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The Eye of the Storm

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

“Lough Cuan Bowmen never fails to put on a great day of field shooting, and the Lady Dufferin Field Shoot was no different! While having great weather was a bonus, the shoot was an enjoyable challenge of unmarked short and long distances. The course lay-out was different and interesting at every target (even the bunnies), and despite almost losing a few arrows, it was a great experience with great company that I’d recommend to all. It was the perfect shoot to close the summer and I can’t wait for more in the coming months!” Rachel McCann, Lough Cuan Bowmen member

On Sunday the 28th of August, Lough Cuan Bowmen hosted the Lady Dufferin Shoot, an unmarked round with the opportunity to set new records, a newly named competition in honour of the late Lady Dufferin of Clandeboye Estate.

Whilst this was a one-day competition, a huge amount of work had been thrown into the set up. Clandeboye Estate, for all its beauty is largely the most temperamental venue I have ever been to. The forest itself has been wracked time and again by storms, evidenced by the fallen trees that have become so much a part of the landscape that the archers tend to move by them without noticing. As it stands (no pun intended) at least two fallen trees have been integrated into target set ups. A couple more trees bare the jet scars of lightning strikes, one of which was struck with such ferocity that a large portion of it was sheered from the main body and collapsed parallel to one target, now a monument to nature’s reverential power.

As I have very likely mentioned before in previous articles, one of the bonuses of field archery is the access to private estates and lands, isolated places of paradise that we get to ourselves. Some clubs are fortunate enough to have such resources, and Lough Cuan Bowmen is one.

Clandeboye Estate has been a key venue for Lough Cuan Bowmen for quite some time and has been nothing if not versatile in its ability to be reshaped and redesigned by the club’s history of Tournament Coordinators. I’ve been flinging sticks for nearly a decade and Clandeboye was one of the first venues I ever shot at and though a familiar setting now, its format and target placement continue to keep it a fresh and challenging course.

The greatest delight of my almost decade long endeavour into archery came last year at this venue when a golden eagle soared over the reception area before a 3D round. What an exceptional sight that was! Since starting out in field archery specifically, I have seen buzzards, sparrowhawks, jays, deer, pheasants, grouse, fox cubs, ravens, a pine marten, squirrels, guinea fowl and other countless bird life – we once had a cat follow us for three targets, and twice had to remove the girl from the front of a steep, uphill 80cm face. I’ve had the great opportunity to find many feathers from buzzards, pheasants, guinea fowl and of course crows.

This forest happens to be home to deer, though of a very illusive species. Often it is the tracks in the mud that remind you they are present. I have yet to obtain a good photograph of any of the forest’s denizens, but it is always something to look forward too when going to Clandeboye.

The warm-up bosses were buzzing with activity before we were led out to their starting targets and began to fill in the necessary details of our score cards – club, shooting style, category and for some reason I have never found out, my name, six times across both cards. Out of guilt I volunteered to score, having kept quiet at the past to two shoots.

Thankfully, to keep things light, I had the good fortune of a Lough Cuan junior present in the group, and remarkably talented one at that, Jay Gregg. To be placed alongside any ‘hardliners’ would only spoil the day, I find, and juniors are often out to enjoy themselves – not to mention the fact that we were watching a future major barebow contender in development. Jay had got himself a new tab and had no marks, however this did nothing to slow him down. A few targets in and he had managed to intuitively piece things together with very accurate notions on where his fingers should be on the serving. Between the obvious natural talent and listening to his coach, Mark Young, Jay shot back to form rather quickly. Marcus Finch, a man with a perpetual smile, seemed not to need a warmup either and kept to his tight shooting form through out most of the day with this being his first time in Clandeboye.

As I mentioned once before regarding Loughbrickland, many archers in the north know Clandeboye and as a course it too is a classic venue, thus it was great to see archers shooting the course for the first time – I won’t mention one of our newer members shooting his first field round, turning up in shorts, because that may embarrass him.

Some archers are looking to get a few points more on their competition, others are looking to set new records or achieve an arrowhead score, and some are just looking to improve their own scores from previous shoots. There is a great deal present to stretch the archer’s skills and confidence and plenty to keep them focused.

Those final few targets can stretch out the tension and introduce new challenges as chests tighten, adrenaline clashes with one’s inner calm and the metal maths of where the archer’s score is at is checked, rechecked, and checked again. (As a side note, scoring is simple maths, however I don’t know what it is about a field round that suddenly makes many, including myself, feel like I’m working out quadratic equations.)

For me, managing a personal best or even staying above the bare minimum I ser for myself, brings in a wash of relief and subdued feeling of personal satisfaction at accomplishing my archery related goals. Those final few targets at the Lady Dufferin Shoot were taunting me, with a short-range bunny and moderately-distanced-multiples, targets I know I should do well on, inflicting a haze of nervousness and sudden second guessing, between the shooting peg and the target face. In the end I did manage a personal best, but that final leg took everything that should have been a breeze and warped it.

I’ve shot Clandeboye more times than I can recall, and it never gets old, or tiring, especially due to the effort and inventiveness of Lough Cuan Bowmen’s Tournament Coordinators and the field set up teams.

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