Cousins leads competitive field after first round at Big Sky Open

There is some serious money in these high tech compound bows at the Big Sky Open Archery Tournament where some of the world’s best archers are competing.

On a Saturday morning as calm as the previous night was stormy, you could have knocked over Jerry Brabec with a feather.

“We had three perfect scores last night in the clay pigeon shoot,” said Brabec to an equally surprised visitor.

Many people who witnessed the blustery weather that swept over the Grand Valley for the Friday opening round of the Big Sky Open archery tournament at the DoubleTree Hotel had openly questioned whether anyone could keep an arrow heading straight in the storm.

“I never thought it would happen in that wind but those guys did it,” said Brabec. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The three nifty 50s were registered by Benton Christensen of Pocatello, Idaho; Rob Morgan, Billings, Mont., and Dick Smith of Colorado Springs.

Because Morgan and Smith both are competing in the professional division, the two had a shoot-off, which Smith won.

There were plenty of feathers available, although most of them are artificial and used as fletching for the high-priced arrows flying at the Olympic-style targets employed in the Big Sky competition.

Some of the most accurate arrows belonged to Dave Cousins of Standish, Maine, who managed a first-round total of 590, only 10 points off a perfect 600.

“I managed to shoot pretty well,” said Cousins. “I’m pleased with my shooting, but there are lot of good shooters out here.”

Cousins, who won the Big Sky Open in 2001 and 2002, has plenty of competition. Reo Wilde, of Pocatello, Idaho, and like Cousins a two-time Big Sky champion (2003, 2007), was six points back at 584.

Local favorite Randy Brabec of Grand Junction, son of the tournament founders Jerry and Margaret Brabec, finished his first round with 547 points to lead the men’s Freestyle Limited division. Brabec is one of the few competitive archers who hasn’t made the move to a mechanized trigger release.

“I’m not real satisfied, I’m about 10 points down from where I would like,” said Brabec, who has dominated this class for the past three years and has won titles five of the past eight years.

“It took me about three targets to get settled in but I think I can pick up some points tomorrow,” he said.

How hard is it to make a perfect 600? Difficult enough that in the 29 years of the Big Sky Open, no one has had a perfect two days.

The top score was registered in 2006 when Tim Gillingham of Orem, Utah, shot 1,179 over two days.

Other first-round leaders after Saturday’s competition included Gary Cowart (Cedar City, Utah) in the men’s Bowhunter Freestyle (561) and Rhonda Calhoun (Early, Texas) in the women’s Freestyle Unlimited (508).

The final round of individual competition continues at 8:30 morning.


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