Old School

20121111-083433.jpgIn the second relay at yesterday’s 1800 at the Harrisburg Hunters’ and Anglers’ Association, half the turning targets wouldn’t face.

So Tony Brong, seen here calling the line, said we would continue “old school” – he would call the “Fire!” and “Cease Fire!” on static targets.

He also announced that because of this, early and late shots would be somewhat on the honor system. In obvious cases shooters at the adjacent firing points would hear such shots but on close ones, it would be up to the shooter to say he released an early or late shot that should not, therefore, be counted.

The rule says you lose your best shot(s) in such circumstances.

Shooters weren’t the only ones with additional challenges. Tony’s job calling the line became much more rigorous. In addition to the cadence, he was then also responsible for timing the 20 and 10 second periods and clearly announcing “Fire” and then “Cease Fire” at the correct moment.

With many Expert and above shooters who would use every fraction of those periods, making himself clearly heard through double-plugged hearing protection was sometimes difficult, especially when some shooters correctly anticipated the “F” of “Fire,” drowning out the call with their first shot. Because “Fire” was announced, whether heard or not, those shots were legal. But because of them, not everyone heard “Fire!”

It could be argued that, with everyone else firing, the command must have been given. But if, in fact, Tony had not given the command, then almost everyone’s five shots would have been disqualified. Their best possible scores would have been 50 points. Only the one who did not fire would have all his shots counted for a maximum of 100 points.

And that could easily have secured that shooter the win for that match, for that relay, indeed for the entire competition!

As one of the safety officers, I had already noted that several shooters were anticipating the call so much so that een I did not always hear “Fire!” I alerted Tony to this but, given the situation, there was nothing more that could be done except to monitor the line for violations and problems.

A vindictive line caller could have chosen to make an example of those anticipating the commands. He could have changed his rhythm, delayed the “Fire!” command a second or two and trapped those early shooters.

But that would’ve been a spiteful thing to do.

Tony exhibited the measured patience and fair judgement we always hope for in life.

The caller’s job is to conduct the string in a clear and predictable manner and keep the match moving forward safely and in accordance with the rules.

And so, when the one shooter raised his hand for a refire saying, “I did not hear the command to fire,” Tony took him at his word and granted a range alibi for a refire string.

As someone who has called the line, I understood the extra considerations that factor into that job. In addition to safety which is always paramount, and in addition to the rules and regulations that must be followed, there’s also that human element.

“I did not hear the command to fire.”

Benefit of the doubt.

Range alibi granted.

The day was a valuable experience for everyone.

For the competitors, the change from turning to static targets meant they needed to pay careful attention to the cadence. There would be no visual cue for their actions.

Honesty would also be an issue when a late shot might be recognized by the person scoring that competitor’s target, but the target would not show a skidder or, by its absence, a miss.

  • Would the shooter tell his scorer to discount his target accordingly?
  • What would the scorer learn of the shooter’s character if that late shot wasn’t confessed?
  • Would it be acknowledged when challenged at the target with a lower than expected score?
  • And what would it say about the scorer if it wasn’t challenged after being clearly heard by everyone on the line?
  • Or was it possible the shooter, intensely focused on dot and trigger, simply had not heard the cease fire command?

Honesty is such an interesting quality to see by its presence or by its absence, but then again, there’s always that doubt of what really happened.

The fascination with our fellow humans is sometimes more in how little we can truly know another person rather than in what we can guess of their character.

Doubt will often persist even when external events are undeniable.

Shooters were not the only ones challenged by the unmoving targets.

For the caller, regularity and predictability of vocal commands become a much more vital consideration. Shooter hearing inside plugged and muffled ears relies more on the expected rhythms of the cadence, not on the actual words. And when something dictates a departure from the regular cadence, the caller must use a significant change in timing, tone and emphasis to let the shooters know that things are not normal, that they should listen to the words, not just its rhythms.

Tony did great and I took a lesson from his example.

That’s how Bullseye, even behind the line, works.

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