HNA October weekend shoot

HNA October weekend shoot

by Margaret Rickard

KLFA Roving Reporter and Crossbow Queen

My archery trips have never been what you might call easy and, running true to form, my journey to HNA’s October weekend shoot in Essex wasn’t straightforward from the start. As I drove out of our gates a red warning light on the dashboard flashed and beeped intermittently. Most people would stop and look at the hand book but not me. With the thought of missing a shoot I decided to have either a Senior Moment or a Blonde one – depending on one’s frame of mind – and I shot round the corner to my friendly garage. With one look Maurice said, “That’s the door warning light, there’s a door open somewhere.” He slammed the driver’s door and the light went out. Feeling incredibly stupid I drove out on to the lane.
Within a nanosecond the light began beeping even faster. Not wanting to turn round I parked up, opened and shut every door – including the bonnet – and set off again. No different, so I popped into my second friendly garage where Dave drove it round the block and decided that the door lock just needed oiling. Oiling done and with the imparted knowledge that the door would definitely not open, off I went.
Beep, flash!
For over two hours I drove with an insistent ‘beep, flash…. beeeeep, beep, flash. Even playing loud music didn’t help because I could still hear the beep and it was never in the same key. Almost on the point of pulling my hair out and screaming I turned onto the road leading to Ramsden Heath.
‘Road closed, access only,’ three red boards informed me. I only had a mile to go so I took a chance that I could probably wiggle my way through to the other end.
With three minutes to my destination I found that the road was indeed blocked. I had nowhere to turn, so, with my face turning puce as a worker shook his head and tutted at me, I reversed untidily hoping that no-one else would have been as stupid. Regaining the road where all the sensible drivers were taking note of the red signs and turning left I joined them trying to look nonchalant as though I lived down the road and was on my way out.
Even though I’ve shot HNA four times I never manage to find the lane without difficulty. Trying to ignore my satnav which was now becoming hysterical because I was refusing to turn round, I followed the diversion signs through the village and out into the countryside hoping that a miracle might happen. It did. Road signs began to ring vague bells and I turned down Potash Lane, Goatsmoor Lane and into 40Acre Plantation without having seen a single NFAS sign, and parked in what appeared to be a field of week-old hay, (a lot of which found its way into the van over the three days).
Saturday.
A Screech owl heralded the dawn an hour early with a trumpet fanfare at precisely 6am. The quieter tones of a Tawny owl said, “Why do you have to make so much noise?” “Because I CAN!” shouted the Screech owl. I wish they’d keep to GMT.
The weather was perfect – warm, with a light breeze, and I spent a pleasant few minutes showing my husband that I, too, could be a Hunter-gatherer by scooping up a bagful of enormous sweet chestnuts. I was glad to wear my hat as there were a few near-misses from prickly chestnut packages that exploded in the dirt next to me with a loud thud.
The shoot was late setting off – about 10.20. Apparently 90 archers had booked in so it was a very comfortable 4 to each target. I was shooting with a couple of archers I’ve shot with before, and Mick Pearce for the second time at HNA, what a lovely man he is – great sense of humour, and so tough.
The course consisted of 36 mixed targets in a clover shape, each circuit a different coloured tape – red/white, green/white, and blue/white. I felt very at home with the blue and white ‘crime scene’ tape – all that was missing was the word POLICE!
There was only one 50 yarder and all the others had been set very craftily. The use of a smallish target at a longer distance than normal took the place of a huge target at a great distance, but I did think the mosquito at 25 yards was pushing it a bit!
I shot quite well, although I had more 16s than I really wanted, but when I second guessed myself and added two clicks on a difficult target I ruined my chance of a one-arrow round. I was livid with my stupidity – how many times do I have to tell myself ‘go with your first instinct’. Will I ever learn?
Sunday
A vixen barked the silence off the dawn at 6.27 and woke up a little wren that began to trill quietly. Then a blackbird, which normally starts the dawn chorus, turned up and silenced the little wren with an angry verbal flourish. But when the flock of geese thundered in they put paid to every tuneful effort. I made a wish to a weak crescent moon, careful not to wish through glass, and no, I can’t possibly divulge my wish or it won’t come true! As the light dispelled the dawn the early mist gave up its effort to hide us and revealed a damp autumn morning, and a green woodpecker laughed in the face of the coming winter.
The weather was warm and sunny. We started at 10.30 again and I was with the same group so knew it was going to be an entertaining day. HNA had pulled out all the stops over-night to present another super course. All the 36 targets had either been changed or moved to other pegs and it was more of a challenge than the day before.
The sun went in as the start horn trumpeted and a stiff, unsteady wind began to rock the trees. For the next half an hour it was as though we were in a war zone. On the edge of the wood the paintballers started firing at each other and the smell of cordite filled the air. The wind increased and the trees began to drop their last chestnut ‘hedgehogs’, not one or two but dozens at a time, and as they peppered the ground with loud thuds the leaves flew into the air like exploding bombs. This assault continued for about 20 minutes and it was a miracle that none of us received a direct hit. The wind dropped and the barrage stopped as quickly as it had started, and we spotted archers with strange-shaped, bulging clothing where they’d stuffed in the free harvest.
I shot a terrific first round of 360+ and felt confident that I would finish over 700 with my first one-arrow round. But as always there was a little devil waiting to trip me up, this time in the shape of a ridiculously narrow, paper-face cobra. As I’d killed it the day before I went for the 4 inch head again instead of the easy 16 of it’s curled-up body and missed. I struggled to get more than a wound for the rest of the day but because I’d had such a good first half I actually finished only two points short of the previous day’s score ending up with a total of 1374 so was ‘well chuffed’.
The journey home was a repeat of the journey down – ‘beep, flash…. beeeeep, beep, flash,’ but I ignored it with the thought of cracking open the huge bottle of The Famous Grouse whiskey that I’d won in the raffle!

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