I thought it was going to be just my friend/archery coach with me on the course at Seven Hills, which was fine since he had been "too busy" to shoot since March and I was looking forward to putting him in his place with all my practicing. I was pleasantly surprised when we pulled up and noticed two slightly damp guys from the bow shop waiting out the rainstorm in their cars. With our duo expanded to a quartet, we started slip-sliding our way on the trail to target #1, starting out just as polite and serious as you please on a soggy Sunday morning.
It didn't take long for the day to unravel. Without our serious archery friend, who was at a competitive shoot in Alabama, our game faces dissolved into teenage hijinks and the shoot took a sharp left-hand turn in the maturity department. Not only did you need to be wary of the slick footing and mindful of your ranged targets, but you had to watch your back for the repeated tree shakings that would send a cascade of rain down your neck if you weren't paying attention. Target #2 brought the first miss of the morning (not mine, thank goodness), which we harped on for at least the next five stations. There was mocking, rain shaming, finger pointing, gear bashing...you name it, we flung it. And we all loved every minute of it.
By station #14, we started upping the ante with trick shots, tossing out the traditional 12-10-8-5 ring scoring and opting for the all-or-nothing approach of "hit the bear's tail" and other minuscule parts of the target that would make serious archers frown. By station #25, we invented a new sport, Hot Yoga Archery, which had us sweating and doing 180 degree turns while standing on one foot to take shots from 30, 40, and 50 yards. Station #30 had us taking blind shots through the weeds, balancing on elevated platform railings, and shooting between stairs that were never meant for arrows to pass through. Top that off with running through mud puddles like salamanders and repeated "do overs" from one of our group members (again, not me), and we had the collective maturity of a group of 7th grade boys. And I couldn't have had more fun.
After the shoot, we sat around, sharing hunting stories and photos, making plans for a private shoot with our pooled 3D target resources. One guy has fishing kayaks on Spring Lake, another has a pool, pond, and puppies. The third hunts in Arizona and offered to take us all scouting for Mulies that would put our Illinois whitetails to shame. I offered my pastry expertise in exchange for some wild blackberries, which are just now ripe and will be perfect in a cobbler. What can I say, I like to bake (zucchini bread was the treat du jour for the range operators today) and have limited other marketable skills. As we parted ways, two for home and two of us back to the course, we exchanged phone numbers and promised to meet up again this summer, and I couldn't help but think it was the best day of group shooting so far, hands down.
I should have quit while I was ahead. Trip #2 on the course gave me a whiff on a target and a glorious slip in the mud that left me facedown on the trail, bow in hand but unharmed. Thank goodness it only happened in front of one guy, because the ribbing from the whole group would have done me in. But I ended the day without any lost or broken arrows (the only one to do so, I might add), and my score was still good enough to beat my buddy. In the end, that's all that really matters.