for the past few years while recovering from a heart attack. In fact, Willis had not picked up his bow for during the past 3 years. He said he’d only come out to sight his bow and perhaps shoot a bit for fun.   He was so interesting and experienced I pleaded with him to come shoot and he agreed. We left the warm-up range, paid our registration fee, got our cards and headed to the first stake – I still felt confident.

First practice shot at 50 yards – I felt good

The Lenoir County Archers have a lot of real estate for their range and they are not shy about using it. At Stake 1 the maximum distance (for me 45 yards) was, well max’ed out. Scoring on that shot left me somewhat less confident than I was when I walked away from their warm-up range.

The day didn’t get much better and I was happy to come out of the woods with the same number of arrows that I’d entered. Willis, also shooting from a max of 45 yards and despite having not shot in three years quickly regained his form. There was a well-rehearsed often-practiced method to his shooting. Watching a truly elite archer go through the motions was educational. Chase and Chad shot well. Chad shot better once he’d gotten his windage properly set. But, dad won the day – the first time in awhile he’d taken the prize over his son. There was a bit of good-humored father-son teasing they went on following dad’s infrequent victory.

Stake 1, Chad at 35 yards.

The first of two days had me reeling with poor yardage judgment and finishing among a packed field in 4th.

Day two, well I felt confident, again. I shot some of my higher scores at Pitt County and was looking forward to redemption. I’d hoped to shoot with Willis, again. Sadly, he’d already hooked up with three other archers and was heading to Stake 1 as I was beginning to warm-up. He invited to join them, but I think 5 in a group is one too many. It slows down the group and other archers.

I lucked out and team up with Zack and Tyler. Both are great shooters and compete for their school as well as independently.

I’ve known Zack and Tyler for a couple of years having met them shooting 3D with their Coach. I’d not seen them since last season and like many 16 to 17 year olds Zack, now 17 had gone through a growth spurt. He’d sky rocketed 8 inches in one year! The young man had become a giant.

Two 10s and a 12. Our team was shooting pretty good at times.

One of his concerns with his new size is arrows. At 17 he already has to shoot 32-inch arrows and is a little concerned about finding 34-inch arrows. They are available but not common.

Along the way we played through where possible. Zack and Tyler had school archery practice and needed to leave the 3D range and get to school by 2 PM. As slow as day 2 turned out, I’m sure they were late to school practice.

Shoots like these tended to slow people down

A bonus is I ran into a friend, Maria. Maria lives in Raleigh and had made the drive to the coast with a number of her friends. It was great to see her and one of the highlights of the weekend. Something not as much of a feature was my score on day 2.

Visiting with Maria was wonderful even if it was way too brief.

Both days left me a disappointed. On day 2 I finished with another 4th place. The final place wasn’t as disappointing as the drop in my average score for similar distances.

The two days of shooting, scoring aside, were great. I really enjoyed both ranges even if they are quite a haul from my house. I’m starting to think a small RV might be a nice investment. The finish on both days was below par for me, there’s now plenty to space for improvement.