When I first saw mountain goats effortlessly move about a treacherous rocky ridge along the Snake River on the Oregon/Idaho border I dreamt of what it would be like to hunt them with my bow. How exhausting it would be to hike miles in search of the ghost-like creatures and what kind of impossibly lucky shot you’d have to have the opportunity to get. For a moment I got to imagine that I was there on that ridge at the Total Archery Challenge event in San Antonio, Texas. On a steep muddy incline in the south Texas hill country I drew my bow at 35 yards. Focused. I shot my arrow across the deep ravine and made contact with my target, even if he was only made of foam.
If you’ve never heard of Total Archery Challenge (T.A.C.) you’re about to wonder why. Total Archery Challenge is one of the biggest and best 3D archery shooting events in the United States. The T.A.C. crew is selective about where each event is held in hopes to focus on family friendly locations across the nation where archers of all skill levels can practice their craft.
I had become a fan of 3D archery shooting when I joined a small league in my home state of Oregon. It wasn’t until I moved to Texas last year that I heard about Total Archery Challenge through none other than a conversation about my new dentist (a bow hunter). I immediately contacted the T.A.C. coordinators and volunteered my time for the event at Natural Bridge Caverns in February 2015. At the event I expanded my knowledge of the benefits of 3D archery from a volunteer and a participant’s perspective. In this article I will discuss and elaborate on my experience.
1. Practice With Purpose
As an outdoorswoman and bow hunter there is much to be said about practicing your craft. Whether you’re a beginner or pro athlete, practice leads to confidence in the field. Confidence should lead to an improved shot placement when bow hunting wild game. In general, a swift ethical shot is the number one goal when I am hunting. While shooting at Total Archery Challenge I was able to envision bow hunting situations such as the mountain goat on the ridge, an alligator on a riverbank, a strutting turkey in a clearing and much more.
If you read our previous blog written by Stephen Casey, you will know the many benefits as a bow hunter to practicing shooting at different distances and angles. Stephen Casey writes:
I always find it shocking how much can change out on the 3D range when shooting 40 yards downhill as opposed to horizontal… I like to practice with the target at varying inclines and declines, at uneven yardages, and from a kneeling, sitting, or other position(s). A great 3D range with a course that enables this kind of shooting is a great place…I like to consistently push myself to be accurate and consistent at farther distances, so that 40 or 50 yards feels like a breeze.
Total Archery Challenge really emphasized this model. Various courses offered different types of angles, distances and targets.
Intimidated? Don’t be.
One of the best rules about Total Archery Challenge is that participants are allowed to move closer to the target. This rule gives shooters of all skill levels the opportunity to practice what they are comfortable with.
As the name suggests the event was challenging, in more ways than one. I will admit the challenges did toy with my emotions. What I didn’t expect to be an added challenge was the weather. It was an unimaginably cold weekend in South Texas and many elements were against us- wind, rain, freezing temperatures. I watched many Texans struggle against Mother Nature but alas, it was just another obstacle to tackle…and very good practice for hunting in the cold weather.
It must be emphasized that you don’t have to be a bow hunter to enjoy an event like Total Archery Challenge. In general, any 3D archery event will challenge you and force you to shoot fun, inventive shots which will ultimately help you master your craft.
Participating in a Total Archery Challenge event might help you develop your bow hunting skills however; the event’s number one goal is to provide a fun and entertaining shoot for all. That being said, not all shots set up would be considered ethical and/or realistic while hunting (Unless you like to think that one day you’ll be taking on zombies hiding in outhouses and hunting blinds).
In addition to several different courses the event boasted a 3D pop up shoot controlled by computers. Described by the event’s coordinators as the archer’s “whack-a-mole” a handful of 3D targets raced across the lawn and popped up without warning. This was an extremely entertaining course to watch and very popular amongst those brave enough to tackle the challenge.
Even more entertaining, the event offered some extreme shots for prizes. By extreme I mean shooting a bulls-eye at an 3D elk target at over 150 yards to be entered into a drawing to win a new truck. Every time an archer would commit to take the challenge a crowd would gather to encourage the shooter. Instant comradery was formed.
My favorite entertainment at the event was a demonstration by local mounted archery rider Serena Lynn of S.T.A.R. (South Texas Archery Riders). The demonstration was a most impressive display of concentration as both rider and horse became one. Serena cantered and galloped across the open field while shooting her recurve bow with ease. Afterwards, Serena invited spectators to come forward with questions and pet her mare, affectionately named “Moonshine.” Serena states that the sport is “empowering and addicting” and hopes to inspire others to get involved. Serena is also confirmed to attend next year’s Total Archery Challenge in Texas. For more information on Serena and S.T.A.R. visit www.southtexasarcheryriders.com
Volunteering for the Total Archery Challenge event my friend Morgan (Armed Rogue) and I were given the task of overseeing the warm up course. During our long day spent at the course I spoke with many archers of all backgrounds and ages. I witnessed the gathering of so many types of archery enthusiasts as well as their family and friends who attended the event to cheer them on. In the hundreds of people I laid eyes on at the event not once did I see any severe negativity, aside from cursing the weather.
Adam & I enjoyed getting to shoot with our friends. In addition, we ventured on to another course and made friends a long the way. There was so much comradery between strangers, as well as guidance and direction. Each person wanted to see the other succeed. Inspiring to me was a 16 year old girl named Gabby whom we met. This sharp shooting girl had no fear of any target situation. If she missed the target she laughed, nocked another arrow and tried again. I asked her father how long Gabby had been shooting and he replied, “1…2…about 2 months now.” I couldn’t believe it! It was fun to be inspired by those around me and to be a part of such a positive atmosphere.
Noteworthy, I witnessed the constant dedication of the event’s staff. Setting up and running a large event smoothly is taxing and tough. As volunteers and as participants we were treated with utmost care, concern and hospitality. A true testament to their love of archery and all that comes along with it.
4. Giving Back: The next generation
As outdoorsmen and women we know the value of passing on our passions to the next generation. Total Archery Challenge is a family friendly event and the staff encourage parents to bring their children. The warm up course as well as the kids course offered a fun challenge for kids of all ages. While volunteering, my husband Adam was stationed at the Kid’s Course. Adam reported that he enjoyed seeing kids with all the right equipment and more to get them started in archery. In the end, this is what it’s all about! Inspiring and giving back to the community and the next generation.
Don’t have a bow?
Total Archery Challenge has you covered. You can rent all the equipment you need to participate! No matter your experience with archery I encourage you to join a 3D league or find an archery shoot near you. Contact your local archery shop or to find the nearest Total Archery Challenge near you visit www.totalarcherychallenge.com You won’t regret it!
Thank you to EvoOutdoors for your support at this event. Thank you Total Archery Challenge, especially Monica DeGray for your kindness and hospitality.
Kristin Brooke Parma
EvoOutdoors Media Coordinator