Along The Trail 5-21-15

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Editor’s Note: This is a column written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The articles center on all things ‘outdoors’, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.

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Amidst the steady drizzle and an occasional clap of spring time thunder, my friends and I plod along the archery trail at our monthly gathering.

Each of us takes our turn – foot against the rebar stake, focus, draw, anchor and release.

The arrow speeds towards its mark, hopefully finding the target with a thump.

30 animal-shaped, foam targets in all, we make our way through the 3D course. One of the archers takes aim with his longbow at a small ground hog target 15 yards away, while the rest of us chat back and forth. We talk about everything and nothing at the same time. Some topics serious, some complete nonsense, but we have a good time regardless.

As I move through the range, I look at the gold/orange colored piece of Osage in my hand and am always amazed at the lightness of the bow. “How could something so simple be so deadly at the same time”, goes through my head.

I look at the traditional bows of my friends as we hike on towards the next target. All variations of primitive bows, some more complex than others, but all of them simple in terms of archery. No mechanical advantages, no sights, no release aids. Just muscle memory, concentration and focus and practice - lots and lots of practice.

We take aim at the next stage, a replica of a whitetail deer in a hunting scenario. I bend around trying to find a clear path for my arrow to it make down range. The bowstring slips from my fingers and the arrow follows with a dull thud. I can see from my spot that arrow landed in the “8” ring and I’ll take it. Far from a competitive archer, the 3D course is hunting practice for me and anything near the kill zone on a live animal equals success for this bowhunter.

The rest of the morning is spent much the same way. The better shooters in our group, which I’m not a member of, loose their arrows into the 8 and 10 rings on the targets, while the rest of us are happy to hear the solid thump of arrow striking foam.

“Foam is your friend” is called out amongst laughter and chiding each other, but in reality the sound of my arrows hitting foam means no lost arrows and no broken tips. We slip and slide the rest of the way along the muddy trail to the last target. Thump, thump, thump, repeats itself as my group of 7 shooters completes the range for the day.

Back at the club house and the scores are tallied. I’m never excited to see my results as I know they are solidly in the middle of the pack for our club’s numbers. But, one of the shooters in our group, our youngest shooter poured it on. More 8’s and 10’s than even his dad.

The final numbers are in and we were all bested by a 13 year old! Even though the youths shot a couple of steps closer than the adults, try as I might, I still can reconcile my shooting to the youngster’s - my hat’s off to you Wyatt! Good shooting!

Getting kids involved in the outdoors, spending time with them doing something is one of the most important thing we can do as parents, fathers and mentors. Get a kid out of the house, off the couch, away from their phones and computer. Like the saying goes: “Take a kid hunting and you’ll never have to hunt for the kid”.

- David Hewitt