RAYSVILLE, Ga. -- Randy Evett sized up a foam likeness of a bear much like a golfer studies a distant green.
Then he pulled a carbon-shafted arrow to full draw, paused and gently released. The arrow whispered briefly and struck with a dull thud.
"About an inch under, maybe a half-inch to the right," said his partner, Jerry Golden, studying the target through a pair of binoculars. "But not bad at all."
Evett and Golden, both of Pickens, S.C., were among about 200 archers from across the Southeast who gathered in McDuffie County this weekend for the 20th annual Dixie Bowhunters Jamboree.
The tournament, which involves golf-like twosomes and threesomes who shoot two 25-target courses during the three-day event, promotes discipline and focus and helps prepare for bow season.
"It's a game of judging distance," said Robert Bryant, also of Pickens. "That's the name of the game in 3-D archery."
The tournaments are set up in stations, much like holes in golf. Archers must use their skills to gauge the distance to their targets and adjust their shots accordingly -- much like they do in actual hunting.
To make shots more challenging, the targets -- which range from deer and bear to more unusual fare like javelina and elk -- must be fired on through natural brush and trees.
"It's a fun way to practice for hunting season," said Mike Riley, a Columbia County resident who has competed for many years. "The focus is to make you a better hunter, and to have fun, too."
Riley's wife, Kathy, also is a competitive archer, having captured the Female Limited trophy last year. "I'm not good enough yet to hunt, though," she said. "I don't want to wound anything."
Three-D archery differs from field archery in several ways. Field archery competitions allow the shooter four arrows from known distances. Three-D target competition allows only one arrow, and from unknown distances.
"One of the objectives is to make you a better shot," said Riley. "Using 3-D targets helps you pinpoint a spot on the animal -- not just the animal."
Riley hunts with a vintage recurve bow, but many competitors use modern compound bows with high-tech cams, fiber optic sights and scopes.
Concentric rings in the vital hit regions of 3-D targets determine numerical scores. Almost all archers hit the target. But even complete misses can teach valuable lessons.
"This is what happens when you misjudge the distance," grinned Bill Harlow of Brunson, S.C., displaying an aluminum arrow twisted like a pretzel. "I missed and it went through every kind of brush you can imagine."
Harlow has attended the show for almost a dozen years, and brings four or five family members each time. "We come out here to practice," he said. "And we have a good time."
The Dixie Jamboree is one of the largest events held by the Thomson Field Archers Club, which organizes the tournament each year, said Earl Watts, the organization's president.
"This is the 20th year we've had this," Strother said. "When it got started, it was one of the first in the Southeast."
The Jamboree concludes today at the Thomson Field Archers Club shooting area off Georgia Highway 43 near Raysville.
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