You know the quote about “best laid plans of mice and men,” well my plan was soon to be unexpectedly diverted off course.
My plan was to begin outdoor training for the 2014 3D archery competition season. Winter at my home in Easton, MD had been rough and would not move on for spring. There had been too much snow, too much cold, and too much ice. Accordingly, indoor archery practice became my genre of choice. Avoiding the cold, I’d gotten pretty good at sizing up 20 yards. But, I needed to get outside and practice. My plan got busted.
At long last Easton had a day that was sunny and 60 degrees (it wouldn’t last long). I was getting outside to shoot while the getting was good. I loaded archery gear into my 2006 Ford F-150 and drove to the Tuckahoe Bowman’s outdoor range in Queen Anne, MD. Arriving at the entrance of the range, a locked gate barred my access. It was time to become flexible with my plan. Plan B was a trek to Schrader’s Outdoors and shoot on their marked field targets.
When I reached Schrader’s in Hendersonville, MD the parking lot was filled to near capacity. Attached to their Club House was a large banner announcing something I couldn’t read from the far end of the parking lot. In the lot, I noticed a parked pick-up truck with its tailgate down and on it a bow case and assumed someone else was there to practice.
Located beside the Club House, Schrader’s has several flat targets with marked yardage and a 3D range. Until I had some yardage practice, I was sticking to flat targets at known distances (or so I’d planned). Having to park a few hundred yards away from their Club House I hiked in to make my arrangements.
On the front lawn, more correctly the front gravel, of the Club House there were picnic tables covered with compound bows – I wondered what was going on here. The banner, previously seen from a distance, now close, revealed no clues, so I headed into the Club House.
Milling about in the Club House were a dozen or so archers. Noticing a gray haired, gray bearded bureaucrat in the crowd I asked him what was happening. He explained Schrader’s was sponsoring a charity 3D archery event. The charity was for the Delaware Premier Outdoors DPOA Kids program.
Totally unprepared for a 3D Tournament, I filled out an entry form, paid the entrance fee, ran back to my truck, grabbed my bow, pocketed an untested release, stuffed four arrows into a quiver and sprinted ad libitum into the woods. I’d been teamed with several stoics, who’d previously arrived, to complete a shooting quartet.
In the woods, the first target was on the left. Still catching my breath following the jog from my truck it became my turn to shoot. A replicate coyote sat about 25 yards away from the first course stake. After taking my shot, I took my bearings.
On my right was the last of today’s targets; there were only 20 targets for this event. The 20 targets were arranged in a large circle through the woods. Each target was staked and numbered. At the target 20 stake, which closed the 3D loop and adjacent to stake 1, there seemed to be a campsite. To be fair, it was a cluster of people and supplies resembling a roving campsite managed by four archers. In addition to the archers, were two spectators apparently along for the exhibition.
Their bivouac included portable chairs, two small coolers, extra clothing that hung off the chairs, umbrellas bracing seats, provisions were available and being enjoyed, and laying about was spare archery gear for emergency or supplemental use. People mingled, ate, drank, and chatted. Studying target 20 an archer was aiming, next he drew his arrow, then let down his arrow, verified the target through binoculars, re-aimed, re-drew, let down a second time, re-checked through his binoculars, while professorially addressing his colleagues between postures. Following great and wondrous deliberation, this real life Sagittarius, naturally in the Open Class as indicated by the multiple stabilizers, assortment of unknown protuberances, and large scope on his bow, released his shot. The arrow smacked the rubberized modeled animal, a large boar. In unison, as if choreographed, the group at stake 20 inspired then lifted and peered wide-eyed through their binoculars. The assembly then lowered their optics, huddled and debated the shot. The team must have been conferring as to how best to approach the synthetic boar locked in place at number 20.
My group was poorly, even embarrassingly provisioned. We had no chairs, no water bottles, no food, no coolers; we lacked extra garments, carried limited archery gear, only 3 – 4 arrows each, and no umbrella. We were at the mercy of the wooded wild. To worsen our situation, the composite attitude was every man for himself.
Among our collective, no one was interested in sharing strategy. Conversation was discouraged. We traveled light and fast. Although we were socially awkward, we ranged effectively – silent, covert, almost like Ninja. We gathered no admiring spectators. No one ever let a bow down. Never was there more than one quick glance though binoculars. We shot then ate up the distance between us and the encampments ahead, literally “playing through” two groups temporarily immobilized at numerically growing stakes on the course.
I don’t know is any our meagerly supplied and silent group placed well in the event. However, if there had been a prize for fastest time through the maze of mock animals, we’d have certainly been among the victors.
Upon completion of the event I’d only shot 20 arrows. This was far less than I’d planned for the day. I’d also not planned to shoot 3D targets much less actually compete in a tournament, at least until I’d practiced at varying distances. Still, the event wasn’t too bad. I had entered the course with four arrows and existed with the same four arrows. My worst shot had been a 5. Sorrowfully, we don’t have Mulligan’s in archery.
The day had been a tease of spring. It would soon snow, again. My morning practice plan had been completely busted. The result was an unanticipated, aerobically challenging, short 20 targets, sprint 3D event. Sometimes, plans change. Sometimes, in archery and life, we end up unexpectedly putting it on line. Often times when plans get busted there is a silver lining. And eventually spring will come, along with its outdoor 3D tournaments.