When I practice at home River is along side for the session. River is an eight and a half year old lab. She has been accompanying me during practice since I started shooting four years and five months ago. She’s even joined me on some 3D competitions where she’s been welcomed to tag along.
It used to be that River got very impatient during practice. The stick game, shoot three arrows – throw a stick, gave her some satisfaction. These days we’re practicing at 50-meters so sticks can be tossed less frequently.
On occasion River searches out her own stick. Picking just the right stick she’ll relax on a pile of pine straw and gnaw her treasure. It is clear when she’s interested in finding her own stick and she’s free to explore while I practice.
Sometimes she’ll return with an entire limb that’s been cut down. The limb may be a dead branch or one with green leaves. I don’t understand her palate.
She’s also returned from a quest with an animal’s limb. She’s not killed an animal. The limb is a bit of remains from someone else’s meal. Once she brought to my feet an entire deer leg. Today, it appeared to be rabbit.
She was appalled when I took the leg and buried it. Burying a leg is a pointless and perhaps dumb exercise with a dog. The second I walked away to pull arrows she dug it up. There’s probably nothing wrong with River eating a raw leg, she is a dog after all. But, not wanting to chance it I put the little leg up in a tree. Poor River did all she could to express her disappointment.
I suppose, if you were a dog, you might prefer raw leg to a stick, too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Catfish falling from the sky! An osprey had it. An eagle wanted it. If the fish wasn’t available, osprey tastes good if you’re an eagle. In the osprey position, drop the fish and fly away, live to fish another day.
River and I ran through the woods this morning. I prefer trail running to running on the road and both forms of outside running beat a treadmill. There are many short circuits into and out of forested areas near my home here in North Carolina. River does not mind running loops and there seems to be more interesting areas to stop and sniff in the woods. I make this observation based on River’s actions; I don’t have the nose for a similar experience.
When it comes to exercise, running is often not enough and I add other workouts, cycling being my favorite. Because I ran trails I decided to ride the roads for a couple of more hours before shooting.
Turtles on the road interrupt nearly all rides. When I see them I help them across even when I’m racing against the clock. Today, I was riding easy and there was time for photographs taken of the two turtles I assisted.
Turtles have long lives when cars do not squash them. In their world no automobile warnings exist and they simply can’t comprehend the impact of a tire.
I wouldn’t call their moderate pace across a road crazy. Turtles don’t grasp that their mobile home provides no protection to the weight of a vehicle. Squirrels on the other hand seemingly have a limited understanding of cars and make an attempt to get out of the way – too often an unsuccessful back and forth rally made in hope of confusing the four-wheeled beast barreling down upon them.
Given the limited awareness of danger squirrels have I was mystified by one of the grey fellows today. While shooting a squirrel decided to forage a few feet to the side of my target. Clearly, this squirrel recognized that I am not a 15-year-old boy. Otherwise, its life would have been in peril.
Near my home are ample roads for cycling. There isn’t a lot traffic here in the “sticks.” So, cycling, riding on roads, is a real treat. There are also, as yet not completely explored, off road trails and paths that exit the paved, gravel, and dirt roads here in Perquimans County. About once a week or so, rather than riding a road bike, I head out on my mountain bike with the intention of discovering what lays down those paths and trails that lead away from more substantial thoroughfares.
After my morning junket with River, she likes to run before it gets too hot, I gathered my mountain bike, cell phone and water bottle. I mixed TriFuel for the water bottle before I headed out to where I wanted a closer look.
Along the way I found an abandon pier that led over a dried-up swamp. Typically, there would be water under the pier. We’ve had so little rain here during the past month the wetlands aren’t as wet as normal.
Most of the trails I followed led nowhere. There were a lot of dead ends. Many of them terminated at creeks or swamps. What I’d like to have is a nice 6 to 10 mile off road loop. I have smaller loops, 1 to 3 miles, but after awhile they begin to feel like the minor circles they are.
Even though I didn’t find an ideal loop I did get a fairly nice 8-mile out and back. It was a break from riding around in circles that can easily be double or tripled to make the ride worthwhile.
I can’t shoot all day long. I shoot a lot, several hours a day on most days. When I’m taking a break from archery I don’t sit around – there’s too much adventure to be had. Between archery sessions today I headed out on my mountain bike for some trail riding excitement.
Riding my mountain bike in the heat of the day was a blast – of heat. I didn’t get into the woods until 2:30 PM. It was a warm 97 degrees.
I loaded my bike at home and drove it 26 miles away to the “hunting” property. There are logging trails throughout the 879 acres. Excellent for off road cycling.
The scenery this time of the year is vastly different from the fall and winter. These woods were at times thick and dark. Other parts of the woods were bright and sunny.
The Georgia red clay, ubiquitous here, was hard and cracking under the heat. Small puddles were surrounded by tracks of the locals trying to get a sip or dip.
The paths led from hard red clay to thick underbrush.
Some of the tracks I passed showed me that there is a new crop of fawns growing in these woods.
Riding down the main path I approached “Buzzard Tower.” In the fall buzzards hang out there, I didn’t see one in this heat.
Occasionally the trails were overgrown and plowing ahead provided a few scrapes and cuts.
Despite the heat, it was a great few hours of trail riding.
I leave most snakes alone. Typically, they don’t bother me and I don’t mess with them. There is an exception – the water moccasin.
Where we live there is an abundance of these aggressive snakes. They swim where we swim. They lounge on my dock. They slither among my plants. They hang out on the steps that lead from my bulkhead into the river.
When I see them I do what I can to get rid of them. By getting rid of them I mean l killing them. My weapon of choice is not my bow. I use a double barrel 410 shotgun with number 6 shot. It does the trick. Today, it did the trick three times within about 15 minutes.
The biggest of the three was lying on my dock. It was a huge fat snake. The second was swimming to the steps on my bulkhead – it didn’t make the steps before it met its maker. The third I shot off the neighbor’s steps that lead into the river.
An hour later we heard a shot from our neighbor, we guessed he’d shot yet another moccasin. I’ll check with him later, but if the shot was indeed the last noise that a water moccasin heard, that makes 5 killed so far this spring.
A close friend of mine, since the 7th grade, sent me an email. She’d noticed I’d not been posting much on Facebook or this website. She was a little concerned and wanted to know if I was okay. I really appreciated her inquiry and let her know all is fine, that I’ve been busy. We’re up in northeast Georgia visiting my 88-year-old father-in-law, Ray. With Ray, you can be assured you will be busy.
By busy, I don’t mean taking care of Ray. I mean keeping up with Ray. Every day starts before sunrise. Then, he’s working, for example loading 50-pound bags of feed onto one of his trucks. Naturally, I’ve got to pitch in or he’ll make me look bad. Once, I wasn’t paying attention, I’d been shooting, and discovered he’d loaded 500 pounds of corn into the bed of a truck whileI was gone. Granted the bags only weight 50 pounds each but part of the effort meant hauling each one about 15 yards from where they were stacked before throwing them into the truck.
That corn was then driven to his hunting property where we loaded it on ATVs and distributed it over selected areas located throughout his 800 acres. The ATV trails are a bit rough and there was a good bit of bouncing around involved during the delivery.
There was, also, tractors to be dealt with, trailers to be attached (big trailers) and detached, fields to be walked and discussed, trail cameras to be checked and reloaded, and more bags of feed to be purchased, loaded and distributed. Ray had handled the second feed purchase, 450 pounds by himself. I’d have helped, but I still needed to work archery practice and was unaware he’d left to get the feed. Running means out at the ‘puke of dawn’ for River and I.
Going through the woods to distribute the feed, Ray ride a John Deere 650cc Trail Buck. I was driving Polaris Crew because I was carrying the feed. Once we’d finished we headed back down trails to where we’d parked the truck. Ray drove off first. This was a decent trail with only a few pits, bumps, logs, and mud holes to transverse. Ray had a few seconds head start. When I say seconds, I mean seconds. I could see him twenty yards ahead. I want to say about twenty yards away so the debris that blows back from his ATV doesn’t end up on me.
There was one left hand turn. When I made that turn, Ray was gone. Not just way ahead, gone out of sight. I was, in spots, going 30 mph. The next time I saw Ray he was standing near his truck talking with Bruce and his son Jeff.
Bruce had shown up to do work on tractor accessories – plows, etc. He is also getting instruction on where to move tree stands, plow and clear land. That turned into an hour of instruction. What I remember most is that I was starving and ready for lunch. Ray seemed impervious to fatigue or hunger.
Last Friday, out of a possible 220 points, during an indoor 3D tournament, I shot a 166. Despite, the abysmal score, the venue was excellent practice in mental control.
None of the shots were easy, and not too difficult. The lighting was a factor that made for good practice. The building was so dim that the monofilament on my scope failed to suck in enough ambient light to illuminate. Thankfully, the single vertical pin shadow against the target gave me a reference. Because binoculars aren’t allowed it was good practice taking aim at the center of mass or best-perceived kill shot and simply shoot.
The manner that the targets were arranged was 4 in a row were lined up at 5 shooting stages. Each archer had 2 minutes to shoot 4 targets. Because everyone loves kids, cubs were included in the competition.
In my group we had 4 adults and 2 kids, which later became 4 kids. It remains unclear from where the other two came or exactly when they joined. The children are allowed to move about 10 yards closer to the targets to begin shooting.
Rounding them up was another a fun activity and one I highly recommend in lieu of jogging. Getting the kids to the line doesn’t imply, once there, they are ready to shoot. Often the inexperienced wrangler made the mistake of roping kid only. The freed and lined up youngster would stand there for a few minutes until they or the adult handler noticed the bow and arrows had been forgotten.
If the kid noticed, it would sprint away and return with a bow or some arrows. Returning with bow and arrows is a bit much for a 6 year old to comprehend. Or in some cases, the improperly equipped would sprint away become distracted and for a while be lost.
Another tournament activity that many adults include for cubs is feeding them during the competition. It seems that every sip of fluid a kid consumes leads to a bathroom break. Because the toilet is down range, all shooting stops while kids tended to their business.
I’m convinced the bathroom converted into an adventure cave following entry by any person under the age of 10. They didn’t want to come out. As a matter of record, a few had to be rescued having locked themselves inside in pursuit of permanent adventure.
If you’ve raised children you know they can be wild. They should be allowed to run wild and play hard. There is a time and place for most things, including letting the kids have at it. On top of the list for free ranging children, isn’t an archery range during a tournament. The bright side – if there are wild children running, screaming, and reeking havoc while you are shooting it is a good time to practice being in the present and blocking everything out that doesn’t matter. Just keep an eye out for a loose child sprinting into your line of fire.