Saturday, May 3, 2008

Archery Takes Off, Part 3: Cross-Range Shots

At the end of (almost) every party at Archery USA, one of the good archers who happen to be at the range come out to "rescue" the kids in the party. After three ends of shooting at balloons for prizes of cash and candy, many of the young partygoers are left with nothing to show for their efforts. Out comes the hero of the day. Often Anthony, one of his top students, or the employee who is running the party, the hero stands on lane 1 on the far left side of the range, and attempts to shoot the balloon on lane 20. If successful, the hero has won every participant in the party, at least those who did not earn a prize on their own, a candy bar.

As I became well known at the range, I was sometimes given the opportunity to be that hero, and take the cross-range shot at a balloon (reminiscent of my pumpkin-shooting days in San Diego). The thing about cross-range shots, though, is they really are a feast-or-famine kind of situation. To elaborate, the first time I was given the chance, I was able to pop the balloon on the first attempt, earning the instant adoration and gratitude of about a dozen 6-to-12 year olds (the age range for a lot of these parties, as I do not recall the age of the kids in that first party). That first attempt would qualify as "feast." My second attempt, a few weeks later, qualified as "famine." My first shot missed. And so did the second. And the third. It took me seven attempts to pop the balloon, quite an embarrassing situation.

Since those early attempts, I have gone up and down like a yo-yo with my cross range attempts. Sometimes I have been able to get that satisfying pop on my first attempt. Even within three attempts is more than acceptable. And sometimes it takes four or five or six shots. When this happens, you can feel the tension in the room, and it is always a huge relief to actually pop that balloon.

Sometimes the shots have to go through the ladder that is kept behind the post between lanes 10 and 11 in the middle of the range. Sometimes between the ladder and the post. On a few occasions, two archers have lined up on opposite sides of the range, and shot crisscrossing arrows from lanes 1 and 20 into balloons on lanes 20 and 1, respectively.

The cross-range shot is one of the most nerve wracking and most satisfying experiences I have had as an archer. For one thing, it is always fun to shoot at something other than a target (NOTE: I am not at all interested in bowhunting, bowfishing, or shooting at people; by "other than a target," I mean things like balloons, pumpkins, the occasional dollar bill, and the like). For another, it is great to win prizes for kids. The downside is the pressure of every eye in the range being on you, and missing the balloon is not just a possibility, it is a fact of life thanks to the extra distance required to shoot along the hypotenuse of the right triangle that is the cross-range shot.

I keep aiming for it, though. What can I say? It is a great challenge to take on.

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