Friday, September 08, 2006


I've been shooting a bow since I was 8. My first bow was an all fiberglass recurve and I've loved recurves ever since.

I'd buy arrows one at a time from the hardware or wherever I could get them. If shot and "lost" I'd search for hours to recover the precious things. One or two would be a month's allowance and it took no time at all to pass over the huge sum to the store clerk for the precious fletched sticks.

Recently, a forum acquaintance asked about buying a bow from a major mail order house. He allowed as to how he had no archery experience. Well, that generated a lot of posts and mine was a doozy. I must have typed a 1000 word essay just as quick as you can recite the poem about Jack Sprat. With 42 years of experience I guess I'd learned a few things worth sharing. It is unfortunate that the post was lost, it would have saved me some typing here!

Archery is worth the effort and expense of entry. It is a joy and some of likened it to shooting basketball with a fast pointed stick BUT with a purpose. There is no purpose to basketball. Archery is a connection to our past. A long and cherished past. It is our link to thousands of years of subsistence hunting, to Agincourt and Crecy, to grandfathers and uncles beyond counting. It connects us to our roots as free men and women. But we, most of us, are not raised as archers and archery takes some effort.

If you are just beginning archery, man or boy, woman or girl, I have a few suggestions. The first of these is get a good book on the subject and read it cover to cover, at least twice. I suggest "Beginner's Guide to Traditional Archery" by Brian J. Sorrells and/or Traditional Archery by Sam Fadala. These deal with traditional archery from which it is easiest to branch out to the primitive and high-tech versions. I think that the most interesting magazines on the market are "Traditional Bowhunter" and "Primitive Archer" magazines. Of course, reading is not the be all end all of archery study, you have to shoot as well.

My recommendation for the beginning shooter is not the strongest bow you can pull/draw but a bow in the middle range for you. Given that the student is unaccustomed to the action and effort involved in drawing the bow, for most male adults that would be a bow of 45 or 50 lbs draw weight at their draw length. For women that would be 35-45 lbs draw weight and for children that would be 15-25 lbs draw weight. Remember, this is average and we are working to build the new shooter up to drawing the bow without injury NOT trying to establish records. Remember too that a 45-50 lb bow will meet the legal requirements in most states for a hunting bow.

Arrows are a matter of prejudice and personal preference. I believe the new shooter should start with as trouble free equipment as possible and so I would suggest aluminum arrows. Arrows must have the correct spine for the bow from which they are shot so you must choose the bow first. You can buy arrows cut to the correct length for you, nocked, fletched and with inserts for the points at most supply shops, by mail and over the internet. Aluminum arrows are most likely to withstand the beating to which they'll be subjected by new archers. One can always switch to cedar shafts later. I'd suggest, too, that one get a full dozen. You might consider it pricy but they are only getting more expensive and if you use only 6 with which to train and practice you'll have 6 good arrows with which to hunt later. Using 6 arrows for practice has another benefit. After loosing 6 arrows at the butt, you then have time to rest your muscles and think about what just happened as you walk down to the butt and then back to your shooting position. Properly applied this rest period can do wonders for your shooting!

The next thing you'll NEED is an armguard. This is what protects your forearm from the string. Even if you wear a shirt or jacket, this will keep the bowstring from dragging on your clothing. It should cover from just below the elbow to the wrist. New shooters tend to drag the string down the length of their arms. You will inevitably forget to don the brace once, but you're not likely to forget it twice.

You'll also need some method of releasing the bow string. A finger release almost mandates a glove or tab for most of us. Some masons can get by without and I never used one when I was shooting a 25 lb draw bow but I think it is likely preferable for most of us. Bleeding fingertips are unsightly. My suggestion is the Damascus glove. It is both durable (I'm still using the first one I bought although I've two more just in case) and secure on the hand. Many gloves or fingers aren't so secure and I don't like the tabs as they seem slow to use to me.

You will also need a target butt. We always used 3 hay bales stacked one on top of the other and pinned a paper plate to the center bale. Most field point arrows won't completely penetrate a tight bale and this was good for catching most inevitable overs as well. You can however, as with most things, get something high-tech like one of the stacked plastic sheet bales such as the Block. These don't catch the wobbles unders and overs so well though.

Well, now you're ready to start. Follow the bow's manufacturer instructions for stringing the bow. Start out very close to the target. The initial goal is to become familiar with the equipment and comfortable with the mechanics of nocking an arrow and drawing to full draw, the target is really only there to catch the arrow as you practice. BUT, do try to hit the target. Start with the butt at 5 yards (15 feet) and as you progress back off 1 yard (3 feet). Shoot until you can keep every arrow on the paper plate. After loosing a few hundred arrows you might find yourself at about 25 yards. Take a break, go inside and get a smaller paper plate, you know one of those little desert plates. Shoot at that a while. You can wait a bit before you get the foam deer dummy.

Some fun practice you an have in the field is to take a flu-flu arrow (BIG fletching) with a Judo Point and go on a short walkabout with the bow and one arrow. Shoot at stumps, cactus, cedar saplings, tin cans and other targets of opportunity. It is plinking without the expenditure of much in the way of money and it is a lot of fun. Called roving, it will get you out and about, you can even combine this with scouting for your later deer hunting.

This is what I did, sometimes in fits and starts, and I have long loved archery...

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