Hitting the mark at the Big Sky Open

From Left, Dave Cousins and Rio Wilde shoot it out on the line at the Big Sky Open Archery Tournament in GJ.

During Sunday’s final round of the Big Sky Open archery tournament, one rain ended and
another reign resumed.

A weekend of unsettled weather was capped Sunday by a brief rain shower during the last half of the day’s archery round. The short-lived storm, which sent spectators temporarily scrambling for cover, failed to faze the 130 or so archers working their way through two rounds of 10 targets each, the farthest 65 yards away.

The rain also didn’t bother Dave Cousins of Standish, Maine, who escaped a last-round charge by his two closest competitors to win by one point, his third men’s Championship Freestyle Unlimited title.

Cousins also won the title in 2001 and 2002 and was leading the 2007 competition into the final round when he shot the wrong target, costing him 10 valuable points and possibly another title.

Cousins, 32 and member of the USA Archery Outdoor Team, shot a 590 (out of a possible 600) Sunday to finish the two days with a total of 1,180, a bare point ahead of runner-up Josh Schaff of Billings, Mont.

Schaff shot a 584 Saturday and a 595 Sunday to finish the tournament at 1,179.

Reo Wilde of Pocatello, Idaho, who tied for second with Schaff after Saturday’s round, shot 584 Sunday and finished tied again, this time with Roger Hoyle of Cedar City, Utah, at 1,178.

Wilde won a three-arrow shoot-off.

“I shot OK but I wasn’t real great,” said Cousins, who took home $1,700 for taking the professional men’s championship. “I’m working on some new things, a new attitude and new challenges, and I feel like I’m just not quite there yet.”

Schaff, 22, and in his fifth year as a professional archer, enjoyed his highest finish in four years.

“I really didn’t do anything too different today,” said Schaff, who, like the rest of the four top men’s finishers, shoots a Hoyt bow. “It’s all a mental game out here and you have to have the right mental attitude to be successful.”

That mental attitude is all-important in an individual sport, whether it’s archery, golf or repairing motorcycles, as Robert Pirsig reminded readers in his popular 1974 book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”

In his 1948 book “Zen in the Art of Archery,” author Eugen Herrigel describes Zen in archery as when “The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull’s-eye which confronts him.”

That singularity of oneness is something Rhonda Calhoun can understand. Calhoun, from Early, Texas, was the sole entry in the women’s professional division at this year’s Big Sky at first the realization surprised her.

“After the first round I went looking for my score and when I finally found it, I thought, ‘I’m the only one. That means, I win,’ ” Calhoun said after Sunday’s round. “But I don’t feel good about it. I really didn’t shoot well and probably wouldn’t have won if there was someone else.”

But having no one to compete against isn’t any easier, she said.

“I’m my own worst enemy,” she asserted. “I’m probably harder on myself than anyone else.”

Calhoun spends the majority of her time shooting 3D (full-size animal targets) tournaments to go along with her love of bow hunting, she said..

“With 3D you can be in the vicinity but here (competitive target shooting) you can’t afford to miss at all,” she said. “This is a totally different game, both mentally and physically.”

Calhoun, who first picked up a bow in 1998 after getting married, signed on with well-known archery coach Mike Braden after seeing her shooting performance slide the past three years.

“I wasn’t happy with my shooting and for a while I was bouncing around from coach to
coach,” said the fourth-year professional. “I’m really happy with Mike but we only spent 45 minutes together before I came here, so we weren’t able to do a whole lot.”

Randy Brabec of Grand Junction continued his string of wins in the men’s Freestyle Limited Division with a 1,187 points. 

Brabec’s title was his fourth consecutive and his sixth in nine years. His father, Jerry Brabec, one of the co-founders of the Big Sky Open, won the Freestyle Limited Division title in 1974.

British archery Liam Grimwood finished his initial Big Sky Open in the top 10 and praised the tournament format.

“I didn’t finish as well as I would have liked but this is great tournament. I really like it,” he said.

Grimwood and fellow Brit shooter Chris Bell found something else they enjoyed about Grand Junction: Taco Bell.

“I’ve never had it before Thursday and now we’ve been there four times since,”  Grimwood said with a grin. “Twice a day isn’t too much, is it?”


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