I figured my indoor season might suffer this year when I made the choice to switch bows. I decided it was time for me to shoot a cable-stop bow again and figured the indoor season would give me plenty of time to get used to it and figure out if it was a good choice.
I struggled a little bit in the beginning but not with the things I normally struggled with indoors. It took me a while to get used to the way the bow aimed with a “softer” wall. I also quickly realized that cable-stop bows don’t show any mercy when you fail to make an aggressive shot. You will pay the price quickly, and over the last few years, I believe I might have gotten a little lazy while shooting higher let-off, limb-stop bows.
I headed to Nimrod for the annual New Year’s Day shoot and was able to shoot my average. I got to shoot between Jason Kennedy and Barry Gates, and we had a great time. I won my first match or two, then got eliminated by Joe Santos after shooting 10 xs out of the 12 arrows. That was easy to take. I couldn’t have shot much better.
In the few weeks after that event, I shot the Ti Yogi and Guan Ho Ha annual tournaments. I didn’t shoot a great score at either tournament, but I felt like I executed well. Unfortunately, I was still battling the hand tension that has kept me from achieving things that I knew I could achieve without it.
Heading into Lancaster, I knew my scores weren’t at the top of the class, but I figured I would make the elimination round if I did my thing and had a decent round. I just wasn’t clicking on all cylinders yet, and my high scores weren’t close to what they had been in the past.
When the buzzer sounded to begin shooting at Lancaster, I felt a little nervous. Levi Morgan was on the same butt, which made it interesting. I got out of the gate like a horse headed for the checkered flag; I couldn’t miss. After the first five ends had passed, I had only missed one 11. I was shooting relaxed shots, and they were all finding the center of the target. After a few distractions gathered my mind’s attention, the easy, relaxed shot execution and aiming went out the door. I began to fight and claw to hang on until the end. Although it seemed like I was making good shots, the arrows weren’t finding their way to the center.
Luckily, I made it to the elimination matches, and I felt good about my chances. During my warmups, I couldn’t miss. Every arrow found its way into the middle of the target. In the back of my mind, I figured this was the year, I would make it to the final four and appear on the live-feed in the shootoff. Well, that all went out the window after I shot my 12 arrows in my match. I never made a bad shot, but I couldn’t get one to land in the 11-ring. I walked away from the tournament wondering how I could prevent that from happening in the future. I knew that much of it was linked to tension in my release hand. It wasn’t drastic, but it was just enough to affect where the arrows were landing. I knew I had improved a lot from the battles with the same problem in the past.
The NFAA Mid-Atlantic Sectionals
Going into the sectionals, I felt good about my shooting. Things had finally started clicking, and I was aiming and executing well. I knew if I stayed relaxed and focused on the process, I would put up a decent number. I shot well and ended up shooting 300 56xs the first round and 300 57xs the second round, a great overall run for BHFS, 600 113xs and a tie for first, losing the inside/out x tiebreaker. My confidence came back after that tournament, and I went on to shoot two 450s over the last half of my indoor winter league
Winter Can-Am Classic
Since I never have a bow set up for 3D in the winter, I didn’t have much interest in attending this tournament, and I probably won’t attend next year due to that reason. It’s not fun if you’re not running a rig that you don’t think gives you a chance to win. I showed up with my hunting bow. The last thing I had done with it besides getting marks in my driveway for this shoot was to put an arrow through a deer in Illinois.
The night before heading to the tournament, I borrowed a Tru-Ball Execute release from Jeff Frasier after shooting it in his shop. Although I’ve always been able to shoot a caliper, I haven’t shot one much since defeating target panic in the early '90s. I shot it that night at my indoor league and ended the night with a 300 56x round… and I barely had to work to shoot that well. I knew with a little practice I could really dial it up a notch.
Then and there, I decided to use it the next day. I got new marks at the bale and gave it a whirl. Although the draw was a little off, the release felt great – no hand tension and easy to execute. When all was said and done, I made the elimination matches but ran into some bad luck, which led to me being eliminated. I felt confident with the change and decided to use the caliper for a few weeks to see what would happen.
The Beast of the East
After using the release for a few weeks in my league and performing well with it, I decided to use it at the Beast of the East Tournament at Turning Stone. The tournament always gives a laid-back atmosphere, which makes it a lot of fun.
After the tournament started, I began getting into a groove. I was feeling it, and it felt good. My shots had never broken so crisply, and the arrows were pounding the center out of the Vegas target. There are very few times when us Joes can say we are truly in the “Zone,” but I can say that I was in the zone that day. When all of the cards had been handed in, I learned that I had shot the most Xs of any archer who participated, and there were some good pros in attendance. Unfortunately, I shot three 9s, which kept me from being on the podium. My X count was good enough to land me in first if the tournament had used Lancaster scoring. With the New York State NFAA Championship coming the next week, I knew that I would have a good chance at taking home a win.
The New York NFAA State Championship
This tournament went well for me. I never got into a groove, but my newfound ability to shoot a relaxed shot with the caliper kept me from shooting any bad shots. Since my aiming pattern was slightly larger than normal, I had to fight to keep the arrows in the 10-ring. When everything was done, I ended with a 447 and took home the state title in BHFS. I knew that all my work during the indoor season had paid off, and I saw the results on the scoreboard. I was ready for the outdoor 3D season.
3D Season Starts
I found myself on the 3D range in April without any practice. The winter extended into the spring, and the snow wouldn’t leave to allow me to get outside to practice. I showed up at the Southern Dutchess IBO qualifier and thought I would do alright. I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Although, I got through the first eight targets in good shape, the wheels quickly fell off the bus. I couldn’t hold the bow steady, and my sight picture wasn’t not pleasant. Instantly, I realized I needed to do something, and I needed to do it before the IBO Massachusetts State Championship being held the next weekend.
I made quick work of the problem and went back to “old reliable,” a bow I knew I could shoot well without any time behind it. I threw the rest and sight on it and headed to Massachusetts. I struggled a little bit with getting my shot to fire, but I aimed well and felt good that the arrow hit behind the pin on every shot. When I got done, I didn’t think I could’ve shot any better. I came away with a W and knew I had made the right choice about the bow.
After the Massachusetts shoot, I shot the Rhode Island and New York state shoots the same weekend. It was a lot of traveling. I shot well at both shoots and knew there was no possible way I could’ve shot any better in Rhode Island. Sometimes you just get beat, and that shoot is one of them. I shot to the best of my ability and ended way up. I got beat by two points.
I had better luck at the New York shoot, winning it handily. I executed all good shots that day but the high let-off on my bow was starting to give me fits. While I could hold it well, I couldn’t get the release to fire. With the first leg of the National Tripe Crown approaching, I knew I had to change my strings. The serving on my string was beginning unravel, and it wasn’t in a good place. It was in the groove of the top cam, so I knew there wasn’t much life left in it. I decided to give it one more week and shoot it at the Maine state shoot. Once again, it held up and I did my part. The bow shoots, and that is the bottom line. At the same time, I knew the string had seen enough. I just couldn’t trust it any longer, so I decided to change it. After making the change, I couldn’t get the bow back in spec. I struggled with the feel of it but never got comfortable. When I encountered this issue, I lost a lot of the confidence that I had been building since the indoor season. Anyone who has played this game long enough knows that almost everything involving success revolves around confidence.
First Leg of the National Triple Crown
I didn’t want to attend this shoot because I couldn’t get the bow back to where it needed to be. When my dad told me he wanted to go, I decided to tag along. Although I knew my chances of doing well were minimal at best, I also knew that I might pull a rabbit out of the hat. I decided to head to West Virginia with my hunting bow, which had a drop-away rest on it. The only thing I changed was the sight. I too the pins off and put a moveable on. With two days behind it, I didn’t expect much.
I got off to a decent start. I was teetering on getting into trouble, but after I smoked a long, downhill coyote, I thought I would be alright. I never got into a groove on my first 20 and ended up in a hole that was too deep to crawl out of. Not being used to the bow, I couldn’t explain why a few arrows hit where they did. It was frustrating.
Going into the second 20, I just wanted to stay afloat and se if I could come off the range without losing anymore points. The rest of the way, I shot one 8 and ended up on the plus side. I felt good about my recovery but disappointed about the overall score. My shooting was definitely better than the score. On the way home, I thought about a lot of things and realized that I needed to do something quickly. I had a few bows I wanted to trade, so I began fishing around online to see if I could find someone with whom I could make a deal. It didn’t take long. I traded one of my bows for a PSE Evoke 35.
It got to be late one week, and I didn’t have time to set it up before heading to the Vermont state shoot. I used the one that I had shot earlier in the year. I actually shot a great round for the course, but a guy from Canada who left, came back and went out with his buddies handed in a score that totally humiliated any other shooter who shot the course for the weekend. It seemed quite unbelievable and searching around the internet afterward, it seemed even more unbelievable when some past results were pointed out to me. A bunch of us laughed it off and realized that I had a pretty good day, a better day than everyone there -- except Mr. Canada.
The next weekend, I broke out the PSE Evoke 35. It definitely had a different feel to it, and I knew I would have to get used to it. I decided to shoot the New Hampshire state shoot without a lens. I had some issues with glare due to the verifier I used to clear the pin. Besides that, the bow shot great. I was pleased with the result and the shooting. I figured this bow would probably work well for me for the rest of the year.
The Summer Progresses
As the weeks started flying by, I put all of my time into the Evoke. I could never get the bow to group like I wanted it to group, but it seemed to shoot better on 3D targets. I can’t explain the reason behind this. I might have been trying too hard or the arrows might be a tad to weak for my setup. I’ll have to look into the reasons before next season. That will be the bow I will shoot next year. When I shoot bows for a few years, I seem to get used to them and what I can get away with. I’m still in that phase with this bow. I know I can’t get away with any type of weak shot. This bow just won’t have any of that.
Finishing the Year
Since my dad wanted to go to the third leg of the IBO National Triple Crown, I decided to tag along. I felt confident going into the shoot, and my confidence carried me through the first 10 targets of the tournament. I shot a solid round and felt good about it. Halfway through my next 10 targets, I was in good shape. Then, the wheels fell off the bus. In a three-target span, I dropped 10 points and held on for my life. After finishing the first 20 targets, I was in decent shape but knew I would have to make up some ground.
When the dust had cleared, I did everything I could to pull off a win. I had a winning performance but had to settle for a runner-up finish. I shot the most 11s of anyone on the range, getting over half of them. My bow aimed well, and I executed my shots better than I had all year.
A few weeks after that tournament, I competed in the New England IBO Championship and was lucky enough to come out on top. It was a difficult range and had a little bit of everything to test a 3D archer’s skills. I got off the range and felt good about the result, gathering another win at the New England Championship.
A few days after that shoot, I hurt my shoulder and had to go see an orthopedic surgeon. I was physically unable to shoot my bow. Thinking I was going to need surgery again, I prepared for the worst. The doctor told me that I should heal okay, but it would take a while. It was suggested that I stay away from my bow for as long as possible to give the shoulder time to heal. I passed on shooting the NY State Series Championship, but I did attend the IBO World.
Without any expectations, I decided to give it my best shot. I practiced my yardage judging and figured my shot was good enough to carry me through the round if my numbers were close.
At the end of the first day, I found myself in the top 3, even with one horrendous 5 due to wind. After 40 targets had been shot, I went into the shoot-off in second place. A few mental mistakes cost me some points early in the shoot-off, and I paid the price. I lost ground in the shoot-off and finished in fourth place. It stung a little bit more than normal because it was the first time I’ve made the shoot-off and finished at a worst place than where I had started. I gave it my best, but my best wasn’t good enough on that final day.
I ended the year with the Royalston, Mass., team money shoot with Jacob. Neither of us shot up to our ability, but we did have a good time, and we came out on top. I was glad to put my bow down after that shoot. I decided to rest my shoulders until mid-December and give them time to heal. I’ll hope for the best, but at this point in time, I’m not overly optimistic.
A lot of people have asked me what I’m going to do next year. Right now, I just hope I’m able to shoot. I know I can shoot enough to bow hunt, but I’m not sure if I will be able to shoot enough to compete.
If I can compete, I would like to shoot in the Senior Pro class, but realistically, I don’t have the funds to do that. I would just like to see if I could hold my own, which I think I could.
When the indoor season rolls around, I will probably still shoot a Bowhunter Freestyle setup. Although I might change my mind as time moves forward, that is my tentative plan. I’ll have to see what gives as the new year approaches.
I’d like to thank all of you for following along this season. I hope you gained a few things during the journey of this Angry Archer. Congratulations to all of you who got your first big win this year and to the others who made steady progress toward achieving your goals. Until next year -------------àshoot straight and have fun doing it.