I look forward to summer for many reasonsâ€”fly fishing for trout and kayaking are paramount among them, as are bowfishing and frog shootingâ€”but 3-D tournaments and tons of time on the range are perhaps the biggest parts of this anticipation.
Summertime tournaments allow me to test my skills against other shooters, spend quality time with the wife, swap bowhunting tales with friends and live in an all-archery bubble for a weekend. And of course it’s the off-season, so the range becomes like a second home.
Another benefit is that summer 3-D tournaments offer exceptional practice for coming bowhunts, shooting realistic targets in real-world settings and dealing with the stress of competitionâ€”even if itâ€™s just to beat your buddyâ€™s score. But first and foremost, 3-D shooting is about having fun, which means everybody at the range has to play by the same set of rules.
Good old-fashioned manners sometimes seem to be a thing of the past in todayâ€™s world, but Iâ€™d like to think bowhunters are a better cross-section of civilization. When it comes to range etiquette, a little common sense goes a long way. Here are a few tips to make sure everyone has a good day at the range.
Theyâ€™ll study targets endlessly, draw and let down repeatedly, have assistants shading them with umbrellas and all kinds of other silly antics that drive most bowhunters batty. Theyâ€™re just like the old folks driving 45 mph in a 65 mph zoneâ€”an unfortunate reality, but something we all have to deal with.
Becoming impatient, hurling snide remarks or stressing out are just as silly as laying on the horn and flipping senior citizens the bird. The only thing it really does is make you look like a jackass.
The same goes for large groups of shooters, or what I often call â€śfamily reunions.â€ť Many clubs have rules regarding maximum group size (normally six), but whatâ€™s a family to do when every known relative wants to hit the range together?
Large groups take longer to shootâ€”especially when kids are involvedâ€”and there are usually a lot of lost arrows and â€śEaster egg huntsâ€ť that follow. Iâ€™ve been there, and I understand it can be frustrating. But take a deep breath, bite your tongue and drift off to your happy place.
As you would in golf, wait for an opportunity between targets to politely ask a slow group if you may play through and make the transition as smoothly and quickly as possible. Remember, courtesy goes both ways. If youâ€™re one of those slow groups and see youâ€™re holding up the showâ€”especially if more than one group of shooters is waiting on you between targetsâ€”make sure you allow faster groups to pass on by.
A great way to avoid holdups is by assigning a particular member of your group to keep score and pull arrows. These tasks should be assigned to specific group members and carried out as efficiently as possible, making an honest effort to clear targets quickly. Tally scores, return arrows to quivers and take water breaks only when youâ€™re safely clear of targetsâ€”not while standing in front of them. Get in, get your job done and move along.
When you miss a target, limit the search for your arrow to the time it would take to score and pull arrows. If you havenâ€™t found your arrow in that time, make a note of the target number and return when things have settled down, or seek it in the lost-and-found barrel later.
First, when youâ€™re looking for a stray arrow on courses that arenâ€™t crowded, make sure to post someone at the target or lean a bow and bright arrows against the target face so approaching archers know to hold off. Letting other archers know youâ€™re downrange is always a good idea. If youâ€™re the one shooting, first make sure the range is clear before you line up for a shot.
Good etiquette also means practicing safety while shooting in sometimes-crowded areas. Before stepping up to pull arrows, look down each side of the firing line to see if everyone is finished shooting and shout, â€śClear!â€ť Proceed only when you see everyone has gotten the message. When everyone has gathered arrows and is ready to shoot again, someone should once again shout, â€śClear!â€ť so everyone knows itâ€™s safe to shoot again.
Be aware of whatâ€™s going on around you to avoid disturbing other shootersâ€™ concentration. If you approach a target and someone is in the shot process, keep conversation quiet, walk softly, and hang back until they have completed the shot.
It should go without saying, but if you wish to curse after bad shots or use colorful language, make sure there are no young children or women within earshot. And while trash talking buddies or relatives may be part of the fun for you, many times itâ€™s really just not cool. Itâ€™s considered good etiquette to hush your voice like a TV golf commentator or pause conversations when someoneâ€™s standing on the stake and actively attempting a shot.
Also, donâ€™t hassle other shooters by making them stop shooting when they arenâ€™t ready. Conversely, when everyone else has a quiver of six arrows, maybe you shouldnâ€™t shoot your entire 26-arrow collection. You never want to make more than half of the shooters there wait on you.
And parents, for Godâ€™s sake, please instill some discipline in your children. You may be numb to their temper tantrums and yammering, but others certainly are not. One of my all time biggest pet peeves is seeing children walking around courses unattended with arrows in their hands. Children should be made to understand arrows are kept in quivers and not removed until itâ€™s time to shoot. Itâ€™s also a safety hazard for children to wander around unsupervised, so make sure your kids are kept in check.