3-D Archery Blast At Lake Oconee Shooting Club

For a first-time 3-D tournament archer, the 20-target course was a lot of fun and great practice for deer season.

Brad Bailey | April 1, 2007

Shooting 3-D archery tournaments is reportedly one of the fastest-growing sports around. At GON, however, no one had ever shot one of the tournaments. We thought we would go pay our fee and try one out to see what the buzz was about. The Lake Oconee Shooting Club near Eatonton had a tournament scheduled for March 10, so at 9 a.m. I showed up on their clubhouse doorstep, bow in hand, hoping I wouldn’t lose all my arrows.

And I can tell you now that 3-D shoots are a blast! The archery program is relatively new at the Lake Oconee Shooting Club. The 2007 season is the second year of hosting 3-D shoots on the 188-acre trap and skeet range in Putnam County. The first shoot this year drew 60 archers; the second 35, the March 10 shoot pulled 64 archers — including at least one rookie — me.

Shooting 3-D archery is often and aptly compared to shooting a round of golf. The courses are set up much in the same way, but you shoot at different numbered 3-D targets rather than drive a ball down a fairway.

The Oconee 3-D course is set mostly in thick, young pine trees. You walk a half-mile trail with numbered stations and shooting lanes. At some distance down a lane through the woods is a 3-D target. The variety of targets is great. You shoot bears, hyenas, cougar, several deer and hogs, and even antelope. The Oconee course is changed every Thursday, so even if you shoot the course often, it has a different look each time.

I shot the course with three other shooters including Danny McCollum of Milledgeville, the Lake Oconee Shooting Club archery manager and PSE pro. Danny competed in the Hoyt USA Mississippi Pro/Am in Hattiesburg, Miss. a week earlier and came in sixth in the Hunter division. Scotty Rhodes of Madison is on the Lake Oconee Shooting Club archery pro-staff and is also a Hoyt pro-staffer. He has been shooting 3-D tournaments for 10 or 12 years and is also a heck of a shot with a bow. John Bush of Sparta shooting Bowhunter Class filled our foursome.

Before you ever set foot on the course, you register for the shoot among a long list of classes. The system accommodates shooters from kids under six to senior. As a rookie, I entered as a Bowhunter Novice. That means I shot from a stake at a known distance from the target, with no shot longer than 30 yards.

The day we shot, the first target on the course was a broadside deer. I shot third and had both Scotty and Danny’s arrows on the target guide me. The tab on the blue stake — my shooting position as a bowhunter novice — said my shot was 19 yards.

I drew, held dead-on with my 20-yard pin at a point just to the right of Scotty’s nock and let fly. The shaft clipped the 12 ring. Amazing.

The classes vary according to your experience and equipment. Scotty was shooting Open A class; Danny and John were shooting Bowhunter Class, which includes shots up to 40 yards at unknown distances.

The second shot was at a hog, and my arrow hit low. Operator error — eight ring hit.

The third target was a crouching cougar. I scored my second 12, but my score took a downturn on a bear that was target No. 4. A front leg shot scored only five…

Each target has a series of concentric rings around the kill zone of the animal. The smallest ring, about the size of a 50 cent piece, is the 12 ring. A larger ring, roughly 6 or 8 inches across on the center of the kill zone, scores 10 points. A larger-still zone is the eight ring, and a hit on any other part of the target scores a five. Zinging an arrow into the woods scores zero.

The course is 20 stations, 20 targets, and a par score is 200 — all 10 rings. A tall order.

The sixth target was an upright bear.

“I hate this bear,” said Scotty. “It is a tough target to shoot up against that tree.” He killed the bear, however. My worst shot of the day barely hit the target forward in the chest. I hate that bear, too.

It is critical to know exactly where the 12 ring is located, and binoculars are a big part of the competition. At least the serious shooters all have a good set to find the 12 ring (and even smaller 14 ring that was on a couple of targets). Next time I shoot, I’ll have mine along.

We shot and killed a hog at station No. 7. My release was steady; I hit what I aimed at, but just a half inch off the 12. Score a 10. Scotty drilled the tiny 14 ring. While I had the advantage of a known range, Danny, Scotty and John did not. They spent a good bit of time evaluating each target.

“Each yard you are off is about an inch on the target,” said Scotty. You have to judge distance well.

Your goal on the course may vary with your experience.

“A youth shooter’s goal might be to not miss a target,” said Danny. “Then maybe you try to avoid any fives; then no eights.”

As in golf, the appeal of bettering your score can be addictive. The ninth target was an impala. Scotty and Danny shot it for a 37- or 38-yard shot. John estimated it at 40 yards — and hit the 12 ring. I believe the shot was 29 yards for me, and I scored an eight.

Target No. 12 was an antelope, and my stake was at about 20 yards. It’s a shot I can make, but I flinched. Two inches high — an eight-ring score.

The 3-D targets are designed to stop your target tip, and to develop your upper-body strength when you try to pull your arrow out. Whatever that foam is, it holds an arrow tenaciously. Luckily, Danny had some arrow lube that made the extraction much easier.

Part of the benefit of shooting with others is help with your shooting form. Target 15 was a broadside deer at about 25 yards. My shot flew high.

“You pushed the bow out of the way to see where the arrow went,” said Danny. Technique counts. Thank goodness for a wide eight-ring.

Target 18 was a broadside hog. “Hold still,” was Danny’s advice. I did, and the arrow thumped the 10 ring.

The final target was also a hog at 20 yards. Danny’s shot was 2 inches above the 12; Scotty was just below the 12-ring; Dave pulled a little and hit 2 inches left. I forget exactly where I hit, but the scorecard says it was a 10, and a positive finish to the course for me.

Scotty shot a 214 with seven 12s and one 14. A great round. John shot a 173 with two 12s. Danny had a technical problem with a new release and missed a couple targets completely (later in the day he shot a 212). I shot a 169 with two 12s. In a field of 19 Bowhunter Novice shooters in the tournament I placed 15th. A bit disappointing, but I’m ready to go back to work on my technique and improve my score.

The Lake Oconee Shooting Club 3-D course is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday. You can shoot the course for $16, and they have practice ranges, too. There is a archery pro shop in the clubhouse, and archery pros on staff. The next 3-D tournament at Oconee is scheduled for April 14. An ASA state qualifier is scheduled for May 19, and the 2007 ASA Georgia State Championship is scheduled for July 14-15.

If you check the Archery Shoot Calendar printed on page 158, you’ll find a 3-D shoot somewhere nearby and soon.

“Most people get involved in 3-D shoots because they are bowhunters,” said Lake Oconee Shooting Club General Manager Brandi Cooper. The reason is simple: shooting 3-D will make you a better shot come deer season. That was part of the pull for me, too. If you shoot, you’ll like it — and I did not lose any arrows.

The Lake Oconee Shooting Club is located on Hwy 16, 5.5 miles east of Eatonton. For more information, call (706) 485-4557.

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