Busted bags and busted blocks

Recently, someone posted a question on Facebook, I think it was Julie at Archery Talk, an informal survey asking which target did archers prefer, the bag type or the block. If there was a final tally I never read it. I shoot both, and both fall to pieces.

Buck Commander vomiting its guts out after a few weeks

Since October 2013 I’ve purchased two block style and three bag style targets. They’ve ranged in price from $39.00 to $89 for a total of approximately $245.00 without tax. That is about $22 per month spent on blocks and bags, not including the paper targets that are pinned to them. The painted marks on bags and blocks don’t wear well and don’t match up to any target I’ll shoot in competition.

New block and a shiny new paper target
The same block after four weeks, a bitter and old mess.

Archery paper targets run 75¢ to $1.00 where I buy them. They typically last one day often times less.  Pistol and rifle targets aren’t any cheaper and often don’t last as long, but they are easy to find. A problem with them is they have only one center shot per sheet. That may be fine for bullets but isn’t great for arrows.

Shooting a pistol target pinned to a duct taped block with one good side remaining. You can see by the angles of the arrows I move around in an attempt to avoid hitting the previously shot arrows.

Shooting at one center using multiple arrows will destroy arrows. They get banged together, holes are punched into fletching, nocks get cracked, and Robin Hoods waste two arrows.

For an instant it’s cool, then the realization – $20, or more, gone

Arrows can be expensive. I hate breaking them, worse I hate losing them, and they eventually end up with fatigue or stress fractures. Shooting on a block, which still seemed to have some life, a center shot cut through the paper and didn’t slow down until it was in the forested area behind the target. That block has now been retired.

Arrows sinking deeper into foam
Note the extra red dots. Added to save arrows and this new bag
Same bag after a few weeks.

Retirement means all six sides of the block are shot to pieces. I rotate bags and blocks, move the pinned paper targets around, shoot the corners as well as the center. That recently retired block was purchased in mid-July, it lasted about eight weeks. On an average new bags and blocks have a life expectancy of eight to nine weeks despite my efforts to salvage them.

Actually, the life span is very misleading. From November to February I shot indoors almost exclusively. So, the targets from October had rest from their depreciation during those months.

Shooting inside on someone else’s range. Certainly keeps you out of the cold in the winter
Shooting inside can be expensive. One arrow per target means spending time walking back and forth to retrieve arrows. Time is money when paying by the hour. Shooting two arrows per target face can add to the cost

Tomorrow I’ll head out to buy a new target. It won’t last very long. The cash I pulled out of the ATM today will go even faster. Maybe, one day, I’ll get a target sponsor. Or, perhaps, a target manufacturer will send be their bags or blocks as part of a focus group to study the endurance of their products.  If I could find one that would last sixteen weeks – that would be an improvement.

Sportsmen Ministry’s 3D Tournament in Elizabeth City, NC

The Fountain of Life, Sportsmen Ministry held a 20 target 3D tournament near Elizabeth City, NC on September 20th. Norman Mitchell, a retired US Navy Chief Petty Officer and friend told me about this event. Fortunately, I was in Hertford on the 20th and able to join the competition.

A windy day was tough on this banner


The Sportsmen Ministry operates a number of community programs. Among them is Center Shot, an archery program for the family that focuses on discipline, self-esteem, character, and is faith based. The group also conducts archery tournaments, skeet shoots, turkey shoots, and is starting an indoor archery league.

Registration located at the end of this road

Their 3D tournament was tough. The distances weren’t overwhelming but the target placement required nearly perfect shots. Shots off the mark could have easily meant a total miss.

Sign in, the pond at the center of the course seen in the background

It seemed nothing was placed in the open. The few open targets were deceiving as they were on undulating ground.

Norman taking a shot on a deer laying behind a small hill. Notice the rolling ground between Norman and the target.

Trees often stood between the shooter and the target so that a slight variance might leave an arrow embedded in bark.  Although the shots were tough, all shots were possible and many required a bit more thought than usual. For the most part, the arrangements matched what would likely be encountered during real hunting situations.

This bear is standing behind a number of trees. There was a shot, but it was tight.

Teamed up with Norman and Justin we where first on the course. Targets were arranged in a circle facing out with a pond in the center. From the registration tent shooters could be seen moving along the stakes around the circumference of the pond. It was one of the few local or regional competitions, I’ve noticed, where people showed up to walk the course and watch. The course was ideally laid out for spectators.

Registration closed at 11:00 AM. The last archers wouldn’t finish until 1 PM or later. Our group, first on and first off the course had completed the 20 targets by 10 AM. The Sportsmen Ministry offered lunch of North Carolina style barbecue and hot dogs. The barbecue was quite good.

It was another wonderful day of archery. The course was challenging and well laid out. I seriously wanted to take another turn. I considered asking and was willing pay to shoot for no score. Whether of not that sort of activity would be allowed caused me to not ask, I didn’t want to ask and put someone in the awkward position of having to tell me no.

The drive into and out of the course was surrounded by fields

The Fountain of Life Sportsmen Ministry is doing work beneficial to the community. Their fellowship was evident among the friendly people who gathered for the competition. I was satisfied to have finished the day with 3rd Place in the Bowhunter Division.




Agkistrodon piscivorus, the cottonmouth

Areas of North Carolina remain wild. Here bears, the eastern cougar, whitetail deer, coyote, bobcat, river otters, and other mammals can be seen almost daily.


Reptiles are abundant. One of our major concerns is the cottonmouth or Agkistrodon piscivorus. We see them frequently while kayaking and give them a wide berth.

The other day, my neighbor, Jimmy, who works outside was driving though a swampy area with a friend of his. In a spot they’d recently cleared, they noticed something large and moving. It was a cottonmouth eating a dove.

cotton mouth eating dove 091814-3

These snakes are venomous and aggressive. In my yard when I see one I don’t risk a shot with a bow. It is faster and I feel more certain handling them with a shotgun.

This cottonmouth messed with the wrong hoe

It’s nice living in this part of North Carolina. Much of it remains wild. In minutes we can be out of sight of everything resembling civilization. Once there, we are careful where we step.

Beautiful here, but it can be primitive

Thanks for reading


It has been 6.5 months since I started Puttingitontheline.com. Since then the site has had 566,372 hits, 62,701 pages have been read and there have been 34,479 visits. Tomorrow is another tournament. It promises to be a challenging 3D course. Hopefully, I’ll remember to take some pictures. The hunter class max distance is 40 yards and open is 45. Some of the top archers from NC will be competing. Should be fun. Of course, I’ll write about it.


Finding Terry’s Archery Plus

Brenda, my wife, wanted to take a “day trip”.  Brenda is game to participate in many activities we enjoy together.  She kayaks, takes long trips on a stand up paddleboard, rides bikes with me, and loves to fish.  All of this we can do right from our home.  Still, there are days when it is nice to take a road trip.

Start of a new day

 The trip she’d selected was a drive to New Bern, NC.  We’d both been waiting to visit that city.  There’s a 5K run in New Bern listed on Active.com.  The trip would give me an idea of how early I’d need to wake up in order to compete in the 5K.  After my morning run and archery practice we loaded the dogs into our 2006 Ford F-150 and headed to New Bern.

 First, we stopped in Greenville, NC.  There, for lunch, we ate Indian Food, one of our favorites.  Indian food always makes me sleepy – it is worse than turkey.  We couldn’t continue the drive until I’d walked it off or took a nap.  We’re restoring our home in North Carolina and hiked around searching junk (antique) shops for old doors that could be reclaimed.  That didn’t pan out but I did wake up.

Continuing the drive to New Bern we passed a road sign that read “Terry’s Archery Plus” six miles at the next left.  Of course, I wanted to take the detour.  It would cost us time and meant we’d be on the road longer.  Brenda pointed out, “If you don’t go you will regret it.” We took the next left and drove six miles.


 Terry’s Archery Plus is in Ernul, NC.  Ernul was not among cities on my personal geography map. On the cusps of New Bern, Ernul was settled “around” 1888 and named after two brothers, James and Freeman.  It is a farming community and has a rich past in tobacco.

 Terry’s Archery Plus was a pleasure to visit.  There I met Terry, the owner, his son TJ and his inventory manager Jerry.  All three were fine examples of Southern Gentlemen.  Each was quick to smile, had a welcoming laugh and talked as if we’d been friends for years. 

Terry, TJ and Jerry

Terry was the center of conversation.  The man knows archery.  He offered to set up bows for me to test.  He also answered a question related to the Mathews Conquest Apex 7 that I have been asking for months.  To avoid sharing my stupidity I’ll simply write that after he answered the question I thought, “Oh, duh”.  Terry was polite about it and never let on whether or not he considered me an idiot.

 There was nothing I needed to purchase at Terry’s. Indeed, I left without an acquisition and outside climbed back into the truck.  Before we returned to our original course, Brenda asked, “Do they have water in there?” I didn’t know, got out of the truck and went back inside.

Going back for water

 Once again inside the shop I asked, “Do y’all have bottled water, my wife wants some?”  Terry relied, “We do,” and seconds letter Jerry was standing in front of me with two bottles of water for which they refused to accept payment.  Such is the manner in the South. I thanked them all, again shaking hands with each before leaving.  Our trip to New Bern was back on track. 

 New Bern is the Colonial Capital of North Carolina.  A charming old city on the inner banks of NC with a mass of history. Not to be missed is that it is the birthplace of Pepsi.  Brenda and I are from Georgia so we’re fans of Coke.  Now, living in NC, and being open-minded, Pepsi is no longer barred from my diet.  Brenda, more stoic, remains a firm Coke supporter when it comes to colas.


 The pharmacy where Pepsi was created is now a Pepsi historical site and gift shop.  It has a working soda fountain where I purchased a Pepsi for fifty cents.  It was delicious.


At last the “day trip” was coming to an end.  The dogs were ready to get out of the truck, I was ready to shoot, and Brenda ended the adventure with plans to return.  We had a very nice day. The tourism highlight had been Terry’s Archery Plus and meeting Terry, TJ and Jerry.  A not too distance second was drinking a Pepsi on the location where the beverage was first created.  Brenda was right, if I hadn’t stopped at Terry’s I would have regretted it.


Wildlife on Little River

This varmint seems to enjoy irritating my dogs
This snake preferred enjoying the sun to getting out of the way

The front of my home in North Carolina faces woods. The opposite side faces water. The two views are completely different. My targets are set to that when I practice I shoot toward the woods. The range on my yard is marked, using a tape measure, out to 60 yards. Over the course of a week’s practice I’ll encounter all sorts of creatures in and around my yard. Occasionally, there are less common observations.

This turtle, near a ditch, did not seem to approve of my shooting

The riverside of the house holds the markers from 40 to 60 yards. The 35 yards to 20 yards stakes approach the woods side of the house. There are also porches and decks from which to shoot. Certainly, many archers have similar arrangements on their property.

Acted like they owned the place
This mare loves to visit

Often I shoot several times a day. Typically, I’ll practice archery in the morning following a run and again in the afternoon following a bike ride. As such, I am outside for hours each day. I am not alone outside.

Deer across the road (photo by Jimmy C)
Floating just beyond my 60 yard stake, giving me a critical eye

Our isolation encourages animals, wild and domestic, to roam on and around our property. It is not uncommon to see deer, turkey, and raccoons on the woods side of our home. On the riverside, geese, duck, osprey and eagles are common sights.

An Osprey doing some serious hunting

Navy and Coast Guard helicopters frequently fly above the river. There is a blimp plant nearby and occasionally a dirigible passes overhead. For sure, practice here on Little River is always interesting.

IMG_0738 IMG_0740

Clearly more majestic than the airships

Chiggers and Ticks – Nasty Pests

It is still warm here in the South, it is hunting season, and we’re in the woods. Some of us have been in the woods all summer. Spring, summer and fall are particularly bad since that is when chiggers and ticks have the seasonal opportunity to fest on humans. These little pests are nasty.

Chiggers are the juvenile form (larvae) of a certain type of mite of the family Trombiculidae. Mites are arachnids (like spiders and ticks).


Chiggers are found throughout the world. They most commonly live in forests, grassy fields, gardens, parks, and in moist areas around lakes or rivers. Most of the larvae that cause chigger bites are found on plants that are relatively close to the ground surface, because they require a high level of humidity for survival.


Chiggers are barely visible to the naked eye (their length is less than 1/150th of an inch). They are red in color and may be best seen when clustered in groups on the skin. The juvenile forms have six legs, although the (harmless) adult mites have eight legs.

Chigger mites infest human skin via areas of contact with vegetation, such as pant cuffs or shirtsleeves and collars. They migrate on the skin in search of an optimal feeding area. A common myth about chiggers is that they burrow into and remain inside the skin. This is not true. Chiggers insert their feeding structures into the skin and inject enzymes  that cause destruction of host tissue. Hardening of the surrounding skin results in the formation of a feeding tube called a stylostome. Chigger larvae then feed upon the destroyed tissue. If they are not disturbed (which is rarely the case because of they cause substantial itching) they may feed through the stylostome for a few days.


The chigger’s mouth and feeding structures are delicate and are best able to penetrate the skin at areas of wrinkles, folds, or other areas of skin that are thin. Most bites occur around the ankles, the crotch and groin areas, behind the knees, and in the armpits. Barriers to migration on the skin such as belts may be one reason that chigger bites also commonly occur at the waist or at other areas where their migration is prevented by compression from clothing. The location of chigger bites contrasts with that of mosquito bites, which are usually in exposed areas of skin where mosquitos can land.

A chigger bite itself is not noticeable. After the chigger has begun to inject digestive enzymes into the skin (usually after about 1-3 hours), symptoms typically begin.

The itching persists for several days, and complete resolution of the skin lesions can take up to two weeks.(1)


Ticks are no less irritating. Ticks are bloodsucking, parasitic insects that punctures the skin with a sharp beak. Then it burrows into the skin with its head. Tick bites can carry serious illness, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, other forms of tick typhus, and  Lyme disease.Unknown-2

Ticks are small arachnids. Ticks require blood meals to complete their complex life cycles. Ticks are scientifically classified as Arachnida (a classification that includes spiders). The fossil record suggests ticks have been around at least 90 million years. There are over 800 species of ticks throughout the world, but only two families of ticks, Ixodidae (hard ticks) and Argasidae (soft ticks), are known to transmit diseases or illness to humans. Hard ticks have a scutum, or hard plate, on their back while soft ticks do not.


Ticks do not jump or fly. They simply reach out with their legs and grab or crawl onto a host. Although some larvae have preferred hosts, most ticks in the nymph or adult phase will attach a get a blood meal from several different kinds of animals, including humans.


Except for a few species of larval ticks, the immature phases (larvae, nymphs) usually are even less selective about where they get a blood meal and are known to bite snakes, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Although ticks will die eventually if they do not get a blood meal, many species can survive a year or more without a blood meal. The hard ticks tend to attach and feed for hours to days. Disease transmission usually occurs near the end of a meal, as the tick becomes full of blood. It may take hours before a hard tick transmits pathogens. Soft ticks usually feed for less than one hour. Disease transmission can occur in less than a minute with soft ticks. The bite of some of these soft ticks produces intensely painful reactions.


Ticks are transmitters (vectors) of diseases for humans and animals. Ticks can transmit disease to many hosts; some cause economic harm such as Texas fever (bovine babesiosis) in cattle that can kill up to 90% of yearling cows. Ticks act as vectors when microbes in their saliva and mouth secretions get into the host’s skin and blood. Ticks were understood to be vectors of disease in the mid-1800s, and as investigative methods improved (microscopes, culture techniques, tissue staining), more information showed the wide variety of diseases that could be transmitted by ticks. (2)

There are a number of products available to help reduce the occurrence of bites from these pests. Save yourself a bit some itching and scratching and spray it on before going into the areas where these parasites live.


1)   http://www.medicinenet.com/chiggers_bites/page2.htm

2)   http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=11331

Running and Shooting with a dog

Most of my days begin with a run. There is one loyal companion that joins me each morning to traverse trails and roads, River, my dog. Running is not her only form of exercise; she is an avid swimmer and is devoted to archery.

Heading into the woods here in NC

Today, we headed out from our home in North Carolina to run trails, cut down a quiet road, then circle back to the trails before returning home. The woods behind my house have a number of paths or trails, which are clear enough to run uninhibited. These eventually open onto a road that experiences extremely limited traffic.

Waiting for me to catch up

Corn, cotton and soybean fields bank either side of the road. Ditches parallel the road. After a rain these ditches are great fun for River to splash through at her fastest pace. They are also her source of hydration.


On long runs I carry water or Tri-Fuel. For River ditch water serves her need. Gels and sports bars are my source of calories while running. For extra calories River relies on hope and a carcass.IMG_0582

We didn’t run far today, however, she apparently found something dead to munch and roll on. Her post run stench meant a bath under the hose. Thankfully, she’s easy to wash – she loves water any time and anyway she can get into it.

3D tournaments are the best, Archers share their food with dogs

After running I shoot and she monitors my progress. In the yard, she sits or lies in the grass never moving her critical gaze from me. On 3D ranges, which are her favorite, she sniffs the foam animals, gets aggressive with faux wolves or coyote, and is ever present in stands.


Training alone, whether running or shooting, can be relaxing. There are times when I need no interruptions. Except when River feels the need to play she is understanding and respects my effort and concentration. When we’re done there is always a treat waiting her back at the house.

Returning from the run

Global Camaraderie of Athletes and Sports

While practicing today I thought about archers, archery and athletics.  Athletes that train and compete in similar sports understand each other’s pain, failure and success.  When I post updates about endurance sports there are frequent comments that express camaraderie and understanding.  The same is true about archery.

Athletes around the globe understand

These posts, thanks to the Internet, are global.  They are shared with archery groups around the planet.  At times someone has liked a post other than a “Facebook” or personal friend.

Archers putting it on the line

 Today, someone in Patialia, India a student at Punjabi University ‘liked’ a few posts from Puttingitontheline.com.  Frequently, non-US archers from Europe, China, Japan, Russia, Canada, Australia and the Middle East have ‘liked’ or commented on a post.

Last week, from a post about an archery shop in Hertford, NC, PGF Archery, I received a tweet that it had been picked up by the Hertford Daily, a newspaper in Hertfordshire, England.


 Archery, like other sports, break down international barriers to common denominators.  Archers, like other athletes, train, suffer, work, fail and succeed.  As athletes we see similarities more so than differences. 

Training: Going for that perfect shot

 Racing in Europe and Southeast Asia as well as training in the Middle East I never felt alone.  Once, after a bicycle race in Italy, I was unable to find my way back to the hotel.  No one around me spoke English.  Still in my racing attire, and my face showing the “bonked” exhaustion of a difficult event, total strangers came to my rescue and got me on the correct path.

Nope: Not a perfect shot, try, try, again

Similar kindnesses have been granted to me in other countries and in states around the US.  Once I got lost on a long run in Canada.  You might think how does one get lost on a run.  Well, you head out to run 16 miles in an unfamiliar city, lose track of your turns, make one wrong turn, and before your know it you’re lost. Again, rescue came from strangers running in my direction.

UK Run
Finishing a 10K near Bristol, England

 People who aren’t athletically inclined often seem to understand to some degree what athletes endure.  On a 20 mile run I ran out of water.  A chubby guy, driving a truck of bottled water for delivery, stopped and handed me two bottles of water. 

Gathering thoughts before an Ironman.

 Once while running in the Middle East, a group of Bedouins, amazed to see me, offered me coffee, dates and water.  

The state of the world today is not universally wonderful. What is good though are the common experiences of athletes around the globe.  What we share, regardless of religion, nationality, or ideology breaks down to the common denominators of the human spirit.

Noticing a fellow athlete archer in India had ‘liked’ a post reminded me of others around the globe that share our common experiences.