[From Us] Total Archery Challenge
Podcasts have been a way for us to continue learning every day. We listen to them while driving, working out, mowing the lawn, cooking dinner, working in the garage, and basically whenever we can. Our lives require spending much of our time doing everyday tasks, and podcasts keep our brains engaged and allow us to grow, while also tackling our to do lists. My archery journey began with long rides between job sites listening to Joe Rogan (The Joe Rogan Experience), John Dudley (Knock On Podcast), and Andy Stumpf (Cleared Hot). Each of these podcasts dedicates a lot of time to archery. When each of these guys talked about it, you could hear how satisfying and fulfilling archery was. You could also hear the dedication it takes to be good at it. This dedication, satisfaction, and fulfillment they talked about episode after episode was something I was looking for in my life for the longest time. So one morning, I sprung out of bed, kissed Tia on the check and headed to Flying Arrow, a local bow shop not 10 minutes from our house. This was the first time I didn't look to my wife or a friend to try this with me, this was the first time I was going to do something for me and only me. When I pulled into to the bow shop parking lot, and opened the front door, I had no clue what I was looking for, no clue what I needed, or any clue of whether or not I would even like it. All I knew was that Hoyt was the type of bow I wanted, not because it was the best, but because I had done extensive research online, over Instagram, watching countless YouTube videos, and listening to many podcasts to see who was shooting what type of bow. And with all of that research, the people I respected the most shot a Hoyt. Bow shops are intimidating when you first walk in, but I can tell you from experience, that most bow shops, including Flying Arrow, will walk you through every process. They will let you try multiple bows out. They will teach you how to shoot, and explain what you need and why you need it. They do this because they love the sport and want you to love it as well. After talking to the staff at Flying Arrow, I walked out the doors with a new Hoyt Powermax. This was the perfect starter bow because it came with a sight, stabilizer, and quiver, all things I would later change out, for a price of $800.
I spent the next year shooting this bow as many times a week as I could. I shot 3D shoots every Sunday in the summer. I shot Vegas shoots in the winter, and anytime I could I would shoot at targets in my back yard. This quickly became an obsession. I spent all my free time researching new sights, new accessories, and different ways to hone and practice archery. I have never been a hunter. I am not against it by any means, I just never learned how to do it, so it never became a part of my life. I was not shooting to become a better hunter. I was shooting to be a better human. It calmed me down, taught me to be patient, taught me dedication in a way I have never seen before this. When I could not sleep, or woke up too early, or sat in a hotel room by myself, I spent that time finding more ways to shoot, and with that research I stumbled across a YouTube channel called Hushin. These guys had a few videos of this "competition" called The Total Archery Challenge, and after drooling over the videos they posted, I saw on Instagram that it was coming to the Northeast. Without hesitation, another archery obsessed friend and I signed up the second we could.
PREPARING FOR THE CHALLENGE
After signing up for The Total Archery Challenge at Pico Mountain (a side mountain at the Killington Ski Resort in Vermont), it was time to start preparing. Me and my buddy Glenn shot every 3D shoot locally that we could. We worked on perfecting our shots, working on our form and adjusting our gear. Glenn had been shooting with a single pin sight for a while, but I had only been using a 5 pin sight. Knowing that this shoot would require distances of up to 100 yards, I was going to need a new sight. I switched to the new HHA Optimizer Tetra. This sight would let me adjust to the exact yardage of the target all the way up to 100 yards. This is the perfect sight for the the challenge. Most if our 3D shoots only go out to 50 yards max, so I needed to learn how to be more comfortable shooting longer distance. The Knockon podcast and Knockontv are great sources for learning little techniques to improve your skills. I learned to anchor better and pull through my shot. These were all things that can help you to aim smaller. When you are 20 yards away, you can get away with punching your release, but at 75 yards, it is unforgivable.
WHAT TO PACK
*Your significant other. Even if they don't shoot, it is an amazing time, a great hike, and they can share the load of gear needed. They can also take awesome action photos.
*Day pack to carry everything
*Pocket knife. Because everyone should always have a pocket knife on them - CRKT Pilar II
*Bow - Hoyt Powermax
*Release - Truball wrist release
*Range finder - Halo 7505. Make sure you bring extra batteries. This is the worst course to run out of battery on your most important tool. Our group lost battery power on three out of our five range finders.
*Binoculars - Celestron 10x42. I carry mine on a Vortex harness to keep them on my chest and at the ready, it's better than having to go in your pack every time you need them.
*Enough arrows to make it through 50 targets. Base this on your skill level. I only lost 5 but I brought two dozen. I also purchased a hard plastic Easton tub so the field tips wouldn't puncture my pack in any way. This tube was $19 and saved me from having to replace a $100 pack.
*Water. We packed Camelbacks in our day packs, but make sure you have enough water for the day
*Small first aid kit
*Sight peep tubing
*$100-$200 in cash. There were a lot of really awesome vendors, and cash keeps you from looking funny when the mobile credit card machine is down.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The morning of the shoot was the more exciting than Christmas. The alarm went off at 4:00 AM, and I popped out of bed like the house was on fire. I had all sorts of emotions going on. The first was fear. I had never made a shot with my bow past 60 yards and now I was going to be attempting that multiple times. Next was excitement. I had never been able to show Tia how amazing this sport was, and now she would get to spend two days with me, hiking in the woods, and watching me shoot. At first glance, this shoot can be intimidating. With its long range shots, difficult terrain, and altogether size, a seasoned shooter would have a little nerves going into this, but the Total Archery Challenge did a great job making all skill levels feel welcome. As you approach the event, you are greeted with banners flying in the breeze, archers of all size and skill levels getting ready in the parking lot, vendors setting up their booths, and more 3D targets setup than you have every seen. The event was well organized. Registration was easy to find and easy to do. you only needed to fill out a raffle ticket, grab your wrist band, chair list pass, and free shirt, and move on. The base of the mountain was setup with different vendors. Some of the vendors were Hoyt, Prime, Vortex and Mtn Ops. One vendor that stuck out to me the most was @Jakt.gear. JAKT GEAR makes para chord bow accessories, and uses veterans to do so. The story behind the company was amazing and the product was worth the money. I purchased a bow strap to help take the load off my arms as we hiked from target to target. This bow strap had an ingenious magnet that kept it clear while you shoot. I would highly recommend checking them out. Once you get through the vendors and it's your knock time (think tee time), the real fun begins. You and your group load up on chair lifts and head to the course you are signed up for. The knock times are a great way to limit any waiting at the targets. We were amazed at how well thought out this was and how smooth it ran. There were minimal waits. We chose the Locals course the first day and then the more challenging Mtn Ops course the second day. Both courses were challenging in their own way, but the challenge made for good laughs as we tested our skills. Each target was well thought out by whoever planned each course, because you could not wait to see how each target was situated as you walk up to each cone. Every target was placed with some sort of branch, leaf, rock or tree just millimeters away from the vital zone. It was as if the course designer set the target, walked back to the shooting location, and laughed hysterically at how hard each shot was. Each target tested you on something different. Uphill, long range, small target zone, and so on and each target had minimal room for error. Error that caused catastrophic carbon destruction. However, Everytime the arrow landed in foam, it made the shot and the experience that much more satisfying. So what can you expect in short; a well thought out event, with challenging shots, for all skill levels, and a sense of satisfaction you will never have had shooting your bow before this course.
HOW WAS IT?
The Total Archery Challenge will be one of my most memorable experiences. I met amazing people, learned new techniques, spent time with my wife and friends, made new friends and progressed in a sport that I love. Archery is new to my life, but has given me so much joy, and The Total Archery Challenge is something I will look forward to every year.