Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Please, don't ask me to take this test for the next 46 years

The last time I figured I was this nervous in taking a test was more than 46 years ago.

It was in Fairport Harbor and the Ohio Highway Patrol’s driver’s license depot. I had turned 16 years old and thus qualified to obtain an Ohio driver’s license.

Of course I had to pass a written test – which I aced. There also was the driving skills test – which I failed the first time around.

Not surprising since during the parallel parking phase of that event I accidentally drove my mother’s Ford Falcon over the curb and very nearly piloted the little car over the Highway Patrol driving instructor’s foot. 

He was both a bit taken aback and a little less inclined to give me a pass on the minor indiscretion.

At least I got my nerves in check for the second attempt.  That one I passed; comfortably, too, I might add.

So today when I walked into the Great Lakes Outdoors Supply’s Madison Township store my heart was fluttering even as my mind had retreated to 1966.

The march up to the store’s archery center was deliberate and measured. Approaching the counter I took note how the store’s sales rep nodded when I choked out I’d like to take my archery proficiency test.

“Which one?” The sales rep asked with a two-word inquiry.

“Mentor’s,” I said with a one-word reply.

Hooking a finger toward the adjacent archery shooting range, the clerk dutifully recited the city’s requirements and what was required of me.

In order to ensure that Mentor would grant to me a permit to engage in the city’s highly regulate and structured archery-only deer hunt, I needed to shoot a minimum score of 20 out of a possible 25 points, using a certified paper target along with a list of other test do’s and don'ts’ .

The score would mean I’d have to successfully launch two arrows into the target’s four-inch white center and no more than two arrows into its adjacent blue-colored orbit.

I’d have one other arrow as a back-up.

Failure was not an option. I really wanted to qualify for the permit and the sooner the better.

Mentor’s controlled hunt begins Saturday and an unsuccessful attempt today would delay completing all of the city’s requirements.

Sure, I’d have two more tries but I have an easy-to-bruise ego to worry about.
The first shot went true, striking about as dead center as I could ever have hope for, I thought.

“One down and four to go,” I whispered after the arrow was successfully launched.

Like the first arrow the second arrow (actually the same arrow as part of the store clerk’s duty was to play not only test  judge and jury but also arrow retriever) impacted into the same hole it had made moments earlier.

If you don’t know me you might think I would have begun to relax. Those persons who do know me, however, well understand that typically just the opposite all too often occurs.

Breathing deeply, attempting to control muscles and heart rate, I hard-focused my attention while looking through the telescopic sights of the Horton Vision crossbow ; a learned trait developed over countless shooting episodes spent on pistol, rifle, and shotgun ranges.

Even before the third arrow had finished scurrying down the crossbow’s twin aluminum rails I realized my mistake; I had jumped the trigger, prematurely launching the missile.

In a belabored moment that seemed to go on forever, I finally heard the loud “thwack!” of the arrow hitting the target backing.

Better than anticipated, even much better than it should have done, the arrow’s shaft clipped the border between the white and the  blue, just deep enough inside the former to up my running score to 15 points.

All I needed was five more points; one more arrow shaft running hot and true into the white.

Taking even more time to practice a few breathing exercises I hardly noticed when my right thumb disengaged the crossbow’s safety and paid even less attention when I finally let off the trigger.

The solid thump that came with the firing of the arrow from the Vision startled me, but the tool was on its way long before the flinch that didn’t come would have spoiled the perfect score.

In all, I figured, the proficiency test took up about 20 minutes of my time, though about 46 years’ worth of pent-up worry regarding the taking another stupid skills test.

At least this time I passed on the first try. Better yet, I never even came close to almost damaging the score-keeper’s foot.

After the first four days of Ohio’s four-month-long archery deer-hunting season the state’s archers killed 41.5 percent more deer than they did during the same four-day period last season.

During the period from Saturday through Tuesday, 6,925 deer were killed. That compares to the 4,894 animals shot for the same time frame last season.

Of Ohio’s 88 counties only four saw declines and just one recorded identical figures.

However, before anyone tries to read too much into the figures the Ohio Division of Wildlife takes note of a few anomalies that enter this year’s kill statistics.

For starters, says the agency, the change in how antlerless-only tags must be used is a major factor. In short, these “doe tags” have to be used up earlier in the season than ever before, meaning, use it now or forfeit the cost.

Also, says the agency, the first four days this year were all pretty much blessed with spectacular weather for staying on stand, in a ground blind or hanging many feet in the air atop a ladder or hanging stand.

Locally in Northeast Ohio, this year’s first four-day deer kill tally was (with the 2011 first four-day total in parentheses) were:  Ashtabula County – 191 (121); Cuyahoga County – 75 (50); Erie County – 25 (17); Geauga County – 125 (94); Huron County – 75 (56); Lake County – 44 (24); Lorain County – 124 (98); Medina County – 107 (92); Richland County – 166 (101); Sandusky County – 26 (14); Trumbull County – 207 (126).

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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