Bow Hunting Prerequisites
The sport of bow hunting has gained such momentum in the past few years in the United States that the facilities of the old line archery manufacturers have been strained to the limit to cope with the unprecedented demand for bows and various archery equipment which can be used in the hunting field. New companies are entering the field in increasing numbers, and such a wide variety of equipment is offered for sale that the old-timer as well as the beginner is confused by the great variety and conflicting claims made by the manufacturers and dealers in bow hunting equipment. The situation is further complicated by the failure of the manufacturers to adopt industry wide standards against which the various products could be measured and compared one with the other.
This chapter is written expressly for those individuals who desire to acquire the knack of shooting a bow, primarily in order to use it in the pursuit of game. Techniques and equipment developed for use in the hunting field are of sufficient importance to be treated separately. There is a common meeting ground on many phases of archery, for the bowhunter and the target archer, and, therefore, there can be no firm line of cleavage between the two groups. Individual archers cross this imaginary line with impunity, and the novice, if he is to acquire any ability as a marksman, must learn certain elementary techniques, and use equipment common to both groups. To present the subject material in an orderly and understandable manner, some basic instructions must necessarily be repeated. For this the author may receive some criticism, but offers the explanation that instructions aimed at the beginner should be in sufficient detail and presented in the order in which the student will need advice in learning to shoot. With this apologia, let us proceed.
A little over a decade has passed since the choice of bow materials was limited to such woods as yew, osage orange, hickory, and lemonwood. Arrows were wooden shafted and the better grades were manufactured from birch or Port Orford cedar. From these few possibilities it was not too difficult for an archer to choose a bow and arrows. The quality of the materials and the workmanship could be judged fairly well by the individual, and a purchase made within a price range suitable to the archer’s pocketbook. Bows, with certain exceptions, were all purpose bows, and no thought was given to acquiring a bow or arrows for one special type of shooting. In fact, bows were of such simple construction that many archers familiar with woodworking tools enjoyed making their own equipment. To a much smaller degree this practice continues to this day, and some manufacturers cater to this group by providing partially finished bow kits, which permit the archer to do a good portion of the work necessary to build a bow, and a number of archers still prefer to make their own arrows. Due to the wide range of materials used in the manufacture of bows and arrows today and the admitted superiority of the modern bow made from these materials, few experienced archers attempt to make their own bows and rely instead on the manufactured product.
Although archery equipment has moved out of the toy section of your sporting goods store and occupies a prominent place along with the array of sporting arms, few are the salesmen who have any knowledge of the sport of archery or who have made any attempt to learn to use the weapon. Frequently the salesman of firearms has a thorough working knowledge of the weapons he has for sale, and he is also an ardent sportsman in his own right, but the bow as a hunting weapon has but recently attained prominence, and most retailers have failed to keep pace with the demand for information on tackle and equipment. If your sporting goods store has an archer in its employ, you are indeed fortunate, and he can give you valuable advice on the selection of your first equipment.It is common experience to see an adult or a youngster equipped with a bow, which is beyond the physical power of the individual to draw and shoot properly. This unfortunate condition generally stems from lack of knowledge on the part of the individual and the salesman from whom the bow was purchased. Together they have made it almost impossible to acquire proficiency in the use of the weapon, and a youngster will quickly tire of the sport when his pathetic struggles to master the weapon produce so little in the way of results.
A single illustration should be enough to convince anyone that advice from an experienced archer should be solicited on the purchase of beginners equipment. Several youngsters were shooting under my supervision at a target erected on my lawn. A ten year old, riding by on his bike, stopped and asked if he could bring his equipment and shoot? Given permission, he soon appeared with a bow and arrows. The bow was marked with a drawing weight of forty pounds. It had been a Christmas present together with a dozen expensive footed arrows. The outfit represented a monetary outlay of at least $25.00. Needless to say, that the child had not had any instruction. His attempts to shoot were futile and the drawing weight of his bow precluded giving him even elementary instruction. It is a mistaken idea that the ability of a bowman can be measured by the drawing weight of his bow, and the prospective bowman should take particular care to buy a bow that has a drawing weight well within his physical limitations.
The beginner should be able to bring the bow to full draw, easily and without undue strain. It is understood that the bow is always shot from full draw position. Unless the beginner can do this, he will not readily be able to acquire correct shooting technique; and measured by his lack of success in hitting a selected target, he will get little satisfaction from the sport. Since physical prowess varies with each individual, no hard and fast rule or limits on drawing weights of bows for beginners can be given. At least one state permits the use of bows with a drawing weight as low as thirty pounds in hunting deer.
There are so many kinds of bows on the market today that to compare one with another confounds even the expert bowman. In the hands of a qualified bowhunter almost any of the bows manufactured today can look like a good buy. Every bowman, once he has acquired good shooting form, attempts to improve his marksmanship by selecting the bow, which he believes best suited to his physical makeup and the purpose for which he intends to use it. For example, a bow purchased for use in the hunting field may have a drawing weight of forty-five to eighty pounds, but the experienced archer will have acquired proper shooting form and developed the muscles used in shooting by use of a lighter weight bow, which he uses in competition and to practice marksmanship. The individual who engages in the sport of archery with the express purpose of hunting with the bow, should not buy expensive and specialized archery tackle and equipment. A light weight medium priced bow and a set of practice arrows, a leather shooting tab, and an arm guard, are all the equipment needed to learn to shoot the bow. Such a kit may be purchased or made up from individual items for a sum not to exceed $12.00. After you have mastered shooting technique and can keep your arrows on the target, will be time enough to consider the purchase of better equipment.
Whereas a rifle can be expected to give years of satisfactory service, bows have only a limited life, and in general carry a guarantee for a single year against breakage. Repeated flexing of the fibres of which the bow is constructed results ultimately in fatigue of the material. A bow which is shot or drawn for a period of time will “let down” or “follow the string” in the jargon of the bowman, which means that the bow loses its power to cast or propel an arrow. The future bowhunter will save money if he proceeds slowly and does not expect that he can buy a good score by the simple expedient of acquiring the highest priced bow in the dealer’s stock, Bows that have a drawing weight of fifteen to twenty pounds make suitable starting bows for children and women. Teenagers would do well to start with a bow which does not exceed twenty pounds. A bow of this weight will prove sufficiently tiring when shot throughout an afternoon. A number of my adult friends and acquaintances who have become interested in bowhunting have purchased twenty-five, and in a few cases thirty pound bows with which they have learned to shoot. In each case they have expressed satisfaction with their purchase, especially after observing the attempts of other beginners to master a heavy hunting bow. It is a fallacy, but a common belief, that cast or velocity of an arrow increases directly in proportion to the drawing weight of a bow. Nothing could be farther from the facts. After you have learned to shoot, you will also have learned that cast varies from bow to bow, and that each manufacturer is striving to produce a bow that has a high velocity or cast, and at the same time a low drawing weight. To the extent that they have succeeded, archers are willing to spend considerable sums of money for a particular bow.
Bows of different materials differ also in length. The beginner is primarily concerned with the length of a medium price, wood self bow, which is a time proved product of the bowyer’s art; and the proper length of arrows which he should purchase. To obtain this data, measure the distance in inches from finger tip to finger tip of your out spread arms. In the table presented in Chapter 3, this distance is called “spread measurement.” The corresponding length of arrow and suggested bow length is readily determined by inspection from this table.
One out of every four deer killed by archers in the state of Pennsylvania in the 1953 bow hunting season was bagged by a bowman who was hunting with a bow for the first time. It is admitted that the element of chance can favor anyone of us; but in the long run, success in the hunt will come to the hunter who has mastered the technique of shooting a bow, and is able to shoot accurately for a distance of thirty yards. Statistics gathered over a period of years in the state of Wisconsin show that deer are killed at distances which average slightly under thirty yards. Returns from a questionnaire submitted to the successful bowhunters in the 1951 special archery deer season in Pennsylvania contained data which indicated that the average deer was shot at thirty-two yards. One bow-hunter reported killing a buck at seventy yards, and the shortest range at which a kill was reported was ten yards. No record is available of the number of deer missed by more than 14,000 bowmen who purchased special archery deer licenses in Pennsylvania for the 1954 season, nor is it possible to break down the total to show the number of skilled archers who participated in the hunt, but lacked the necessary hunting skill to bring them within bow range of a legal buck. Nevertheless, from a limited personal survey, the conclusion is inescapable that poor marksmanship is primarily responsible for the negligible number of antlered deer killed in the Keystone State. I do not mean to infer that a skilled hunter who is also an expert field archer can be certain to bag a deer. It would be nice if such were the case. Unfortunately, examples could be cited where the exact opposite is true. The unexpected and the unpredictable are part of the sport of deer hunting. Eliminating chance, there are two principal factors which govern a successful hunt. The first is the ability to stalk a deer, an art seldom practiced by the rifle hunter; and the second factor is the marksmanship of the bowhunter. Of the two, the second is the easier to acquire and the one for which an excuse is least justified.
Ability to hit a chosen mark with reasonable consistency with the first arrow is an acquired art, and a goal that is within reach of every bowman provided he or she is willing to take the time required to learn the technique of shooting a bow. A club publication recently carried the following statement, “The average man feels that he has to select a heavy bow in order to prove his manhood.” Whatever the reason may be, too many novices have equipped themselves with heavy hunting bows which are a definite handicap to them in their efforts to learn to shoot. Deer have been killed with thirty-five pound bows, and the average distance from which deer were shot in Wisconsin during the past five years is twenty-eight yards. By legislative action, the state of Wisconsin has fixed the minimum bow weight for hunting big game at thirty pounds. The wide spread opinion that a hunter must be equipped with a bow which draws upward from sixty pounds has accounted, in my opinion, for the poor marksmanship of the average bowman encountered in the hunting field. Again, referring to statistics collected in Wisconsin, less than half the bowhunters interviewed in the field held membership in an archery club. It is not surprising, therefore, that so many bowmen are poorly equipped and such poor marksmen. It is not contended that an expert bowman cannot shoot accurately with a sixty pound bow, or that a heavy bow is not a suitable weapon for the hunting field. To the contrary, he will consistently shoot better with a heavy bow at short ranges, and particularly at the ranges which statistics show deer are shot. It is maintained, however, that the novice will find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to develop proper shooting form, and spend the hours of practice necessary to perfect that form, unless he uses a bow which he can draw and hold without extreme effort. Good form is gained through practicing correct procedure at all times. Technique is the foundation on which ability as a marksman may be acquired. Technique can be studied by observing an expert bowman on a field course, seeking personal advice and instruction from these experts, and studying and applying such printed instructions on shooting the bow as you are able to obtain. Just shooting is not enough. Good form is the result of thoughtful application of approved shooting methods. Unless you can learn to repeat each movement in exactly the same manner every time that you release an arrow, you cannot expect to register hits consistently on the target. The time, money, and effort expended to get within bow shot of a deer is wasted unless you can send an arrow to a vital spot. A bow used correctly is an accurate and a deadly weapon, and its effectiveness is limited only by the skill of the individual bowhunter. Accuracy is the end product of good form plus plenty of practice. If you are a beginner, the logical step is to join your local archery club, and learn to shoot. Group participation can make practice a pleasure and not the chore it may readily become if you insist on practicing alone.
For protection, the bowhunter wears two indispensable items. A leather arm guard is worn on the inside of the bow arm; it protects the forearm from being injured by the bow string when an arrow is properly released from the bow. Unless the forearm is protected in this manner, the bow string will slap the forearm just above the wrist with painful consequences to the bowman. The first three fingers of the drawing hand are protected by a shooting glove or a leather shooting tab. Without this protection the fingers will blister quickly and make shooting painful if not impossible. As an aid in toughening the skin, apply tincture of benzoin to the finger tips before you start to shoot. To help provide a smooth release, which is to the bowhunter what the trigger squeeze is to the rifleman, dust the glove or tab with a good grade of talcum powder. The shoulder quiver, once highly prized, is losing favor with the bowhunters. Many limit its use to the field range and the practice butts. Among the criticisms are: that it makes a brush catcher out of the arrow shafts, that it is noisy, and that too much movement of the hand and arm are necessary to draw an arrow from the shoulder quiver in event a miss does not stampede the game on the first shot. In place of the shoulder quiver the hunting fraternity is using either a bow quiver or a belt quiver. The bow quiver, as its name implies, provides for carrying extra arrows attached to the bow; the belt quiver is merely an oversized target quiver, cylindrical in form and attached to the belt by a strap. Either of these quivers cost considerably less than a shoulder quiver of comparable materials and workmanship.The bowhunter dresses within certain prescribed limits for comfort. The special archery seasons in summer and early fall permit wearing light clothing in most sections of the United States. Shoes should be sturdy and comfortable. Avoid rubber foot wear at this time of the year, as it is much too warm for comfort. The Tee shirt is universally worn and approved by all archers. During the fall, and at the higher altitudes, a sweater can be worn as a second garment during the early morning hours. Loose fitting upper garments, which are excellent protection in cold weather, are a problem to the bow hunter. When an arrow is released, the bow string passes across and close to the chest and shoulder of the bowman. Shirts with flaring open collars, loose half length sleeves, ties and collar tips are booby traps. A slight breeze will blow a collar tip, loose sleeve, or tie end into the line of movement of the bow string and the arrow will be deflected from the mark.
Let us assume that club facilities are not available within a reasonable distance from your home, and that you have set up your own butt, consisting of at least three bales of three wire rye straw, which will weigh approximately one hundred pounds per bale, or such other material as is available locally which will serve to stop the arrows without damage. In some parts of the country, earthen bunkers faced with sod serve this purpose. Pin a target on which there is a definite aiming spot to the butt.
As the beginner can expect to miss the butt frequently on his first attempts at shooting, the ground to the rear of the butt should be cleared of all obstructions and materials which would damage the arrows. In arid sections of the country the ground should be plowed at right angles to the line of flight of the arrows and the loose soil piled up in ridges. In event the area is covered with grass, it will have to be cropped very closely to facilitate locating arrows. This may seem an unnecessary refinement to the beginner, but arrows which miss the butt will slide along the turf, and often are covered throughout their entire length, even though the grass is short. It is a wise novice who marks the spot where an arrow strikes the turf, and if shooting alone, proceeds immediately to the spot to retrieve the arrow. This procedure will save a lot of time which otherwise will be spent in the search for missing arrows. To retrieve an arrow when the feathers are imbedded, locate the tip of the arrow and with the thumb and forefinger draw the arrow forward in the line of flight, raising the tip slowly to prevent bending the shaft. Withdrawing an arrow in this manner will prevent damage to the fletching.Step off about twenty paces from the butt for your first practice shooting. At this time it is well to remember to attach the arm guard. If you forget this detail you will be reminded sharply and painfully when the first arrow leaves the bow.
Today’s bows are commonly supplied with a double loop string. To string, or as the bowman says, “brace the bow,” place the larger of the loops over the tip of the upper limb of the bow and let it slide down the limb. The upper limb is identified as the one having the built-in arrow rest. If your bow is not so equipped, it can be identified as the limb in which the arrow plate is located. This is an inlay at the point on the upper limb where the arrow shaft slides as it passes the bow in flight to the target. This point is located immediately above the handle or grip of the bow. Place the other loop of the bow string carefully in the nock or groove at the tip of the lower bow limb, and with the left hand slide the first loop up the upper limb of the bow until tension in the bow string holds the lower loop in position.
Now stand the bow upright in front of your right foot, with the string to your left. Step between the string and the bow with your right foot. Place the lower limb tip across the instep of your left foot and bring the belly of the bow just below the handle, against the back of your right thigh. Now grasp the upper limb with the right hand as near the tip as you can, but just below the present position of the upper loop. Thrust forward with the right arm, as the bow bends, using the thigh as a fulcrum; slide the upper loop into position with the fingers of the left hand.
When a bow is properly strung, the distance between the string and the grip will be an amount specified by the manufacturer for a particular make of bow. In the days of the long bow, this distance was called a “Fistmele,” Fig. 3, and this rule is still applicable in the case of the common flat wooden bow.
This is the distance measured from the flat side of the hand to the end of the extended thumb. It is necessary that this distance remain fixed in order that the initial tension placed in the bow when it is fully braced remains constant, if the force exerted on the arrow through the bow string when the bow is released at full draw is to impart a constant velocity to the arrow. This velocity controls the trajectory of the arrow in flight. To permit adjustment in the height to which a bow is strung, strings are made slightly over-long. To secure the exact height when a double loop string is used, unstring the bow and remove the lower loop from the bow limb. Twist or untwist the bow string to change its length. By trial, the correct length can be ascertained. When the bow is in use, check the height at frequent intervals of time, as the first indication of a weak string shows in a decrease in the fistmele. A weak, worn, or frayed string should be replaced before it breaks for two reasons: the accuracy of the bow is impaired as the string changes length, and if the bow string is allowed to break in use, there is a good chance that the sudden release of all tension may cause the bow to rupture.Your bow should be unstrung when not in use. Recently the manufacturers of certain bows have claimed that no injury will result if the bow is not unstrung for long periods of time. This claim is certainly debatable, as the limbs in many bows will take a permanent set and weaken the cast of the bow. Regardless of the make of the bow, the string, if kept under tension will in time stretch and consequently weaken. Never stand a wooden or laminated bow in the corner for storage. It should be hung from a wooden peg at the nocking point or laid flat on a shelf. Do not store the bow near steam pipes or other sources of heat. A certain moisture content is necessary in the bow wood to preserve its strength. If your bow has been provided with a keeper, which is a short piece of elastic cord attached to the top loop of the bow string and to the upper bow limb near the bow nock, experience indicates that this keeper should be removed in the interest of safety. Its purpose is to prevent the bow string sliding down the upper bow limb when the loop is removed from the nock. This small advantage is offset by the danger that the keeper may cause the top limb to fly back and strike the bowman if the bow should break.
While not essential, most good bows today are equipped with a built-in arrow rest. The rest makes certain that the arrow will always be discharged from the same position on the bow. If the bow is not equipped with an arrow rest, you would do well to cut a small wedge of leather, daub it with glue, and insert it at the base of the arrow plate between the wrapping on the grip and the side of the bow. These and other small refinements are rungs on the accuracy ladder. Use them and you increase your chances of shooting a good score. Neglect, or refuse to use them and you are imposing upon yourself an unnecessary handicap.To give long and satisfactory service, a bow string should be reinforced for wear at the point where the arrow nock and fingers come in contact with the string. This operation, when performed by the bowman, is called, “serving the string.” It consists of waxing a sufficient length of number 8 linen thread to serve about four inches of the bow string. Wrap the thread under at the beginning of the operation and again at the end. Cut off any surplus with a razor blade, or sharp knife, but cut away from the bow string lest you sever it by mistake. The point at which the arrow is nocked on the bow string should not be left to chance, as it will have a direct effect on the accuracy you can obtain with your bow. This point is properly located on the bow string when the arrow, resting on the arrow rest, forms a right angle, 90 degrees with the bow string. A carpenter’s square can be used to determine the location of this point, and it can be permanently marked at the time the string is served by taking several turns of the serving string on each side of the point at which the arrow is nocked, building up two small bumps on the bow string. Thereafter the arrow is positioned by nocking it between the bumps.
Since it is our intention to use the bow in the hunting field, we will concentrate on learning the fundamental principles of the shooting methods employed by the majority of the bow hunters.
The law of gravity is inflexible. An arrow shot horizontally from a bow begins to fall away from level flight as soon as it leaves the arrow rest,
In less technical language, as the weight of the bow increases, the height the arrow rises above the line of vision on its flight to the target decreases. This statement is made on the assumption that the cast will increase directly in proportion to the increase in drawing weight of the bow.
The cast of the bow and the position of the anchor hand in relation to the bowman’s line of sight will determine the point blank range of your bow. It is necessary, therefore, to hold below the mark when the game is located between the shooter and the point blank range of his bow, and above the mark if the game is located beyond point blank range.
The relatively flat trajectory of the heavy bow over short distances makes it a favorite weapon in the hunting field. In addition, a high anchor decreases the angle which the arrow makes with the line of sight, and consequently requires less movement of the bow-hand to adjust for elevation. All bowmen adjust for different ranges by raising or lowering the bow hand, and they must estimate the range and make the corresponding adjustment to score on the target.
A maxim among bowmen that can bear repetition is, “It is the man behind the bow who scores the hits.” A person who acquires a bow he cannot draw comfortably is handicapped from the start in his efforts to learn to shoot. Better a bow that can be drawn easily than one that puts undue strain on the shooter. A flat trajectory is highly desirable and an aid to accurate shooting at short distances, and each bowman must select a drawing weight that is commensurate with his physical limitations. The muscles used in drawing a bow are strengthened through practice, and the beginner who learns proper shooting form with a light bow will find that his ability to handle the heavier hunting bow increases as his shooting muscles develop through practice. To sacrifice good form in order to draw a heavy hunting bow is fatal to accuracy. To be able to shoot accurately is the primary consideration; the weight of the bow is secondary. Too often the novice bowmen sacrifice accuracy for drawing weight.
As beginners, our primary aim is to master good shooting form. We will strive through intelligent practice to develop a machine-like precision in the act of drawing and releasing an arrow. As we strive for and gradually develop a technique our accuracy will gradually improve. If, on the other hand, we limit our practice sessions to just shooting without conscious thought of how we shoot, we will never acquire the ability to score consistently on any target.Proper form is acquired through painstaking practice, and for discussion purposes can be divided into several individual parts or acts, which when properly correlated and executed make the act of shooting smooth, and to the casual observer, apparently effortless. We will discuss these individual components in the order in which they are brought into play, viz: stance, draw, anchor, aim, hold, release, and follow through, and particularly as they are generally performed in the hunting field.
These instructions are written for right handed bowmen. Left handed persons substitute left for right and vice versa.
A stable platform from which to shoot requires that the feet be spread comfortably apart, and if choice is permitted, the left foot is advanced, and both feet are placed at right angles on an imaginary line from the bowman to the target. This positions the hunter so that his left side is toward the quarry. If the hunter is caught out of position, and does not wish to take a chance of putting the game to flight by properly placing his feet in shooting position, he can pivot his body at the waist to place the left side toward the target. The circumstances will govern the choice. However, if the feet are firmly planted, the second method is safer, as the hunter must not take his eyes from his quarry, and cannot select a place to step. A firm footing is preferable to stumbling at a critical moment, or shooting with the weight unevenly balanced on the feet.
Assuming that we are on the practice range, we will take the orthodox position first described. Hold the bow in a horizontal position in the left hand by the grip, with the bow string up, and the arm hanging naturally at the left side, the bow string passing between the left arm and; the body. If we are on the alert for game we will have an arrow nocked in the bow, and held in position by the left forefinger. Stand erect, head up, and shoulders back. In this position the bowman is facing ninety degrees from the target. Now turn the head and look along the left shoulder at the spot you want to hit. In drawing the bow, do not shift the body weight from one foot to the other during any part of the act of shooting. To relieve the strain on the drawing fingers of his right arm, the beginner, quite naturally, will thrust his head forward to meet the bow string, as he draws. Guard against this fault, as we will later explain that the position of the head is important in governing the length of the draw, and in aiming.
Nocking the Arrow
Raise the bow arm and bring the bow to a horizontal position in front of you about waist high, knuckles of the left hand and arrow plate of the bow up, the bow string bearing against your left hip at a point on the bow string approximately opposite the middle of the lower limb of the bow. Draw an arrow from the bow quiver with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand. Lay the arrow across the bow at the arrow plate and revolve the shaft until the cock feather, the one at right angles to the arrow nock, is up and perpendicular to the bow string. Shove the arrow forward until the arrow nock is between the bow string and the bow, and then draw the arrow toward the string until the bow string enters the arrow nock at the nocking point on the bow string. Continue this backward movement of the arrow until the bow string is placed under tension by the arrow. Hold the arrow in this position with the left forefinger pushing the arrow shaft against the arrow plate. The right hand can now be released and the arrow will remain in position fully nocked. If we now drop the left hand, which is holding the bow until the arm hangs naturally at the left side, the bow can be carried fully loaded and ready to shoot. This is normally the procedure practiced by most bow hunters when stalking or still hunting game. The position is not tiring and the bow hunter is relaxed, yet ready to draw and shoot when game is sighted.
Precautionary measures to protect the bow are first taken by the bowman. Generally speaking, the bow should never be overdrawn. While some manufacturers of modern bows claim that no damage will result from overdraw, it is a wise bowman who limits the length of the draw to the length of the arrow for which his particular bow is designed. At full draw a bow is under almost maximum tension or strain. To overdraw may rupture the fibres, and permanently weaken the bow, or it may break. To prevent the possibility of overdraw, an arrow is always nocked to measure the length of draw. Flex the bow by small increments and increase the length gradually until full draw is reached. This is the position at which the point of the arrow, of a proper length for your bow, is drawn even with the back of the bow at the arrow plate. If you are hunting during a period of low temperatures, flex the limbs of the bow occasionally by making a partial draw, as the danger of breakage is greatest when the bow is cold and the fibres brittle.
If the bow is held in a vertical position during the preliminary flexing, the bowman may find that the arrow moves away from the bow and falls off the arrow rest, or rises vertically above the rest, when the draw is in progress. In the first instance the trouble is avoided by the way the drawing fingers apply initial pressure to the bow string. Make contact with the bow string with the three fingers touching the string at the first joints; and as pressure is applied in the act of drawing, permit the string to revolve along the first joints of the fingers until the actual drawing point on the finger tips is reached, With the palm of the right hand up, and the fingers fully extended, place the forefinger under the bow string to the right of the arrow nock. The middle and ring fingers fall into position under the bow string to the left of the nock. The bow string should cut across the three fingers equally, about three-fourths of the distance from the finger tips to the first joints. Draw the string back carefully a few inches, allowing the string to revolve and bunch the flesh near the finger tips; and let these fingers take over the work which has been performed by the forefinger of the left hand in holding the arrow under tension against the bow string.
To make the draw, swing the bow to a position where the upper limb of the bow corresponds to the hour hand of a clock at 1:30, with the grip about shoulder high. The bow should rest in the V formed by the thumb and fingers of the extended left hand, with the fingers curled lightly around the grip, and the bow held in place by the tension applied in the draw. The base of the thumb should not exert any pressure against the bow, although the tendency is to cock the wrist and permit the heel of the hand to do the work.
Extend the left arm toward the target, with the arm in a relaxed position, to permit the under part of the elbow to remain down and away from the bow string, which otherwise would, on release, strike the inner arm just below the elbow. You can be sure that you are committing this fault if the string hooks over the upper part of the arm guard when it is released. Now with the fingers, hand, and forearm relaxed, draw back steadily, using the shoulder and back muscles to do the work. The hand and forearm act only as a connecting cable between the bow string and the shoulder muscles. At the same time tilt the head to the right until the right eye is directly above the arrow as the right hand is drawn to the cheek at or about the corner of the mouth. This draw and the method of anchoring and aiming, which we will discuss in detail, is called by various names, among which are hunters draw, cheek draw, high anchor, etc. Its sole purpose is to reduce the vertical angle which the arrow makes with the line of sight. Canting the bow to the right from the vertical has further reduced this angle, in addition to aligning the arrow shaft directly below the right eye of the bowman.
An attempt to draw at eye level, to permit sighting directly along the shaft and to cancel out the angle between the arrow and the line of vision of the bowman, places the drawing arm in a position where a straight pull with the strong shoulder muscles is impossible, and any attempt to anchor so close to the eye will distort the vision. Drawing to the height of the eye without anchoring at a given point would result, in addition to loss of drawing power, in variations in the length of the draw; and consequently changes in the velocity with which the arrow is propelled from the bow. Under such conditions no accuracy could be expected.
In the high, or cheek anchor, the method of positing the drawing hand differs among individual bowmen. Each individual will select an anchor point that best suits his physical conformation; and as long as the anchor point chosen is a positive one, the bowman will be assured of the arrow being released from the same position at each cast.
The position of the right hand of the bowman at release performs the same function as the fixed rear sight of the rifle. The hand governs the angle which the arrow makes with the horizontal as it begins its flight to the target. In addition, the position of the hand at release also determines the velocity of the shaft as it leaves the bow. If the hand draws the bow string the same distance each time, and if the hand is positioned at the same elevation below the right eye for each draw, then each arrow will have the same trajectory and elevation as it leaves the bow. Elevation will be a hit or miss proposition at the best, regardless of the positioning of the hand, and the ability of the bowman to estimate distances to the target without a fixed anchor.
Several methods are in common use for fixing the position of the drawing hand. The middle or ring finger of the hand being the longest, it is frequently employed to position the hand by touching the tip of the finger against the corner of the mouth, or by feel, locating a certain tooth in the lower jaw. Other bowmen use the extended right thumb,
Probably the most controversial subject in archery today is aiming. So bitter are some proponents of their favorite method that they have lost sight of the main objective, which is and always has been, to hit the target. In the case of the bow hunter it means hit that vital area, which results in a quick kill and not just a wounded animal.
Differences in aiming methods have resulted in dividing archers into two groups rather loosely designated as instinctive and free-style. Some groups confine and limit their competition to those bowmen who use their particular style of aiming. Many bowmen pass freely from one group to the other, adjusting their shooting style to the demands of the occasion. In some states, the strong state organizations refuse to be drawn into the controversy, and foster a live and let live policy. As a result, the local clubs make awards to both groups of shooters in open tournaments. The free-style shooter is more aptly defined as a sight-shooter and the instinctive shooter is in reality a point-of-aim shooter, but unlike the target archer, who affixes a point-of-aim at a definite spot for each yardage he intends to shoot, the instinctive shooter estimates the yardage and varies an imaginary point-of-aim to correspond with his yardage estimate. Since the terms free-style and instinctive are commonly used and generally understood, we will use them in the text. The sight shooter almost invariably uses an under-jaw anchor and we are dealing in this chapter with the high draw or cheek anchor used by the instinctive bowman, who is sometimes described as a “bare-bow shooter” because he does not use a sight affixed to the upper limb of the bow.
The instinctive bowman anchors his right hand alongside his face on the draw, and cants the bow to the right from the vertical, in order to bring the shaft of the arrow in line with and directly under the line of vision of his right eye. He brings the arrow shaft in line with the target, and raises or lowers the bow so that the apparent position of the point of the arrow, as it is superimposed on the target area, compensates for the distance the arrow must travel on its flight to the target. He has, in effect, chosen a point-of-aim in order to hit his primary target.
The heavy hunting bow is a decided advantage to the expert bow hunter in the hunting field. The flat, or relatively flat, trajectory of the arrow over short ranges keeps the primary target and the point at which the bowman aims the point of the arrow relatively close to each other. In event the first arrow misses its intended target, the bowman can immediately correct his secondary aiming point right or left, up or down, to secure a hit on the primary target with the next arrow. If the bowman literally tries to shoot instinctively, while viewing solely the object he desires to hit, he will have no precise method of correcting his error and cannot be assured of a hit on any succeeding shot.To shoot well, the bowman must shoot with both eyes open. This is an advantage and not a handicap as frequently assumed. Each of us has a master eye, a fact which can be quickly verified by pointing the index finger of the outstretched hand, with both eyes open, at a small object several feet distant, and then alternately closing either eye. If the finger appears to remain on the object when one eye is closed, then the other eye is the master eye. Reverse the procedure and the finger will apparently move to one side of the object. A saving feature if your left eye should turn out to be the master eye in the foregoing test; it will change to your right eye when you bring the bow to full draw with the arrow shaft under the right eye.
With both eyes open, the vision should be concentrated directly on the exact spot you wish your arrow to strike. Now bring the tip of the arrow into your line of vision and spot it at the point you choose for an aiming point without taking your vision from the original target. This is the crux of the matter. If you switch your vision back and forth from the object you desire to hit and the tip of the arrow and the aiming point, the result will be disastrous. You must concentrate your vision and your thoughts on the exact spot you wish to hit. Seems impossible? Well, it can be done. A surveyor, in the practice of his profession, sights through the telescope of his transit with both eyes open. One eye sees a close up of objects, in a limited field, through the lens; the other eye sees all of the surrounding area naturally. Obviously the imaginary aiming point must be selected with reference to the weight of the bow and the distance to the target. At close ranges, a sixty-pound will have almost a point blank range. The point-of-aim may even fall below the actual target, while a lighter weight bow, in similar circumstances, would require the imaginary aiming point to be located above the center of the target.
When you spot your buck this season, fix your vision directly on that vital area just back of the foreshoulder. Keep your vision and your attention riveted on that spot. Remember, that is where you want the arrow to strike. Bring the bow to full draw, and as the arrow tip appears, in your field of vision, place it on a selected imaginary aiming point and release the arrow. On your ability to select the proper aiming spot will depend your success in placing the arrow in the vital area from which you have never for an instant permitted your attention and vision to waver. The selection of a proper aiming point for various distances will come through practice.
Precision shooting with a sight at predetermined distances, using the under-jaw anchor, is somewhat comparable with the match rifleman’s method of shooting. Neither system, in my opinion, can be transferred bodily to the hunting field.Although I am not without experience in the effort it will entail, I believe the free-style shooter will have better success in the hunting field, if he will become proficient in the use of the high anchor, and equip himself with a heavier bow than he normally is accustomed to use in target competition. His knowledge of yardages, gained in target shooting, will be of considerable aid in estimating distances and choosing his imaginary point-of-aim. One of the advantages of the heavier bow is that its comparatively flat trajectory at short distances will offset to a considerable extent, errors in judgment of distance, particularly in ranges up to 35 or 40 yards.
An experienced target archer who uses the under-jaw anchor, will appreciate the value of a light weight bow, while accustoming his muscles to the high anchor draw. Once he has acquired facility with this method, he should be able to shoot a heavier bow without difficulty, and with a fair degree of accuracy after a couple of sighting shots to determine the imaginary aiming point.
There are bound to be, of course, bowmen who claim they do none of these things in shooting a bow, and that they do shoot entirely by instinct. Even so I believe these bowmen would make consistently better scores on a field course if they knew wherein they erred when they missed their first shot, and corrected their next shot accordingly.
Of the several individual acts the bowman performs each time he releases an arrow, and none may be neglected if he is to register a hit, holding is frequently given scant if any consideration. The effort required to hold a heavy hunting bow steady at full draw is considerable, and numbers of bowmen adopt a less difficult short cut of making the draw and release one continuous motion, but, at the expense of good shooting form, and consequent loss in accuracy. This practice is particularly evident among bowmen who have insisted on attempting to learn to shoot with bows weighing 50 and 60 pounds. The beginner who has been advised to purchase a light weight bow with which to learn a proper shooting technique, and has followed the advice, will not be prone to succumb to this error. It will require no undue strain on the part of the bowman to hold a light-weight bow steady at full draw. In fact, it is good practice for the beginner to bring the bow to full draw, and holding it in that position, mentally check each of the individual acts performed in this operation: stance, draw, and anchor, to be sure that each has been properly performed to this point; and conclude the check by aiming at the chosen target. It is true that an experienced bowman appears to draw and release in one smooth, continuous motion. This finished performance was acquired in the manner described, until by repetition, each single act becomes an acquired habit, and the speed with which each act of shooting is performed creates the illusion of continuous motion.
When a bowman has acquired good shooting technique, he can shoot accurately any weight bow that suits his fancy. A few sighting shots are all that he needs to enable him to change from one bow weight to another.
To loose an arrow instantaneously is an ideal impossible of attainment, and so within the physical limitations of the human hand we try to approach the ideal. At the very beginning of the draw, the fingers should be relaxed and the bow string should roll toward the finger tips, bunching or balling the flesh toward the tips of the fingers,
Because it appears easier, the beginner frequently makes the mistake of curling his drawing fingers around the bow string at the second joints when he draws his bow. A good smooth release from this position is impossible, because the bow string follows the bowman’s fingers as he attempts to uncurl them from the bow string. In a further attempt to get his fingers loose from the bow string, a novice will compound the original error by throwing his hand away from his face during the release. This additional fault only serves to throw the arrow off line of flight to the target.
The correct release is merely to relax the effort necessary to keep the first joints of the shooting fingers bent. As the first joints straighten, the bow string slips from the finger tips with the least amount of drag or friction. It is a law of Physics: “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Therefore, as the arrow is released and flies toward the target, the bowman’s hand and arm will, without further effort, move in the opposite direction to that taken by the arrow. By physical limitations, this movement is restricted to a few inches. The bowman should make no effort of any kind to impart any other motion to the drawing hand upon release of the arrow.
Any forward movement of the arrow in the direction of its projected flight prior to its release is termed creeping, and is to be avoided because it results in varying losses of potential energy stored up in the bow at full draw, and a consequent reduction in the initial velocity imparted to the arrow. Erratic control over elevation can generally be traced to creeping.If the bowman will take the time and make the effort to learn to release an arrow properly, he will be amply repaid. Even the expert finds it necessary to guard constantly against creeping. Remember, that the only movement permitted in the drawing hand prior to release of the arrow is relaxing the effort which has prevented the tips of the shooting fingers from straightening under the pressure exerted by the bow string.
If the reader has had sufficient interest to read this far, there is just one remaining pitfall which the bowman must avoid, if he is to master the art of hitting a designated target with an arrow shot from his bow; and, perhaps most important, to stand a reasonable chance of bringing down a deer during the open season.
The strain of bringing a bow to full draw in the proper manner is considerable, and it is quite normal to succumb to the urge to relax the instant the bow string is released. If some method is not employed to combat this natural tendency, we will drop the bow arm and move the drawing hand to a more comfortable position the instant we are relieved of holding the pressure built up in the drawn bow. Since the arrow rest is also the platform on which the arrow rides and is guided toward the target, while the arrow remains in contact with the bow, just as the barrel of a rifle serves to guide the bullet, it follows that the bow hand must remain at full draw position following the release, until the arrow has had sufficient time to sever all contact with the bow. This requires conscious effort on the part of the bowman, as does its counterpart, that the shooting hand and arm also remain in position in the projection of the line of flight until the arrow is well on its way to the target. This combination of acts is termed the “follow through,” and is standard operating procedure for all bowmen who consistently hit their selected target.
This chapter has developed in detail the fundamental principles which the bowman must learn, and has called attention to some of the many pitfalls which lie in wait for each of us, and would prevent acquiring even a modest ability in the use of the bow. It is difficult to translate the written word into the desired action, and impossible with one reading of the text. The novice will find that a better understanding of the text is gained when it is read and re-read in combination with actual practice. Frequent reference to the text will permit the bowman to correct errors that are creeping into his shooting technique before they have become habitual. Bad shooting habits are harder to break than the effort entailed in learning the proper shooting method from the beginning. The novice is fortunate if he has the guidance of an expert bowman, who will call attention to his shooting faults as the novice attempts to master the ancient art of shooting a bow.