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The Sterkrivier shoot: one of archery’s most enjoyable events

Viktor Kühn writes about this year’s annual traditional shoot on the farm of Henk and Gerda du Plessis

The month of May 2011 kicked off the stickbow-calendar year on a high note. The first annual TASA shoot was held during the second weekend of the month at Nkwe Lodge outside Pretoria. It was the first event of the season and served to break in our new chairman Rean Steenkamp. As was expected, the team of Rean, Yolande and Santie ensured a resounding success. The event was a welcome warmup to prepare for the annual Sterkrivier shoot, which was scheduled for a week later – surely the pinnacle of traditional archery events.

The 14th annual Sterkrivier shoot was successfully hosted, as always, by Henk and Gerda du Plessis on their farm in the Mookgopong (Naboomspruit) district. The event was moved forward from its usual slot in April in an attempt to avoid the rain which has often accompanied the shoot.

The Sterkrivier shoot can never be confused with a normal regional archery event attended by normal people. It is an extraordinary event attended by extraordinary people from all over the country. It is one of the few events on any sporting calendar that makes no distinction between the competitors, non-competing attendants, advanced competitors and plebs, as the main focus was and still is for everyone to have a good time and unwind.

The first vehicles arrived at the camp site early on Friday morning, eagerly scouting for a camping spot ideally situated between the ablution blocks, showers, Gerda’s hotdog-and-curry canteen and Jaco Wessels’ mobile archery store. Upon arrival everyone would dig in and help each other pitch their tents, gazebos and trailers. The holiday atmosphere was accented by the children playing between the tents, the smell of braaivleis fires, the women in groups chatting and the men visiting Jaco’s archery supplies, or standing in front of their camps trying to solve the mystery of the missing tent pole...

Friday was spent building camp, cooking over open fires, warming up shooting muscles at the three new practice butts that Henk provided, looking up old acquaintances and making new ones. That evening there was a communal braai with pap and gravy supplied gratis by Gerda and her team. (My experimental blue wildebeest and curry sosaties were also freely available, but were avoided by the wise). As Martin Jacobson and Johan Smits’ guitars were brought out and everyone was eating by the bonfire, you became aware of the privilege of attending a social gathering of people who have nothing in common except the use of a stick and string.

All the old faces and benefactors of our sport were present: the Steenkamps from Africa’s Bowhunter magazine, Johan van der Merwe of Combretum Bows, Jaco Wessels of Timberpoint Archery, the whole de Wet clan from Cupido Bows, and the ever-present gang of Potchefstroom guys from Elgro Traditional Archery Club – who in true Potch fashion provided gusto, volume and spirit to the occasion.
Other regulars in need of mention would surely be our American friends, Dennis and Cathy Kamstra from McDonalds Pro Hunting, along with Japie and Magda Grobler and diehards Kobus Kleynhans and Rodney Bassingthwaighte, who have attended all 14 of the annual shoots. Unfortunately, due do distance and work constraints, the absence of Johnny Snyman of Heartwood Bows, Derek Nourse of Norsemen Archery, and our French duo of Eric and Chantelle du Buisson was noted. But there is always next year!

The start of the archery golf event on Saturday morning was heralded by Henk whacking a ploughshare gong hanging in a tree. Archery golf is similar to regular golf in the sense that you attempt to get to the green in as few shots as possible, whilst keeping out of the rough and trying not to lose your balls. It is a great way to get to know the group you are shooting with as well as warming up your shooting muscles.

After the archery golf we made our way back to camp and after large amounts of Gerda’s curry, hot dogs and coffee the 3D event started. Archers were divided into three classes: recurve, longbow and primitive. Recurve is for recurve bows and synthetic arrows, longbow is for laminated wooden longbows and wooden arrows, and primitive is for bows carved from a single piece of wood with no laminations. Two 3D rounds were shot each day from Saturday until Monday, each team at their own pace. Each day was ended with a fun-shoot event. Saturday saw the golden arrow event, where a target is engaged at progressively longer range until the last man standing emerges as the victor. As usual, Lute Vink would quietly move up and with his habitual ease win the event. The women’s golden arrow event was won by Cornelia Squirra, who with her perfect shooting form was kicking the backsides of most competitors at the shoot. Cornelia has also done our sport proud by being one of a very few ladies who have successfully hunted a large-game animal with a traditional bow.

On Sunday the dominee arrived and the day was started with a church service next to the dam, where Johan Smit and Martin Jacobson led us in song with their guitars. The dominee stayed for the rest of the day to be part of the event and to curb my language at some of the more interesting targets. The fun shoot of the day was the William Tell event in which the competitors had to shoot an orange off the head of a solid steel figure. The results of a miss at this event was mostly a spectacular shower of arrow splinters, as the steel target did not tolerate any ‘flyers’.

The event was rounded off on Monday with the prize-giving. As is the custom at Sterkrivier, everyone walks off with a prize, whether you won it with your archery prowess or in the lucky draw. The final winners in each category can be viewed on the TASA website. The three-day event ran without a glitch and our thanks go to Henk and Gerda, who with their helpers did a spectacular job. Everyone who attended contributed in their own way to the success of the event and the continuation of our favourite pastime. The worst part of the long weekend was packing up camp and going home, and the best part is to start planning for next year.
So when the crosses on your calendar move closer to April, kick the mothballs out of your old tent and sleeping bags, bundle the dog, cat and family into the car, bring your old bow, and your good cheer... If only to have a good time and make even better friends.
Come and join us. I dare you!

Updated: Monday, May 23, 2011 9:21 AM



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