LETS TAKE UP PRIMITIVE ARCHERY

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See our staff writer's Bio in the Jan/Feb issue of the North American Frontiersmen's "Smoke Signals".

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PRIMITIVE ARCHERY By: Howdy Davis 

Weíll begin this session with the rules, terminology, and bow and arrow set-up. Iím passing on to you the rules for primitive shooting as I found them by attending rendezvous and local shoots. They are simple, but they do vary. The problem weíre faced with is that youíre never sure what the rules are until you are at the shoot where more often that not you wonít find out until the day the shoot begins. The rules may have been posted or, if youíre lucky, you might get a list when you register. What I can tell you is to be prepared and take enough equipment with you in case you have to switch. If you donít have the proper equipment, ask if itís alright for you to shoot with what you have and not have your score count. Iím sure that most will oblige you. Primitive archery is a fairly new event at many rendezvous. In the east when we were shooting in the early 80s I was doing seminars and demonstrations the rules varied from shoot to shoot even then. These are some of the rules encountered over the past five years: Wooden stick bows, no shelves, no laminations, no backings. Totally primitive bows with the exception that you were allowed to have a Dacron string which was permitted for safety reasons. I did find at some shoots bows that were allowed with backings such as linen, snake skin, fish skin, and sinew. Bamboo backing or any other type of lamination was out of the question. It appears that all this is based on what the local perception of what the Indians used and not what was imported, especially in the west. The east, I believe, in general has rules that a bit more liberal. Arrows are usually required to be made from natural shoots, not dowels or store bought, and they must be self nocked. A majority of the time I found that we were allowed to use doweled shafts with plastic nocks, allowed for safety reasons. Itís easy to cut self nocks in wood shafts, or of wood inserts for cane (which Bill Cunningham will address in future articles). Keep in mind that if you do use plastic nocks you should stay away from bright colors. If you have to, color them with a marker. Cedar arrows in some cases had to be from natural shoots. Doweled shafts and plastic nocks are not the usual rule so go prepared. No shelf or arrow rest is pretty much the imposed rule at many events. There is often a requirement against a nocking point on the string. However, I shoot so much I can always find the spot on the string where I nock my arrow each time I place my arrow on the string. (A word to the wise: always have at least two extra, shot in, strings in your archery pouch). Bill Cunningham sometimes works a short piece of contrasting color string into his bow strings where his nocking point is, and sometimes he just marks the spot with a magic marker. I have yet to find any restrictions on the length of the bow or its draw weight. My experience is that the bow weights used are from forty pounds on down. Most all dacron strings were flemish type so you should learn to do this. If you donít want to, you can find flemish string makers in Primitive Archery magazine, on the buckskin wall on-line or just check out Three Rivers archery supply. In primitive shooting you lean forward, bending slightly at the waist and rest the arrow on your index finger, draw, and release. When I attend a shoot where a lot of arrows will be shot I wear a leather glove on my bow hand. It has a reinforced index finger in order to keep the feather vane from slicing my finger. Choosing a primitive bow or making one, is a serious undertaking. A stave of wood such as osage orange, ironwood, ash, elm, or oak are all fine woods for bow making and should be sought in six foot lengths unless you are really good at splicing. These woods must be air dried for a few years before they are ready to be carved into a bow. Later on Iíll cover what goes into the making of a bowóin the meantime you might want to obtain Glenn St. Charlesís video and book, From Billets to Bow, available from his son, Joeís archery shop which youíll have to look up yourself. Cost of a ready made primitive bow can be expensive. 

Check the bowyers selling them on eBay for ideas or read through the ads in Primitive Archer or on-line at the Leather Wall or TradGang. My friend Bill Cunningham deals with them all and he is surrounded with bows of all types, probably enough to open his own archery shop. Every time we shoot together it seems that he carries a different bow from the last time. Maybe you can shout him up and see what heís got available. I guarantee the bow will be shot in and proven. One thing to keep in mind is that the longer a bow is the easier it is to pull and the more accurate it is. Just to give you an idea of the different bow ranges, my favorite bow is a 68 inch at a weight of 38 pounds at a 28 inch draw length. I get more distance out of this bow because if Iím shooting a field course where the yardages are from ten to eighty yards the bow is perfect for reaching the long targets. My hunting bows are 56 inches in length and 50 to 55 pounds at 28 inches for deer. The bow I use for elk and bear is 62 inches and 65 pounds at 28 inches. A quick measurement to determine your arrow draw length is to place your fist against a wall. Stand in your shooting position and measure from the wall to your anchor point on your face. That should usually be the corner of your mouth. Add an extra inch or two for good measure. If need be you can always shorten the arrow. Bear in mind that any amount of arrow hanging over the back of the bow is dead weight and will cause you to lose distance . The back of the bow is that part farthest away from you. You can also put a nock on a raw shaft, string it and draw to your nocking point and hold while a friend pinches or marks the arrow right at the back of the bow. Let up slowly and then measure from the bottom of the nock to the mark or his fingers. That is your draw length. Add an inch or two for the point and that is your arrow length. Going back to the strings, select the right length string by measuring the length of your bow by following the contour and then subtract three inches. When you place the string onto the bow and you need more brace height you can take the string off and give it several twists (too much twisting is not goodóit will affect your arrow flight and will shorten the life of the string). All bows have a brace height and once determined it should always remain the same. Brace height is the distance from inside your handle (front of the bow) to the string. You should check periodically that it is the same height you set it at. I made a twelve inch ruler that I carry in my pouch. My primitive bow brace height is six inches. I twist the string up or down until I reach that measurement. Remember, check this often. Primitive bows typically brace lower than traditional bows. I know several people who use a brace height of four to 4 and a half inches. If you have a bow with excessive hand shock a higher brace height will usually reduce it considerably. Next time will be all about arrows, including an arrow chart for wood arrows. Until then remember, wax, wax, wax. Shoot, shoot, shoot.

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period archery pertaining to those than went before us.

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