Along The Trail 9-25-14

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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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The Osage bow comes back with ease. I’ve switched my shooting style from three fingers under the arrow to a split finger form.

My middle finger hooks in at the corner of my mouth as my eyes, arms, back and shoulders all work together. Almost unconsciously, the arrow is released and quietly cuts through the air and sinks into the target.

The rest of the shooters in our group follow suit and as we pull the arrows, the scores all called out and logged. In typical fashion, a lot of chiding, laughter and good natured ribbing goes on as we continue on to the next deer target down the trail.

For me, bowhunting is a primarily a solitary affair. Out in the woods, amongst nature is where I recharge. The chill of a frosty morning, the bite of the air in my lungs, the pallet of fall colors renews my mind. It’s where I do some of my best thinking or sometimes no thinking at all, letting myself become absorbed in the outdoor scene.

But, 3-D archery shooting and tournaments are a different animal.

Several times a year, I gather with good friends that share the same passion that I do for traditional bowhunting for monthly shooting contests. Most of the time we’ll shoot locally in Scottsburg, Indiana; but a few times a year, if time and the budget allows, we’ll hit the ranges in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and a few others around the state.

As anyone who has shot with me can attest, I’m not a competition archer. I’m a bowhunter who enjoys shooting 3-D courses, but I’m solidly mediocre on the best of days. But, the practice that target archery provides and the pressure of friendly competition helps me prepare for when the real moment of truth comes. It gives me an opportunity to work on my form, concentrate on my shooting and hopefully become a better shot, which in turn should help me become a better hunter.

But aside from all the hunting and shooting benefits that the 3-D range provides, there’s a lot more to it.

It’s a chance to connect with friends from far away, to catch up with them, not just about bowhunting, but life. As my pals and I make our way around the course and wind down its trail between targets, we talk hunting, shooting and strategies.

But more likely, we’re chatting about politics, the world, religion, our kids’ schools, our loved ones and the list goes on and on - most the time agreeing, sometimes not, but always good hearted even in debate.

It’s given me opportunities to meet fellow hunters from all across the state and the nation. Attending 3-D shoots and rendezvous has opened up new doors, has allowed me to make great friends and introduced me to some icons in the niche world of traditional archery. Some of my closest friends have come to me through shooting a simple bow and arrow.

So, for my bowhunting friends out there, modern or traditional, if you haven’t given 3-D archery a try, give it a shot. The practice benefits are obvious, but the hidden gems of the friendships built, the camaraderie, the shared experiences and lessons learned far outweigh the arrows hitting the 10 ring.

As much as I’m looking forward to being in my treestand soon chasing whitetails, I’ll be looking forward to seeing my friends again during a cold, blustery January Saturday and flinging our arrows once again together.

– David Hewitt