Tim Gajewski always considered himself a well rounded outdoorsman.
Then the Field & Stream Magazine Total Outdoorsman Challenge came along and gave him a chance to prove it.
The 28-year-old Gajewski placed in the top 10 in a local Challenge in Olathe, won his regional in Independence, Mo., and next month will travel to Springfield, Mo., as one of 16 competitors vying for the national title.
"I'd never competed in anything like that," said Gajewski, a Lawrence real-estate agent and owner of his own remodeling company. "I used to shoot archery competitions 14 years ago, but I've hunted and fished my whole life. Basically, this type of competition is looking for someone who's well rounded."
The Total Outdoorsman Challenge local and regional competitions - held at Bass Pro Shops - are made of four disciplines: fly-fishing, baitcasting, archery and rifle shooting.
Competitors in the casting portion aim at rings, while archers and shooters of air rifles also shoot for accuracy.
"As long as I've known, I've been able to shoot and fish," Gajewski said. "So I figured I'd do pretty good."
And though he was pleased with his performance in Olathe, Gajewski was disappointed in his showing at the regional.
The top two finishers at regionals were to advance to nationals, and when organizers announced the runner-up, Gajewski figured he was finished.
"I didn't live up to my expectations, so I was surprised they called my name as the winner," he said. "I was shocked. I figured if I didn't bring my A game, I wasn't going to nationals."
Nationals will be at another level altogether.
The Sept. 5-7 event will follow a format similar to regionals, but competitors won't cast for targets and instead will compete in a bass tournament and fly-fishing tournament for actual fish.
They'll trade the air rifle for a .22-caliber long rifle and will skeet-shoot with a shotgun.
And they'll tackle an "endurance" course during which competitors will have to complete an ATV ride, set up a deer stand, light a fire with a steel rod and set a snare.
"It's the real deal once you get there," Gajewski said. "I think I'll be OK on the endurance course. I'm pretty well in shape. I could lose an extra five pounds, but I grew up riding an ATV, so that shouldn't be much of a challenge. I've never set a rabbit snare, though, so I've got to look up how in the hell to get that done. And the starting-the-fire thing, every one I've ever lit I've used a lighter or a match. Those two things I'll have to work on, but I think I can pick it up."
The winner of the national event will win $25,000, a new ATV and will be featured in Field & Stream.
Gajewski's approach isn't so much to shine in all the event as it is simply not to stink in any one.
"I'm not looking to win one event, but I just don't want to bomb any," he said. "If you're in the top five in all of them, maybe win one or two, you'll be OK. That's my strategy.
"Don't get me wrong: I'm not going down there to lose. It's the biggest event I've been in. A new ATV, $25,000 : I'd love to win it. This is my first year, and I don't know what to expect. More than half of those I'm competing against have been in this before, so they know how it goes. I'm just going to go with the flow and see what happens."