Monday, October 29, 2012

I Bow Down

There's something I haven't talked about much on my blog here and that's my archery habit.  I've been shooting bows since I was 13 or so and here at 50 am still shooting.  There were a few years in Idaho where I didn't shoot much, but I still had my bow.   In spite of all this time, I'm not that good of a shot.  I'm a pretty good finger-shooter, but about 6 years ago I switched to a release.  I shoot better with a release, but I'm not good enough to win my class in competition (which, okay, is the toughest class aside from the Pro class).  This year, I decided to work a little harder on my archery and consequently, I've been playing with different bows, different arrows, different rests, different releases, learning how to tune my bows and so forth.  I've learned a lot and I think my shooting has improved.

Hoyt Vectrix, Hoyt Maxxis 35, Bowtech Allegiance

Let's talk about my bows.  For the past 4 years, I've been shooting a Hoyt Vectrix.  I actually have 2 of these, both from 2007.  One is a 50-60 lb and the other is a 60-70 lb.  I set the first one up for target and 3D shooting and the other for hunting with broadheads.  They are 33" axle-to-axle.  I like the Vectrix a lot and shoot pretty well with them.  I originally started with a 26" draw but after posting some pictures on the ArcheryTalk forum, it was decided that I was shooting with too short of a draw.  So, I hunted down some cams, installed them, and went up to a 27" draw.  That did indeed make a big difference in my shooting as I was able to hold much steadier on target.

First, here I am with the 26" draw:

And now, with a 27" draw:

2007 Hoyt Vectrix

You can see that my bow hand is much straighter in the bottom photo. 

I've shot Hoyt since about 1989 and mid-summer I decided to play around with a different  brand.  I investigated and decided to try a Martin.  A new Onza III Pro came up on Ebay and I won it for a great price.  Unfortunately, Martin's specs are incorrect and what was advertised as a 26"-31" adjustable draw was actually 27.5"-31".  I tried, but it was just too long.  However, this showed me that a longer axle-to-axle (ATA) bow might be steadier.

When I switched to a release in '06, one of the first bows I tried was a '05 Bowtech Allegiance.  That was my first foray into a modern bow and I was amazed at it.  I stuck with Hoyt, though, and ended up getting a used '03 Ultratec  that I shot for a year before  picking up a used '05 Vtec to go along with it and use for hunting.  Here's a picture of me and David shooting back then:

Shooting in '06- Hoyt Vtec

After I re-sold the inaccurately labeled Martin, I was surfing around when I ran across an '07 Bowtech Allegiance at less money that I'd just re-sold the Martin for.  I was curious to see if my earlier impressions were correct and so I bought it.  Setup was a snap and,  unlike the Martin, I was able to easily set it to my 27" draw length.

2007 Bowtech Allegiance

It's also fun to compare the 2007 Bowtech to the 2007 Hoyt Vectrix.  The Bowtech is considerably lighter, simpler, has a more solid "back wall", and draws easier.  At 60 lbs, the Vectrix is a pretty stiff pull while the Allegiance is a much easier pull.  And yet I have to use a stiffer arrow on the Allegiance because of its more aggressive cams.  The Allegiance has much more hand shock and jump while the Vectrix is very smooth and dead-in-the-hand.

So, after shooting the longer ATA Allegiance for a few months, I decided to see what a longer ATA Hoyt would be like, sort of trying to combine the best features of the Allegiance (longer ATA) and the Vectrix (smooth).  More reading and research and before long a 2010 Hoyt Maxxis 35 showed up at my door.  This is 4 generations down the line from the Vectrix and has a 35" ATA.  It didn't take long to get it setup and shooting pretty well, although I think I have a little more tuning to do with it to bring out its maximum potential.  But, my experiment was good and I got the steady hold of the Allegiance coupled with the smooth Hoyt feel.  As you can see from the below picture, the limbs on the Maxxis go "beyond parallel" which means that the energy upon release goes up and out, rather than forward.  The bow is absolutely dead-in-the-hand, even more so than the Vectrix.  It's a lighter bow than the Vectrix, too.

2010 Hoyt Maxxis 35

So, how do they shoot?   Today it was nice and calm, so I got all 3 bows out and shot 1 bunch of arrows at 55 yards.  I used the same release, even though I normally use a different release for the Allegiance (as part of the reason I keep it- I use it to experiment with stuff).  Here's what my groups looked like:

Hoyt Vectrix group @ 55 yds

Bowtech Allegiance group @ 55 yds

Hoyt Maxxis 35 group @ 55 yds

I think it's pretty clear that the Maxxis is shooting well for me.   The Allegiance is probably the worst of the bunch for me, but I haven't really played with the tuning much yet.  I'll likely do that soon, moving the current rest a little and then trying an entirely different style to see what happens.  I have shot better with the Vectrix but I've been shooting the Maxxis for 2 weeks and have gotten used to it.  As for the Maxxis, there's really only 1 flyer in that group and that's otherwise a pretty good group for 55 yards.  A tiny bit more tuning and I think I can bring that group into the bulls eye.

Those are my bows.  Derek has a bow, too, but he hasn't really gotten into shooting it much yet.  Archery takes a lot of focus and practice and he's not quite there.  David was just starting to really get into it and the week David died- the same day we got to see Natalie MacMaster, actually- David shot his first real 3D shoot with me.  He won a set of headphones at the shoot and he was so excited about that.  Later that week, we set up our targets down on the creek and did some practicing since David was now "experienced" at 3D and wanted to tell Derek how to do it.  At one point, he beat us all, and I took the moment to whip my phone out and take these photos.  These were taken 4 days before David died and you can bet that I'm glad I took the minute to take them:

Little 3D shooters

David had the high score!

After David's death, Derek and I talked about it and we decided to sell both bows (Derek having outgrown his!) and get a new Diamond Atomic.  I had seen the Atomic at the Santa Fe shoot but didn't think David was strong enough to pull it (cams being harder to pull than wheels) and thus hesitated getting one since I didn't want him to get frustrated.  Derek was ready for it, though, so we did as planned and sold both bows (to, appropriately enough, a 4H club- I think David would have approved).  I will get some pictures of Derek's bow up next time but he did shoot a 3D shoot with me a few weeks ago and did okay.  Again, I don't think he's quite ready for the mental discipline that it requires and I don't want to push him and discourage him, so we'll just go at his pace.

That's my archery habit!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Another Year Bites the Dust

Last time we talked, I was complaining about things breaking. They continued to break; I fixed the Kawasaki generator, it ran for awhile, then it broke again. Finally, I broke down, drove to town, and bought a 2nd generator like my reliable (so far) Honda-engined “Master” brand. That was a good move and I made it thru the summer with 2 working generators, happily pumping water. A few other things broke along the way, but in the end, we got our cattle shipped and ended the summer.

Cattle-wise, it wasn't that bad. The cattle gained good weight and my numbers came out almost dead-on, meaning that I didn't have any unaccounted missing cattle. That's rare and great. I took a little video of the shipping process:

We also used a helicopter again, to gather the north side of the ranch. Here's some footage from 2006, to illustrate what it's like using a 'copter to gather cattle:

Ranch-wise, we shipped a little early because the grass is pretty much gone. This is the worst drought period since the 1930's and we're fighting hard to maintain as much cover and stability as possible. It is DRY out there. Last year, I was flying my falcons on ducks, this year there are no ponds.

Financially, it's been a tough year. For a single reason that I still can't talk about, we're spending a lot of money. As a result, the ranch couldn't pay my salary for 3 months. I was too busy with the ranch to get much guitar work done and a job opened up in the local school district, so Georgia went to work. This lead to me taking full-time care of our youngest son. It's hard to work on guitars when you're cooking, young son sitting, and home-schooling but with cattle finally gone, we're getting into the swing of it and with cattle gone, we got our final payments, which allowed the ranch to start paying my salary again, albeit at a lower rate. We're pulling thru but it's been a little shaky. On the upside, Derek and I are spending a lot more time together and I think he's matured a lot in the past few months. He always looked up to David and now he has to be his own man.

Otherwise, things are okay. I'd be lying if I said that David's death hasn't affected us. When we're busy, we don't think about it but it's the quiet times in the evening and morning that are the worst. “Ambushes” occur in conversations, things that spark memories, and so forth. This is common and it happens to everyone. The things that help me the most are to go back and re-read the things I wrote immediately after David's passing. That makes me re-focus on the amazing things that happened before/after his death and gives me assurance. I've also been doing a lot of reading about life after death, both from a Christian and non-Christian perspective. The Bible is the authority- sola Scriptura- but even though “Scripture Alone” is sufficient, it is not a “Scripture that is alone”; there are confirmations out there. So, when I read from scientists that life after death is a recognized phenomenon but they just can't explain certain parts of it, it's just fuel for the fire. Applying Scripture, I think I can explain the parts they don't want to touch, but, in any case, reading philosophy and scientists on the topic has gone a long ways in giving me comfort. Among the books I'm reading are:

As well as this article:

What's striking about the last article is this paragraph:

Very early one morning four years ago, I awoke with an extremely intense headache. Within hours, my entire cortex—the part of the brain that controls thought and emotion and that in essence makes us human—had shut down. Doctors at Lynchburg General Hospital in Virginia, a hospital where I myself worked as a neurosurgeon, determined that I had somehow contracted a very rare bacterial meningitis that mostly attacks newborns. E. coli bacteria had penetrated my cerebrospinal fluid and were eating my brain.

This is very much like David's death and “meningitis” was an early diagnosis, changed to “a bacteria”, and finally to “I've never seen anything like this”. A friend sent me the above link and it not only struck me in its parallel to David's death, but it came at just the right time. Anyway... I've been doing a lot of reading and thinking.

As winter moves toward us once again, I'm getting back into the swing of working on guitars, reading, training my prairie falcon, and moving on into my typical winter stuff. I haven't' hardly touched a guitar since David's death. Instead, I've been playing mandolin and I've been playing Celtic stuff where improvisation is not encouraged. On guitar, I'm all about variations and improvisations, but my creative juices are at a low (witness my lack of writing here....) and playing Celtic stuff on mandolin is kind of therapeutic. 

I guess that's it for now.  Next time, I'll tell you about our new Subaru, trout fishing, and- hopefully- have another successful elk hunt to recount.