There’s been an unfortunate trend in the weather patterns over the last few weeks here in Gauteng – the temperatures are pleasantly warm during the week and cold to bitterly cold on the weekends. This is fine if you plan on spending the weekend indoors in front of a roaring fire, but less ideal if you plan on shooting a field archery competition over the weekend. Option B is precisely what some Zoo Lake archers chose to do on the weekend of 18 and 19 August – the competition in question being the North West Provincial Field Archery Championships, held at the Manzini Game Farm in Potchefstroom. Matthew Bossenger, Mike Basson and Dirk Bruynse shot both days, while Alistair Gordon joined in the festivities on the first day.
Full of hope we set forth early on Saturday morning. The overcast weather was ominous, but we did not heed the warnings, and like the innocent victims in a horror movie we blindly headed off into the unknown. We arrived at registration to be greeted by the finest collection of camouflage clothing you will see this side of Afghanistan. Apparently field targets are skittish and get spooked if approached by someone wearing normal clothing.
Since this was a new course that we hadn’t shot before, we had no idea what to expect in terms of the terrain (rocky terrain and carbon arrows don’t play nicely together). My own circumstances were further complicated by the fact that I was shooting an entirely new setup – new riser, new limbs and new arrows with only very limited practice with the setup. Being the only four recurve archers at the shoot, we were grouped together. We were also mildly relieved to find the first target of the day was a gentle 20 yarder. However, our good fortune wouldn’t last.
We negotiated the first 4 targets with relative ease, but by the 5th target the wind had started to blow. I say wind, but I should give it it’s proper due and call it WIND. For the next 6 hours and 23 targets the WIND did not let up for even a minute. Arrows were constantly blown off rests and on one occasion, I had an arrow blow off my bow completely (yes – off the nock!). We later found out that several groups had abandoned the shoot completely and sought refuge in the lodge, feeling that drinking copious amounts of alcohol would be better than fighting the elements.
Eventually we limped home – seven hours, four broken and battered archers, 15 lost arrows between us and morale at an all-time low. The only respite was a consoling hug from Mathilda Broekhuizen, who was in the group behind us and was witness to our struggle throughout the day.
Saturday night dinner was a quiet affair – the three remaining archers too tired to speak much, and possibly too busy offering a silent prayer to their preferred deity that Sunday would at least be calmer.
Sunday dawned cold, but clear and wind free, which offered us some hope at least. We thought there would only be us three recurvers shooting together, but we were joined by a longbow shooter by the name of Geoff Hunt. Over the course of the day, Geoff would give us all a lesson in archery as he proceeded to post the highest score of the day in our group. Thankfully Sunday was relatively windless and the sun was also out – this made the second day a much more pleasant experience than the first day. The day 2 scores were also a big improvement from day 1 – Mike improved his score by over 100 points!
The results of the Zoo Lake archers were as follows:
- Dirk 297 (day 1) + 325 (day 2) = 622
- Matthew 235 (day 1) + 268 (day 2) = 503
- Mike 213 (day 1) + 322 (day 2) = 535
- Alistair 295 (day 1)
If nothing else, the weekend left us with a story or two to tell. Day 1 was a trial and day 2 was the complete opposite – lovely sunshine and little to no wind. I hope this doesn’t scare off prospective field archers, but just be advised that you will not always be shooting in ideal weather conditions at these shoots. Having said that, we always welcome new archers to field competitions, especially since so few recurve archers are currently taking part in these competitions.