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.

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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”.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

Horse Collars

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One of my practice targets here in Georgia

This year, at least for the first eight months, my competitive events range the east coast from Florida to New York. Traveling I frequently visit wonderful places. Yesterday, I stopped in Carlton, GA. and Comer, GA adding two more scenic side trips to this tournament expedition.

Because I am primarily here to shoot, on non-competitive days I practice in the morning and afternoon. Wednesday is typically my longest practice and I’ll shoot for hours during the two sessions. Thursday I begin tapering for the weekend’s competition. After the morning practice on Thursday, Brenda, Ray, her father, and I took an excursion further into northeast Georgia.

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Jimmy, Owner at “Neat Pieces” Antiques in Carlton, GA

In Carlton there is an antique shop, “Neat Pieces”  Brenda had wanted to visit. There we spent an hour or so digging and found a few treasures. She collected a several old bottles and I bought two vintage horse collars. The leather horse collars were gray with dirt and filth. Later, a few hours of cleaning and polishing would have them looking fairly decent.

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Vintage horse collars (after cleaning and polishing)

Leaving Carlton, we loaded our treasures and drove to the covered bridge at Watson Mill in Comer. It has been raining a lot here, so the river was up. The covered bridge was built 130 years ago and later restored in 1973.   Standing near the river, I wished I had one of my kayaks with me.

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Watson Mill Bridge

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Traveling around the US and competing in sports is a great way to earn one’s living.  It gives me time to meet more people and make friends. It also allows me to find adventure and enjoy America.

 

Another cold and wet day in Georgia

It is cold here in Tignall, GA. Currently, it is 37°F (3°C) and sleeting. This weekend I’ve made plans to run a race on Saturday and compete in a 3D tournament on Sunday. The weekend weather forecast is for more cold and rain on both days.

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View from the deck.

In North Carolina, over in Raleigh, next weekend is the Dixie Classic 3D competition. I considered driving back to NC to compete in the Classic. Checking the weather at our place in Hertford, it is currently 27°F (-3°C) and snowing.

Maryland is colder. In Easton, the conditions are 19°F (-7°C), but it is sunny. Sunny or not, 19°F is too cold to really enjoy hours of outdoor archery practice – at least for me. You can bet I am not driving back to Maryland.

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Deck range showing the recent repair resulting from a pine tree mishap

I’ll stay put in Georgia and consider driving to Savannah. It is 42°F (6°C) there, but it’s raining. While I ponder driving on frozen roads, I can grab a bow and shoot it on the deck.

The deck provides a 15 yard covered range for practice. I can shoot awhile; go back into the house, thaw, and repeat the process. When the sleet and rain eases I’ll take a mountain bike out for a ride. The trails though woods won’t be slippery.

Sitting inside isn’t a lot of fun. I’ prefer being outside, even if for short excursions. Cold and wet is not ideal, but there are ways with which it can be dealt. For now, I need to deal.

Sunrise, cold, and another dead duck

Before heading out for a run in brisk 18°F (-8°C) temperature I stopped to check out the sunrise and see if any of the locals had been using my dock for their dining table.

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Sure enough, a freshly killed duck was lying on the steps leading from the dock into the water. The meal’s owner wasn’t hanging around and was probably a bit put out that I’d interrupted breakfast. After take a picture or two I left the meal of duck to its owner. I also decided I could wait until it warmed up before I started running.

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Somebody’s breakfast

 

Wild day on the river

Each morning, while having coffee, I walk out to my dock. Lately, eagles have been using it as a dining table. Today was no different. Before I got to the dock River was already they’re barking. She was letting me know eagles had just left and not finished their meal of duck.

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“Get out here – look what the eagle left! can I have it?”

When I found the partially eaten duck, on the steps of my dock, I left it alone. Usually, I need to sweep away feathers or sometimes fur. This duck was fresh and knowing these big birds would want it, it remained untouched.

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Unfinished meal of duck

One of the eagles was sitting in a tree with his back to me. He seemed a bit put out over having his breakfast disturbed. They, or at least one of them, flew back later and finished the meal. I made certain our smaller dog, a wirehaired dachshund, stayed indoors. She weights 20 pounds, a hefty catch for an eagle, but I am not taking any chances. Brenda would not take it well if her dog became dinner.

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Leaving the eagles to their dining River and I headed for a run. It was only 5K today and she was full of pep staying ahead of me all the way. Afterwards I got in some decent archery practice. All the while the eagles flew overhead, looking for a small dog I suppose.

Venison burgers

Many of you have grilled and eaten ground venison. Probably some of you are excellent chefs of wild game. From those of you that have another or considered better way to grill please share your recipes. Yesterday, I grilled venison burgers and this is how I cooked them.

I used deer with a 4 to 1 ratio of bacon. The bacon adds fat to the deer. Brenda formed the venison into patties and seasoned with salt and pepper. Real simple.The patties were cooked over lump coal and wood. The fire was started using a chimney starter – no lighter fluid. Something else I do is clean the grill and grate between each use. I don’t mean only removing the coal ash, I thoroughly wipe down the interior, exterior and wash the cooking grate.

Once the coals were ready, I spread them over the coal rack, and then replaced the cooking grate. The grate I’d coated with a non-stick cooking spray. The spray burns off a bit, but helps to keep the meat from sticking – an infrequent problem. (Don’t apply the spray over the burning coals. Non-stick cooking sprays are flammable)

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After the grate has gotten very hot I placed the burgers on it to sear the meat. Once seared I lowered the flame. When cooking with coals this is accomplished by physically lowering the flame using an adjustable coal rack. Lowering the flame means cooking more slowly allowing the wood smoke flavor to saturate the meat.

I prefer grilling over lump coal and wood. When I have enough, I use wood only.   The flavor meat takes from wood and lump coal is excellent. These burgers were no exception.

Fishing for Stripers

Every trip to Georgia is exciting. Each time I return to my home State I get to race, shoot, hunt or fish. Sometimes I get to do all four. This past trip I got three of the four. The only adventure I missed was a race. I tried to find one but came up short.

We did hunt. However, it rained so hard so often that time in the woods was limited. The result was one small buck shot by my father-in-law, Ray. I didn’t see a thing. There was a 3D tournament and in that I competed. The course was one of the best I’ve shot. However, the fishing was excellent.

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On the water at daybreak

The lake where we fish is stocked with Striper, one of my favorite fish. The day started cold, 34° F. The temperature wasn’t too bad until we cruised across the water in a Carolina Skiff going 30 mph. Adding the wind, it was a bit chilly. The day warmed to 56° F. It was quite pleasant.

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We didn’t catch many fish, but those we caught were in the 8 to 10 pound range. That’s enough for Brenda and I to enjoy for several meals. After the fish were cleaned I separated them into 5 freezer bags. Each has enough to feed four people.

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Being on the water is always good. We get out year round here in the South. In Georgia or North Carolina we can stay outdoors without much complaint even in the coldest months. Being able to live a life revolving around outdoor activities and adventures is as good as it gets.

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More Rain in Georgia

Another day of rain here in Georgia. The forecast for Sunday, the day of the Buckeyes 3D Tournament, is 100% rain. I decided to make the trip to Social Circle, GA to make certain I could find the plantation on Sunday morning.

We – Brenda, Ray, and I – decide to drive over to Social Circle so that we’d arrive around lunchtime. We’d eat at the Blue Willow Restaurant in Social Circle. We also invited Heather, our daughter, to gather her son Sean and drive over from Winder.

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Everyone met exactly on time. Still raining we rushed from the parking lot to the front door of the Blue Willow. The food there is served buffet style and all of it was excellent.

After eating our fill we said our goodbyes then Ray, Brenda and I continued onto the Buckeyes Planation. The drive from Tignall to the planation is just under two hours. Once there, I loaded the coordinates into my GPS. Driving over in the rain, should the forecast hold, during the early morning might be more of the challenge than finding the place in the rain during the day.

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If it does rain on Sunday I have a waterproof jacket and an umbrella (thanks to Heather). It would be better if the rain holds until after or falls before the competition. But, if it rains – it rains.

In trouble, again

The time Ray, 86, tripped and fell while hauling a deer to toss onto a Bad Boy Buggy was funny. He and I laughed then finished loading the deer. When we got back to the house in Tignall, wanting to share a good laugh, he told Brenda. She, imagining her Octavian plus father crashing to the ground and breaking something important, gave us both a lecture (lecturing is a skill retired middle school teachers never lose). Coming in from hunting on New Year’s Eve, we once again faced the wrath of Brenda.

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Brenda, when I am not in trouble

First, let me point that Ray is 86 and I am 60 (soon). We are grown men and can handle ourselves. We don’t need a wife or daughter managing our manly adventures. Nevertheless, before Ray and I took to the woods we got the “lecture”.

“Daddy, don’t climb the tree stands,” Brenda

“I won’t,” Ray

“Carry your cell phones,” Brenda

“We will” Ray and I.

“Take those radios,” Brenda

“We will” Ray and I.

“When will you be back,” Brenda

“Around dark,” Me

“Be specific,” Brenda

“Around 6,” Ray

“Don’t get hurt, “ Brenda

“We won’t,” Ray and me.

Brenda headed over to Athens to meet Heather, our oldest, and shop. Ray watched Star Trek, the 2009 version; I practiced shooting long shots on the range. After Star Trek, we headed out to the woods.

On the drive out, Ray said, “I forgot my phone.” I added, “We also forgot the radios.”

Again, we’d have no way to communicate in the woods. Barring an accident, we don’t need to talk to each other while we’re hunting. Like I said, we’re grown men, we don’t need to talk to each other while hunting.

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The hunt was not successful; neither of us saw anything. But, I could sense animals in the woods all around me. You know that feeling you get when you just know. I waited as long as possible and nothing came into view. To make matters worse, it was cold.

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Getting cold, now

Now, I’m not talking Michigan cold. What I mean is the wet cold of Georgia. I’ve lived in Cleveland and Pittsburgh. I’ve worked and traveled to Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Canada in the winter. The coldest I’ve ever been has been in Georgia. On this hunt, despite 2 pairs of pants, t-shirt, long sleeved shirt, sweater vest, hoodie, jacket, hunting vest, hat and a knit cap over it, and gloves, I was freezing. Yet, I hoped and remained in my stand to no avail.

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Packed up and heading home

The result was we’d get back home about 30 minutes later than usual. When we got home Ray and I got that look from Brenda. My first thought was “We’re in trouble for something.”

“Why didn’t you answer your phone!” Brenda.

“It was in my backpack, I didn’t hear it.” Me.

She just stared at her Dad.

“I forgot mine.” Ray.

Trying to make light, I added, “Yea, we forgot the radios, too.” (That didn’t help)

“I was fixin’ to call Steve to get him to go look for you. “Brenda still apparently not relieved that Ray and I were fine.

“I was worried, what took you so long? Why didn’t you have your phone? Why didn’t you answer yours? If something happened, I couldn’t have found you! That was not responsible!”

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You are in so much trouble

I was happy that Ray was with me, he buffered the trouble. Having another guy to share the trouble reduces the direct assault facing a single individual.

Yes, I should have called after we loaded the truck and began heading home. Honestly, I do most of the time. On this day, however, I was so frozen all I could think about was getting warm. Being married to an ex-middle schoolteacher, I should be used to conducting proper and polite behavior. But, like any middle-schooler, sometimes I forget.

We’re not going hunting today. Best bet; enjoy the games on TV, grill, and keep a low profile.