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.


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.


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.


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.

Setting up a few 3D Targets

During last week’s 3D tournament, I heard the folks around me bragging about how many 3D animal targets they have on their property. One fellow claimed to have 10 another 30! Watching them shoot it seemed clear they knew where to aim their arrows.

The alpha target in my collection

Earlier in the year I made a particularity bad shot on a coyote (I found the arrow). The guy  shooting after me mentioned, “Yes, those little buggers used to give me trouble, too. “ He then added, “So, I bought one and after awhile they didn’t bother me anymore.” It sounded like good advice.

My little friend the coyote

Last week I added three worn-down, shot-up, weather-beaten, bird-pecked, and sun-bleached, used 3D targets to my prior collection of one. It seems that practicing on the objects that will be shoot at in tournaments might improve my scores. Having added new (well new to me) foam to my menagerie I am preparing to test that theory.

This turkey is in pretty good shape – its head hasn’t been shot off

To create a more realistic range I called my neighbor, Carl, and asked if I could make a mini-3D course on his property. He has several wooded acres that are crisscrossed with paths. Carl also hunts with a bow and I explained he’d have full use these of faux-animal. Carl said sure and the next morning I setup the range.

While in the woods with my animal models, I came upon a spot that looked like pigs had been rooting. Wild pigs can a problem and I wasn’t overly pleased to see sign of them a hundred yards away from my front door. My wife’s and neighbor’s gardens could end up tasty treats for the varmints.

River checking out an area where some pigs had been rooting

The pig investigation didn’t slow me down very much from the task of selecting the idea and most natural position for my foam targets. Once they’d all been arranged I shot at them and my other flat targets for a couple of hours. The mini-3D range is pretty good. I’ll need to collect more fake animals and continue working them into the wood.


Another round with the wind.

My Mathews ZXT is in the shop. The cable rollers on the cable rod bit the dust. I’d purchased the bow in 2014. It was a leftover at a bow shop that had lost its Mathews dealership. I was surprised by this failure so soon.  The ZXT is, in my opinion, a lot more fun to shoot than my Mathews Conquest Apex 7. I shoot it a lot and parts do wear out.


Because my ZXT is gone for repair, tomorrow I’ll be shooting my Apex 7 in a 3D tournament.  I plan to use pins and needed to remove the pin sight from the ZXT and attach it to the other bow. This meant setting the pins on the Apex 7.

if I were in Maryland, I could have been doing this rather than fighting the wind here in North Carolina.

Par for the course, the wind here was relentless all day. Perfect weather for sailing but not perfect to sighting in pins. In order to get my yardage correct I used a tape measure rather than a range finder to set my distances. I marked the range at 5-yard increments from 20 to 60 yards. Even though I measured out to 60, I only set pins out to 50 yards.

From 50-yards, in this wind, I’ll take it for now. (That’s a fresh target – definitely not my first 3 shoots)

After 2 hours in the morning and another 2 hours in the afternoon (broken up with yard work) I think I’ve just about got the pins where I wanted them. Bonus, I didn’t miss the target once.

River Being Proud

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


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.


Wild Tales from the Old Line State

When I return to Maryland after an extended absence I look up a few friends. Most work regular jobs  during the day I can’t visit them. A few are employed at shops where I’ve purchased gear for triathlon and archery. These ‘friends’ are easy prey for my intrusions.

A bike shop was my first attempted visit. Sadly, since my last return to Easton it closed and consolidated to another location. The second attempt was an archery shop where I’d spent many hours shooting indoors.

So far in 2015 I haven’t shot there. To be honest I’ve not been in “Old Line State” too often or for too long at a time since January. But, I’ve dropped in for a visit during each trip back. The guys always have stories of super human feats that have occurred since my last call. This time was no different.

During this encounter I learned the deer in Maryland had exceeded all prior known records. I also heard of local adventurers who’d traveled the globe seeking rare and exotic prey and of three demi-god archers that competed in their winter indoor league.

Everyone naturally agrees that the verbal expression of facts and figures associated with massive deer and super-mutations are undisputable. And, I think anyone can agree that the typical hard working hunter can drop work and family to jet around the globe in search of and bagging lost world dinosaurs with a bow and arrow. But, demi-gods on the planet? Here’s the tale of this next generation of hallowed archers.


It seems that a few months ago two young boys, mom chauffeured, arrived at this particular bow shop. Each purchased an “Elite” bow and neither had until that day participated in archery. With the purchase the boys were shown how to shoot an arrow. Having school homework on which to concentrate the two young men (by order of mom) cut the archery lesson short and were driven away. Later, they returned with a friend, an unfortunate boy, so that he could buy a bow. This one was less wealthy and had to settle on a lower priced Bear bow.


The boys weren’t seen again for many weeks. Then, out of the blue (or to be precise – out of the cold), one of their mother’s drove them back to the archery shop in order that they might compete in the  evening league competition. The event lasts six weeks and the targets were the 5-spot from 20 yards. The boys were prepared with a partial archery coaching session, hunter style “Elites,” a “Bear,” their arrows, several weeks of bow ownership and wrist strapped trigger releases.

Over the course of the contest one boy’s or the other’s mom would drive them to shoot on a weekly basis. Throughout the six weeks, the two youthful “Elite” contestants never missed the center X, each scoring perfect 300’s week in and week out. The “Middle-Schoolers” had schooled the more senior and practiced competitors.

The trio, aside from the rigors of eight grade academics held part-time employment. Their weekend jobs had become the source of their responsible savings and cash (parent subsidized) for their archery purchases. Sadly, the one kid (lacking parental cash flow) who failed to purchase an “Elite” and got the entry level Bear wasn’t as mythical. The Bear owner hadn’t acquired enough money for an “Elite” and to his humiliation only shot a nightly 299 for each of the 6 league shoots.

What amazed me was how straight faced the storyteller remained throughout his recital of these amazing children. He spoke of them with reverence. Now, understandably, the previous tale of a 475-pound Maryland white tail buck must be true, who would ever exaggerate, but I found it a bit of a stretch regarding the boys. Obviously, there was no point in questioning the legend, the speaker was a true believer, and so I kept my thoughts unspoken.

Before I left, the storyteller tried to sale me an “Elite.” I departed financially intake.

Practice in the cold rain and snow

On March 27 it was cold and raining in Easton, Maryland. The next day it was colder and it snowed non-stop. Back in Savannah the Azaleas are blooming, the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade has past. There on the 27th and 28th it rained and the temperature was 74° and 60°, respectively. At our place in North Carolina, the same two days reached 64° then 43°. But, I was in Maryland until I drove onto Harrington, Delaware where I’d compete for a spot to compete at the 2015 IBO World Championships.  In Maryland it was freezing. (Actually, it wasn’t that warm)

Before the world qualifying 3D shoot I had to wait in Easton, Maryland. There are places where I could go practice on indoor ranges. However, shooting paper at 20 yards doesn’t help me judge yardage on a 3D range. Despite the nasty winter-that-won’t-go-away weather I drove to Schrader’s Outdoors in Henderson, Maryland to practice on their 3D range.

The Club House, photo taken on a nicer day.

Schrader’s has decreased their number of targets. They’ve taken the old animals that are shot to pieces off the course. The old targets were piled up against the side of the clubhouse. Before I headed back to North Carolina I’d talked then out of a coyote, a mountain lion, and a turkey. If I’d had more room in my truck I’d have tried to pick up a few others.

This bear, or one of his kin, is often at the max distance.

Over the 20 targets that remained on the range I shot  each 3 – 4 times from the hunter class distance then from the open class distance. The rain on Friday wasn’t too bad while I was shooting and the snow on Saturday, when I repeated Friday’s session, was a non-stop flurry. With a major qualifier on Sunday, and Sunday’s weather forecast was more cold and wind. It was good to practice in the bundle of clothes and gloves I’d need to wear on Sunday.

Spring isn’t making an overwhelming effort to break through this year. Thankfully, I was able to spend a great deal of time in Georgia over the winter. The cold and wet of Maryland weren’t enough to keep me out of the woods or off the range. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to feeling my toes thaw out.

Sometimes I forget, has it ever happened to you?

All my life I have competed in sports. Beyond high school athletes I’ve competed in cycling, running, duathlon, triathlon and now archery. One of the concerns I always had is showing up for an event and not having all my gear.

That happened to me once in cycling. At a race from Jacksonville, Florida to St. Augustine, Florida and back, around 80 miles, I discovered just prior to the race I’d forgotten my cycling shoes. This was in 1973 and we still raced using toe clips and straps (those cages on the bike pedal that you stuck your foot into and tightened it in place with a strap). Thanks to that pedal arrangement I was able to compete wearing my well-worn Converse All Stars. It rained for about 30 of the 80 miles and I recall water squishing out from a hole at top my shoe near the big toe on my right foot.

In a triathlon it can be tough finding your stuff even when you have all of it.

That is the only time I’ve forgotten gear needed for any competitive event. However, more than once I’ve forgotten something while rushing to a training session. I have forgotten my swim trucks (jammers) and had to skip swim training. I’ve forgotten my bike helmet and couldn’t ride (I don’t ride without one) and have shown up for a run without my running shoes.

Today, I drove from Hertford, NC to Easton, MD. That is a 5-hour drive. Before I left I made certain I had all my archery gear for a 3D tournament being held in Delaware this weekend. When I got to my house in Maryland I unloaded my bags. One of them contained my quiver and release. My bow and arrows were safely packed in the truck and not removed.

Once I checked on things at the house there was plenty of time to drive over to Schrader’s Outdoors in Henderson, Maryland and get an hour or two of practice on their three 3D range. It would mean another 35 minutes of driving each way, but it would be fun. I loaded River, my lab, back into my Ford F-150 and we once again hit the road.

When we got to the range, River was really excited. She knows the property, enjoys the 3D range and was eager for the opportunity to run around while I shot. We parked got out of the truck then walked to the clubhouse to check in for the range. After signing in we returned to the truck so I could collect my gear.   That’s when I realized I’d left my quiver and release in the bag I’d unloaded back in Easton.


There was nothing to do other than hop back in to the pick-up and go home. River was almost as disappointed as me. This won’t be the last time it happens.

All Day Playing Outside

Yesterday, Tuesday March 24, the weather was slightly warmer and the wind slightly less. It was a pleasant day for being outside and I took full advantage.


Up before sunrise I took my coffee and walked out onto the dock. As the sun broke through geese that have become permanent residents honked past, a few ducks swam by and eagles pasted overhead. Sunrise on the water is a great part of any day.

After breakfast, River and I headed out for a run. Friends naturally, greeted her and one followed us home in search of a cookie.

“Cookie, cookie, cookie” – River’s rather crazy friend

Cookies provided and dogs gone, I took my bow out for practice. The wind was blowing with a bit more force with occasional gusts to 15 mph ( 24 kph) and a rather constant 10 mph (16 kph) push coming off the water. Aside from 3D events, which are often protected from the wind being held in forested areas, I’ve never shot an outdoor competition. With all the practice I’ve had shooting outside and dealing with wind I should find a field archery tournament and give it a try.

After morning practice I was able to get in a decent ride on one of my bikes. This one was a retro steel frame Peugeot that covered the bumpy country rides like a luxury car.

Back with plenty of time for afternoon shooting I took a foam deer and moved it around in the woods to get various shots at unknown distances and have some protection for the afternoon wind.

This deer is out there a ways
IMG_3396 - Version 2
There he is…

It was another nice day for playing outside. I got to shoot, run and ride – my kind of day. It was followed by a good night’s sleep.

Dealing with Winter Storm Ultima

On Thursday as Winter Storm Ultima approached the Mid-Atlantic States the temperature dropped and wind increased. Being outside meant dressing warm. Finding a spot from where to shoot meant finding buildings or trees that could act as a wind barrier.


Despite the harsh conditions there was plenty of time to practice archery. With a storage shed as a wind barrier I was able to take aim at a foam deer from 20 to 30 yards. My porch provided a well protected and elevated 27 yard shot. Occasionally the winds would decrease enough that I could shoot from open ground out to 50 yards.

The weather is predicted to be worse on Friday (that prediction turned out accurate) so Thursday I stayed outside as long as possible. In fact, I got in about 4 hours of shooting broken up into three sessions.


Saturday the weather should begin to improve and by Sunday, tournament day, conditions are forecasted to be sunny if a bit cold. In the meantime, from my office I’ll keep an eye open for a tropospheric lull with hopes of brief escapades outside.