Last week, I received a nice invitation from a friend to join him and a small group of archers to shoot 3-D animal targets at our host’s home range. I have only shot at 3-D animal targets once, long ago, with a long bow, so I was a little leery of it.
Last time, everyone else was shooting compound bows with sights, which, in the right hands, can hit thumbtacks – and often at remarkably long ranges too. Back then, I was shooting a heavy long bow, which put me at a distinct disadvantage.
a skilled long bow archer is lucky to get away hitting a big margarine tub container lid at 20 yards. He is even luckier if he can do this in a grocery store.
I would call myself skilled – that is, until I shoot in front of others. Then I would call myself inconsistent.
You see, when I shoot in front of others I get distracted. That is because I typically have the attention span of a hummingbird confronted by a field of bright, sugary flowers. Alone, I can focus. When I am shooting with others, my focus turns to double vision or worse. And it deteriorates further if everyone I am shooting against is hitting thumbtacks, because that’s when I put even more distracting pressure upon myself.
Fortunately, the group I was shooting with had an advanced understanding of shooting etiquette. Which is to say, they shot before me and missed their initial shots at a distant downhill elk target. I would have hit that elk dead centre, but I wanted to reciprocate the favour.
I cannot tell you how important this show of etiquette is to the new guy in the group.
Their misses put me at ease. And over the course of the next 20 or more targets, I was able to put them at ease a few times too. But I was also able to relax and focus, and had moments of brilliance(at one station, I centre-punched a three-inch circle painted on the chest of a moose target at 40 yards). Before you think I am Robin Hood, however, let me also confess I had moments when I got distracted and I missed a couple of shots I would normally consider slam dunks. Luckily, however, those shots are fading from my memory even as we speak and by next week I imagine they’ll be gone forever.
What is left is the feeling that I shot well enough. And I am pretty sure everyone there would describe their experience similarly.
Most importantly, each of us had fun, which was what the shoot was all about. That is because our host stressed, almost immediately, not to take the competition too seriously. He noted we were just going for a pleasant walk through the woods shooting a few arrows at life-sized foam animals along the way – you know, just like normal people do. That’s why scores were not kept – and this lack of evidence is why every shooter there went home and claimed to be the best shot in the group.
That attitude, the camaraderie, and the genuine praise on good shots, and the fact that there was a mutual, unspoken understanding that you were to ignore everyone’s bad ones makes me want to do it again – and soon.
It was a very enjoyable shooting experience, with challenges that you can’t help but miss.