Food, foul play
The bow and arrow is believed to have been invented about 15,000 years ago by a
race of people called the Aurignacians. And not for fun, either. The
Aurignacians were hungry and they found a bow-driven shaft more efficient than
a hand-thrown spear for stocking the family table. Came the early days of the
Pharaohs, and the Egyptians—an unfriendly lot—discovered that the bow and arrow
could be used to slaughter one's neighbors. It was thanks to the bow and arrow
that Egypt conquered the Persians, who were armed only with javelins and
slingshots. Some 350 years ago the bow and arrow was superceded by gunpowder as
a weapon of war, and the gun-bearing peoples soon conquered the last of the
arrow shooters. Since then archery has existed principally as a sport although
some African peoples still use bows and arrows for food-getting.
The sport got its start in the U.S. in 1879 with the formation of the National
Archery Association. Today it is one of the country's most popular leisure
pastimes, enjoyed by an estimated four million men, women and children. A great
many archers never venture beyond the target ranges, but others—like the
Aurignacians—have discovered that a well-placed arrow can bring down animals as
large as a giant Kodiak bear. In Michigan alone some 33,000 archers hunted big
game last year.
Before you can
shoot an arrow you have to have a bow. But consult an expert before buying one.
The weight and tension of your bow should be determined by your size and
strength. It's something you can't judge.
Archery is not a
game of strength but of skill. Anyone has enough muscle to operate a bow. It's
the way you shoot it that counts. A bow with a "pull" of 50 to 60
pounds is sufficient, with 60 to 65 generally the top pull required for hunting
purposes. Bows cost up to $70, depending on type of wood, tension, and various
features of construction. If you're a beginner, start with an inexpensive bow.
One costing $7 or $8 will do nicely for learning.
Hunting arrows cost about $14 a dozen. Target arrows are more expensive but can
be re-used indefinitely. Aluminum target arrows run to $30 or so a dozen, but
if that's too rich for your blood, good learning arrows made of cedar, spruce
or fir are available for about $5 a dozen. These are best for beginners. In
proper shooting form, the arrow should barely rest on the hand holding the bow
when the releasing hand has been brought back beneath your chin. Once you've
mastered the technique it's worthwhile to invest in a set of matched arrows.
When buying arrows check to see that they have the proper stiffness for your
Much less equipment is required in archery than in most other sports. Outside
of your working tools—the bow and arrow—you will probably want a quiver to hold
your arrows ($9 to $30), arm guards to protect against flesh burn ($1.50 to
$2.25) and a shooting glove ($2.25) or tab finger protector ($1 or so). In fact
any old leather glove with the fingers cut out will suffice. You may want a
target of your own. Most cost from $8 to $14 but you can make one in your home
from straw and canvas for much less. A stand for your target will run about
$3.50. Targets will last two to three years.
To learn the correct form, technique and procedure for using a bow and arrow
you must have a teacher. Books on archery may give you a good idea of how it's
done, but only an instructor can show you the proper way to aim and release
your arrows. The releasing hand should be tucked carefully under your chin,
where you can't see it to check your form. Instruction fees of professionals
usually run about $5 an hour. Two or three lessons should suffice.
Archers usually do their practicing in out-of-the-way places where there is
little chance that curious bystanders will interfere. For this reason you may
have trouble finding where your local archery group gathers. If you know of no
club in your area, write the National Archery Association, c/o Lawrence E.
Briggs, secretary-treasurer, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass., or
the National Field Archery Association, c/o John L. Yount, P.O. Box 388,
Redlands, Calif. They'll be able to put you on the trail of a group near your