Retirement doesn’t mean spending days sitting in a recliner watching television. For me it meant freedom to pursue another career, one in sports. The disciple I selected for that adventure is archery.
My progress is chronicled on this website, Puttingitotheline.com. Aside from blog information, on the site are collections of archery research and short biographies of interesting characters in archery.
In the six months since the site’s inception there have been 29,238 visits, 53,157 pages read, and 484,332 hits. Thanks to everyone who reads my writing. I appreciate your support and understanding of my mixed grammar, poor punctuation, typographical errors and oversights.
Training in any sport requires rest days. Rest days are restorative physically and mentally. Resting sometimes means doing nothing very physical. Other times, ‘rest’ is sort of active recovery and enjoying another form of exercise, also a nice break.
Yesterday was a break from archery, cycling and running. That meant it was a day to enjoy the water. The morning started with a long trip in the Carolina Skiff then a long paddle in a kayak.
Heading east toward the Albemarle Sound on Little River entailed paddling into a headwind. At the beginning of the trip the wind blew at 7 – 10 mph then picked up a near the sound. The wind was appreciated since the temperature was 96° F (35.5° C).
It takes over an hour of non-stop paddling to reach the sound from our home on Little River. The views along the way and the changes on the river are spectacular. Little River isn’t infested with powerboats and jet skis and a trip anywhere on it can be relaxing and quiet.
It is not always relaxing and quiet. Although the wind never picked up to greater that 15 mph, the river and sound are shallow. As such, it doesn’t take much to create swells. Yesterday, at the mouth of the sound the swells were only 1 to 1.5 feet. They, however, were choppy and waves frequently sprayed over the kayak. Not exactly white water, but big water and it is important to pay attention while handling the boat.
On the return a couple guys were out fishing in the heat that didn’t seem to bother them. Once home River (my dog) ran up, checked out the boat and surveyed the water. It brought to mind how nice it is to have “a good dog, a good boat, and a good hat.” (Credit to the East Point Oyster Boys)
Carl is a part-time neighbor here in Hertford, NC. He was down for the Labor Day Weekend. Carl hunts anything in season and uses everything outside of his bare hands to bring home game. We’ve often talked about bow hunting and this trip he brought his bow and several targets. Naturally, we shot our bows.
My yard has three targets, two blocks and a bag. The distances have been marked by tape measure at 20 – 60 yards in 5-yard increments. On his property, Carl set up a block, a bag and a foam deer with distances measured by range finder from 20 – 35 yards. All morning he’d been working on his lawn and was ready for a break.
We started with my targets then moved to his yard. His faux deer was purchased last year and was well past its prime. Shooting we each used 5 arrows per end. Once we reached the deer we took turns shooting it. Once, Carl called a neck shot. His arrow hit squarely in the neck popping the fake head off and onto the ground.
After an hour of shooting we broke for lunch. I’d started the day with a run and was hungry. After lunch I trained on my Cannondale Slice, my racing bike. Then, it was back to the range.
The afternoon wind, always blowing off the water is heaviest in the afternoon and presented a new challenge. On the bike, the headwind was relentless. Shooting, the wind remained a consistent baffling foe. Still working out pin setting adjustments needed since I’d gotten a new string I worked my way to a limited degree of confidence with the setting. They’ll change tomorrow (of course).
It was great to shoot with Carl. We’ll practice some more before he heads back to his home in Virginia. Maybe we’ll get a chance to hunt together this year.
Norman Mitchell is a retired US Navy Chief Petty Officer. Originally from Tennessee, he lives in Elizabeth City, NC. He first encountered Elizabeth City during his naval career and since retirement has made it his home.
The retired Chief is an active hunter, fisherman, competitive pistol shooter, skeet shooter, archer and golfer. We met through archery. Norman invited me to his group’s, a ministry, indoor/outdoor archery range. Even though the club has an affiliation with the church, the range and conversation were free of testimonials, prayers, and other displays of verbal piety. The overt philosophy was that actions speak louder than words and Norman made me feel welcome – that was enough.
His group provides a practice area and holds 3D competitions. The target we set up was at 35 yards. We shot from inside a large warehouse onto an open area outside. This played havoc on my pins. I don’t have artificial illumination on my sight and the dark to bright ambient light turned my pins into silhouettes.
Practicing together for nearly two hours, it became time for me to find lunch. Norman stayed mentioning that other archers would be coming to shoot on their lunch breaks. I headed home to eat and train on my bike.
It remains my general experience that athletes are welcoming and generous. Norman was no exception. Shooting at his range was a challenge and another great experience.
The strings I use have been X-Fire. These strings are a combination of art and function. As things go, X-Fire Strings are now gone on to bigger and better business affiliations. I am happy for Bart, owner of X-Fire, but was in a jam for a string. Thankfully, good friends helped me out with a new custom string even giving me the University of Georgia colors in a matter of days.
A new string, new loop and new peep meant some adjustments to the pins on my hunting bow, a Mathews ZXT. Adjusting pins can be a laborious process. The short distances weren’t too difficult but beyond 35 yards requires more tinkering than this day afforded me.
Still, it was important enough, even with pins a bit off, to practice 3D. Long shots, 40 plus yards, were too frustrating and after awhile I only shot at 35 yards or less. Getting slight differences, a tad longer loop for example (maybe a few millimeters) to anchor just right is an aggravation when rushed.
The turkey and elk all X’s at 20 and 35 yards. Beyond 35 yards not as rewarding. Granted, the elk Xs are on the line.
After shooting awhile at foam I went back to flat targets. Short distances are right on, longer dropping a bit. Tomorrow, I’ll get back to NC where my yard has the range and there I won’t be as rushed to finish the job of re-setting my pins. I am glad to have been able to get a new string so fast, even happier with the UGA colors. Wishing the best of luck to Bart Shortall, owner of X-Fire Strings in his new business adventure.
Our youngest daughter, Candace, and her family live in Pittsburgh. She’d invited Brenda and I to visit them and attend a Renaissance Festival. So, we drove over for the weekend. On this trip I brought nothing to distract me from my visit. That meaning, no bike, no bow, no running shoes, and no swimming gear. Nevertheless, I found a way to shoot.
Candace lives in a house that is over a century old. She and her husband have been making improvements on it since they purchased it several years ago. The old home certainly has a character you don’t find in newer houses. Where they are located is indeed city life, but residing in Pittsburgh they are never far from a park or trail.
Our primary goal was the Renaissance Festival. I’d only attended one other, in Maryland. These are theme parks based on the Renaissance time period. For entertainment they have shows, food, shopping, staged sword fights and jousting. They also have archery ranges and contests.
This park had two archery ranges. One where you pay a fee and simply shoot at a target. The other where for $5.00 you can shoot at an apple with a small dot adhering its center. If you hit the dot you win a bow. For $5.00 I bought a 3-arrow chance to hit a dot on an apple and win a bow.
The bows were more costume equipment than actual target or hunting bows. The design was a simple wooden long bow. The bow I was offered was unfinished and roughly carved. The proffered hand made wooden arrows varied in length and weight. Each had a uniquely attached or carved notch. All seemed to be more or less straight.
Fearing the bow would break at full draw, I notched one of the arrows, hoped for the best, aimed and over shot the bale holding the apple. Pleased the bow didn’t snap I selected another arrow as closely matched to the first as I could find among those available. This arrow hit the center of the apple but a centimeter to the right of the dot. There wasn’t an arrow in the quiver that was a close match to the previous two I’d fired. Selecting my best third chance arrow, my final shot was a tad to the left (elevation was perfect and it would have been a 10 in 3D).
It was a neat experience to shoot such a lightweight amazingly quiet bow. Still, I wasn’t going to hand over another five bucks for three more shots. Shooting purely by instinct seems like a good practice to add to my training.
Candace’s two children represent 2/3 of my grandchildren. Our oldest daughter has the 3rd, Sean who is somewhat of an archer. Sean would have been verbal expressing his demand I continue until the bow was won. Fortunately, for my wallet, Sean was at his home in Georgia.
Of Candace’s children, Cordelia is 3 and Merric is one. Merric a bit young; still he seemed to be enjoying the sights and sounds. Cordelia fell in love with a magic fairy, a caterpillar and a toad, the latter two being native residents of the fields whereupon the theme park was arranged.
While I took the weekend off from practice and training, the smiles and hugs of children and grandchildren was superior compensation. It was, too, great fun to have shot an apple with a home made “costume” bow even if the shot left me prizeless.
Driving from Hertford, NC, we stopped over at our home in Easton, MD en route to visit our daughter in Pittsburgh. In Easton I have bikes to ride and a path to run and did so. Mid-day, I practiced archery at Schrader’s Outdoors and saw friends along the way.
The day began with a short 20-mile ride. For the most part I train alone. Today was not different, riding my Trek 5900, circa 1999, the bike I got when I raced for the Trek Mid-Atlantic Factory Team, and I headed out solo. This ride was different.
As I approached my 10-mile turn around I passed Steve Culver. Steve is a fellow triathlete and a bow hunter. He was also training alone, doing a 16-mile run. I turned around and rode at his running pace so we could talk about training, racing (in particular Ironman Lake Placid), and shooting. It was a great pleasure to see Steve and the conversation made my ride a morning to remember.
After the ride, a quick stop at Shore Sportsman and a haircut, I headed to Schrader’s’ Outdoors to practice on their 3D range. They have a sign posted at the entrance, “Only One Shot Per Stake”. A rule follower, I shot once at the hunter class stake and once at the open class stake. There was a one-point difference between the scores; advantage to the open class distance.
The final workout of the day was a run with River. It was still around 88° degree F so we took it easy. River doesn’t like the heat and her tongue was dragging after a few miles.
All in all it was nice to be back in Easton, if only for a quick stop. It was nice to ride the traffic free roads, to see Steve, visit my friends at Shore Sportsman, shoot at Schrader’s and run around the neighborhood with River. Not a bad day at all.
It is important to augment archery with other forms of exercise. Some people advocate weight lifting, swimming and running. All are good. In addition to these, cycling is a great way to improve fitness and see the countryside.
Typically, I do cardiovascular workouts early in the day. I’ll practice archery afterwards, in the morning and again in the late afternoon. Cycling is my favorite of the major disciplines in which I participate. While I enjoy running and swimming, aside from archery, I am a cyclist at heart.
As we age, we lose muscle mass, so weight lifting can help slow or reduce that loss. Going to a gym can be social and is more fun when your friends are involved.
Regardless of what you chose to augment your fitness, additional exercise can help improve your health and performance as an archer.
Fishing Creek’s rain make-up shoot was Saturday. Their range is one of my favorites. Looking forward to the shoot I was up by 0530. It was going to be a memorable day.
The 80-mile drive from Hertford to the Fishing Creek Archery Club near Rocky Mount has little traffic and good roads. Arriving early I hoped to get on the range in front of slower groups. Bill, Bryan, and Greg accepted me as a fourth and our quartet was underway by 0920.
All three of these archers are quite accomplished. Bill has been competing on this year’s ASA circuit. Bryan and Greg, Advanced Hunter Class, are also top shooters; the three of them exchanged war stories from stake to stake.
One of those stories was of an archer dry firing his bow during a 3D tournament. Apparently, intensely focused, the archer, judged his distance, got his footing, stance, drew, aimed and fired. Upon the release everyone realized he’d forgotten to notch an arrow. I’d never heard of such an accident during competition.
At target 12 I was first up. The target was a lion, one of my favorites. I could feel the yardage. My footing was perfect. Mentally, going through each step: feet, butt, core, shoulders, draw, aim and release – I fired. POP!
I can’t say if it was the story about the fellow who dry fired his bow during a 3D shoot. Don’t know if it was the excitement of a foam lion where I seemed to have a real sense of the yardage. What I can say is I’d neglected to notch an arrow.
Talk about feeling stupid. As I exited the range the President of the Fishing Creek Club passed and asked, “ Are you done?” I said yes and explained. He was quick to point out, “Too bad your forgot your arrow, it would have been a 12, right?” I replied, “Of course.”
Repair was nearby at ‘Shooters’ in Rocky Mount. Thankfully, only the string slipped and no damage was done. After 5 minutes and $15.00 my ZXT was back in service.
The reparation was so quick I could have returned to finish the final few targets. But, I decided to hide my disgrace, tucked tail and headed home. I’ve done some dimwitted things in archery but this tops the list (thus far). I probably should have stayed in bed at 0530. Another way of looking at it – this was so asinine odds are I won’t do it again, at least not for a long time, or so I hope.
Of course I practiced today. There are five 3D shoots within a couple of hours drive from me this weekend. So, I can’t get too cold of judging range – not that I am all that hot at it to begin with. But today was also about having some fun on the boat.
The water looked pretty smooth so a trip to the Albemarle Sound was just about right. Brenda and I headed toward the Outer Banks then decided to go up the Pasquotank River toward Elizabeth City, NC.
We paused at TCOM, where they manufacture dirigibles (blimps). The blimps made in Elizabeth City are used for surveillance. We often see them in the sky north of our home on the Little River. We didn’t stick around; the wind was picking up on the Sound and our 19.8 Carolina Skiff will rock your bones in a chop.
The ride back was choppy. There were white caps on the Pasquotank, in the Sound, and at the mouth of Little River. After a couple of miles travel up Little River it was, once again, smooth.
It is always an adventure in the rivers and creeks around the Albemarle Sound. From my boat to woods filled with deer tracks is only 130 yards. Living here is quite cool. In Hertford, nearly every day is spent outdoors, much of that on the water.