Letter Re: Swords and Bows for that Dreaded Multigenerational Scenario

Arrows are basically fragile. The aluminum XX75s are pretty durable, for what they are, but they still bend. The ‘game-getters are even softer, and bend easier. There are ways of straightening them, but is is pretty hard to get perfect. I like to say, “something can be bent 1000 ways, but there is only one straight”
Graphite arrows are more durable, and skinnier, thereby giving better penetration.
The big arrow companies are working hard at making better arrows, but of course, the latest is always the most expensive.
Wood is out, for shooting from a compound bow. If they get cracked, and this does happen sometimes, and you shoot it out of a compound bow, the fierce thrust on it can cause it to break, and drive the rear half of the shaft into the arm holding the bow.
(Honestly, I have always heard this, but never seen it)
The American Indians used some kind of grass stalks for arrows. I considered trying cattail stalks, after I found that out. They might be okay, till they dried out so much that they got brittle. The only reason the Indians got away with this, was because they were shooting relatively low poundage bows.
Broadheads are another whole study. There are mechanical broadheads that the blades are supposed to pivot upon hitting something, and then cutting whatever. For the most part, they can be pretty un-reliable, and fragile. There are at least dozens of different broadheads out there. For hunting, it must be shaving sharp, or you are doing a great disservice to the game animal. There are broadheads that have replaceable razor inserts, but the edge is pretty fragile. The ones that have permanent blades take some skill to sharpen, as anything. Some folks just don’t seem to be able to learn how to sharpen things. All these broadheads are sold by weight, in grains, like bullets. You can’t very well shoot a mixed bunch and plan on hitting anything consistently. Then, with the more hi-tech arrows, you can unscrew the broadheads and replace them with the same weight field points, or practice points. This saves the broadheads for serious stuff, but you should make sure the selected broadhead will fly for you. Sometimes, you will find they might ‘plane’ on you, and not go where you want them to. I like the two-blade type for ease of sharpening, but those are the ones that might tend to plane, too. I still think they are the most efficient, like the old Bear broadhead. Fred Bear killed an awful lot of critters with a recurve and that style broadhead, but then again, what else did he do? He spent decades doing little else.
You would not believe the accessories available to the archery industry! It used to be pretty basic, a big stick with a string, a little stick with a point and a couple feathers, and you could hurt something. Now, with all the tech. stuff, you can easily spend more on a bow than a good rifle. Then, the more complicated things get, the easier it is to mess it up. Sure, with sights, a peep sight, a mechanical release, properly tuned bow/arrow combination, and a fixed distance, it don’t take a tremendous amount of experience to be able to shoot pretty well, given enough money.
The re-curve and longbows are much more reliable. You must still match the arrows to the draw weight of the bow, (spine of the arrow) but it takes a considerable amount of practice to get competent.
Archery is a discipline. A new shooter should go to someone who knows how, before they teach themselves bad habits, and then have to ‘unlearn’ them later, if ever. If you can practice enough, you ‘become the arrow’ as one of the greats once said. I am embarrassed to admit I can’t remember which of them said that. It might have been Howard Hill. He was a phenomenal shot. He wouldn’t shoot a recurve, he said he wasn’t “good enough”. He shot the longbow. I believe, if one is serious on learning archery, stay away from all the paraphernalia!! You get to depending on it.
Then, when the need to shoot something, you just do it, without worrying about the mechanical release, sight, peep sight, which pin should I use,,, makes me want to just get the shotgun!
Then, when it is all said and done, you have to think as the arrows as expendable.
Sure, while you are practicing, you will re-use them many times, but there is always an attrition rate. You break knocks, (easily replaced with glue, if you have spares),
you mess up fletching, be they real turkey feathers, (which are most forgiving) as they clear the rest, the part of the bow that the arrow ‘rests’ on, or plastic vanes, which are great in the rain, but can kick the arrow out away from the bow, if the rest is not designed for them. The rest can be a very fragile part of the whole thing too. There are dozens of rests to choose from. That is another reason to keep it simple. Hi tech is okay, but it only takes one piece to malfunction, and you are out of business. A friend of mine missed a deer on opening day because he left his mechanical release on the seat od his truck, while getting all the other ‘stuff’ together.
With a compound bow, you just about have to use a mechanical release, if you are only holding back 15 or 20 lbs. draw weight. It is awful hard to (near impossible) get the arrow into flight the same way every time without ‘plucking the string’ and sending it off on a tangent. I have heard of using a ‘bowlock’, I believe it is called, as a release, but that is just another piece of equipment you have to depend on.
I just take an old leather boot and cut out a finger tab to draw the bow. Then, when you are ready, let you fingers on the drawing hand relax just a little, and the arrow is on it’s way. You can’t hold it back as long with a recurve of longbow, for sure, but you seldom have to. Just a steady fluid motion. Once you get the drawing hand back to your ‘anchor point’, let er go! I use my index fingertip to the corner of my mouth as an anchor point. I have seen those who try to use the thumb of the drawing hand, but you can rotate the thumb around too much, and there you have a bad habit in the making.
Most ‘traditional’ shooters use the index finger to the corner of the mouth, it is easiest, and most natural and consistent. It does tend to pluck a few whiskers out of the mustache sometimes though.
Well, I didn’t intend on writing a whole textbook on archery, but I have been shooting bows for at least as many years as anything. I hope you can glean some good out of it. There is still more, bow fishing, for one, and wing shooting, which I have never done, but have seen it done. I almost got a pheasant with a bow once!
Thanks for the blog. It is almost as much required reading for me as The Word. – Sid, near Niagara Falls