I’d be tempted not to mention that I’ve been suffering through a bit of a shooting slump lately, but I might as well since my hunting partner has been telling everyone we know. That’s more than a trifle ironic, because–note how I’m cleverly disguising his true identity by the use of a pseudonym–Dean has missed a lot–and I do mean a lot–more shots than I have. But it doesn’t really matter in either case, because the blame lies with science rather than ourselves.
That sounds like a statement in need of an explanation, but, fortunately, I’m in a position to provide it. A trifling 50-odd years ago I spent four years attending Kansas State University, an institution internationally known for its scientists and Rhodes Scholars. While it’s true I was neither a science major nor a Rhodes Scholar, I was often mind-melded with science-type stuff while walking across campus on my way to do what English majors do, namely drop by the Student Union to shoot a few games of snooker.
Decades later, the unintentional science percolating (that’s an English term) through my highly educated brain has allowed me to postulate (that’s a science term) that–pure chance aside–it’s virtually impossible for two moving objects to reach the same place at the same time. This is due to several scientifically proven phenomena, one of which is the movement of the tectonic plates upon which the earth’s crust rests.
In fairness, I should advise you that my theories are not accepted by all scientists. Some, for example, argue that the movement of the tectonic plates is–more or less–constant and predictable. Nonsense! As anyone who’s never (sic) studied the subject knows, the movements of the various tectonic plates are herky jerky (another science term.) Therefore, the fact that the ground the shooter is standing on and the ground his target is flying over or running across cannot be counted upon to stay put not only helps explain missed shots, but it also explains why some major league umpires have constantly shifting strike zones.
Have you ever wondered why your bullet or load of bird shot impacts to the right or to the left of your intended point of aim? Of course you have. Hunters and target shooters experiment endlessly with sights in the vain hope doing so will allow them to hit their targets more consistently. The companies that make sights encourage this fallacy, but in their defense, they do provide physical objects upon which frustrated hunters and target shooters can vent.
That’s simply not good enough for people like you, my loyal readers. So revealed here, perhaps for the first time in history, is the real reason why shots fly to the right or left.
The earth, which is far from a perfect sphere, spins from west to east at approximately 1,000 miles per hour at the equator and at diminishing speeds both north and south of that demarcation until rotational speed becomes zero at the poles. Some people would have us believe that these differences in ground speed allow the entire earth, no matter what it’s diameter might be at any given point to make one complete rotation in 24 hours. Hogwash! Not only did I learn about this stuff by watching the original Star Trek on tv, simple logic also decrees that when different parts of the same object move at different speeds, the result is a disruption of the space/time continuum. This leaves hunters and shooters to deal with the distinct possibility that whatever they’re aiming at may not really be there.
But wait; there’s more. Every bowhunter has zipped an arrow mere inches over the top of a deer’s back. The most common explanation (excuse) is that the deer “jumped the string” and was able to duck under the arrow. And some people say my science is wacky. For the record, sound travels approximately 1,100 fps, which means it will take .08 seconds for the sound of the released bowstring to reach a deer standing 30 yards away. Simultaneously, the hunter’s arrow is taking about .3 second to reach the deer. That leaves the deer with .22 seconds to identify the source of the danger, see the incoming arrow, compute its trajectory, and take the correct evasive action. Right.
The truth is that Global Warming is the reason so many arrows fly high these days. Even at the 300 fps speeds claimed by many bow makers, arrows move through the air slowly enough to be impacted by changes in the atmosphere. The billions and billions of tons of greenhouse gases–I got that number directly from Al Gore–flowing from ground level into the stratosphere are obviously going to give an arrow an upward boost. To make matters worse, warm air is lighter than cool air, giving the arrow’s vanes less bite to keep it on course.
They say knowledge is power. If nothing else, the scientific facts presented in this column should help you feel better about yourself when you return home after a less than stellar performance outdoors.
Gerald Scott can be reached at [email protected]