Traditional Archery in a TEOTWAWKI

I felt prompted to write to point out some advantages to traditional archery, especially for those that might not be all that familiar with archery as a family sport.

First, a little about me. I am 56 years old and have been an archer since I was 14. My dad was an avid outdoorsman who introduced me to a .22 rifle when I was six years old. I still have that rifle and used it to teach my wife how to shoot when we first married 36 years ago and am now using it to teach my nephews to shoot.  I got my first shotgun when I was about 10 and started hunting with my dad, uncle and cousin. Saturday’s were our “day” and except for the rare occasion when my dad had to attend to a job related matter with the construction company he owned, we hunted or fished just about every Saturday of the year. To say I was a highly blessed child would be an understatement.

Although my dad was an avid outdoorsman he never was into archery, however when I was 14 my cousin who is about four years older than me, decided he wanted to try bow hunting. He got me hooked and now, 42 years later I still enjoy the sport of archery both on the range and in the field.

As with all things, modern technology has made archery a precision shooting experience. But, in a true TEOTWAWKI how many of the archers using those fancy compound bows will be able to maintain them for more than maybe a year or two before they either do not have the tools or the expertise to properly tune the bow for maximum performance?

From that last paragraph you probably have guessed I still shoot the good ol’ reliable recurve bow made so popular by Fred Bear and Bear archery. I don’t use any mounted sighting aids, meaning I use the “instinctive” method of aiming. If you practice and learn to use this method it has several advantages in a survival situation. First, you are not dependant on a sight that can easily get damaged or knocked out of alignment. Second, you can get on target faster shooting instinctively than you ever could trying to line up your target in the peep sight. Third, anything added to your bow equals more weight and often times, more noise when you shoot.

I know many will say the advantages of the compound bow outweigh the disadvantages. I am not here to debate the pros and cons of compounds over recurves or long bow but here is the biggest reason to learn to shoot instinctively with a recurve or long bow – Low Maintenance! You never have to tune a recurve or long bow and in a pinch you can literally make a new bow string in less than 10 minutes from the inner strands of 550 parachute cord. You cannot do that with any compound bow I am familiar with!

I have a friend who is a world class archer who also owns a local archery shop. About every two or three years I have him custom make two new bow strings for my Bear Grizzly recurve bow. So I always have at least three or four of these extra bow strings in my preps.

I think most woodsmen and preppers  probably have a supply of beeswax which is really about the only thing you need to keep the recurve or long bow operating at optimal performance. Every time I take my bow out,  I run the bees wax up and down the bow string once I have strung the bow. This preserves and protects the bow string and maximizes its useful life.

Using a bow and arrow takes a bit more skill, you have to be much closer to your target but for OPSEC and stealth a bow is hard to beat.

Another thing I would like to mention is repair and maintenance on your arrows. Besides bending or breaking an arrow the most common problem you’ll encounter is with the fletching or feathers. If you shoot frequently, as I do, the fletching will get damaged or come completely off the shaft. When this happens the arrow is useless until it is repaired. For less than $50 you can get everything including extra fletching you need to repair dozens of arrows. A simple fletching jig can be had for about $20. A one time investment. I still have and use the first fletching jig I bought when I was 15. In addition, a tube of glue or fletching cement and the feathers are all that is needed. Add some nocks which are the nylon or plastic tips on the arrow that the bow string is placed into and, depending on the type of shaft you are using either some epoxy or a resin glue stick and some field points or broad heads and you’re ready to repair or even make your own arrows. While store bought fletching is much easier to use, in a TEOTWAWKI a single common bird feather can make at least two fletching feathers.

While re-fletching arrows is a common necessity with both traditional and compound bows the advantage to traditional is that arrows are much easier to make, if you had to, to shoot in a recurve or long bow. Due to the tremendous thrust a compound bow initially creates when the string is released, wooden shaft arrows will often splinter, making them unsatisfactory for compound bows. In a TEOTWAWKI aluminum or graphite shafts will be hard if not impossible to find. Even though I use a recurve bow, I prefer aluminum shafts. They are more accurate and last longer than wood-period. But, if I had to make my own wooden arrow shafts my recurve bow will shoot them where as a compound bow would just splinter them.

Archery is something the entire family can enjoy and although I have harped on the use of traditional archery equipment in a TEOTWAWKI , to get the wife and kids started and to make sure they enjoy their initial experience, investing in a compound bow may be a better choice. Compounds require less strength by the shooter to pull the bow to full draw. They also deliver more power. The problem with starting someone off with a compound bow is, I don’t know of anyone who shoots a compound bow instinctively, in fact since I don’t even own a compound bow, I’m not sure its even possible to shoot one instinctively. My three attempts at it failed miserably and I handed the compound bow back to its owner and said thanks but no thanks. Not learning how to shoot instinctively at the beginning, I believe, will handicap you later. You become too dependent on the use of sights, which as I mentioned earlier can get knocked out of alignment or damaged.

Now, let me be quick to say I am far from being a “expert” archer despite 42 years experience, but every time I go to the indoor range near my home I seem to amaze my fellow shooters with their compound bows and peep sights because I can fairly consistently group my arrows in a 8-inch circle at 30 yards shooting instinctively. In my younger days before the need for glasses, and when I had time to practice more I could group in a 5 inch circle.

Another advantage to archery, you can build a back yard range even if you live in the city (in most cases, but check your local ordinances first). The least expensive route is to get four bales of hay from the local feed store or co-op. Ask to select the bales yourself or tell whoever is going to select them at the store that you need only bales that are tightly and evenly baled since you are going to use them for archery targets.

I lay two of them down lengthwise, then place the other two upright behind the first two. The two bales thickness will stop any arrow you can shoot except maybe from some more powerful crossbows. Having the two stacks turned opposite ways prevents the arrow from slipping through the crack between the two bales should it hit exactly at that point.

As with any type of shooting, gun or archery, always be mindful of what is downrange behind the target, especially if you live in a subdivision and put in a back yard archery range. I have a half acre lot and have my range set up next to my garden at the back of the property. My neighbor is also a bow hunter so he has no problem with my target bales being against our mutual chain  link fence between our properties, and he knows he is welcome to come over and use my range anytime whether I’m home or not,  but I even watch two houses down because that neighbor has two dogs and if they are out roaming their back yard I will not shoot-period.

Not long after I bought this home 22 years ago I had neighbors on both sides that had children who played in their back yards frequently which made it much too dangerous to consider putting in the range I have today. I did however have an outbuilding with a lean-to beside it that was 22 feet front to back. I installed walls on the long open side and back and put my bales at the back of the lean-to, that gave me a short range of about 25 feet that I could use even if the children were outside.

To summarize, archery is a fun sport the entire family can enjoy and in a TEOTWAWKI offers stealth, protection and a means to put food on the table. With a relatively small investment you can get everything you need to maintain traditional archery equipment long term and even make your own arrows and bowstring should your prepped supply be exhausted. And to spin off of Jim’s statements, you can make your own long bow from a good straight and dried hickory sapling or other wood. I have often thought about trying to do that but have never actually done it. I do have a friend in Texas who does make his own long bows and creates some beautiful and highly functional and accurate bows he hunts with. – Muscadine Hunter