Archery the Old Way

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Published on: Feb. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

be about 120 degrees, which makes it about as thick as syrup. If the glue is too hot, the sinew will cook and be ruined."

The temperature is finally right, and Wilson begins dipping strands of sinew in the glue. Starting at the bow's center, he lays a few of the dripping strands longways to cover the handle. He works all the way up one limb and then the other.

After a second layer, he'll let the mixture dry for two or three weeks. Sinew and glue will shrink as they dry, pulling up the limbs' ends in a slight warp. The curve, or reflex, combined with the springiness of sinew, helps make the bow about 30 percent more powerful.

Finally he picks up a finished piece and heads to his backyard range for some target practice. The great shooters start showing up in Wilson's head. He says Howard Hill could hit the side hole of a rolling barrel, and he was the first white archer to kill an elephant without a poison arrowhead. Wilson has a few fine moments of his own to report - like the two times he hit running rabbits and the time he nailed a ground hog at 45 yards.

Both Wilson's and Hill's shots were made without mechanical sights. "It's like throwing a baseball," he says. "You just concentrate on the place you want the arrow to go." Standing with his left side facing the target, he nocks an arrow. "You want to become part of the bow." Right elbow high, bow slightly tilted, Wilson draws the string back to the same spot - hand touching his cheek - on each shot. He aims and fires in a single motion.

Thwap! His arrow smacks the target.

"I've spent a lot of time over the years making and shooting bows and arrows when I could have been making money," Wilson says. "But money isn't everything. I'd still like to get one good buck with a bow like this one before I'm too old to hunt. And I've never gotten a turkey."

He lifts the bow again. By the time he aims, the arrow is off.

Brace Yourself

Know anyone named Stringer? How about Fletcher? Hundreds of years ago, arrow makers were known as fletchers. We still have lots of words and phrases first used long ago to talk about archery:

  • In the 1200s a quarrel was a crossbow's arrow. Later it came to mean a complaint or argument.
  • The phrase brace yourself comes from bracing a bow, which means to put the string on and get ready for action.
  • Someone who is always braced for action might be considered high strung.
  • If an arrow was bolt upright, that meant it was true enough to fly straight.
  • Archery targets used to be called butts, so to be the butt of a joke is to be the target of ridicule.

Good Bow Books

Dean Wilson and others recommend these books on primitive archery:

Cherokee Bows and Arrows, by Al Herrin, White Bear Publications, 1989, Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

Bows and Arrows of the Native Americans, by Jim Hamm, Bois d'Arc Press, 1989, Azle, Texas.

The Bowyer's Craft, by Jay Massey, Bearpaw Publications, 1987, Girdwood, Alaska.

The Book of Primitive Archery, by Jay Massey, Bearpaw Publications, 1989, Girdwood, Alaska.

Native American Bows, by T.M. Hamilton, Missouri Archaeological Society, 1982, Columbia, Missouri.

The Traditional Bowyer's Bible, Volumes One and Two, Bois d'Arc Press, 1992 and 1993, Azle, Texas.

Archers Celebrate 50 Years of Deer Hunting

Throughout 1996, the Conservation Department, other conservation groups and archers statewide will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of archery deer hunting in Missouri.

In the 1920s, whitetail deer were practically extinct in Missouri. Concerned citizens and scientific management by the then-new Conservation Department restored their numbers sufficiently to allow the first archery deer season in 1946. Only 73 archers participated in the first archery season, a three-day, bucks-only season in Crawford County.

Today, however, over 90,000 archers hunt deer in Missouri. They enjoy a 96-day statewide season and harvest over 15,000 deer. Join the golden anniversary of archery deer hunting by sending your archery hunting stories to: Archery Deer Hunting, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102.


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