DRIVING up the narrow lane towards the top of the hill something large and brown caught my eye, was that a grizzly bear I saw stood at the edge of the forest?
A little further on and I saw a sign for the French national field archery championships that were taking place just outside Sarlat in the Dordogne. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Throughout the wooded hillside targets had been set up for the archers to aim at from different positions as they followed the route.
I was guided around the course by the President of the Fédération Française de Tir Libre (FFTL), Gilbert Weck, not only for safety reasons, but it would have been easy to have got lost.
“We have three different styles of target and three different styles of bow,” said Gilbert Weck, right.
“There are the regular round paper targets, animal paper targets that are pinned to boards and actual models of everything from hyenas to bears.
“And the archers either use a longbow, a re-curve or a compound bow. Each one has its own particular advantages and disadvantages.”
The competition takes place over Saturday and Sunday, on the first day the archers go around in groups from their respective clubs.
But on the second day the contest gets serious as the groups are decided on the points scored from the previous day.
Out on the course the targets are arranged on slopes, in clearings and through trees with small marker posts arranged at set distances, from where the archers shoot.
“French archery shares a lot of terms with English archery, for example, we measure out the markers in yards,” Gilbert said.
“So the furthest distance that we shoot from is 80 yards which is a long way and you have to take into account many factors when shooting at this distance.”
The weekend sees around 100 competitors out on the course with all ages taking part from teenagers to seasoned veterans.
There is also a great deal of organisation involved as targets are set up and then markers measured out in the days beforehand, as well as the very welcome snack stops.
“It is very much a group sport with clubs often organising events and meals so the social side plays an important role,” Gilbert said.
“And I know that archery is very popular in the UK so I would be delighted to see people who have moved to France join us.”
To view a gallery of photographs from the archery course in France.
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