Shooting in Toccoa, Georgia

When I travel for reasons that aren’t primarily related to competitive shooting I look for a tournament that can be tied to the trip. This trip to Georgia was for my oldest grandson’s birthday. Turning 5 he’ll point out that he’s no longer a little kid. I’d make plans to enjoy a birthday party and find a shoot.

IMG_3527
Sean in control of his celebration

In Georgia, aside from cake, ice cream and presents there was boating, fishing, trail riding by mountain bike and ATV, and a lot of archery. It’s great shooting there. The range I’ve set-up is surrounded by trees and forest and has very little wind. Back in North Carolina there’s wind everyday – the price paid for living on the coast.

Before going back to my home state I asked around in search of a 3D tournament on March 26th. Big John Chandler came through recommending a contest only 63 miles away from the lake house in Tignall. The 3D shoot was being put on by the “Soul Hunters”.

IMG_3135
“Big John” is a man that can be relied upon for help

I’ve competed in a number of “Soul Hunter” events in Elizabeth City and thought “Soul Hunters” was some sort of religious franchise. I learned from Wolfie Hughes that he’d come up with the name “Soul Hunters” and the group in Elizabeth City had asked if they too might use it.

Wolfie, at first glance, doesn’t come across as a ‘softie’. But, talking with the man I quickly learned that his manly-man appearance covers a big heart. He’s sincere about what his group is doing and agreed to share the name “Soul Hunters” with the group in North Carolina.

IMG_3534
Wolfie Hughes – has a heart of gold

I’d spoken with Wolfie by phone prior to making the trip to Georgia to make certain that their 3D event was on and to get directions. The directions were a bit cryptic but after a couple of driving misses I made it to the range.

The group in Georgia rents space from the Lake Russell Wildlife Management to set-up their range and run their shoot. The range is breathtakingly beautiful. The course was in full spring foliage and far from flat. On the coast where I shoot a lot it’s nearly exclusively flat. Here everything was up or downhill. Georgia is one of those states that include an Atlantic Coast line, mountains in the north, and flat land in the middle. North Carolina is similar but I’ve yet to make a shoot on the western hilly part of that state.

IMG_3533
Great location for a 3D shoot

After I arrived at the event and paid my registration fee I took several warm-up shots while doing what I always do – hunt for a party of shooters I can join. Today, that wasn’t really necessary. Before I could even ask, Dwayne and Patti invited me to shoot with them.

IMG_3531
Dwayne and Patti made be feel as if I’d known them for decades

Both are good archers and preparing for upcoming ASA events in Alabama. Dwayne works for Georgia Power and Patti is a chiropractor and a former exercise physiologist. She noticed my Ironman tattoo and that started an interesting conversation.

It turned out that Patti had also done an Ironman as well as adventure racing. She did endurance sports until she broke her knee. Today she focuses on archery.

IMG_3530
The three of us, Patti, Dwayne and I, had many tight groups .

I really enjoy traveling around and meeting other athletes. In 3D archery there’s time to talk between stakes. During indoor events, talking is a bit too distracting for me. But, outside in the woods, the pace is more relaxed. The folks I met in Toccoa at this tournament were welcoming as are most native Georgians.

I enjoy shooting everywhere I compete. But, I really love coming home to shoot. Being back in Georgia is different than going to others states. There’s a feeling I get when I’m home, I suppose I’ve got red clay in my blood. No matter what, it was great to finish this trip with an archery tournament in Georgia.

 

 

If You’re Going to Cheat, It’s Best Not to Get Caught (Yogi Berra)

I’ve been an athlete basically my entire life. Reading this you might think, “Well, so have I.” If you think that, it’s probably true. If you are athletically inclined and you compete, you probably have encountered cheaters; I know I have.

Cheaters cheat over a broad spectrum of sports. For example, in endurance sports like cycling and triathlon performance enhancing drugs or blood doping isn’t uncommon. Mentioning performance enhancing drugs (PED), I’m not referring to the “little blue pill” so popular on television during the evening news and any sports show. (I’m glad my children are grown and I don’t have to try and explain those commercials)

When I write about PED’s I mean the products made famous by the likes of Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, and Marion Jones. When I raced I raced in cycling and triathlon we knew who was doping.

images-1

Someone once told me that the top pros in archery “cheat” by using beta-blockers. Beta-blockers are used to control abnormal heart conditions. They can slow the heartbeat and reduce tremors and anxiety.

In a recent video by Archery TV I noticed they had the heart rates of the shooters displayed. It was clear to me none of these archers were on beta-blockers. Related to reducing anxiety, I think beta-blockers should be allowed. Why?

Well, a great shooter might have amazing “stage-fright” and is at a loss to demonstrate his or her athletic skill because of a psychological problem. But, that’s not my call, and as I mentioned, I’ve not seen any evidence of beta-blocker misuse in archery.

That doesn’t mean I am not aware of archers around me that are taking beta-blockers. Decades of working with patients in the medical field have left me with a pretty good idea of who is likely to be on “prescribed” medications. Of course, I have no problem in that matter. My problem with cheaters in archery is less pharmaceutical and more the plain old fashion, low tech, fudging the numbers.

Fudging the numbers seems to occur in the local competitions. At the major tournaments it is probably impossible to boost a score by entering false data. In the minor meets, it happens. Here are a few examples:

The two man hustle.

You might think this is when two guys are shooting by themselves and each falsely recorded their scores – nope that’s another situation. This is were two guys that know each other have a routine (which may be informal or even undeclared) of adding points to their buddies shots.

In the two-man hustle the companions volunteer to call the score and pull the arrows. This hustle works best when the group contains only 3 competitors. Bonus is when the outside man, now the guy recording the scores, is shooting in a different class. The hustlers have a pattern. The deceitful duo approaches the target. Both somewhat block the view. The fellow calling the score on any close shot boosts the score to next highest level. As such, an 8 near the 10 line, becomes a 10. The fellow keeping the score is often head down trying to get scores right and misses the variance between score called and shot made.

The Big Man Bluff

Not everyone can pull this off. It is best done by someone that has a reputation of getting good shots and works best on paper targets. What happens is that over the course of a contest the center ring become obliterated. (Before one of the judges has a chance to notice and replace the target) A shot that is clearly off the line is challenged by the shooter, “That’s a 10!” He does so with force in his voice. What can happen? Someone in the group might call for the judge and the judge will rule it a nine. If the group is properly intimidated (or doesn’t really give a darn) the Big Man gets his 10 without a judge’s ruling.

The Solo Shooter

This guy is too obvious. Now, he’s not exactly shooting alone. He’s in a small group and often has the biggest personality (at least in his mind). Frequently he’s a fast talker and in a group of one or two other shooters. He’ll say something like this, “Let’s just keep our own scores.” Others, perhaps feeling awkward at the request, and feeling a sense of pride that they can be responsible to keep an honest score, agree. Solo shooter is a pretty good shot, but rarely as good as his scores. When solo shooter can’t manage to retain possession of his own card, he’ll be proclaiming what a bad day he’s having.

images

The Score Keeper

These guys might be a good shots and you will certainly not be a better shot based on your score. The “Score Keeper” manages all the cards (this doesn’t work where there are two score keepers). He’ll see that your occasional 10 becomes an 8. This works best if you happen to hit more than one 8. His scores may include a few extra points and so might his friends’ scores. It’s not so much that he has to win, rather you have to lose.

images-2

Range Hounds

Range hounds are those folks that pre-shoot a course. Here I am not referring to the volunteers that help set-up targets. Those guys have a very slight advantage in that they’ve seen some of the targets beforehand. On a 30-target course, the volunteers might put up 3 – 5 targets each. They might even recall the distances. I’ve helped set-up a course. It did help a little, but not a lot. If volunteers have a very slight advantage – they deserve it. The Range Hound is different.

These guys are at their worst on long standing indoor or private ranges. They own the course – sometimes literally. They will have practiced on it so often have the distances memorized.

During one indoor contest I watched a few of these shooters. They’d shoot the first target, then without hesitation, adjust their sight’s elevation, then shoot the next and so forth. I suppose if the range is yours and you allow others to come shoot that is fine. But, if you’re going to charge a fee for a tournament, well, that person, the Range Hound,  really should remove himself or herself from the event or at least not compete against the paying shooters.

There are likely dozens of other methods to enhance a score that don’t require accurate shooting. What I’ve written about here are only those I come across a time or two. Should you be one practiced in the art of score enhancement, I’m not going to call you out. I shoot for the fun of it and don’t want the stress of pointing a finger. Truly, for those guys that select more nefarious scoring techniques, I don’t care too much for you.

The Best Laid Plans

Some days are harder than others. Saturday was one of those days. There was an indoor 3D shoot and an organized bike ride and I wanted to do both. Neither would pan out as I’d hoped.

Rather than begin with the ride, it was not a race rather a fundraiser, I started with the indoor shoot. The shoot would be over by noon and I might make the ride if I could get on and off the range before noon.  So, in order to do both, I’d shoot then go do the ride.

When I arrived at the range I almost decided not to shoot. I took one look are realized I could barely make out the targets.  It wasn’t the distance, it was the lighting.

What they had done, with what I am sure were the best intentions, was to have opened a large side bay door at the back of the range to let light natural  illuminate the massive arena. The problem was that the ambient light washed out the overhead lamps and made silhouettes of all but the last row of animals.

The dark targets, javelina, skunk, a frog, a turkey and other dark objects were nothing more than dark shapes.  It made for a seriously challenging exercise. A challenge I considered avoiding and moving cycling to the primary spot on my morning’s activities. In fact, after my first glance, I got back into my truck and began to leave.

However, I decided to shoot.  Not every contest is going to be ideal and this one was going to be hard.  The shoot lived up to my expectations.  I finished with a disappointing score but only 0.3 points below my per shot average.  What was disappointing was that I should have shot better.  Not a single shot “felt” good. Still was wasn’t all bad.

The highlight of the competition was one good-natured young man. The kid was polite, all smiles, and working in earnest to see that everything ran smoothly. He did an exceptional job throughout the morning.

The shoot took so long, there was a large crowd, that by the time I got home, even leaving as quickly as possible I missed the organized ride. Instead of trying to make the ride, which I wouldn’t have, I had lunch, and then took a bike ride solo. Some days plans just don’t work.

Evaluating Performance

In my last competition I shot 1.48 points per target below average. Compared to the last time I shot the same course I’d improved by 14 points overall. Nevertheless, the finish was sub-par.

IMG_3450
Shooting one arrow above the other for placement practice

After each competition I evaluate my performance. Why did I shoot better, why did I shoot worse, what were the good shots and why? What were the conditions? Yesterday’s met was not different when it came to taking time to review.

Two days prior to the shoot I needed to change bows. The one that I shoot 3D with needed a repair and wasn’t available. This meant having to use my indoor target bow, a much heavier product. Still, I shoot okay with it.

The arrows I shoot indoors are Easton Fat Boys. These aren’t my favorites for 3D. Outside, the wind was going to be rough so I selected a less thick arrow. This meant some slight adjustments to my sight, rest and loop. Plus, I’d changed from a scope, used indoors, to fixed pins for 3D. Not a problem.

With two days prior to the tournament and re-sighting the bow meant I spent all my time shooting paper – no 3D animals. I have four: a deer, coyote, turkey and a cougar. The week before, two days out from a tournament (which I won) I only shot 3D animals.

Getting the mental image of an animal engrained in my head means shooting at animals. I hadn’t done that even once before this tournament. I think this was the primary error I made coming into the tournament.

Trying to make practice as close to competition helps. I’d been wrong not spending more time on foam animals. This week, I focus more on animals and see where it leads me.

A Challenging Day Shooting 3D

On Saturday I shot in the Roanoke Archers’ 3D tournament. They’re a member of the Down East Archery Coalition’s clubs that hold  3D competitions here in eastern North Carolina. Early in the day the weather promised to make things interesting and fulfilled that promise. The range is tough and the club does not shy away from using all the real estate on the course.IMG_3443

Aside from a challenging course, what I like is that the club is only an hour from my house. I try keeping driving  time for local competition less than 2 hours one way. Spending four hours on the road then adding three to four hours at a range makes for a long day. A one hour drive is very reasonable. Heck, from my house it’s 30 minutes to reach a major intersection.  By major intersection, a country road that interests a state highway.

Driving to the shoot it rained non-stop. The rain continued for a bit once we (River, my dog made the trip)  reached our destination, but stopped pretty much as the forecast had predicted. The rest of the day was beautiful.

IMG_3449

The folks that had come early to shoot had rushed off the range to take cover from the rain and were headed back on course as I approached registration. Patrick and Leon, two guys I’d shot with in the past, were in the clubhouse as I signed in. Leon invited me to shoot with them. We had a trio.

IMG_3441
Leon at the stake while Patrick watches

On the range, the sounds of arrows zipping through the trees attested to the complex nature of the targets. The archers shooting in the Pro Class weren’t missing targets. But, all the pros I talked with had at least one 8.

This course hurt me the last time I shot it. Tis try was better by 14 points, but still 1.48 points per target below my average. Back at the clubhouse I heard that one fellow was 6 up and another 2 up and they were still shooting.

IMG_3444

It’s nice to show -up solo for a shoot and find people to shoot with that aren’t strangers. Shooting with Leon and Patrick made for a fun afternoon even if I got more than a fair share of 8’s.

When I got  home there was still time to get in a bike ride. River, also glad to be home went for a swim while I rode. It’s hard to beat days like this that closed on a high note dinner of fresh baked biscuits and venison chili.

IMG_3446

River Being Proud

Cool, a nice medal from USA Archery and the perfect model to show it off.

IMG_3437IMG_3438

For years, River has “modeled” awards for me. This medal, from USA Archery, arrived today. When I opened the package she immediately tried to put it around her neck. Once it’s on, she seems serious and proud. It makes me wonder about reincarnation and who she might have been. When she sees medals she acts like she knows what they are and wants to wear them.

 

A Great Burger and Tournament in Delaware

On Sunday March 29th, Mid-Del Archery held an IBO 2015 World Championship Qualifier. I was eager to try for a qualifying ticket and looked forward to seeing friends from Delaware and Maryland. Aside from that, I’d been anticipating one of the hamburgers they serve in their clubhouse.

mda2-150x150
Mid-Del Archery Club in Harrington, Delaware

Most of the guys I’ve shot with from the Maryland, a group known as Team Trailer Park, had driven to West Virginia to qualify in late 2014. At that time, I was coming off a busy season of shooting in addition to 12 races. On the weekend of the West Virginia competition I was exhausted and decided not to make the trip. I’d gamble on success in Harrington, Delaware.

On Sunday the weather was cold and windy. It had been raining and snowing meaning the range promised to be muddy. That promise was kept. River, my lab, came with me and would need to wait in the truck while I shot.

Clyde and Jim, Officers of Mid-Del, were on hand in the clubhouse to assist with registration. Jim is a very dedicated archer. In addition to his range management duties he is diligent in his support of Delaware Senior Olympics.

IMG_3413
River, tail wagging, happy to see the guys

Clyde may be the best archer in the world, I won’t know. What I do know is Clyde makes the best hamburgers in the world. His burgers are better than any other I’ve ever tasted, they are quite amazing. I have no idea how he does it, but they are really very, very good.

After signing in I found two guys I knew, Bruce and Al, to shoot with. Our group also included Shawn and Anthony. Bruce and Al have been to numerous IBO World Championships. Both shoot in the Senior Hunter Class. Shawn was shooting in the Open Class he’d be a bit further back from the target. Anthony is a paraplegic and would be shooting from the stake in from of Bruce and Al’s.

IMG_3410
Not the groups’ best shots of the day, but pretty good.

The course wasn’t completely muddy but there was enough. Much of the ground was still frozen and hadn’t turned to mud. Anthony had a few tricky spots that required some serious effort to maneuver his wheelchair. Anthony plays Lacrosse, basketball, and tennis so the 3D terrain wasn’t too demanding.

IMG_3411
Shawn in the center, Al on the stool and Anthony in the wheelchair
IMG_3414
Forgot to take a photo before I started eating

Along the way we picked up another archer shooting a traditional bow, Charles. Charles is very experienced and has earned high finishes at the Nationals and has won many major competitions. On one target our compound bow group had practically circled the center 11. We said, “Put it in the middle, Charles!” He did – it was an incredible shot that was followed by yells and cheers.

Finally off the range, my primary objective was one of Clyde’s burgers. River joined me in the clubhouse. She could smell the burgers and acted very hopeful. Neither of us was disappointed. Like I mentioned, I have no idea how he does it but Clyde cooks is one amazing burger.

It was great seeing the  guys in Delaware. I wanted to stay longer but needed to drive back to North Carolina.  I left with the two things I’d come for, a burger and a ticket to the World Championship.

IMG_3431
Another great burger and tournament, thanks Y’all.

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.

IMG_0415
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.

IMG_3370
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)

IMG_3371
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!

IMG_3368
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.

IMG_3365
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.”

IMG_3367
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.

IMG_3372
Time to relax, share stories of victory and get warm

 

Pitt County Wildlife Club’s March 3D Tournament

Sunday, March 15th, was another wonderful day spent shooting outside. The Pitt County Wildlife Club held a 3-D Tournament on their range near Farmville, NC. The course was well manicured and the targets were a challenge. During this adventure, while warming up, I was invited to shoot with a father and son team.

IMG_3288
Pitt County Wildlife Club

Phillip, the father, is a seasoned archer who has competed on the ASA Pro-Am Tour. He says, “Having a family and work made him too busy to compete” and now he shoots for fun. He also coaches his son, Hunter, a 13-year-old, who aside from archery is active in football and baseball. Phillip has two other children, daughters, both in college on academic and athlete scholarships. Hunter, tall for 13, could have a promising future in sports.

IMG_3286
Phillip and Hunter

At the first two stakes there was a mob of archers. It was clear the horde was going to be slow so we decided to jump ahead to stake 3. From there forward it was smooth sailing. We’d pick up targets 1 and 2 on the return trip.

IMG_3284
The Tar River

The 3D range ran parallel with Tar River, which presented spectacular scenery. Before long we added a fourth to our group, Lena a traditional archer from Poland. She shot with us until regrouping with another traditional archer and his family.

Our team of three wasted no time on the range. Although we’d had a late start we completed the 20 targets in less than 2 hours. Throughout the event I was entertained listening to Hunter. He’s huge for 13 but the conversation remained that of a youngster. His optimistic anticipation of, “I hope that they have that polar bear again, they had one last year,” was amusing. And when a foam turkey was position with its head looking away from the stake he couldn’t help but state, “Look, we have to shoot that turkey in the butt!” “Have you ever seen a turkey you have to shoot in the butt?” It was the ‘butt-shot’ that any 13-year-old boy would find humorous no matter his physical size. (Actually, 60-year boys find it funny, too.)

IMG_3289
Farm land on the drive home

I  enjoyed shooting with Phillip and Hunter. Phillip, a friendly guy, seems like a great dad and Hunter is a respectful and courteous young man. I’ve always thought you can measure the results of parenting through the actions of children. While not trying to be judgmental, I’d say Phillip is doing an excellent job.

It was another memorable competition. The range is located in a beautiful spot of eastern North Carolina. Like many other clubs where I’ve competed I’ll look forward to another trip to the Pitt County Wildlife Club.

A Good Start and a Lucky Finish

IMG_3225
Morning of march 7th

Saturday March 7th started off good. The sunrise was magnificent and the weather, which had been cold and rainy, was making a turn for the better. My plan for the day was to drive the Roanoke Archers’ range in Plymouth, NC and take aim at qualifying for the North Carolina ASA State Championship.

Last year, the 3D tournaments that I’d focused on were IBO. IBO contests are hard to find here in NC. ASA is new to me.   Only recently had I sent my membership application and fee to the ASA Headquarters in Kennesaw, GA. They returned to me an ASA number on March 6th. While waiting for that to occur I tried to figure out the ASA rules and divisions.

IMG_3228
Holly Neck Church of Christ Established in 1882. This is one of many country church I pass as I drive in rural NC.

The general rules weren’t difficult to understand. The divisions were less clear. For example, their senior hunter division includes the 50 – 59 ages. The equipment for that group, aside from a bow, is a short stabilizer and fixed pins – got it. There is a division above the senior hunter, the super senior for those archers over 60. By age, I fit into the super senior division.

Because the senior hunter group shot with a hunting set-up I considered shooting there. But, chronologically I fall into the super senior group. I thought I should shoot in that division. I may have chosen wrong.

IMG_3230
There’s a bear 36 yards away from Patrick as he views his target.

I didn’t know the super senior equipment regulations. Was this a hunter class or an open style class? I gambled and left for the tournament with my hunter class rig. I learned, too late, I should have grabbed my other bow; the one with a few more shot refining attachments.

IMG_3231
Even if I’d not been shooting, this would have been a nice hike through the woods

The frustration of having what might be considered a slight competitive disadvantage no doubt weighted on me. I also doubt whether those refining attachments would have been much help. One thing was certain, I couldn’t judge yardage on Saturday March 7th.

On a positive note, the course, like so many others, was excellent. I shot with three folks I hadn’t met, Leon, Patrick and Chris and they all gave me a polite lessons in humility. Despite my rough shooting a bit of luck was with me and I qualified for the ASA State Championship. So a day that started good finished on a high note.

IMG_3235
One of the last targets, a low down gator