Friday, July 31, 2009

3-D Archery Madness!!

Blogging has become a cumbersome experience the past week. Not only have I been struggling to find an internet connection, but I've been dealing with a broken camera!! I am happy to report that ALL technological problems have been solved as of today, and I am ready to share the good stuff of the past few weeks.

Last weekend, I embarked on my first 3-D Archery Tournament. I've been shooting a bow since I was six years old, but I've never taken the initiative to compete. The opportunity came about by way of the local Izaak Walton League and Mid-Iowa Archers who were hosting the event. I convinced my friend Brad (who has also never competed) to enter in with me. We took a few warm up shots and headed for the trail.

Most often, I find myself shooting at plain square targets. I believe this helps with concentration and the refining of good shooting technique. I am also able to measure and know the distance of my shots so I can fine-tune my sights. This 3-D tournament gave me the opportunity to practice my technique using a wide variety of targets, unknown distances, and shooting angles.

I think the biggest thrill of the whole tournament was the variety in targets. Even during hunting season, central Iowa offers only deer and turkey for large game. In order to add variety to my hunting appetite, I often target smaller game, such as rabbits, squirrels, and coyotes. This tournament allowed us to try our hand at full-size large game animals that can be found throughout North America.

The opportunity to shoot at 3-D targets made the whole outing extremely rewarding, but it was still a tournament. Each target had three rings in the vitals, allowing for 10,8, or 5 points. Each shooter was allowed only one arrow per target, making every shot important. My only complaint about the experience was the scoring on the targets. As I said before, we experienced many different shooting angles. From my bow hunting experience, I know that shooting downward on an animal means you should aim a little high--this insures the arrow will pass through both lungs and make a clean kill. On many of the targets, the 10 ring was positioned low behind the shoulder. In my opinion, this is NOT where you would aim on an animal in the field. I wanted to stay true to a bow hunting experience, so I did not examine the targets beforehand to find the 10 ring. I wanted the shots to seem more realistic and spontaneous. This did have a negative effect on my score, but it was fun nonetheless. I know I will be sure to attend the next 3-D shoot in September.

I would encourage everyone to participate in 3-D archery shoots. You don't need to be a great shot. Its all about having fun and getting ready for the upcoming archery seasons. These shoots are also great family events. I saw many young archers out on the range shooting at full size targets with the same excitement and enthusiasm I had. Don't be intimidated by the scorecards. Go out and have a good time!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer Update: Busy...busy...busy...

The past three weeks have been rather eventful, but I have had no time to post!! After an amazing 5 day camping trip, I actually managed to find a bit of a job to earn some extra money. Now I don't feel like I've been completely lazy this Summer. The job is coming to a close, so my time to post should increase tremendously!

This Saturday and Sunday will be my first 3-D Archery Tournament experience. I'm really excited to participate!! Look for the post about this event early next week!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Trick Shots with Byron Ferguson

When I was growing up, the only thing better than hunting or fishing was getting up early Saturday morning and tuning in to a series of outdoor television shows with my dad. One of my favorite segments throughout the morning would be a trick shot with Byron Ferguson. For those who don't know much about Byron, his claim to fame is coming up with amazingly difficult archery shots using a long bow. And if you've never shot a bow before, know that the long bow is one of the toughest bows to shoot accurately. This youtube video shows one of my favorite shots Byron has made over the years. Check it out!!

Is that amazing, or what?!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Treestand Maintenance Day

With some cooler temperatures in the air Friday, I decided to take some time and retrieve a broken treestand from my hunting grounds.

As it turns out, I am horrible when it comes to taking treestands down after the bowhunting season is over. The past 4 years I've left my stand out all year long. Every year is a new excuse: "Well, I'm too busy with school"..."I completely forgot about it"..."I wanted to take it down at the end of the season, but the ground was frozen and I couldn't get the ladder out of the ground." Sometimes all three of these are used simultaneously to make one grand excuse for the job that never got done. With my goals of being overly prepared for bow season this October and November, I need all my stands in good functioning order...and this one was definitely not.

This is my only treestand that is not a ladder-type stand. The ladder stand provides exceptional safety and comfort. This little stand, however, was ideal for throwing on my back and tossing in a tree. It was actually purchased for $5 at a garage sale--with the price of treestands today, who could say no? I placed this stand in a tree overlooking 3 or 4 crossing deer trails. I bought a pair of climbing sticks to put on the tree and it soon became one of my favorite stands. I saw many deer from this stand and shot my biggest buck to date out of it. Two years of being in a tree withstanding the elements, however has taken its toll.

I was actually in the stand when the seat broke. It was a very scary moment. The seat is essentially a piece of fabric folded over the metal frame and sewed to itself. After a couple years, the thread became weak and ripped under my weight. I landed flat on the foot-platform praying to some higher power that the platform cables wouldn't break. I was wearing my safety belt, but I don't really want to find out how well it works. Since the damage had been done last season, I let my laziness kick in and left it up all year again.

Taking down the stand was a success. I use ratchet straps to firmly attach my stands to the trees which allows for quick removal. They have braved the weather just as the treestand has, so I'll have to make sure I inspect them (as well as my climbing sticks) thoroughly before the stand gets put back up.

**Anytime you climb into a tree--be it to put a stand up, hunt, or to take the stand down--be sure to wear a safety belt every time. I know it can be a hassle (and today was no probably took me longer to get my safety belt situated than it took to take the stand down), but it is worth it. And even if you're not afraid of dying, you need to realize there is a good chance you won't die...but you could be severely paralyzed for the rest of your life. Be responsible--wear the safety belt.**

I'm still weighing options on how to go about repairing the seat on this treestand. I was thinking of bolting a piece of wood on the metal frame and creating more of a "permanent" seat out of it. This method might require more maintenance, but might be worth a shot. With whatever fix I go with, it will be sure to be secure for the duration of the season.

And with every trip into my hunting grounds, it is always nice to see some deer sign close to my stand!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Muzzleloader Madness: My First Muzzleloader Experience

Throughout the years, I’ve had very negative views of the muzzleloader. I’ve grown up with bowhunting and seen the muzzleloader as a means for hunters to go out and rifle deer—which isn’t much of a hunt at all. With this point of view, I have stayed away from the world of muzzleloading. Recently, however, my dad began exploring muzzleloaders. Once a die-hard bowhunter, my father has experienced severe back injuries which might keep him out of a treestand this Fall. A muzzleloader might put him back in the game and allow him to continue hunting even with injuries. A couple months ago, he purchased a Thompson Center "Triumph" Muzzleloader. We finally found time yesterday to take it out and see what it could do.

Neither of us had any experience with this type of firearm, so we carefully watched the “instruction and maintenance” CD beforehand. With our fingers crossed hoping we did everything correctly, my dad took the gun to the bench and fired the first shot at 50 yards. When the puff of smoke cleared, we found the shot had sailed a foot high and a foot right. After adjusting the rear sight, I decided to take my first muzzleloader shot ever. I was personally expecting quite a bit of kick from the gun. I was pleasantly surprised when the gun hardly moved when I took the shot. The amount of smoke that came from the gun was also surprising. I expected a huge cloud of smoke that would envelop the immediate area and hang there, obscuring our view of the target. With a slight breeze, what little smoke came from the barrel quickly dispersed.

After getting the iron sights adjusted at 50 yards, we wanted to see how well the gun shot at 100 yards. Again, we were surprised that the impact on the target was high. We assumed the trajectory of the projectile would drop significantly at that distance with only 100 grains of powder. The shots at 100 yards were difficult to make because the iron sights are quite large, but that is the trade off with fiber optic sights. To increase visibility, you lose on size. We only took a few shots at 100 yards, but my final shot was the closest—landing just above the target.

After the experience, I am still unsure of how I feel about muzzleloading. Shooting the gun for the first time was a great success. It seems to be an accurate firearm that can be depended on in the field. At the same time, the accuracy it delivers downrange might turn hunting into a game of target practice on unsuspecting deer. On the other hand, if it can keep my dad out in the field doing something he loves, I will support it. Iowa has two muzzleloader seasons (one in October and one in January), and a muzzleloader can be used during the shotgun season in December. While I’m still not a fan of shooting a big buck with a rifle, I may be tempted to take this gun to a remote part of the timber during shotgun season and cleanly harvest a doe. We’ll have to see later in the year…I still have quite a while to decide.