I was at Cabela’s the other day when I eavesdropped on a nerdy but very sharp archery employee talking shop with a guy looking to buy the best compound bow he could find. The employee, who knew his stuff, was talking in a language I couldn’t decipher. The customer seemed to understand. And to tell you the truth, the $1,200 Hoyt looked exactly the same as the $399 Diamond. I then realized that somewhere along the line, we seemed to forget what archery is all about. We are creating easier and easier ways to improve a skill that has nothing to do with gear.
Traditional archery has been around for over 50,000 years. That’s a long time. The compound bow has only been around since 1966. I’d be willing to bet that the best archers of today couldn’t hold a candle to the archers of old. And, there is a reason. Back then, archers relied on more than just aiming. They had no sights, stabilizers or fancy rests. What they had, due to sheer practice and persistence, was instinct and vision. If I want to aim something and shoot really tight groups, I’ll grab my 7mm Ruger and Schmidt & Bender scope. I want to feel the shot, and be a part of it. I want to will my arrow to the target. I want to rely on something deeper, more primal. I want to stand in the moccasins of my ancestors. That’s why I went back to a traditional bow.
As a primitive skills instructor, I’ve had a chance to make all sorts of cool stuff. Tools that were once used and relied on back then, are still pretty darn functional today. Fish baskets that date back tens of thousands of years, don’t need any improvising to work. Arrowheads, that take a lot of practice to learn to make, fly straight to their target as they always have. And, traditional bows made out of time-tested woods like osage and black locust, work perfectly. I built a black locust long bow a couple of years ago and used it for hunting last year. I even made the bowstring. Stalking through the woods, I drifted back to another time. It was as if my ancestors were all around watching and nodding their heads in approval. It just felt different, I can’t explain.
Although I narrowly missed a great opportunity for a buck, I realized that I would have missed the same opportunity if I had a compound bow. I just didn’t take enough time to get to where I needed to be. I made too much noise, I was impatient. It had nothing to do with equipment.
The point I am trying to make is that to me, archery is sacred, primal and I respect those who came before me. I need to focus on the most important aspect of all, which is my awareness. Traditional bows will kill any animal out there. Shooting is an art, a dance and a meditation. I use more than fancy optics and pulleys to shoot. I utilize parts of me that come from a deeper place. Parts that I have worked to improve on by sheer practice and patience. My true skill set comes from my connection with everything around me and blends into a well-oiled fluidity of sheer willingness to rely on my bow and my mind to guide my arrows to where I know they will find their intended home. It’s a feeling that can only be felt by those who’ve been there. It’s magical.
Pictured: Author Rich Wright