The Archer in the Attic

It was another rainy, cold, dreary, and windy day on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

At our home in Hertford, North Carolina, we are up at the ‘puke of dawn’ to open the door and release River, our three and half year of Labrador retriever, to savor the smells in the air and do her business.  At our wooded rural home in NC, River is free to wander with little or no human observation.  Here in Easton, MD, leash laws prevent River from managing her own affairs, so after putting on several layers of clothing and donning myself in foul-weather gear I am off to roam about the tundra with River.  During our walk, with River breaking our cadence to stop, sniff, stop, sniff, stop, sniff…MARK!…with amazing frequency, we plod along as she searches for the perfect place to poop.  During our trek, Willy Nelson’s song “Georgia” is floating through my mind and I am thinking about where can I shoot on this miserable day.  The fall back for me is always Shore Sportsman on Route 50 in Easton.

Shore Sportsman
Shore Sportsman

The Shore Sportsman has been around for over 25 years.  I’ve been buying things there for ten of those years.  It is where I purchased my Mathews Apex 7 and Mathews ZXT.  When I purchased the bows I was taken upstairs, to their attic storeroom, where they have a one-lane range for initially sighting new bows.  This small, 15 yard, attic range is one of the most frequent places I shoot.

The attic range

When time is limited or conditions prohibitive, the Shore Sportsman is a great fall back to not shooting.  One very nice benefit is that I am typically alone upstairs. There, I take all the time and space I need to work out difficulties, perfect my form and analyze errors.  The only eyes that see my mistakes are my own, and the ever-staring glass orbs glued open on a deer’s head and in a stuffed goose, both relegated to the attic in favor of more substantial trophies now hanging in the rooms below.  Of the things I like most about the attic is that beyond the popping of arrows and the occasional demonstrative duck call from downstairs, it is silent. In the attic, I can hear myself think and focus my attention.

On this day in Easton, I am driven indoors by the not-so-Springy 42-degree temperature, and the rain and wind.  I was working out with my ZXT.  My internal debate was which bow I should use for 3D, the ZXT or the Apex 7.  The 3D reviews for the ZXT are not glowing.  The Apex 7 is well established as a target bow.  Both are so much fun to shoot and both are very different.  The ZXT feels better in my hand.  The Apex 7 is, well, an Apex 7; res ipsa loquitur. My scores and patterns are essentially identical using either bow.

At Shore Sportsman, Kenny heads up the archery department.  When he is not busy with customers, we get to talk archery.  If I don’t include my youthful recurve days, Kenny has been shooting longer than me.  So, I listen to his advice. He has been trying to convince me to take a stab using a thumb release versus my hinge back tension.  He’d found a thumb release at a garage sale and brought it in for me to try.  He said, “I picked this one up for a buck and a half.”  Later, I would search for it on the Internet; it sells new for around ten dollars.

Kenny working on a bow at Shore Sportsman

Operating Kenny’s thumb release, I shot about the same as with my back tension, and that may have been an indication I should try a high quality thumb release.  I’d only held Kenny’s garage sale release for a minute or two before I began shooting with it.  I wonder how I’d shoot with a really nice thumb release and a bit of practice? The practice is a problem, not having a thumb release product, especially with IBO 3D qualifiers on the horizon. And now, there is the bigger problem – doubt.

I shoot with a Scott Longhorn Pro Advantage release.  It feels great in my hand.  It “clicks” when the angle to release is nearly met. The click drives me crazy.  There is a way to stop the click but I’ve avoided any attempt to remedy the problem for fear of destroying the release.  I’ve learned to manage the click by causing it to activate as I am drawing the arrow, thus avoiding the aggravating noise in my ear.  It works, but this trick causes me to occasionally loose an arrow early, about once in every 200 shots.  Or, in full disclosure, it could be that I screw up the shot more than usual every 200 shots. Today, upstairs at Shore Sportsmen, I was due for the screw up.

Drawing back and preparing to aim at the middle X on a FITA 5-spot target, the arrow was away.  When the arrow released, I hadn’t yet lifted the PEEP to my eye. By the sound, I knew the arrow had struck the bail – but where? Happy the arrow didn’t go into the wall (that would have been embarrassing) I looked through my binoculars and found the arrow not too far from the X I’d hoped to hit. How it got there is a miracle.

The miracle in the middle

The guys at Shore Sportsman are typically busy.  If they are not helping customers they are active managing the store.  Nevertheless, whenever I come there to shoot I am welcomed and brought into friendly conversation, sometimes brief if they are busy, but sometimes a long and interesting conversation.  They used to charge me to use their attic range; these days they let me shoot at no charge.  Free range usage is a bit awkward for me and I’ve commented several times that I am willing to pay. About this Kenny said, “Just remember us when you get famous.”

I doubt I will ever become famous, but I will certainly remember Shore Sportsman.  The hours upon hours I have practiced in the solitude of their attic range is unforgettable.  Thanks guys, more than once you’ve provided a warm dry place to shoot and have helped me to put it on the line.