By NICK DUKEJuly 10, 2013
FORT BENNING, Ga., (July 10, 2013) -- When the Archery Shooters Association made a stop at Fort Benning in early March for a pro-am tournament, Sgt. Daniel Morgan was one of the Soldiers who came out to try his luck.
After finishing in a tie for 17th out of 75 archers in the Hunter division, he decided to devote more of his time and effort to honing his skills with a bow.
Now, Morgan, a drill sergeant with A Company, 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment, travels to tournaments throughout the Southeast, and has his eyes set on eventually making it to the highest levels of the ASA.
However, Morgan's career as an archer has not been without its share of starts and stops.
Morgan, 32, said he began shooting when he was 7 after his father, an accomplished archer who has been shooting competitively for more than 35 years, decided to teach him the sport.
Morgan competed in local tournaments near his hometown of Athens, Ga., from age 7 to 15, with his father there every step of the way to offer advice and tough love.
"He's pretty much tough on anything he does," Morgan said. "He was my baseball coach and football coach. He pretty much coached me in everything, and if I didn't do something right, he was harder on me than he was on anybody else. But, he was fair."
However, when Morgan started high school, he was forced to choose between playing high school sports or continuing with archery.
After graduating high school in 1999, Morgan joined the Army in 2003.
For almost the next 10 years, he practiced archery only sporadically.
However, when ASA returned to Fort Benning for the pro-am for the first time in three years, Morgan decided to dust off his bow and enter the tournament.
Luckily, he said he wasn't too rusty in terms of his technique.
"It actually wasn't that bad as far as the shooting itself went," he said. "But, judging my yardage, I was horrible. That was the hardest thing to get back, and it's still a challenge."
After that performance, Morgan said he saw an opportunity to not only compete professionally, but also to bond with his father.
"My dad got hurt and wasn't going to be able to shoot the tournaments because he had surgery on his Achilles tendon," Morgan said.
"He couldn't move to get out and walk and shoot. So, now that I'm as close to home as I've been since I joined the Army, I'm ready to get back to where I can do things with him on the weekends. But, since he got hurt, I figured I'd go keep the family name running around the tournament scene."
Since his top-20 finish at the pro-am here, Morgan has competed in more than 15 local tournaments, finishing first or second in each, and has participated in two other ASA tournaments.
Now that archery has become more important, he said he often looks for any opportunity to get some practice shots in.
He said he will often set up a portable target he keeps in his truck during the few minutes of free time he has during his day.
His fellow Soldiers in his unit found his archery hobby humorous at first, he said, but are now impressed by his ability with a bow.
"They all started calling me Robin Hood and goofing off," Morgan said.
"But, it's all fun. They all stand around and watch in amazement because I'll start hitting right in the dot from about 45 yards."
In addition, he is preparing to move up from the ASA's Hunter division to the Open C, which will require slight changes to his bow's setup.
Luckily, Morgan said he will have his father to turn to every step of the way.
"It's great because he actually knows how to take the bows apart," he said.
"He knows how they work. It's not just the shooting aspect. If something's wrong, it may not be me. It could be the equipment. He knows how to check all that and fix it, and he passed that on as well."
One of the biggest changes will be in the bow's pin system, which helps a shooter to aim based on the distance between the shooter and the target.
In the Hunter division, Morgan must use fixed pins, while he will be able to use an adjustable pin in the Open C division.
"It's not going to change the technique, but it should make me a more precise shooter because the equipment helps you to hold the bow more steady," he said.
"You have less left and right wobble, and if you know the yardage, and you adjus your dial, that's where you hit."
He will be participating in the ASA Classic in Cullman, Ala., Aug. 1-4, and will then spend all fall and winter practicing with his new now setup.
More than just adjusting to the different settings, Morgan said he must also improve his ability to judge distances.
"The guys that I will be competing against when I move up to some of the tougher classes can tell you within a quarter of a yard every time," he said. "That's why they win the big bucks."
He said his eventual goal is to make it to the ASA's Professional division, which he said should take about four years to reach.
"There's a couple of guys that I've become good friends with that need a little more competition," he said. "They know that they've got guys coming to nip on their heels. It's just a matter of time."