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With concentration and a steady hand

Hundreds of bowhunters turn out for the annual competition to enjoy an adrenaline rush, breathe fresh air, and pursue the elusive perfect score.

By EDDY RAMIREZ
Published September 5, 2006


INVERNESS - Clayton Smith is a bull-riding, four-wheel driving, bowhunting aficionado.

But the 16-year-old is perhaps more skilled with the bow than he is with the bulls or the all-terrain vehicles. Twice in the past three years he has broken his collarbone: while riding a bull, and while driving a four-wheeler. Last year, he was stomped by another bull, leaving him with a broken leg.

All three years, Smith missed the Bowhunter Jamboree, the largest archery event in the state.

This year, the Citrus High School sophomore managed to start the bowhunting season injury-free. He was among the 515 archery hunters who descended on the woods of the Citrus Wildlife Management Area over the Labor Day weekend for the 44th annual archery competition.

The event is sponsored by the Florida Bowhunters' Council, a group that works to "protect bowhunting from the anti-hunter through funding and education programs."

On Monday, Smith and two buddies competed in the Bowhunters' Challenge. They took turns shooting arrows at animal targets on motorized tracks - whitetail deer, Russian boar, elk and hogs.

Smith, who started hunting with a bow at age 11, smiles when he's asked what he enjoys about bowhunting.

"The adrenaline," he said. "You gotta be accurate and you can't flinch."

His friend Kevin Stone, who taught him how to use the bow, said bowhunting is soothing to the soul.

"I like being out in the woods shooting by myself," he said. "It gives you plenty of time to think."

Stone, who volunteers at Eileen "Mom" Creason's archery shop in Inverness, drives to the jamboree every year from St. Cloud with his family. This was his son's first time shooting a bow. He is 7.

With the song I Shot the Sheriff blaring from nearby speakers, Stone prepared for his turn to shoot.

Other bowhunters gathered around to watch, some wearing camouflage gear and shirts that said "Get Er Done" and "Fire Up the Grill." The smell of barbecue chicken wafted in the air. One hunter brought a videocamera to record his son in action.

"Kevin, are you ready to go hunting?" asked Dave Foster, the man controlling the moving targets. Foster has taken the Bowhunters' Challenge to archery events across the country. No one has ever hit the targets with enough precision to earn a perfect score of 210. So far, 165 has been the highest score by a hunter at the jamboree.

Stone, who was dripping with sweat as he held a bow, nodded that he was ready. In the distance his first target appeared. Stone's arrow pierced the fake boar in the gut.

By the end of two rounds, he had scored 150 points. Not bad, he thought. But it wasn't good enough to beat the hunter who shot before him.

Proudly, Stone declared, "I am an avid duck hunter, but archery is my first love."

Eddy Ramirez can be reached at eramirez@sptimes.com or 860-7305.

[Last modified September 5, 2006, 07:37:40]


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