The alarm was set for 3:00 a.m. but I woke from a dream at full draw. Is it time to get up I wondered? I rolled over and saw the big red numbers on the clock – 2:53. Close enough. I was anxious to be on my way. It was easy to get up.
It was smooth sailing through the Nashville Airport, but I had to make a connection in Baltimore, which is where I heard the dreaded word – DELAYED. Are you kidding? Delayed at this hour? I tried to push my excitement aside and relax. I fished Colin Powell’s book, It Worked For Me, out of my backpack and continued reading. I read and scribbled in the margins as I always do. I would gladly lead a campaign to save bound books. By the end of a good book I’ve written at least half as much as the author in the margins. You can’t do that in an eBook.
“We will now begin boarding Southwest Flight 837 with non-stop service to Pittsburg,” the young man announced and I mentally prepared myself for the selection process. I always get the web special, which means the best I can hope for is a boarding number somewhere around B50. This means that when I make the turn at the gate and look down the fuselage of the plane I see that every aisle and window seat is taken. I then begin determining whom I will sit between. I look for the skinniest, cleanliest looking, most introverted appearing passengers between whom to sit. The trick is not culling so many that you end up at the back of the plane indecisive and stuck with what’s left.
I spotted two men, one was a young guy in a suit reading a sports magazine and the other a middle-aged fellow who was already pretending to sleep with his head against the window. “May I sit with you gents,” I asked.
The young guy nodded and got up.
“Congratulations, I am very selective. I choose the skinny ones,” I told him with a sincere smile. He smiled back and I settled in. A large man across the aisle discussed his golf game with two colleagues behind me. He made wagers on their first round scores, challenged their handicaps and then transitioned the conversation to money. Low interest rates are killing him. He can’t make money in this market. Suddenly, he lowered the tone to normal conversation volume and told his buddies he only cleared $947K last year. Oh to have his problems.
Later in the day Levy Bryant and I would discuss our travels. Due to overbooking he was upgraded to first class. He was seated next to a very ornery woman who tossed several vodka tonics back apparently so she could tolerate being subjected to the peasants in society. She argued with the flight attendant that she didn’t need to turn her phone off because her phone had a plane mode and it would not have such a mode if it were not meant to be used on the plane. She lost the argument.
The flight attendant approached.
“Mr. Bryant, would you like something to drink,” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am, thank you, but how did you know my name,” he asked with a smile.
“Oh I have you listed right here.”
“Well thank you, I’ll have a coke.” He could feel the lady beside him rolling her eyes.
The flight attendant returned with his drink, but Levy couldn’t find the tray table. “Ma’am, where is my tray.”
“Oh it is in the armrest beside you Mr. Bryant,” she informed him. Levy smiled and pulled it out. As the flight attendant departed the lady beside him said in a disgustingly gruff tone, “You must not fly first class very often.”
Levy smiled and said, “No ma’am. This is my first time.” A slight pause and then, “I usually fly in my private jet with my own pilot.” Her demeanor changed.
The Pittsburg airport was a smooth transition. I found my way to my rental car and felt the excitement rising again. The only thing between the IBO Worlds and me was 77 miles of Pennsylvania real estate. I barreled down I-76 in a sub-compact sardine can with a weed-eater engine that screamed at me for demanding 80 mph. I pressed the power button on the radio and Don Henley sang to me about American excess in live version of Hotel California.
Pittsburg is a hilly city built on a river draped with old bridges and buildings that whisper character to the visitor. I wanted to stop and take pictures but I was in a terrible hurry for no good reason at all other than the fact that simply arriving seemed to mean that it had really begun.
Seven Springs is a beautiful Pennsylvania ski resort displaying a European décor as most all U.S. ski resorts attempt to do. The main lodge is a massive rock building that overlooks the valley and the slopes that lie directly to its front. I was fortunate to get a first floor room right on the slope. I met John Deemer and Scott Antczak and we headed out for a practice round. The practice bales were all uphill shots, which irritated me a bit, but I had no idea what surprise tomorrow held in store for me. We shot a couple of 3D animals then the bags. I consistently shot low. In frustration I worked on trying to figure out why I had a hitch in my giddy-up. The following morning I was again low on the bales, but I figured I was going to dance with the date I brought so off to the check in tent I went.
Long, long, long, but fair is how I would describe my first day of shooting. We were bussed to the start point; put out on the side of the road and shown the start. Target one was a fallow deer slightly uphill – long. Target two – uphill long…. But fair because we all had to shoot them. I struggled early with the long uphill shots but held in there. It was a championship round so we should have expected, should’ve demanded, nothing less than challenging. It should be the toughest course of the year and it is.
Some days the sky turns dark and rumbles a warning – a prelude for what is to come. People stop what they are doing, stop shooting, stop talking and look into the sky and frown. Today it did just that. My group made it through the round. We turned our scorecards in and saw others looking, listening, groaning at the sky, which answered back with a rumbling of its own.
It hit us just after noon. An initial cell struck hard with clapping thunder and then it slowed and a thick fog formed quickly in the valley below and then began to silently crawl its way up towards us. Shooters watched in awe as gray fog, like flames, moved up the valley and when it reached the first ski run it split and the gray flames climbed up the mountain over the grass of the slope remaining just at treetop level. Within a few hours the cell moved off to the east and another began to build. By 4 o’clock the shoot was cancelled for the day. The plan: resume the next day, but the weather looked even worse for Friday.
As is the case much of the time, and fortunately this time, the forecast was wrong. The weather held. A foggy morning gave way to a partly cloudy day that enabled us to finished up the first day for those who failed to do so the preceding day. That evening the Day 1 standings were posted to the IBO site. I sat in 4th placed behind Jared Neal, Scott Antczak and Mark Lynde.
I got some practice in on my down day and that evening some friends and I drove out to a state park where Paul Vogel and the Stoner family were camped. Paul cooked chicken on the grill and Troy Stoner cooked zucchini. We had a great visit and then to bed relatively early. The weather was forecast to be cool and clear all day Saturday. I had work to do.
The morning began with an email from my friend Rod Jenkins. “Take the points you need! 30 targets give you plenty of time…if anyone knows how, it’s you Jimmy!” The note set the tone for my day. I knew I had to do what Rod had counseled me to do so many times before, “Be fearless. Do your job!”
After breakfast I shot a few arrows on the bales and then rode the chairlift up to the Bowhunter Defense Course so I could practice on some 3D animals. I had to focus. Every arrow mattered. I rehearsed my sequence: judge the distance, glass the target, set the bow hand at predraw, pull to anchor, sustain pulling and aim, aim, aim. Now begin squeezing the shoulder blades together – expand and bam. Everything mattered on day two, everything.
I shot strong from the start on a very challenging range. I felt like I was controlling the shoot much better than the previous day and the results were showing. Through the first five targets I was on pace for a solid round. We stepped up to target six, which was a standing bear at about 30 yards. Jared was up first and said, “I don’t think my arrow can get into the target.”
It was due to a limb across the trajectory line about 2/3 of the way to the target. I looked at it and knew that I was shooting lower poundage than he was so mine certainly wouldn’t. Jared shot and hit the leaves but his arrow made it through and still scored a 10. I stepped up and said, “It’s not going to happen. I think I am going to hit the limb.”
I shot the target for 30 yards and hit the limb. My arrow whacked against a few trees and fell to the ground. Zero! I felt a cold knot in my throat and the air quickly left my sails. I was shooting strong and now this – disaster. I simply could not believe it, but an arrow shot is an arrow scored. So we moved on. I knew at that point that I had to decide if I would fold or finish strong. I chose to finish strong and did so. At the end of day two I had moved up from 4th into 3rd.
Saturday night was spent with fellow shooters. Scott Antczak surprised everyone by retrieving a fiddle from his room and playing with the band. Some shooters were bruised and some were on a high – the odds in their favor with one day of shooting remaining, but all were smiling that evening. The fellowship and camaraderie made you proud to be a part of this great sport.
We assembled at the check-in tent at 8:00 a.m. and then off to the range for the final round. My group was Jared Neal, Mark Lynde, Scott Antczak and myself. I managed to shoot pretty strong but the standings didn’t move much.
1st – Jared Neal 2nd – Mark Lynde 3rd – Jimmy Blackmon 4th – Scott Antczak
It was a great championship shot in very difficult terrain. I have never seen so many misses and 5s at this level but it was consistent across all classes so it was simply a very challenging set of courses. And so the 3D archery season closes. It was a great year and I now I look forward to hitting the woods for deer season.
Congratulations to all the 2012 Champions.
1st – Jenifer Stoner
2nd – Shana Wilson-Sattler
3rd – Vivian Bryant
1st – Randy Irvine
2nd – David Wallace
3rd – Calvin Smock
1st – Jared Neal
2nd – Mark Lynde
3rd – Jimmy Blackmon
1st – John Demmer
2nd – Mitch Miller
3rd – Dewayne Martin