Breaking free: Brabec moves up to championship freestyle at Big Sky Open

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—After his fellow competitors have already released their arrows, Kurt Geist of Colorado Springs takes his time as he aims at a clay pigeon during the Shoot Down Round at the Big Sky Open 2011 on Saturday at the DoubleTree Hotel.

PHOTO BY GRETEL DAUGHERTY—Kneeling on the grass among the targets, range captain Randy Brabec watches the Shoot Down Round from a distance during the Big Sky Open 2011 on Saturday at the DoubleTree Hotel.

Randy Brabec won’t be defending his title.

This weekend at the Big Sky Open archery tournament at the DoubleTree Hotel, Brabec is shooting in the men’s championship freestyle division.

Brabec had won the previous five titles in the freestyle limited division.

The difference is in the release. Freestyle allows for a release aid or trigger and freestyle limited is a finger release.

“I’ve done just about everything with fingers,” Brabec, 46, said. “I wanted to step up to something different.”

Brabec also wanted to go where the competition is, and made the switch last November. The freestyle limited division is shrinking, and the Big Sky Open attracts many of the top freestyle archers around.

“Most people are freestyle and the finger division is going by the wayside,” Brabec said. “(The transition) is actually going better than I thought it would.”

The switch has given Brabec some perspective on archery. He’s found himself in a role-reversal while working on his freestyle release.

“People used to come to watch me with the finger release to learn things, and now I’m the one going up to people trying to learn,” Brabec said. “Give me another year and I hope to be right up there.”

Brabec is in 10th place with a 568, but isn’t too concerned with his finish at the Big Sky. He worries more about the tournament itself.

“I just want everyone to have a good time,” Brabec said. “I don’t have a goal set for myself because I just want the tournament to run well, and everyone to shoot well.”

Brabec, of Grand Junction, has had a unique connection to the tournament since his parents, Jerry and Margaret, started the Big Sky Open 31 years ago in Montana. The tournament moved to Grand Junction in 1984, and has been at the DoubleTree Hotel location for the past 20 years. This weekend’s field has 120 people ranging form 9 to 80 years old.

“You talk to anyone in the archery world and say you’re going to Big Sky, everyone knows what you’re talking about,” said Jeremy Terhune of Gillette, Wyo. “There are a lot of people who miss other tournaments to come here.”

Terhune, 28, is shooting in the championship freestyle division. This is his fifth year in Big Sky. He’s been a professional for three years and has shot in the championship flight of the Big Sky every year. Terhune said that’s one of the draws of the tournament.

“You don’t have to be a professional to shoot in the championship flight and I think that’s a lot better philosophy because anyone can shoot,” Turhune said. “It’s a higher entry fee, but let’s say some guy is shooting really well heading up to the tournament and says ‘I think I can compete with those guys.’

“He pays a little more but gets to jump up and shoot against them.”

The tournament uses a V-style outdoor format shooting at Olympic-style multi-colored targets. There is $20,000 in prize money.

After two days of shooting, Reo Wilde is leading the championship division with a score of 585. Wilde is a two-time champion, with wins in 2003 and 2007. Trailing him is 2006 champion Tim Gillingham with a 584. Terhune is in third with a 581 and last year’s winner, Logan Wilde, is fourth with a 580. Duane Price is in fourth place with a 575.

The Big Sky wraps up today at the DoubleTree. The first shooters begin at 8:30 a.m. and the event is free for spectators.


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