The Backyard Bale

My release has been a mess. My sight is off and my bow sounds funny. My draw length feels too long and my peep is all over the string. The wind is a pain in the rear and I haven’t had a chance to ride my bike, swim or run. Sometimes, shooting a bow and not worrying about ill-perceived problems helps lower frustration.

The Backyard Range

One of the nice things about our home in Hertford, NC compared to the one in Easton, MD is that at anytime I can walk out to my yard and shoot. While I would enjoy shooting a high score, what I like most is the calming effect associated with the sport. For me, the more relaxed I become, the better the shoot. I am rarely all that relaxed.

Going for the Xs

Despite another day of heavy wind it was fun to get out and practice. Shooting at five spots is okay, but it is good to mix it up. Sometimes I try to hit the Xs and at other times I try to put the arrows between the spots and one in the center.

Shooting between the spots

Shooting from the porch or the upper deck is another way to create entertainment. Once, I shot from the roof of our house. In hindsight, not one of my better ideas and not an activity I’ll likely repeat. My last stupid idea landed me in surgery.

Results of my last stupid idea

The upper deck gets all the wind from off the river but the porch is a bit more protected. At other times I’ll shoot from the front yard to the back yard – any further and I’d be standing in the river.

Elevated Porch Stake

On this day, the windows of the house were opened allowing the breeze to cool us.  The high temperature was only 80° F (27°C), as such, inside wasn’t hot. While I was aiming for the bale  from an opened window comes a voice, “Shoot, GO… Now!” My wife teasing me in a manner improvised by my four year old grandson, Sean. Sean’s coaching technique remains unperfected. Of course, I can’t shoot now, it is hard to laugh and simultaneously shoot. (See the post on Shooting with Sean)

Sean, a bad influence on his Grandmother

I did, however, get in a day of archery. It was one of those long practice sessions where all I did was try to relax or at best dealt with the wind.



Socratic Illumination At Soggy Bottom

The Soggy Bottom boys got stormed on two week ago. They’d only shot as far as target 12 when a thunderstorm hit, causing them to sprint for their trucks. This week, there was a 60% chance of rain. The rain held and the entire course was played. During the competition conversation floated over the group as it moved through the maze of targets and ticks.

I’d missed the week of the rainout. I was putting my sailboat in the water. It didn’t storm where the boat was being launched. Back at Soggy Bottom, having taken refuge from the storm, the boys speculated that I would rather launch a sailboat during a lightening storm than return to the swamp to practice 3D archery. They were unaware of the nearly perfect weather 60 miles away.

Launching the sailboat

For the boat, we had a crew ready to compliment the weather. Once launched the sailors set about their tasks. When underway there time to talk. The topics that afternoon were human breathing function, respiratory acidosis and two cases of medical interest.

Not yet under sail

The following Tuesday, despite the Weather Channel’s prediction of Armageddon, it didn’t rain at Soggy Bottom. There was a quorum of archers ready to shoot and the assembly headed into the swamp.

Once everyone was focused and the competition underway, conversation aired as people progressed into their flow of shooting, moving and talking. The primary dialogue among this group, like the sailors of last week, revolved around human body function. However, the system of concentration was south of the diaphragm.

Come on in boys the weather is fine

The deliberated topic related to digestion of a sugar-free snack. Apparently, the product wreaks havoc on the gastrointestinal system. In a prior experience, one of the shooters had consumed an entire pack of the foodstuff. Within minutes his gaseous build up and its subsequent voluminous release caused him a degree of embarrassment since it was happening during work.

Following his olfactory offensive episodes of gas discharge rapid peristalsis ensued. Fortunately, for the impacted shooter, his work now completed, he was able to station himself within feet of a toilet for the remainder of the evening. The cause and effect of the offending foodstuff was compared to the experiences associated with a variety of nutritional products and the outcome for each shooter’s GI system. In turn, the archers proudly relayed their physiologically explosive experiences, the magnitude of their audible releases of gas followed by the amount of solid matter excreted, along with the circumstances when sharting* is most problematic.

We had another great shoot at Soggy Bottom. Each target was a challenge and the weather did not hamper the day. It is curious that both sailors and archers enjoy Socratic inquiry of human physiology. It must be pointed out, however, that when debating bodily functions, it is tough to beat a good fart story told among friends.

Norman, Lee, John and Paul

* Shart – a small, unintended defecation that occurs when one relaxes the anal sphincter to far.

A Mid-Del 3D Day in June

3D archery tournaments are a bit like golf tournaments. People move about the course in small bands often consisting of friends shooting (playing) together. A few individuals arrive alone and are teamed up with others by event officials or take the initiative and ask to join a group. On Sunday, I’d arrived alone for the Mid Del Archers’ monthly 3D shoot.

Mid-Del Archers’ Clubhouse

There was a substantial turn out for the competition.   The parking lot was nearly filled by 0845.  Mid-Del offered a causal start for the event with registration from 0830 – 1030.  Clusters of people lingered about, some headed into the clubhouse, while others warmed up, chatted, or were heading to the course.  No doubt, packs of archers were already in the woods compiling their scores.

Flying solo I needed to free lance my way into a group of archers.  I’ve learned not to rush up to the first group I see and ask to join their party.  Strategically, I scan for a familiar face, perhaps someone in my predicament or folks I recognize from other tournaments and ask to step in with them.

The first band I encountered I’d seen before.  These boys, I am fairly certain, are hardcore, if not professional 3D archers.  They were adorned with serious equipment, porcupine stabilizers, telescopic bows sights, arrows as thick as small tree branches, HD binoculars, and bivouac gear that would make a survivalist envious. Further observation revealed tangible indication of their superior, top dog, status in the manner with which they utilized the warm-up range.

Archers warming up at 40 yards

Mid-Del’s warm-up area has multiple targets at 20, 30, and 40-yards.  Between the 20-yard and 30-yard targets is a row of trees.  One of the top dog archers after shooting on the 20-yard target, shot across the lane, angling through the row of trees, to the 30-yard target.  There was another archer currently shooting that exact target.  By his surprised reaction to the cross-lane shot it was apparent he was not at the level of the top dog now adding arrows to the aforementioned 30-yard target.

Understandably, so much entitlement comes with the degree of skill and pecking order rank of such a top dog archer.  That display of bowmenship, well beyond my capacity, alerted me to not ask to join the top dog group. I abandoned the warm-up area leaving the entitled to their deliberations.

Clyde managing the cash

Inside the clubhouse, my search for alliance continued without attainment.  Jim and Clyde, officers of Mid-Del Archers facilitated registration.  Both of them were friendly and helpful.  I have never seen Jim when there wasn’t a smile on his face. Clyde has a quick wit and both fellows so pleasant I’d have been happy hanging out and talking with them all morning. Alas, a course awaited and I remained an archer apart.

Jim, in real life is not blurry

On the range I hung back in pursuit of a familiar face.  Finally, Andrew arrived with his friend and boss Mike.  I recognized Andrew from shooting on another course.  I asked to join their duo and they happily agreed.

The course, as expected, was congested. The three of us, fairly fast about our business, worked through the range bypassing stake entanglements. Andrew is utterly a top shooter – he’s been at it since he was seven.  Mike has been shooting 3D for several years and is very good as well.  I hoped my arrow count was undiminished at the conclusion the day.

Detouring assemblages of archers we crossed paths with the top dogs I’d seen earlier in the warm-up area.  Their roving campsite was pitched between targets 21 and 22.  At target 21, they were hovering around a foam deer.  I am not certain what they were doing behind the deer; they were all bent over digging through the plants.  They must have been looking for wild berries of some sort; certainly none of them could have possibly lost an arrow.  Our trio left them to their search and moved to another target – later we’d come back to the faux deer at 21.

Mike and Andrew reviewing our shots

Mike and Andrew proved me lucky finding such guys to spend a morning with shooting 3D targets.  We finished the day with decent scores – Andrew shot 318.  The weather had been excellent, bugs were not bothersome, and the Mid-Del volunteers had sprayed the course for ticks, so these little pests didn’t irritate us. They even provided coolers filled with water bottles for those carrying inadequate provisions.

Andrew scoring another X

Back home I told my wife, Brenda, about the morning at Mid-Del Archers.  She pointed out that 3D shoots sound to her like little adventures.  In that, they are.

My prize for the day


May was a big month for

Starting was my wife’s idea.  What I wanted to do was write a book similar to “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall or “On the Run” by David DiBenedetto, about an adventure in archery.  I was keeping notes about archery and Brenda suggested I turn those notes into a blog.

Brenda, retired school teacher, language arts, continues teach me to write

We decided on a website where I could add other bits of information.  In particular, I wanted to write about the science and research behind archery as well as the characters I encounter along the way.

The results amaze both Brenda and me. May, the third full month, was the biggest having nearly 4000 individual visitors who read almost 8000 pages with over 53,000 hits.


 I understand my writing is not up to the level of Hemingway, Twain, or Irving and I appreciate your literary tolerance.  Thanks everyone for reading and continuing to make successful.

Worn out after trying to write

Numbers can be fun.

It is not the bow, at least on an indoor range. It isn’t the arrow; it isn’t the sight, the stabilizer, the string, the quiver or the size of the target.  Regardless of what I shoot or where I shoot, the results are pretty much the same, when I shoot indoors.


ZXT hanging on my kayak rack

Using two bows I collected the results for 26 sessions of 30 arrows targeting a FITA 5 spot. I used a modified scoring system, if I hit the white that was 10 points, if I hit the blue that equaled nine point (30 arrows versus 60 arrows per session).    The distance to the target was measured using a tape measure on two indoor ranges, 20 yards. Each range was used equally.  All 26 sessions used Beman Hunter 500 carbon arrows with 100-grain tips. One bow was the Mathews Conquest Apex 7 with Bee Stinger stabilizers, an Axcel Achieve sight with a 6-inch bar and Axcel X-31 scope with 4X magnification. The other bow was a Mathews ZXT with an Axcel Armortech 7-pin hunting sight and Trophy Ridge 8 inch static stabilizer.  Both bows were matched for draw length and weight. A single release was used, the Scott Longhorn Pro Advantage.

Apex 7 on the porch in NC

The data was collected over a four-week period. The median score using the Apex 7 was 296, (range 293 – 300) while the median for the ZXT was 295 (range 291-298) and the interaction of scores was statistically non-significant (p<0.37). Anecdotally, shooting a Bear Authority and BowTech Insanity CPX yielded scores of 294 and 293, respectively (these bows used only once and scores not included in the analysis).

Apex 7 vs ZXT
Math can be fun!

This analysis was conducted to first determine if there was a measureable difference between the two bows, there is not on an indoor range at 20 yards.  Second, the data establishes a baseline from which to work toward shooting improvement.  For example, a variance in scores, that is a value outside the range (essentially a lower score) suggests something about the shooter has changed.  A value consistently above median means improvement. In either case, it is important to understand why the values have shifted.

So, when your numbers are like this, that is good.

Recently, trying a modification of my grip dropped scores to the 292 level (post study).  While practicing and attempting to adjust my grip another archer, pointed out a simple method to make the correction.  After several attempts, using his recommendation (thanks, Norman) the scores returned to their median levels.  While adjusting my anchor point, a slight change, my scores were slightly above the median. Understanding baseline levels and using a little math can aid in refining form.  It can also help, by tracking scores, to identify training loads and assign recovery days.

Norman Big Weekend
Thanks for the suggestion regarding my grip, Norman

 Although I keep track of 3D scores, the differences in ranges, target size, distances, weather, and other uncontrolled variables require a lot more data to provide a meaningful analysis. Overall, indoor shooting is more controlled having fewer offsetting conditions to interact with the data used to establish baseline values thus allowing for a good measure to use as a reference.

Shooting indoors reduced the influence of uncontrolled variables

What this study provided was evidence that both bows used preform essentially the same indoors at 20 yards.  The failure to reach a perfect score is therefore not the equipment’s fault.  (Not to suggest that equipment doesn’t fail, it does happen on rare occasion) The data further sets a baseline to be used as a control to judge progress and monitor form variance. However, a point is a point, so during tournaments, I’ll shoot the Apex 7, even if one point is not statistically significant.







Apple Archery Bow Press and String Jig

The other day,  I practiced in the attic at Shore Sportsman in Easton, MD.

The attic range

As I was leaving, Kenny, their archery manager, mentioned they have 2 used Apple Archery Bow Presses and 1 used Apple String Jig for sale.  He asked if I knew of anyone that might be interested in buying them. Off-hand, I didn’t know of anyone, however, I offered to share this on Facebook and my website.

IMG_1369 IMG_1371 IMG_1372

If you are interested call Shore Sportsman at 866-291-0084 or 410-820-5599.

Shore Sportsman
Shore Sportsman, Easton, MD

Winner’s Trophy at Soggy Bottom

Soggy Bottom Archery Range is ever changing. The targets are demanding and well placed in natural realistic positions.  There are inducements to shooting at Soggy Bottom beyond the advanced skills gained by archers testing themselves against a challenging array of artificial beasts.  This week, the motivation for many was the Winner’s Trophy.


 Each archer that practices at Soggy Bottom must survive pests and pestilence. Those with the fortitude to return for the weekly competition are among the best and heartiest shooters in the region if not the country.  This week unseasonably cool temperatures and rain had dampened the aggressive tick and insect attacks, but the mud and mire made up for their slack.  Prepared for the terrain, with conquest and glory in mind, a determined troop of bowmen were steadfast in their Tuesday evening assault on foam.

Wes, Chris, Norman and Lee prepare to shoot
Coyote often hide themselves with sticks

Norman Gustafson, proprietor of the range,  is a student of wildlife.  His study has provided him with the knowledge to amass the faux animals on his twenty-target range in exact positions where one might discover them during a hunt.  This evening, Norman laid out one of the most incomprehensible arrangements of targets one could image.  Each archer knew there was more on the line than practice.  A Winner’s Trophy was spoil for the victor.

Gators do climb

The prize was constructed from the highest quality Far East Oriental cardboard and had been assembled by hand in America.  Customized for the Soggy Bottom range the trophy was inspiration for all to shoot their best in pursuit of the fame.

Glory and Fame await

Despite fierce competition, in the woods the groups shooting in nearby proximity exchanged philosophical debate.  Individuals were identified and compared to areas of the gastrointestinal tract that ends and exists the body.  Considering the importance of the anatomical location and its function one could only regard the comparison as complementary.  Others were praised for their religious affiliation with groups related to the Pennsylvania Dutch, even though no one had arrived by horse and buggy.  The archers proffered their knowledge of science and religion while displaying for review their skill shooting 3D.

Good eyesight is a must at Soggy Bottom

Groups passed across the looped range and exited.  Afterwards an independent report of arrow casualties observed, “…. [the] course … claimed 3 arrows, 2 nocks, and some fletching.” (Christopher Watkins, reporting)

Too much sway and goodbye arrow

 Final tally for the day gave victory to John Sapp.  Mr. Sapp accepted the trophy secured during the most difficult of competitions. Receipt of the cellulose award and the champion’s ceremony were sadly not covered by ESPN; this report being a small consolidation of the triumph.

Spoils to the Victor! John Sapp’s acceptance speech.

Soggy Bottom never disappoints.  Each week new adventures await the elite that accept Norman’s challenge.  Their diligent returns speak volumes to their immune systems, eyesight, and nearly Olympic gymnasts balancing skills.  This past week, the prizewinner needed to put his best on the line to assure victory.

What prize and glory await the future for contestants at Soggy Bottom? (Norman presenting the award)




The New Arrow Phenomenon

Why is it when I buy new arrows within a few shots I have busted arrows? It started with Easton Fatboys.  UnknownI bought six from Wildcat Archery in Pooler, GA.  There is an outdoor range near their shop where I drove to test the Fatboys. On my second shot, one of my new $26.00 arrows smacked a flat head nail, hidden behind the target, driving the tip into the shaft. Crap!

Wildcat Archery in Pooler, GA

After purchasing a dozen Beman ICS Hunter arrows from Cypress Creek Archery in Millington, MD, I practiced on their indoor range.  In a hurry, I shot two arrows per target on a FITA 3 spot to reduce time spent walking back and forth to collect the arrows.  Within a few shots, I hit a totally random ‘Robin Hood.’  Twenty dollars right down the drain.

New arrows purchased shortly before this shot

A few days ago, shooting 3D with brand new Bemans a friend smacked one of his shots into my arrow. Initially, I though only the nock had been damaged.  Closer inspection revealed the carbon was cracked.  Another ten bucks gone faster than losing it in Vegas; set me up again.

In North Carolina, I took a few new arrows out to practice.  I found a weak point in the target, the arrow passed though and hit a support brick ruining the arrow. Ten dollars gone.

Brand new ruined arrow in NC

Oddly, arrow accidents seem to decrease after 2 – 4 of the newly purchased ones are destroyed. I tried buying six, rather than a dozen, to see if I could break the cycle. It didn’t take long before only four remained.   However, the old beaters, veteran survivors of the new arrow phenomenon, remain unmolested by man, obstacle or nature.

Considering the lesser arrows, I wondered, what if I bought eight nice arrows (say $10.00 each). Then, from Wal-Mart bought four inexpensive arrows ($4.00 each).  This would produce a mixed dozen arrows, cost $96.00. Next, by hand, break the Wal-Mart arrows thus arresting cycle.  The manually sacrificed arrows would cost $16.00.  Allowing events to occur naturally, starting with a dozen $10.00 arrows, statistically I’d end up with four broken $10.00 arrows – cost $40.00.  If the mixed dozen, 8 nice arrows and 4 less nice arrows (which I’d break by hand), worked to remedy the new arrow curse, it would leave me ahead by $24.00 and I’d still have 8 decent arrows. This is an untested hypothesis.

Another two bite the dust.

My really special, by definition expensive, arrows are used with prejudice. Only one per target, extra caution is taken to search for that hidden nail, and most certainly vigilant care to ensure no wild shots that might strike wood, brick or metal. Essentially, the expensive shafts are for indoor shooting.  Outside, especially 3D shoots where well-placed arrows become the target, I’ll use the less expensive bin shafts until I have an arrow sponsor.

All 3 arrows survived, none were new.

But, seriously, is this just me?



Big Weekend on the Eastern Shore

This past weekend on the Eastern Shore of Maryland there were plenty of organized activities for people who enjoy playing outside.  Among them were running events, cycling events, a triathlon, and 3D shooting.  I wanted to do them all but that wasn’t possible.

In advance, I’d signed up for the St. Michaels Running Festival held on May 17th. Within days of registering the Maritime Triathlon was announced and would be held May 18th.  Racing back to back is tough.  I decided to stick with my Saturday running event then shoot 3D with the Tuckahoe Bowmen on Sunday.

St. Michael’s Running Festival

Two days before the 3D shoot I changed my planned ½ marathon to 10K.  I’d done a weekend similar to this in the past.  That is, I’d run a ½ marathon one day and shot 3D the next.  Shooting 3D the day after a ½ marathon wasn’t horrible on my legs, but neither was it wonderful.

Shooting with the members of the Tuckahoe Bowmen means competing with some serious archers.  On Sunday, folks showed up wearing their pro-team shirts or T-shirts commemorating their participation in world archery championships.  Fitting with Saturday night’s post-run celebration, my T-shirt commemorated the “Hair-of-the-dog”, a local spirits shop.

Tuckahoe Bowmen Club House

The Tuckahoe Bowmen had a decent turn out of archers despite another competitive tournament in the region. The groups shooting included children, traditional and compound archers.  I joined a band of four:  Paul, Norman, Mevko, and Bill. It had been raining earlier in the week so knee-high boots were the foot apparel of choice among our troop. The rain brought cool temperatures, 50 to 70 degree-days, which seemed to have knocked back the ticks.  Sunday was sunny and cool.

Mevko considering his next shot

Paul had been out early to set up and supervise the placement of targets.  Suffering a back injury, to reduce the potential of further lumbar strain, he and other volunteers  put out an abundance of smaller targets.  As such, raccoon, turkey, bobcat, and javelina where the foam de jour.

Paul, master of target placement

Paul and Norman, typically, battled for 1st and 2nd place.  Paul took the day by a narrow margin.  It would have been nice to have departed the range with all of my arrows intact.  Bill dashed that by shooting into one of my brand new Bemans.

Norman Big Weekend
Norman, finding the X
Bill, seconds before hitting one of my arrows

I ended up scoring a personal best for the Tuckahoe Bowmen 3D course.  Saturday’s run was not a great as I’d thought.  My Garmin time and the official time had significant differences.  In that regard, nothing serious enough over which to lose sleep.  The Saturday night libations seemed to of had minimal effect on my shooting.  It remains unclear what that indicates in the matter of my current skill as an archer.  All in all, a very nice weekend on the Eastern Shore.

Shooting at Soggy Bottom

“When you come up the lane look for the 2nd telephone pole on your left, in the field. You’ll see an orange flagging tied to a tree on your left. Turn left there, go across the field, past the pond and follow that road all the way to the woods.” My instructions seemed a little clandestine for 3D practice at Soggy Bottom.

I never found the 2nd telephone pole or the orange flagging tied to a tree.  I ended crossing the wrong field and drove into to wrong patch of woods.  Using my mobile phone, I call for help. Help arrived; it was Norman riding across fields on an ATV.

The private, 20-target 3D range, appropriately named Soggy Bottom, may be one of the hardest courses on earth.  The owner, Norman Gustafson, takes pride in maintaining a course that will stretch your limits and cost you arrows.  Being invited to shoot with the archers that practice at Norman’s complicated range is privilege.  Or, it may be that inviting an uninitiated to this obstinate range, watching a neophyte’s eyeballs pop at seemingly impossible shots, is amusing to the old pros. On this day I felt like the sacrificial lamb. The group shooting today was: Norman, John, Paul, Lee and me.

Beyond their skill in archery, these fellows live at the forefront of fashion.  You can see in photo below, from the brothers of “Duck Dynasty” to the models covering “GQ”, these Soggy Bottom boys lead the way in outdoor style.

Outdoor fashion leaders

We warmed up on a bag target at 20 – 40 yards before moving onto the range.  As we approached the first target I was puzzled.  There was no target in sight.  The stake was obvious, but I did not see a target. Remaining quiet, I looked into trees, looked for a lane, and scanned the perimeter. There was no target.  I thought to myself, how well do I know these guys and is that a banjo sitting on the ATV?


Paul recognized my confusion and pointed to the target.  The animal was not at the end of a cleared lane, about 25 years away, with underbrush and trees between it and us.  Accustom to shooting on ranges (limited experience even at that) where a lane can be seen and distances estimated I immediately knew I was in for a challenge.

There is a foam animal in the center of this photo
Lee taking aim

Moving through this mosquito infested, tick filled swamp we rotated our shooting order as we approached targets. One small critter, a beaver, was positioned on a log next to a tree about 30 yards from the stake.  When Lee’s turn came to shoot, he aimed and released an arrow. Instantly, we heard a sound other than an arrow striking foam.  Unsure of what Lee had hit we approached the beaver to find he’d split Paul’s X’ed arrow. 

Paul’s arrow, split by Lee’s arrow

As  the  target count increased so did the difficulty.  For example, there was a wolf in a field, the stake in an open area, the window to shoot within passed through dense forest, across a creek, and slightly uphill some 33 or so yards distant. Across the same creek, similar distance, Norman had a hen turkey on a small hill, surrounded by vegetation. The hen was positioned so that the profile was angled leaving the X on a tangent to the stake.  Any shot variance and goodbye arrow.   Norman looked but never did find my Beman.

Luck of the draw placed me first on what was promised to be the most difficult target, number 20. In a pond, sat an alligator at 31 yards (I know that now).  The sun had nearly sat and the gator was not much more than a silhouette. I struck wood and touched foam, they gave me a gentlemen’s 5.

Checking the gator

John won the day by one point.  The counting of X’s in Norm’s favor.  I finished losing only one arrow and collecting a large sample of Maryland ticks.  Apparently, ticks at Soggy Bottom enjoy Duranon Tick Repellent.

Doubtless, practice at Soggy Bottom will help prepare anyone for future 3D tournaments, so long as malaria, Lyme’s Disease, water moccasins, and poison ivy  don’t kill them.  Excepting me, the others in the group seemed unmolested by such pests.  Even though I was covered with anaphylactic dermatitis the next day, I look forward to my next adventure at Norman’s Soggy Bottom range of humiliation.

Norman, Lee, John, and Paul