Food, foul playand fun
The bow and arrow is believed to have been invented about 15,000 years ago by arace of people called the Aurignacians. And not for fun, either. TheAurignacians were hungry and they found a bow-driven shaft more efficient thana hand-thrown spear for stocking the family table. Came the early days of thePharaohs, and the Egyptians—an unfriendly lot—discovered that the bow and arrowcould be used to slaughter one's neighbors. It was thanks to the bow and arrowthat Egypt conquered the Persians, who were armed only with javelins andslingshots. Some 350 years ago the bow and arrow was superceded by gunpowder asa weapon of war, and the gun-bearing peoples soon conquered the last of thearrow shooters. Since then archery has existed principally as a sport althoughsome African peoples still use bows and arrows for food-getting.
The sport got its start in the U.S. in 1879 with the formation of the NationalArchery Association. Today it is one of the country's most popular leisurepastimes, enjoyed by an estimated four million men, women and children. A greatmany archers never venture beyond the target ranges, but others—like theAurignacians—have discovered that a well-placed arrow can bring down animals aslarge as a giant Kodiak bear. In Michigan alone some 33,000 archers hunted biggame last year.
Before you canshoot an arrow you have to have a bow. But consult an expert before buying one.The weight and tension of your bow should be determined by your size andstrength. It's something you can't judge.
Archery is not agame of strength but of skill. Anyone has enough muscle to operate a bow. It'sthe way you shoot it that counts. A bow with a "pull" of 50 to 60pounds is sufficient, with 60 to 65 generally the top pull required for huntingpurposes. Bows cost up to $70, depending on type of wood, tension, and variousfeatures of construction. If you're a beginner, start with an inexpensive bow.One costing $7 or $8 will do nicely for learning.
Hunting arrows cost about $14 a dozen. Target arrows are more expensive but canbe re-used indefinitely. Aluminum target arrows run to $30 or so a dozen, butif that's too rich for your blood, good learning arrows made of cedar, spruceor fir are available for about $5 a dozen. These are best for beginners. Inproper shooting form, the arrow should barely rest on the hand holding the bowwhen the releasing hand has been brought back beneath your chin. Once you'vemastered the technique it's worthwhile to invest in a set of matched arrows.When buying arrows check to see that they have the proper stiffness for yourbow.
Much less equipment is required in archery than in most other sports. Outsideof your working tools—the bow and arrow—you will probably want a quiver to holdyour arrows ($9 to $30), arm guards to protect against flesh burn ($1.50 to$2.25) and a shooting glove ($2.25) or tab finger protector ($1 or so). In factany old leather glove with the fingers cut out will suffice. You may want atarget of your own. Most cost from $8 to $14 but you can make one in your homefrom straw and canvas for much less. A stand for your target will run about$3.50. Targets will last two to three years.
To learn the correct form, technique and procedure for using a bow and arrowyou must have a teacher. Books on archery may give you a good idea of how it'sdone, but only an instructor can show you the proper way to aim and releaseyour arrows. The releasing hand should be tucked carefully under your chin,where you can't see it to check your form. Instruction fees of professionalsusually run about $5 an hour. Two or three lessons should suffice.
Archers usually do their practicing in out-of-the-way places where there islittle chance that curious bystanders will interfere. For this reason you mayhave trouble finding where your local archery group gathers. If you know of noclub in your area, write the National Archery Association, c/o Lawrence E.Briggs, secretary-treasurer, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass., orthe National Field Archery Association, c/o John L. Yount, P.O. Box 388,Redlands, Calif. They'll be able to put you on the trail of a group near yourhome.
Regulations onthe practice of archery vary widely. The use of a bow and arrow on a targetrange is virtually unrestricted, but it's best to check your local archery clubor law enforcement agency to keep from running afoul of local rules. And noWilliam Tell stunts, please. Even the experts can't shoot an apple offsomeone's head regularly. In target practice, look around before you shoot andallow 30 to 40 yards clearance on each side and behind the target.
In the field youmay need a special hunting license if your state allows bow and arrowhunting—and most do. Bow and arrow seasons differ from those for firearms.Check with your conservation authorities. They can also tell you the besttimes, places and weather conditions for the game you're after.
Once you'velearned to shoot with reasonable accuracy you're ready for the woods. But takeit easy. Leave bears, wild boar and other such creatures alone until you can besure of getting them before they get you. Start with rabbits, woodchucks anddeer and don't be disappointed if you don't hit anything the first few timesout. It's difficult but practice will help. Before going hunting you canpractice by setting up a straw-filled burlap dummy about the size of yourprospective game. It will help sharpen your eye, especially if you try whirlingand shooting at it from all angles and positions.
Most of yourshooting will be from 30 to 50 yards, though at times you'll be much closer.Learn to shoot quickly and judge distance accurately. Practice shooting anarrow and reloading rapidly for a second shot. Your quarry may attack you.
Unlike gun hunters who wear bright caps to protect themselves, archers usuallywear green shades to conceal their approach from their targets. But if gunhunters are in the woods, wear red for your own protection. High boots withrubber soles are desirable as is a first-aid kit in case of injury. Always becareful. Remember you're hard to see. Be sure to get permission to go on anypiece of land from its owner. He'll usually be glad to oblige and may be ableto give you helpful pointers. It's also a good idea to let a ranger, gamewarden or someone else know where you are so they can find you in case ofaccident. NEVER GO OUT ALONE. Always have at least one other person with youfor safety's sake.
There are more publications and books available than you'd think. The leadingmagazines are Archery (monthly, $2.25 a year, P.O. Box H, Palm Desert, Calif.)and the Archer's Magazine (monthly, $2.50 a year, the Archer's Publishing Co.,1200 Walnut St., Philadelphia 7, Pa.). There are many good books on archery.Two in particular will get your library off to a good start: Hunting the HardWay by Howard Hill (Wilcox & Follett Co., $7.50) and Hunting with a Bow andArrow by Saxton Pope (Putnam, $3.50). These should interest you whether youdecide you like archery or not. Chances are you will. Happy Hunting!
by The Know-it-all