While on vacation, I visited a new Bow Shop in North Carolina. I was excited to find they also had an indoor Archery Range. As we talked, the Shop Owner told me there was a friendly local competition every Thursday night and he invited me to join them. I told him I was “just a hunter”, not a competitive shooter, but he encouraged me nevertheless. Although I’d never shot competition before, I could hardly wait for Thursday night.
I showed up early Thursday night, accompanied by my Son in Law. I plunked down a meager entry fee and was assigned a shooting station along with 18 other Archers. All I had was my camoflage hunting bow and my field tipped hunting arrows. Other Archers had red, pink and purple target bows with three foot long, double stabilizers and half inch diameter arrow shafts…or so it appeared to me. I was a little intimidated but reminded myself, “I’m here to have fun, not to impress anyone”. I kept muttering things to myself, like “just shoot what ya’ brought”. My beloved Son in Law offered encouragement, saying “You can hit deer vitals at 40 yards, surely you can hit that little twelve inch (12”) target at 20 yards”. I reminded myself, ”we’re indoors, standing flat footed on the floor, with no wind, no elevation, nothing to compensate for”…… What? Me nervous?
As I remember, they called this a “Ten Ring Elimination”, which was completely new to me. They explained, all three arrows had to be within the ring that matched the round…..in other words, in the first round of shooting, all three arrows had to be inside the outermost ring on the ten (10) ring target. In the second round, you moved in a ring and all three arrows had to be inside the next smallest (9th) ring, and so on until you were shooting at the two inch (2”) bullseye on the tenth round. If you ever failed to put all three arrows inside the proper ring, you were eliminated. If you had a flier…you were eliminated. The yardage was fixed at 20 yards. Sounds easy enough…….
We began shooting and I was having a blast. This was so much better than the solitary shooting I was accustomed to, in my back yard. I was truly surprised when the first 6 rounds of three arrows retired about half the shooters. I was actually surprised to still be shooting. This sort of bolstered my confidence and I just “zoned out” as if in my treestand, drawing down on a big buck. “Concentrate”, Focus”, “Aim small, miss small”. I settled on “Aim small, miss small” as my matra…..and it was working.
After a couple more rounds, there were only three other shooters. We took a short break before the last three rounds. That’s when my Son in Law whispered, “Check out the old guy down on the far end….he’s shooting a long bow and…..no sight. “Watch him shoot”….”he just draws and releases the arrow”…..”he doesn’t even take time to aim”. I shouldn’t have, but when we began shooting again, I paused between my own arrows to watch him send a couple arrows down range…..just like my Son in Law described.
This old guy was “instinct shooting”, or at least that’s what I’d call it. He’d draw back and let the arrow fly in one smooth motion. Within half a second of reaching full draw, the arrow was released. “Hes not even aiming”….”Hes just spot shooting”. Even my non-archer Son in Law realized this was something to behold. Even more amazing, I noticed the old man was hunched over a walking cane as he hobbled down to retrieve his arrows. It was all I could do not to just watch him shoot. As they say, He was “poetry in motion”. Over and over, He’d nock an arrow, raise up, draw back and let fly…..in one smooth motion. There was no hesitation in his motion for aiming, He’d just draw back and let fly…..right in the bullseye.
By now, it’s just He and I shooting the Nine ring. All others had been eliminated and I am totally distracted. “Concentrate, Focus” I told myself. On the final round we were shooting at the two inch (2”) bulls eye. I would not let myself watch the old man as I sent three arrows downrange. When I walked up to extract my arrows, I was elated…..I’D PUT ALL THREE OF MY ARROWS IN THE BULLS EYE….but so did the old man. Are you kiddin’ me. He put all three in the bullseye, with no sight, using a long bow? I was using a Single Cam Compound Bow, with a peep sight, a cam release, weight forward carbon fiber arrows….all the latest technology….and he was using a wood bow with no sight.
When both of us put all three arrows on target, we had to shoot the Bullseye again….I had two center hits and one “flier” in the four ring. You guessed it, the old man laid all three arrows, touching each other, in the bulls eye. Those who had hung around offered a round of applause…..as did I. The Shop Owner walked out, presented a ribbon to the old man and took a flash picture, while I was packing up all my gear to go home. We hung around and small talked with the Shop Owner and a few locals. I was pleased enough with second place, in my first archery contest….but I just couldn’t get over being bested by the old man with a long bow and no sight….until we were walking out of the store. There on the bulletin board were nine pictures….count ‘em….nine pictures of the Old Man with his Long bow….holding up ribbons and trophys in each picture. In one picture, the Trophy was almost as tall as he was.
As you might recon’, I had to go back and ask……It seems, the old man had been shooting that same long bow his entire life….yep, he was an instinct shooter, with no sight, no mechanical release…..nothing but an old bow and arrows that were as much a part of him as breath itself. In his earlier days, He had killed more bucks and bears than anyone could count, for as long as anyone could remember, he’d been taking his game with that same bow. The Shop Owner sort of blushed and chuckled…..”I’m sorry Sir, I should have warned you in advance….you didn’t have a chance”…..and with that, I went home feeling really satisfied being “Second Place to the Old Man”.
Now every time my arthritic shoulder gives me a fit, I remember that hunched over old man, leaning on his cane while he extracts his arrows. When I think I’ve got to spend a thousand dollars for that latest, greatest, newest model bow, or when I “need” that new illuminated bow sight or those newfangled mechanical broadheads…..I remember that old man with his old long bow and no sight ……and I go shoot another practice round with MY same old bow and arrows. Yea, I still use my peep sight.