MOBERLY — Kelsey Brandkamp draws back her bow, pauses and then releases. The arrow disappears, sounding like a firecracker with a short fuse. A brief hiss, and then a pop when the arrow is visible again, protruding out of the smallest circle on the foam deer’s targeted side.
Brandkamp’s shooting ability was on display Sunday at the Show-Me State Games 3D archery competition. The 16-year-old finished the 40-target course at NOMO Bowhunter Club with 386 points to win the young adult, age 15-17 female class.
Success in archery is a matter of inches, a lesson learned from watching just one of Brandkamp's shots.
The distance between the target and the stake where she shoots from is unknown. Shooters have to gauge it in their head. Brandkamp unhooks her binoculars off the gold hook attached to her belt and steadies them on top of her Hoyt compound bow.
“Everyone is different when it comes to judging distance,” Brandkamp said. “What I do is find one yard, about three feet, then I count one, two, three, four, five (yards). Then, I double that for 10, then again for 20 and so on.”
There is another way to range a target.
“Some can determine the distance by simply hearing another shooter’s shot and listening to how long it takes to reach the target,” Richard Potter said. Potter won the male open division with a score of 428.
Once the distance is predicted all that’s left is the shot. Brandkamp’s left arm extends completely straight. Her right arm runs parallel, drawing back the bowstring to her nose. She is attempting to hit the 12-point circle. It is less than two inches in diameter and resides inside the slightly bigger 10-point circle.
The first shooter in the group is usually at a disadvantage. After the first shot is taken, other members in the group use the shot as a reference for their own upcoming attempt. Often, the point circles are hard to see on dark targets, so a well-placed arrow can become a target itself.
“For some reason they kind of draw you to them. Kind of like darts,” Lynda Hodges said. Hodges won the female open division with a score of 367.
Even if a shot is on target, something could go wrong.
Brandkamp slowly contracts the muscles in her back, triggering her mechanical release. She measured the distance perfectly. Three leaves explode as the arrow cuts through them in route to 12 points. But, Hodges’ arrow already owned that spot on the target. Brandkamp’s arrow deflects off and misses the ring. Her shot went from a 12 to a 5.
Hodges experiences the same feeling of frustration at the next target. Her shot landed out of the 12-point circle by an eighth of an inch.
“Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and slow dancing,” Hodges said.