July 4th, 2017

We’re one the road and in Georgia. It’s our annual 4th of July celebration. We’ve been doing this for decades. Since I’ve been writing on this site this marks the third year where our 4th coincidenced with archery. We have a big production here at the Lake House.

Sean and River anticipating their next swim

My father-in-law, Ray, is the primary instigator of the celebration. He’s retired Army and retired ROTC teacher. The 4th is particularly meaningful to him.

To get to Georgia we stop along the drive and camp. We used to make the drive in one shot. Since we bought our Winnebago, it’s more fun to take our time and enjoy the view.

View from our campsite at Little Pee Dee

Our first stop was at Little Pee Dee Campground near Dillon, SC. This makes our third stop at that Campground. Because our trip was just before the weekend of the 4th, we had to settle for the last open campsite. It was really tight. That’s not to mean it wasn’t spacious, it was tight with trees requiring extremely careful parking of the RV.

That was tight

I needed to be perfect backing in because two trees bordered the entrance. One of them leaned in allowing just inches of clearance. Once in the space was just excellent.

Tight but no one is on top of us at Little Pee Dee in SC

In Tignal we camped at Hester’s Ferry Campground. Having a Winnebago means no one has to rent a place for the overflow of family that comes to enjoy the lake, food, and fireworks.

Hester’s Ferry campsite in GA

The trip is not a vacation from archery.  We have a field where I practice with my bow and Ray practices with his crossbow. This trip I brought a large block. There are two blocks here, both shot to pieces. The bigger block, carried here in the truck, has two sides that will stop arrows. The larger sides don’t even slow arrows.

The block was hauled to the field, balanced on a smaller block that rested on a chair. Once the paper target was attached to the old block I used a 100-foot tape measure to wheel out 50 meters. Before long the range was open for business.

In the past, I’ve said that I prefer warm weather to cold. Well, I got my wish. I think the coolest day during this trip peaked at 93°F. That’s not to too bad. We get similar temperatures on the coast of North Carolina all the time. Sure, archery practice can be a sweaty business.

Cycling, in the case of this trip, was done pretty early and the heat was not a factor. Even bike rides later in the day didn’t feel as hot as did standing still in the sun shooting. Riding a bike creates a nice breeze.

The final day of 50-meter practice here was the hottest of all – over 100°F. The forecast was for 100°F and we surpassed the prediction. Hiking to pull arrows I made sure to put my bow under the shade of a tree otherwise after an hour or so the bow gets really hot. A black aluminum bow is a great thermopile. Still as hot as it was, I’ll take it over the cold.

Got to keep this bow in the shade

We begin our trip home tomorrow. Another 4th is history. Thousands of dollars for fireworks blasted. A mess of great food was eaten. I’ve finished a short bit of writing to remind me about it in the future and I am sharing with you.

In a final note there is group of archers on western shore of Maryland who banned me from their site when I shared my 2014 4th of July post with them. To them I say, “Happy 4th of July! And may the blue rubber suction tips on your arrows always hold true.”

Novice 50-Meter Practice

Well, crap – I didn’t see that coming.

I’ve signed up for the NC State Outdoor Championship. From what I understand it is a two-day event. The targets are set 50-meters away from the archers. Everyone shoots 72 arrows then you do something else.

I have no idea what the something else might be or why this tournament needs to take 2 days. Two days means extra time on the road and more expense.

I tried an outdoor 50-meter tournament once before in Georgia. Among the instructions was a recommendation to be at the range by 2:00 PM. I arrived at 1:00 PM to make sure I knew, at least, where the event was being held. The complete directions were somewhat cryptic.

On that day, I left before the event was completed. It was 7:00 PM when I threw in the towel. It was the dumbest sporting event I’d ever attended.

Later, I heard that soon after I drove away the sprinkler system under the field where the archers were shooting activated. This cleared the range and caused a significant delay. They finished shooting under lights at 11:30 PM. When I learned this, I decided 50-meter competition might not be for me.

The primary time suck, leading to the sprinkler and archery intersection,  at that 50-meter contest orginiated with judges and officials having stories to tell and a captive audience. Here’s the thing for an event official that has a story, a sagely bit of advice, a weather report, short comic routine, or sermon – keep it to yourself.

From that day I sort of remember how to score. Sure, it seems easy; an X ring counts 10 points, then a 10 ring that counts 10 points, 9 ring, 8 ring, etc. But, the little X ring on the indoor target is no longer an X ring, it counts 10-points, it’s the sole remaining 10 ring, leaving a larger yellow 9-ring. Has USA Archery made a similar change for outdoor shooting?Whatever, I’ll shoot what everyone else is shooting and try to put my arrows into the center part. I just hope it doesn’t take 6 hours to shoot 72 arrows.

For practice, I ordered, what I think is the outdoor target people shoot toward when firing arrows from 50-meters. I was shooting pretty good today, at least what I think might be good since I have no idea what is a decent score until I had a run in with a snake.

River not patrolling for snakes, prefers chewing on a stick while waiting for me to finishing practice

Now, I see a lot of snakes out here. Mostly, we meet, I look it over, and the snake flicks its tongue at me. And for the most part we go our separate ways. Today’s snake was not so liberal – you know, live and let live. It had an attitude and fangs.

If I need to cross paths with the locals. these are just fine with me.

It wasn’t large, maybe 18 inches, but the snake, a water moccasin, was coiled on the edge of the shooting lane, in grass and preparing to bite me. Now, I admit, I always wear snake boots in these woods this time of year and I had them on. For one second I considered stomping on the snake with those boots. (Yes, we were that close to each other) I reconsidered, noting to myself there really is no reason to “test” the boot manufacturer’s marketing claims. Imagine a failure:

“Dear Mrs. Lain: All of us here at Big Bite Snake Boots want to offer our sincere condolences regarding the recent incident between the late Dr. Lain and an alleged snake bite. Our attorneys have reviewed the matter closely and determined our products are not labeled or warranted or designed to stomp on snakes.  We regret your loss. Enclosed please find a 25% off discount coupon good for your next purchase. Valid though the April 2018.”

Instead of stomping, I shot the snake with a pistol.

If shooting 50-meters is anything like shooting a snake with a pistol then I need to stay home. The first shot was so far off the snake didn’t even move. The second got its attention. The third caused it to move a little. Shots four and five did the trick. Now, the pistol is only a 380 and I am not shooting snake shot or rat shot. I heard snake shot and rat shot causes the Ruger 380 to jam.

These little ‘Rough Green Snakes’ are not a worry

So, you might ask, like a friend of mine did, “Why didn’t you just shoot it with an arrow?” You may even think that would be your first choice. Before you commit to arrow versus bullet let me give you the setting.

You have a compound bow set for 50-meters. Your arrows are those skinny ones that all the field archery specialists and 50-meters experts shoot (only yours are the less expensive variety because you’re not to sure about 50-meters and you don’t want to waste money).

Next, this isn’t a huge snake, only 18 inches of pissed off water moccasin. (You didn’t piss it off; it is that way in general.) This angry viper is clearly intent on biting you. It’s also at the edge of some tall grass.

The taller brush is next to a creek. Snake paradise.

Lord forbid, but say you fire an arrow at the snake and miss. Say you miss and it slithered off. Remember, tall grass. Now, when are you going to reach your hand it those weeds and retrieve that arrow? By the way, I’d bet money, you’d miss even though the snake was just three feet away. Why would you miss? Well, have you ever practiced shooting an object that is maybe two inches thick and 18 inches long from three feet? No, you haven’t – miss!

Even if you hit it, you’d probably screw up an arrow shooting it into the ground. One last thing, that bow is twenty-five yards away right where you left it sitting when you went to pull arrows. You do have six arrows in your hand. Trying to poke a water moccassin to death with a field tip would really piss it off.

Nope, bullets are inexpensive and plentiful. Heck, I shot at it five times and hit it twice for good measure. After that I shot 18 more arrows at 50-meters and took a break having completed my morning quota of archery shots. During the afternoon practice, I carried a 410 shotgun loaded with Remington 6-shot. I always get snakes on the first shot with that gun.

Still, after shooting 50-meters, 84 arrows in the morning, 84 in the afternoon I’m not sure about the upcoming State Championship. Oh, I scored only 72 arrows during each practice. I shot 2 ends of 6 as a warm-up because I think that is how they are going to do it the day of the competition. The afternoon was snake-free. Snake seems to know when I am carrying that 410. They are braver when I have that little pistol.

Critters in the Woods

There are all sorts of critters that hang out on my 3D range. Deer during the day have occasionally walked within a hundred yards. Of course, there are plenty of squirrels, rabbits, turtles and snakes. Coyote were a problem but seem to have migrated toward chicken coops about a mile up the road.

Practice in the woods one always has to keep an eye on the ground for copperheads and water moccasins. I’ve not encountered any rattlesnakes but have heard that they are out and about.

Turtles are about as abundant as frogs. The birds, including turkey, and constantly in the trees, bushes or pecking at potential meals on the ground.

At night, possum, raccoon and fox are everywhere.  I’ve not seen any bears and I am okay with their absence. The bears are nearby, I know from the complaints of local farmers.

You know, it is a very nice place to practice archery.

 

Man it has been hot.

Yes sir, it has been hot. How hot? I have no idea. Brenda told me with the heat index was over 100°F two days ago. Beyond that, I have not checked. There’s no need since I can’t make it cooler. And believe me – I am not complaining!

When I think back to winter and shooting out of my shed while standing next to a wall heater trying to stay warm, well I’d rather be hot.

I keep a water bottle (I use TriFuel) with me in this heat. The iPhone is on the chair so that I can set my timer for 5-minutes during each end of 50-meter practice.

There may come a time when I can no longer take the heat. I’ll have to wait and see. Until then, bring it on.

There’s no need to be foolish in hot weather. Stay hydrated, run more easily, and push a little less intensely on the bike.

I took this picture before I moved my gear back into that shade. The bow was getting ‘hot’ between ends and my TriFuel was warming up.

During archery practice the biggest problem is sweat. It makes my grip slippery. It’s only a concern for a few seconds. Since the bow is just resting on and against my hand, not really being gripped, once it settles into place all is right on the range. The sweat is a bit more of a problem when it drips into an eyes.

All in all, I’d rather not be cold.

Interesting Day In the Heat

This was a long day in the heat. When I stopped for the day the temperature was 93°F. I was sweaty and stinky. It was time to call it quits when I overshot my 50-meter target. But, 50-meter is still secondary at this point in my training. The focus had been on 3D. (50-meter was my second session of the day. 3D was the primary practice session.)

My 3D average has dropped during the year. I mentioned this to a friend of mine who is a competitive pistol shooter. He asked, “Think you’ve developed any new bad habits?” I answered, ‘No, I’m still exploring the old bad habits.”

3D practice was slow and purposeful, today. It was an effort to discover why I’m getting worse instead of better. Worse and better here are relative. Certainly, I’m better than I was, but not progressing at the moment.

For this practice I selected 10 targets: a badger, cinnamon bear, turkey, coyote, small black bear, two small boars, a deer, a mountain lion, and a javelina. Then, I’d shot them each at 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 yards pulling the arrow and scoring each arrow after each shot. It’s slow. I ended up walking 2.15 miles as measured by a Garmin wrist GPS. It took 2 hours and 5 minutes to complete.

I did take a break because of the heat and for lunch. While on a break I paused my GPS in order to get an accurate measurement of the practice distance. That does not mean that breaks in heat are not part of practice. It only means that I did not want to have that time and distance included in my data.

The canopy helps with the heat

The walking wasn’t bad in itself, but I had a two-mile run and 10-mile bike ride in my legs when I started shooting. And it was in the low 90’s. I was  sweating like the pig that knows its dinner despite a canopy of leaves blocking most of the direct sun. But, I’ll take the heat over the cold.

The archery practice alone is good. In order to have it mean more I study my numbers. The data from today’s 3D shots are revealing but not surprising.

At 20-yards I averaged 10.6 points per arrow. At 25-yards the average was 9.9. You guessed it, as the distance increased the average points per arrow dropped. Makes since, the longer the shot the greater skill it takes. At 30-yards, the average was 9.6, and then at 35 and 40 yards, the average was 8.1 and 8.7, respectively. (Yes, 0.6 points better at 40 yards compared to 35 yards.)

This ole cinnamon bear is the first target on the range. It gets more than a fair share of arrows

The targets were medium to small. A javelina at 40 yards is a pretty tough shot. Especially when the varmint is sitting in a dark hole. Throughout all the targets, I try to make them difficult. They’re lined up in tight areas, on logs, across a creek, or with ground cover to make judging yardage more difficult. Some are in plain view because occasionally we get to shoot at targets stuck up in the middle of nothing except wind.

There really is a small black bear in that hole. No, I can’t see it either when shooting as conveyed by an average on this target of 7.8. (Shot two 5s at 30 and 40 yards)

This bit of practice, aside from indicating I need more work at 35 and 40 yards, resulted in an overall average score per arrow of 9.35. That’s lower than my average in 3D tournaments since January 2017, which is 9.45 points per arrow. (My best single day for 2017 was 10.1 points per arrow) The practice today, was also, an average of 2 yards further per all targets than normal.

Indeed, that yardage is an estimate. I try to record, once I get home, the targets and the distances shot during tournaments. I’m getting better at remembering what I faced on a competitive range.

Miss this shot and you can say goodbye to an arrow

My best guess is the average distance per tournament is 28 yards per target. It’s those animals at 35 and 40 yards that have been hurting throughout the year. Since going back to fixed pins for 2017 my maximum distance is 40 yards versus 50 in past years.

I wasn’t alone in enjoying the day

I log and record my archery practices and competitions. Doing so helps set goals as well as prepare training plans. After practice and tournaments I set down and study my data. It does aid in providing insight and plotting development.

Today was that day

First 6 warm up arrows. Hey, I know the target looks weak. It stops the arrows.

The morning went like so many others, run, ride, and then shoot. The running and riding only took about 90 minutes. Shooting was another 90 minutes before I stopped.

Paddling my Current Concepts “Storm”. It’s a big boat at 17 feet and 1 inch.

Archery practice was 50-meters. Things were going well. Well enough until I shot a 5. The shot was so off I was surprised I didn’t miss the target entirely. Mentally, I’d run out of steam.

Brenda in one of our 2 Necky Looksha boats.
Osprey nest or Lorax nest?

It was only the 48th arrow of the morning. Still, it was time to take a break. I’d have lunch, take a nap and get back to it around 2 in the afternoon. I didn’t make it back.

Just up river from our house. I suppose we are on the wrong side of it.

Instead, Brenda and I took a couple of kayaks and headed out for a long paddle.

Can’t get a Carolina Skiff into that opening but a kayak fits
At 90 degrees today, I am happy to have been on the water and not in that tent

There are days when it is good to have a diversion. Today was that day.

I’ve ridden my bike on this pier entering on the land side.
Here it is from a bike

2017 Virginia State IBO Championship and IBO World Championship Qualifier

The Virginia State IBO Championship and IBO World Championship qualifier is in the books for 2017. The Augusta Archers near Staunton, Virginia hosted the tournament. The event attracted a large number of shooters, I was among them.

The Augusta Archers have an excellent place for an outdoor range. Their land is a thickly covered hilly old Southern forest. Old is a guess based on the number of hardwoods on the property.

It was certainly a hilly course located between the scenic Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains near the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. My campsite for the few days I was there was just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

As dense as the forest was the ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects were not a problem – a pleasant surprise. The hills, I knew were going to present a challenge for me since 99% of all the 3D targets I’ve ever shot are on flat land.

The Augusta Archers’ range did not disappoint. All targets were placed to make them interesting and realistic. Clearly, a lot of thought had gone into the arrangement.

I love shots like this one. This photo is zoomed in so you can see the animal. It took us a few minutes to locate it from the stake. If I recall I shot it for 33 yards and got a 10.

Of course, the range designers set it up to give us a few brainteasers. One of the best was a two shot sequence. The first was a huge bedded elk. The elk was placed across a deep gorge. From the shooters’ stakes the terrain dipped down the steep ravine of around 20 yards in depth. The elk was then sitting 10 yards up the other side between 32 and 43 yards from the archers in my group depending on their class. The next target was a turkey staked around 24 – 32 yards away standing on rocks in a small stream. From huge to small the targets made you think.

This might be the largest target I’ve ever shot

Aside from me the group I shot with consisted of a mother/daughter team in the FBO class, Ginger and Sarah, respectively. Jay, an advanced hunter class shooter completed our quartet.

Zoomed in to see the target. It was close, 27 yards. The angle and trees make it interesting and fun.

The range was large. Our group was the second out in the morning on Sunday. We were never forced to wait for a target and moved along without stopping other than to shoot. The 30 targets still took over four hours to complete. There was a lot of walking. This is not a complaint. The land was so picturesque the trek is worth repeating.

Jay checking out a coyote in a dark hole. This was a long shot at a small target. Our group left the stake with an 11, a 10 and two 8s

Part of the slowness was time lost to hunt arrows that missed the mark. As tough as the course was I was happy not to have been one of those that ended up with a zero. Aside from the misses I witnessed, I heard a few other arrows zipping past their intended goal and banging off trees.

So, the course was hard, but certainly manageable and every target had a very clear line -even if it at times it was tight. Ideal to sort out archery skills. For me, where I had shots that I wanted to take back it was never the distance, target, or its location.  My biggest problem was the lack of experience aiming and balancing on ground that wasn’t as level as I am used to standing on when shooting.

After the last target, a badger on stake 30, we returned to the clubhouse and submitted our scorecards. There were two officials laboring over a pile of scorecards, papers, forms and documents. It was impressive how much paperwork goes into managing a competition such as this tournament. I, for one, appreciated their hard work.

It was a challenging and beautiful course. If there’d been time, I would have enjoyed shooting it again for fun. Seriously, one of the most beautiful ranges I’ve shot.

I brought home a new belt buckle to hold up my pants

Not All Campsites Are Equal

We were on road for several days last week. We’d planned a trip to Delaware that was changed at the last minute. We still took to the road, only in the opposite direction.

Hiking along Beaver Dam Trail at Little Pee Dee State Park in Dillon, SC

When we travel, Brenda and I go by RV so that we can bring our dogs. We were traveling so often with archery and other adventures we bought a small Winnebago – for the dogs. Before the purchase I analyzed the cost of the RV along with gas, food, site fee and compared it to hotels, gas, food, and kennel fees. The spreadsheet numbers showed that the RV cost for travel stays will break even on the investment in 28 months.   A real benefit is that we enjoy the camping. That is most of the time.

Last year, coming back from the IBO World Championship in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania I stayed at a really bad RV camp. It was simply too crowded, too noisy, and too commercial. It was not by any stretch camping.

River taking in the view in from of our camper

But, it was just overnight. I’d not made a prior reservation and pulled over when I became too tired to continue the drive. Beggars can’t be choosers.

More hiking at Little Pee Dee

On this recent amended trip we planned as best as possible. Our first stop was excellent. It was so nice we stopped there on the trip back to North Carolina. We’ll stay there again in September. That was at a State Park. So far, we’ve found that State Parks are the nicest campground in general.

Hiking at Little Pee Dee

Little Pee Dee State Park in Dillon, South Carolina was no exception. The campsites are large so we didn’t feel pinned in. It was quiet and very much an outdoor experience.

Our campsite at Little Pee Dee State Park

The second stop, Whispering Pines in Rincon, Georgia was not as nice. It was packed with many long term or permanent residents. It remained me of a drive-in movie theater without the big screen. Our corner lot was located at the intersection of two small and one large road.

This little car just drove through our campsite – that was really weird

I did  meet one fellow there, Jerry, while walking River. That was the highlight of the stay. Jerry and his wife have one of those mega-motorhomes. They’re building a home nearby and were parked at Whispering Pines during the contruction of their new home. Jerry is an engineer and contractor, his motorhome doubles as his office. He takes on major jobs aroud the country, most recently finishing a project here in North Carolina.

Jerry and a companion.

Aside from Jerry, I can’t really offer much else to say positive about our experience. Seriously, at one point two young men were working on a car five feet from my RV. Throughout their mechanical deliberations revving the car’s engine attached to one of those throaty after market mufflers was the whisperings through the pines.

That white truck is passing by our campsite on a major road only separated by that white fence

We do our best to find campgrounds that are as primitive as possible, that is with at least water and electricity. I mean, we aren’t traveling in a covered wagon.  Still, we look forward to having as much of an outdoor adventure where we stay as we can find.  It doesn’t always work out.

Yes, it was a little rough

Not a Pivotal Day for Improvement

Yesterday, I had to take care of the 3D range. Taking care of the 3D range is mowing; weed whacking, trimming, and then using a commercial leaf blower to knock back debris. The work takes about 5 hours. When it’s done it is very satisfying. Of course, once the chores were completed the 3D practice range became irresistible to shooting.

The Virginia State IBO Championship and World Championship qualifier in Staunton, VA, is about two weeks out. It’s my last chance to compete in an event that leads to the IBO World Championship. The plan is to shoot in Staunton with a hope to move onto Pennsylvania for the IBO’s main event. If my average scores are up to 10.4 points per arrow by the IBO World Championship I’ll give it a whirl. If not, well that’s a costly exercise to drive up to Seven Springs and fling arrows into the sides of a ski slope.

This is only 21 yards. The tress make the shot interesting

So, from now until Staunton there will be more deliberate practice on 3D. Not that I haven’t been focused on 3D but I have been splitting days between 3D and 50-meter.

This little bird hung out next to me for a surprisingly long time.

Having a freshly manicured  3D range beckoning I sat down at my desk and designed a tournament-like practice session. What I came up with was 20 targets to be scored in IBO fashion, not ASA style. I worked out the distance for each target based on what might be expected during a tough event. Those distance/target combinations were recorded on paper. After the 3D challenge on was paper I grabbed my gear and walked over to the range.

On the range I then stood where I thought the exact yardage would be to the target as recorded on the paper. For example, target number one was a bear set for 35 yards, so there I stood as I judged the distance to the bear. Once satisfied that I was standing at the proper distance for a specific target I measured that distance with a range finder to see how well I’d guessed. Finally, I shot the target and recorded the score.

I was pleased with judging the yardage being different by an average of 0.35 yards over all compared to the range finder’s yards. Most judged distances were spot on, 0 variance, with several 1 yard misses and two misses at 2 yards.  All the differences were within the standard deviation for the range finder. I always shot from my judged yardage.

This little rabbit is set up so that it had to be shot at an angle.

The down side of this is that I’ve shot the range so often for so long I pretty much know the distances from where ever I stand. Moving the targets around helps as does changing the perspective of the shot. Still, the experience of seeing other animals and various terrain remains a weakness.

One of my favorite targets. It is interesting to look at and fun to shoot.

Too bad my shooting wasn’t as good as my yardage judgment. I shot two fives, three eights, one eleven and the rest were tens. The first five was on a turkey. The shot was way off center and low right. It was also a close target, only twenty yards.

This, too, is an interesting shot. Several trees in the 35 yards from the stake to impact.

The 5 on the turkey was not a complicated shot. The miss was carelessness. I don’t even think I was looking when I shot. I was daydreaming.

The other 5, a black bear in a black hole 35 yards away, well that one was a challenge. Still, I’ve made that shot hundreds of times since I bought that bear a couple of months ago. The rings are impossible to see and I had examined the shot with binoculars beforehand. Between seeing the mark and shooting my short-term memory took a break.

This is a hard target to see. Dars a bar in dar.

The eights, those too were fairly difficult targets. One of them was a mosquito at 17 yards. Sure, that one sounds close and I should have hit at least a solid 10. I’d have argued for the 10 in competition. In practice I score any pulled line as the lower score. Then, there was a javelina for an 8 at 26 yards and worst of all a mountain lion at 35 yards for an eight. The total for the day a sad 185.

The past few weeks have not been pivotal in the improvement of my 3D shooting. I’ve actually dropped from a season average of 9.7 points per target to 9.45, nearly a full point from my goal for 2017.

After this score, I was also pounding my head.

Well, all there is to be done is try some more. In the meantime, the 3D range is pretty awesome.