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The Legendary Longbow

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Published on: Sep. 18, 2013

extreme wariness that this animal possesses,” says Isabelle.

“Not only do hunters have to make an accurate shot on an animal with a relatively small vital zone, but just coming to full draw on a wild turkey without alerting it to your presence can be a feat in its own right.”

For some archery enthusiasts, the hunt never ends. Once hunting season is over, the hunt changes to different aspects of the sport, like hunting for the right tree to become the next bow. For Hendershott, another important aspect of the sport is getting friends and family involved in archery, and ultimately conservation, too.

“Shooting a longbow that I crafted is a solid connection to the land,” Hendershott says. “I had to use resources from the wild to make the bow and then I get to hunt animal resources with that bow. It just doesn’t get more satisfying than that.”

Making Your Own Longbow

Follow these steps to create a longbow-style self-bow similar to those used by the Osage tribe. A self-bow is a bow made from a single piece of wood with no backing. A longbow refers to its length, which is generally 60 to 70 inches long (shorter for children).

Before suggesting woods to consider for your first bow, Hendershott acknowledges that Osage orange wood, also known as hedge apple or hedge for short, has a stellar reputation in the world of archery. It is strong in tension, takes compression well, is very dense, and yields a beautiful final product. Unfortunately, Osage orange is not a wood recommended for beginning bow makers.

“First, it requires bow makers to ‘chase a growth ring,’ where all of the wood above that growth ring must be carefully removed to reveal the back of the bow,” Hendershott says. The process can take several hours and is tedious. In addition to ring chasing, hedge mandates crafters follow the grain exactly when roughing out a bow, which requires a seasoned eye with attention to detail. Any deviations to the ring or the grain will result in failure.

Beginners should look instead at other common Missouri woods, such as hickory, hackberry, ash, or even elm, for their maiden voyage into bow making, “These woods, sometimes called ‘white woods,’ are abundant, tend to grow straight, and produce good bow blanks, often called staves,” Hendershott says. “They share many of the qualities that make hedge a good

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