Not a Cloud.  Hot and windy conditions met participants in the North Dakota State High School Clay Target League state championship events in Horace, N.D. June 18-20.  Simonson Photo.

By Nick Simonson

Two months ago today, it snowed and snowed and snowed; and it wasn’t just for a day, but for nearly four straight days that the skies remained gray under a stalled low-pressure system, where the wind howled, and drifts of ten feet in depth that blocked traffic into and out of my neighborhood for nearly a week were left in the wake of the continuous northwest gusts. That was the start of our so-called spring.

This weekend’s state high school clay target league tournament on the cusp of the summer solstice erased any memory of the should-have-been season that was, as only the gale force winds harkened back to the psychologically crushing mid-April weather event. Except this time, under a dome of high pressure, the breezes surged in from the south, and like a heat pump primed from a struggling stretch of cold and inconsistent patterns, it brought temperatures soaring into the triple digits, just in time for the big event and the beginning of a new season.

Along with it came my favorite summer sensation – sweat. I rarely complain about sweating, and even less so now after such a chilly and disappointing spring. The sensation of sweat often means outdoors that one is putting in the effort to find fish, get on game, or go the extra mile. Perhaps the only sweat that’s a bad sweat comes during the first couple warm weeks of bow season, when all the shower regimens and scent free spray gets tossed out the window, and the hope of a light breeze blowing away those soon-to-be-stinky droplets generated on the hike in from the trail is the best one can ask for. Otherwise, sweat is good, and proof of the work required to succeed.

Psychological sweat too, is what I live for and part of the reason I take part in the three-day event showcasing the state’s best in trap, skeet and five-stand shotgunning events. From seniors to sixth graders, watching our teams take the line and give it their all, in some of the worst elements from freezing temperatures amidst the March snow drifts, to this weekend’s 100-degree heat and a blow so strong it could shake the firmest stance. Knee abounce, heart pounding, I marked the Xs and Os on the scoresheet as they tallied up their targets against the hundreds of other competitors up and down the range, the excitement of sweating out their results a real rush.

This year, however, the heat brought another element: the need for hydration, and was once again a reminder that in the outdoors, water remains the key to success and ultimately staying healthy. As a runner, a hunter, and a dog owner, I’ve always been an advocate for hydration when in the field with my four-legged friend, or just on a morning trot for our exercise. Water makes everything in the human body, and that of our canines, work better and more able to answer the challenges nature throws at us. From hiking up hills, rounding the bend, and staying mentally sharp, especially when things get a bit warm, having the hydration reserves to sweat it out is of the utmost importance.

The same goes for shooting. The human body is about 70 percent water, but the human eyeball is more than 98 percent water, making the need to keep the two organs that see the target, coordinate the shot, and judge distance and depth in good shape, and super saturated a key consideration. Additionally, in the wind, with dirt, dust and debris finding its way even under the tightest wrapped safety glasses, tears help protect the eye and whisk that junk away, and moisture generated by the body keeps nature’s most evolved biological lenses wet and the eyeball supple to help with focus on a 43-mph target zipping away. Those were the reasons that, in addition to the usual inquiries about how a round went, or what tweaks their stance or gear might need, a cold bottle of water or sports drink accompanied them.

As medals and accolades stacked up for our shooters, and my psychological sweat gave way to the relief of a drenched t-shirt by the end of each day’s event, it was all I could do to keep up with the conditions down another bottle of water and say ahead of the challenges that warm weather brings, keeping pace with our hard-charging shooters taking on all the start of summer had to offer…in our outdoors.