If not for the shock, maybe I should have raced downtown to buy a Powerball ticket after shooting my first Robin Hood during a recent lunch break.
That’s right: I drilled one arrow down the tube of another arrow already in the target's bull's-eye. In this case, the center-spot on one of my 3-D targets.
Then again, nothing else that day proved especially lucky or memorable, so maybe I was smart to keep my money and avoid the lottery.
After more than 40 years of shooting the bow and arrow, I finally scored a Robin Hood.
I've been shooting archery since age 10, which was 45 years ago. That’s when an uncle, Tom Faust of Cross Plains, Wis., showed his many nieces and nephews how to shoot bows and arrows during a family reunion. Five years later in 1971, I took $37 from my newspaper-route savings to buy a 43-pound Bear Grizzly left-hand recurve bow for bowhunting rabbits, squirrels and white-tailed deer.
I arrowed my first deer with that bow in 1973, but I never came close to splitting an arrow during practice. While shooting that bow, I discovered I was right-eye dominant, and couldn’t use sights to shoot it. I took care of that in July 1974 by buying a right-handed Allen compound bow with sights. I then shattered nocks occasionally, but the Robin Hood kept eluding me.
Many bows, arrows, sights and targets have come and gone since then, but I never scored archery's hole-in-one. I finally witnessed the feat when my daughter Leah nailed a Robin Hood before she was 15. Her spliced arrows stand by my office door, reminding me of her superior skills.
The Full Metal Jacket arrow drove 17.5 inches down the other arrow's shaft.
Even so, I never dwelled on it. In fact, when shooting into my basement target at 15 yards during winter practice sessions, I aim at different spots each shot to avoid shattering nocks and stripping feathers. I'm cheap that way.
I don't enjoy replacing nocks or fletching, even though I have plenty of both, as well as a Bitzenburger Fletchmaster for gluing feathers to shafts. Therefore, I cringed and cursed a bit when hearing the loud "Clank!" when my third arrow of the day hit the 3-D deer target 30 yards away.
That sound wasn't the ordinary swish and rattle of one arrow slapping and side-swiping another arrow already there. This was a collision, with debris from feathers and aluminum-wrapped carbon snapping and popping into the air. I paused and then put down my bow.
The second arrow drove the nock from the first arrow down the shaft ahead of it.
With my other practice arrows still sitting in the quiver, I walked to the target and inspected the damage. Yep. No doubt about it: My first Robin Hood. The Easton Full Metal Jacket arrow was buried 17.5 inches down the shaft of the other arrow, leaving their feathers 8.5 inches apart.
When I looked closely, I saw the second arrow had driven the nock from the first arrow down the shaft ahead of it. The fluorescent green nock glimmered through a crack in the swollen sidewall. I also noticed a feather missing from the first arrow. It rested four feet away, still attached to a shard of aluminum.
Most gratifying was that the first arrow struck exactly where I aimed in the target's kill zone. If it had hit farther back or in the shoulder blade of the foam-plastic deer, I'd be more embarrassed than happy.
The conjoined shafts deserved to stand beside Leah's twinned arrows. Although pleased, I knew better than to brag. I've met archers who have shot so many Robin Hoods they’ve lost count. Or at least they pause to count.
The fact is, I've always been an average archer, shooting well enough to kill deer reliably. But given that I practice year-round and seldom shoot less than 20 arrows per session, you'd think I would have split an arrow long before, even by fluke. And if I need another 40-plus years for a second Robin Hood, I hope it's trumped by more impressive deeds.
Such as? Well, I’d be more than pleased if Leah were still shooting archery. Or maybe I’ll have grandkids, and some of them will take up the sport. Maybe my Robin Hood will help inspire them.
Most likely, though, a split arrow can't turn such tricks. After all, when my Uncle Tom showed his nieces and nephews how to nock an arrow and aim down the shaft, I don't recall shooting all that well. I was happy just to hit the target with that old fiberglass recurve bow.
No, arrows in bull's-eyes didn't hook me on archery. It was something more powerful. It was my uncle’s encouragement. He had complimented my efforts to my parents, and his words had gotten back to me.
All these years later, my first Robin Hood reminds me to thank him for introducing me to this lifetime sport. It’s a gift I’ve never forgotten.