Archers Shoot in all Conditions
by Tom Barker
Archery is no different from many other sports in that our tournaments continue despite most weather conditions. This is why the outdoor season is so challenging. Slimmer, lighter arrows that can slice through the air are used to reduce the effects of the elements and achieve greater shooting distances. Battling high winds, archers must aim off in hopes of the arrow being pushed back on track to the correct target. When the weather is cold, we bundle up, use hand warmers and drink lots of coffee or hot chocolate. For those of us in Texas, the heat can be the biggest deterrent to good performances. We have to stay hydrated, wear cool loose clothing, lots of sun screen, and stay in the shade when we can. But Mother Nature can always throw us a curve, as when two years ago at the National Target Championships in Colorado Springs, a cold front in August moved off the Rockies and left us with 45 degree weather. The experienced archers had their rain gear and layered clothing packed. Others made last minute runs to Wally World for supplies.
Fatherís Day weekend was the Texas State Archery Associationís annual youth state championship. The last five years it has been held here in Victoria and darkened, cloudy skies have gathered each time. We either worry about rain before the event swamping the field, high water blocking the roads of archers traveling to the tournament, or rain on the day of the event. This year was no different. Iím sure that the local farmers and ranchers love it when we schedule an archery tournament because inevitably it rains.
As luck would have it, Saturdayís shooting was cut short due to a squall coming from the gulf. While rain is a nuisance and gusting winds can make quick work out of our EZ-up shade tents, lightning is another matter. The archery association several years ago purchased a portable lightning detector that helps the tournament director with information on lightning proximity, how fast the storm is approaching and an approximate time to clear the field. (Now, why this instrument is not waterproof is beyond me!) The lightning detector was originally marketed for golfers and fisherman, but archers walking around with aluminum or carbon arrows and a metal bow in their hands are equally at risk. Texas is second only to Florida in the number of lightning fatalities in the last 15 years. Unfortunately, recreation is the single largest category of what people were doing when they were struck by lightning.
As the sun rose on Fatherís Day, we hoped the worst was behind us but the weather looked iffy at best. The dedicated dads helped set up the targets once again and we put on our rain gear, covered up our scorecards, water proofed our spotting scopes, and dealt with the conditions as best we could. Once practice rounds were completed, we were caught in a brief but torrential downpour, soaking everything and everyone. With tents collapsing and archers struggling to protect their equipment, some headed for their cars while others literally held down the fort. It was tough, but it was tough on everyone. We were blessed with the Our Lady of Victory field that drains well, so as soon as the storm passed, tent poles were patched back into service and we hoped for a drier afternoon. A little while later, the portable lightning detector indicated strikes within four miles. It was time to seek shelter once again. Shooting was suspended while the archers and their families retreated to their cars. (Those with wet dogs in attendance probably suffered more than others!) While it never rained, the lightning passed on by and again the soggy competitors and spectators set up shop for the afternoon. But it was not to be. The continuing threat of a repeat deluge finally caused us to call it a day. The Archery Shop was kind enough to open its doors so we could have our hot dogs and award Texas State Championship medals based on the reduced number of arrows shot. We will try again in a month in the Austin area for the adult state target championships.
Many of our Victoria area youth archers are headed out to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA this week for the National Junior Olympic Archery tournament. There is a reason that US Archery officials chose California for its summer sports venue Ė the weather is great!
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