The Legendary Longbow

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Published on: Sep. 18, 2013

In an age of high-tech gadgets, the simple longbow seems a throwback to an antiquated time. After all, it’s just a stick and string. Yet a growing fan base continues to be drawn to its history, simplicity, stealth, and performance.

Most importantly, longbows are just plain fun. Fun to shoot and fun to build — using nothing but an oversized stick, some simple tools, and an extra helping of patience and perseverance. With a good piece of wood, the right tools, some instruction, and several days of steady work, you’ll be rewarded for a lifetime.

Want to make your own? This article will show you how

The Lure of the Longbow

“There’s a certain lure of traditional archery that is sometimes difficult to express either verbally or in writing,” writes author Jay Massey in the Traditional Bowyer’s Bible. “It must be experienced. But when a hand-made arrow from your first homemade bow slams into a rotten stump with a satisfying thunk, you’ll know it. When you kneel down and reverently place your homemade bow beside the form of that hard-earned deer, you’ll feel it. At such moments there’ll be no question why you chose the traditional archery path.”

Some devotees are surprised by the pull of primitive archery. “My first bow was a gift from my parents,” says A.J. Hendershott, traditional archery enthusiast and Conservation Department outreach and education regional supervisor. “It was a fiberglass recurve just like we used to shoot at Boy Scout summer camp. I am certain my interest in primitive archery started there with the archery and Indian lore merit badges. My parents and Scouts sparked an interest that smoldered until I took a longbow-making course. The bow-making flames have been raging ever since.”

Primitive archery appeals to Hendershott, as it does to many other Missourians, for the challenges it presents. Does he have what it takes to hunt with just a simple stick and string, and how can he get close enough to his intended game? Can he find the raw materials and coax a bow out of a chunk of wood?

“Each bow is different,” Hendershott says. “The different types of wood force me to learn their strengths and weaknesses. Even trees of the same species can have differences influenced by their environment. Bow designs vary as well, but when you combine all of those variables, no two bows will ever be the same. I

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