Bowcast at the Bird 2012: A Day on the Elite Course

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1 | Elite Course

Shooting the Elite Course begins with a tram ride to the top of the mountain, which is nearly 12,000 feet high. From here, you can see a good bit of Salt Lake City in the distance. We’ll work our way back to the bottom and finally to the resort, shooting targets as we go along. (photo by Michelle Brantley)

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2 | Map Time

Here’s a shot over Michelle’s shoulder, studying the map of the various courses.

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3 | Warning: Cliffs

Warning: Cliff Area. This pretty much defines the whole place.

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4 | Bowcast Brainchild

Anthony Dixon, brainchild of this shoot, consummate badass and the man behind FMP Outdoors, explains the course layout to a couple of shooters. 

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5 | 46 Rail Mountain Mile

As if the shooting wasn’t already tough, Dixon decided to throw a new event into the mix—the 46 Rail Mountain Mile. This 1.5-mile foot and shooting race—straight up the mountain, mind you—was booked solid. The winner of the race will receive a red stag hunt in New Zealand. 

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6 | First Step

Michelle and Kasidy embark on the first few steps of the Elite Course. Trust me when I say these were easier than the last few. 

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7 | Tricky Angles

Kasidy takes aim at a target some 65 yards away, down the mountain. As much as the shear distance, the angles of the shots make it tough. Watch your level bubble, or you will miss.

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8 | Gators in Utah

Not all the targets were of a Western flavor. In addition to mule deer, goats, sheep and bears, we shot at raccoons, whitetails, groundhogs and this alligator target. 

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9 | Treacherous Terrain

At times, the terrain was nothing short of treacherous. Loose rocks had to be navigated carefully; if you fall, you’d be hurt—bad. Michelle uses a pair of Easton skiing sticks—that’s the same Easton that makes your arrows—to help keep her balance. 

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10 | Missed the Goat

Yours truly taking aim at a mountain goat target, 139 yards away. As mentioned, I missed—but fortunately found my arrow. (photo by Michelle Brantley) 

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11 | Rangfinder is Key

Kasidy taking aim at another distant—and downhill—target. An angle-compensating rangefinder is crucial in this country. 

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12 | Lube up the Arrows

When Kasidy first asked me if I needed some lube, I admit to raising my eyebrows and cracking a filthy joke. That’s why he’s smiling. But the stuff makes pulling arrows from foam so much easier. 

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13 | Better Weather

This is Kasidy and Troy pulling arrows from a sheep target. No, we didn’t shoot the horn off. During last year’s shoot, that hillside behind them was covered in snow, rather than purple flowers. 

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14 | Raccoon at 53 Yards

My bride lets fly at a distant target—I think that one was an easy one. 

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15 | Rock Chuck

This groundhog, or rock chuck if you’re a Westerner, provides a glimpse into Dixon’s mind—the man wants to challenge his shooters, and deep down, I think he gets a chuckle from seeing arrows explode. This target wasn’t too far away at 35 yards, but it was partially obscured, small to begin with, and surrounded by rocks. Those rocks claimed three of the four arrows our group fired at them. The one shown here, stuck in the rodent’s fat foam gut—why that’s the author’s, of course. And seeing as how this is my story, that’s where we’ll end it … at least for today. Learn more about Snowbird Resort by clicking here and the Bowcast at the Bird 3D Shoot by clicking here. 

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Now in its fourth year, the Bowcast at the Bird 3D shoot in the mountains above Snowbird Resort, Utah, is becoming one of the best-known shoots in the country. Or maybe notorious is the better word. Though this shoot is a hell of a lot of fun, the terrain and difficulty of the shots (the farthest one I tried today was 139 yards, with a 43-degree angle; I missed, but not by much) can be quite daunting to your average whitetail hunter with a 3-pin sight. But I can honestly say, after a few years of coaching from these Western archers, I’ve nearly doubled my effective hunting range—and tripled my effective target range. 

Though there are several courses for shooters to enjoy out here, one of the toughest—and most infamous—has always been the Elite Course, sponsored by Elite Archery. That’s where I joined buddies Kasidy Manhart of Idaho; Troy Niehaus of South Dakota and my wife, Michelle. We hail from the Jackson Purchase—the flattest region in Kentucky.