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Original Issue


Four million Americans are doing it as archery becomes the nation's fastest growing family sport

With effortless ease, blue-eyed, 16-year-old Ann Penelope Marston, a blonde, 115-pound senior from Roosevelt High School in Wyandotte, Mich., arched her bow against its 23-pound pull, slowly took aim over the slim metal shaft of her broadhead arrow and, with breath held, sent it twanging toward a simulated rabbit target.

The moment the shaft left her hand she knew it was over. After three days of tough national competition in which she shot 462 arrows at 168 different targets in the field, hunter and broad-head divisions, Ann had racked up a total point score of 2,080—200 more than her closest competitor—and retained her National Women's Free Style Field Archery Championship crown. For a national champion who first won this imposing title at the precocious age of 15, pert and pretty Ann takes a casual approach to her sport. Prior to joining 800 other field archers last week at Ludington State Park, Mich. in the largest national championships ever held, Ann had put in only about a week of concentrated practice.

But from the time she first started pulling a bowstring she has been taking archery championships with ease. Ever since she persuaded her father to cut down an old bow for her, at a time when the family was living in the quarters of the Royal Toxophilite Society in London after being bombed out four times during the war, Ann has had winning ways with a bow.

Three months after first touching one she won the Junior Championess title of England, and in the same month that she arrived in the United States in 1948 she entered and won the Cadet Division of the U.S. National Championships. Since then Ann has held at least one U.S. national championship every year. So far her record includes: National Target Intermediate Girls' Championship (1949, 1950), National Target Girls' Championship (1951) and the National Junior Field Championship and National Junior Target Championship (1952, 1953). The sport of archery couldn't wish for a prettier or more talented walking advertisement, and it is conceded that Ann is the biggest promoter of her sport.

Last year she went big time and at the age of 15 entered the women's classes of both the National Field and National Target championships. She finished fifth in target and first in the field event. With her supremacy in the field now established, Ann is entering the National Target Championships at Oxford, Ohio next week in an attempt to capture both title crowns.

The urge to shoot bows and arrows has been with man for some 100,000 years. In modern times it begins and ends for many people in childhood with a dime store suction-cup type of bow-and-arrow set and nothing better to shoot at than the neighbor's cat or the bathroom mirror.

Today an estimated 4 million men, women and children participate in some form of archery, and because it can be enjoyed by young and old alike, it is becoming America's fastest-growing family sport. At least three-fourths of our population has at some time been a "plinker" with the bow and arrow, but the history of archery as a bona fide sport in the U.S. goes back to 1828 when a group of young men founded the United Bowmen of Philadelphia. For almost a century, archery remained the esoteric pursuit of a few enthusiasts. Then Dr. Saxton Pope, a big-game hunter from California, killed a slew of African lions with a longbow. This feat ignited the imaginations of sportsmen everywhere and set archery on an upward flight of popularity that hasn't yet reached its zenith.

Archers in the U.S. today can be broken down into three groups; target archers, represented by the National Archery Association; field archers, represented by the National Field Archery Association and by the growing hordes of hunters who seek game with the bow; and the "plinkers," an uncountable number of people who participate in no organized form of archery but who plink with anything from a dime store bow and arrow to handmade equipment.

Since 1879 the National Archery Association has been the backbone of the sport. It recognizes only the target variety, which requires rigid rules of stance, distance and form. Target archery, however, never fully captured the imaginations of sportsmen and hunters in general as it did specialists, and today there are only about 200 NAA-affiliated target clubs in the country representing some 1,300 members. But in 1934 a band of target archers, tired of restrictions, came up with the idea of setting out simulated game targets at varying distances in the natural surroundings of woodland. The new form was called field archery, and it immediately caught the public's fancy.

The first club to adopt such a field course was in Redlands, Calif. Others soon followed suit and, before long, field archery was an established new sport. It is this form of archery which is currently responsible for a great reawakening and rapidly growing interest in the bow and arrow.

Unlike target archery, field archery demands little attention to formal shooting style. Largely because of this, it has its basic appeal to the beginning archer. The bowman is expected to use whatever method is best suited to himself, the terrain and target. This sort of attitude naturally resulted in some differences of opinion with the traditionalist target archers and it was generally agreed that field archery, in order to develop and promote a shooting style, largely instinctive, that was entirely different from target archery, should be organized free of any NAA restrictive rules. Thus in 1939 the National Field Archery Association was born. It has never looked back since.

Today, with 15,000 members belonging to 1,200 affiliated clubs, the NFAA is the largest archery organization in the country. The total number of organized field archers is estimated to be 70,000. Backing this huge army of erstwhile modern-day Robin Hoods are the unrecorded thousands of bow enthusiasts who annually seek game, not prizes, for their skill.

Because most states today have a special season on game for bow only, more and more hunters are turning to archery. Last year 200,000 archery licenses were sold in the U.S. for hunting big game. Michigan led this group with more than 33,000. In addition, some 600,000 people hunted for small game with bow and arrow. Of the total number of hunters last year 1½% used bows, and almost 10% of the bow hunters were women. An estimated average of big game killed by bow as compared to other methods is between 1.5% and 2% of the total kill. In Michigan it is 2.6% of the total kill.

Apart from longer hunting seasons, it is the lure of pitting man's inferior senses of smell, sight and hearing against the highly developed senses of the animal which is annually drawing more huntsmen to the bow. This is marksmanship in its most challenging form. There are no telescopic sights enabling kills at 400 yards. The man who hunts with a bow generally must come within 30 to 50 yards of his prey to cleanly kill his game. To get that close requires the highest development of woodsmanship, an almost complete knowledge of the animal hunted, including habits and idiosyncrasies of the species, and the coordination, stealth and skill to use this knowledge as it applies to the particular circumstances in which he finds the game. The bow hunter who kills a deer must beat the animal at its own game. He must avoid the wind which carries his scent to the animal; he must move so quietly and cautiously that the deer, which can detect the breaking of a twig at a quarter of a mile, does not hear him; he must control his body and raise his bow so smoothly that the animal, which can recognize abrupt movement at one-eighth of a mile, is not alarmed, and then he must shoot accurately and skillfully so that the animal is cleanly killed and not left to wander maimed through the woods. Unquestionably, hunting with the bow calls for a degree of sportsmanship and skill which is more demanding than any other form of hunting.

According to the Michigan Game Commission: "Archers are the most enthusiastic of all hunters, approaching the general theme of hunting much as the ardent dry-fly fisherman treats his trout fishing. They do less damage to game than the average hunter and, apparently, get much more enjoyment out of their hunt."

Amazingly enough, there has never been a fatal hunting accident caused by bow and arrow.

But whether it is the pursuit of a Kodiak bear or the just as elusive gold bull's-eye of a straw target, the fascination and thrill of shooting the bow and arrow remain the same.

A wonderful advantage of archery over other sports is that it is one of the least expensive to enjoy. One can become an archer with only a bow, a dozen arrows and an old leather glove. Complete outfits for the beginner can be bought for as little as $12 and they will serve all but specialized purposes adequately. Obviously, the more an archer demands of his equipment, the further he will extend into higher economic brackets.

The chief error of a novice bowman is a bow too heavy for his pull. The selection of proper tackle in archery is of utmost importance. The bow is always spoken of in terms of pound pull. For example, a 75-pound bow requires a pull equal to 75 pounds to achieve full draw. This is a very heavy bow. For all archery work a 35-pound-pull bow (25-pound pull for women) is sufficient. A 45-pound bow, used properly, will kill most game as cleanly as a 75-pound bow and is the legal minimum weight required in most states for hunting. Bows can cost up to $80 depending on the material used (wood, metal or glass). Yew, osage and lemon-wood are the most common and best for wood bows. All the products of the several large manufacturers of archery equipment in the U.S. are made to high standards, shoot well and are ideal for beginners or for school and club work. Top precision bows are made by custom bowyers. In addition, there is a middle group of bowyers who are between custom work and mass production.

Less expensive equipment can be purchased in any reputable sporting store. Ben Pearson of Pine Bluff, Ark. is one of the largest archery tackle manufacturers in the low-cost category; others are the Robin Hood Company in Montclair, N.J. and the Paul Bunyan Archery Co. in Minneapolis, Minn., makers of the inexpensive but good Scout. Next to the bow, arrows are most important, particularly their size. To find out what arrow size is correct for you, place the end of the arrow against the armpit, holding the arm straight out at shoulder level. The first joint of the index finger is where the tip should be. This length permits drawing to an anchor point under the chin. Some field archers prefer to draw behind the cheek, in which case the arrow should be two inches longer. The cardinal sin in archery is overbowing, so make certain the arrows are right for the bow. A rough rule on this, with flat bow as an example, is: 25-inch arrow, 5-foot bow; 26-inch arrow, 5-foot 4-inch bow; 27-inch arrow, 5-foot 7-inch bow; 28-inch arrow, 5-foot 9-inch bow.

Arrows come in types for fishing, for field, for hunting purposes and for target. They can cost from $5 to $30 a dozen depending on the type. Broad-head arrows for hunting run about $1.25 each. Besides the target and field courses, many other archery games have developed over the past 10 years, including archery golf, popinjay shooting, "skeetchery" and horseback archery—the latter for experts only.

If present trends continue, the sight of the bow and arrow will become more and more familiar on the American sporting scene. The appeal of archery reaches all age groups, and whether it's stalking a deer through the woods or plinking away at a target, the lure of the weapon with which man first conquered the animal kingdom remains the same—irresistible.




ANN MARSTON, the National Women's Free Style Field Archery champion, is the sport's top booster since Robin Hood. Like many bowmen she wears a Sherwood hat.





STANDARD BOW STYLES are illustrated by (from left) Grizzly, Tiger, Cub, Outdoor Sports and Kodiak, shown here with fishing, hunting, field, target arrows.