Taking on the Struggles of Traditional Bowhunting
Technology has brought to a point in our hunting lineage where we the type of tools that offer an incredible advantage over the animals we hunt. That said, hunting is still not a walk in the park. Anyone who has ever set foot in the woods would surely agree. Still, we cannot deny the change in weaponry over the last 30-40 years. We have rifles that shoot better, farther and smoother than anything hunters could have even dreamed of. We have powerful compound bows that are accurate; up to 70 yards for a practicing shooter.
So, why would anyone want to use a traditional bow? It’s often referred to as a stick and string because it is literally just that. An instinctive shooter will utilize the wood, the bowstring and perhaps some dampeners to get the job done. This happens all over the country to hunters who are making the decision to take the road less traveled.
The disadvantages of traditional bowhunting
As I mentioned earlier, a good archer with a powerful compound bow can shoot accurately at 70 yards with his weapon. A rifle can take deer at 200 yards with the proper scope and if the shooter is experienced.
So, let’s take a look at the lens range of the traditional bowhunter. You will quickly see the stark contrast between weapons. A good traditional bowhunter should be accurate at 30 yards. That said, he is probably looking for shots between 15-20 yard range. Not to mention the fact that a whitetail deer is a slick animal.
There are two types of traditional bows used in traditional bow hunting today. The first type being the longbow. The longbow is an ancient weapon and was probably built similarly to some of the oldest bows ever used. These bows are often longer than the standard recurve and are highly appreciated by bowhunters who use them.
The second traditional bow type is the recurve bow. To me, there are few things as beautiful as a one piece recurve bow carved from a single tree and bent by fire and shaped for power. Recurves vary and are also called takedown bows which have have removable limbs for better storage.
Both of these bows can be designed to shoot at various pull weights. This allows traditional bows to take the same types of animals as compound bows. The distance is the variable when looking at these two bows against a compound. Still, there is something very special about a hunter taking an animal with merely a stick and a string which also had a diamond sharpened broadhead, but we will leave that out of the equation for authenticity purposes.
Equipping Your Traditional Bow
When it comes to the traditional bow there are still plenty of choices to be made when it comes to equipment and the customization of your bow. It’s not as versatile as its fancy compound cousins but still plenty to choose from. Below we will discuss the various tweaks and customizations when searching for the perfect bow.
- Nock – Particularly in the early days of shooting with a traditional archer, I saw great benefits in having a knock on my bow string. With traditional archery in particular, you can see real challenges from arrows that are not hitting the rest at the right angle. Knocking your arrow in the same place each time makes it an easy problem to avoid.
- Dampers – When you are about 20 yards away from the buck and you let the arrow fly a god awful noise, it will erupt from your bow and crack the silence of the woods.
The sound of the bare bow string smacking the limbs of the bow can shock a deer and it may move him from the perfect shot position. Thus, we apply dampers. I have some rabbit fur dampers that wrap up into the bow string and make the bow 10 times more quiet when firing.I really like the natural materials for dampers. I just think it looks and feels like traditional archery should. Though there are some great synthetics out there too.
- To Sight or Not to Sight – A very important decision to make in your career with traditional archery is whether to use a sight or become an instinctive shooter. Becoming an instinctive shooter is one of the most impressive things about shooting with traditional archery weapons. It is the practice of shooting and learning through repetition how to place your arrows without a sight.
Of course something like this takes tremendous time and practice. A sight is no picnic either as you must become a total pro in your technique. The sight will do you no good if your anchor points are not always the same. My suggestion is go to with your instinct on this one.
- Glove – The archery glove protects your fingers and is really crucial for a beginner. That said, if I decided to sacrifice my fingers I wouldn’t need to wear a glove after a point. I am sure you would develop a decent set of calluses. There are various types of gloves out there for you to choose from.
- Quiver – There is no rule that says all things in a traditional bow hunting must be traditional. There are some beautiful quivers that mount even to your long or recurve bow. They come in beautiful camo designs as well. Of course there are more classic options as well.
- Arrows – Many prefer carbon fiber cedar shafts but they come with a real price difference. For some, this is not an issue but for others the carbon types are simply cheaper and in my experience they fly well when shot from a traditional bow as well.
The real issue with arrows in traditional archery is the fletching. You will have to use the feather fletching on your arrows. These will fold over your arrow rest allowing the arrow to fly without being bumped by a hard plastic fletch like the one designed for a compound bow.
- Broadheads – The clovis point on the end of a stick is one of the most ancient weapons created by man. The broadhead has evolved in so many ways. There are those wild mechanical broadheads and others that are diamond sharpened for maximum penetration.There are many dealers selling more traditional two sided broadheads. Of course, this is an authentic experience that goes along with the recurve or longbow. I prefer the new age four sided broadheads because I am attempting to bleed an animal out as quickly and efficiently as possible.
You will make these decisions and modifications to your bow long before you ever head off to a hunt. Keep in mind there is no right or wrong way to equip your traditional bow. The one thing I always like to keep in mind is that with traditional archery you have the ability to keep it authentic and the more features you add to it, the closer you move to compound bow technologies.
No matter what you remove from a compound bow it can never become a recurve. There is no way you remove some cables and triggers to wind up with a single sapling morphed through technique into a curved killing machine that requires only a string to be effective. This is the main reason, above all, why I keep my traditional bow as traditional as possible. It enhances the experience of what you are really trying to achieve.
The only exception is in my broadheads and arrows. I use the most up to date technology with my sharpened blades and arrows. I feel like this is my responsibility to the animals I am hunting.
Above all, the challenge of hunting with a recurve or a longbow is what drives the hunter in 2016. With this powerful array of weapons at your disposal it could only be the challenge of the traditional bow that forces hunters to change lanes. What I will also say about the recurve bow is that it is less of an investment up front. I often find traditional bows online for a little over a hundred dollars. I also bought my first recurve for $45. It was a steal and has brought me so much joy.
It is said that a bowhunt begins where a rifle hunt ends. This is true of a compound bow hunt. With traditional archery the range is even tighter.
It is not uncommon to take a deer at 10 yards with traditional archery. Of course this means you have to be able to close the distance on an animal with incredible stealth. These animals can see, hear and smell you. It’s probably the toughest stalk and shoot in the hunting world.The payoff of a traditional bow hunt is one of the best in the field.
Especially if you have taken the time to stalk a deer and get within range and make that shot. Remember there is no mechanism holding the string on your bow back like are compound. It’s all up to your back and shoulders to keep that bow string pulled until the right moment. This is a struggle in and of itself.
When it all comes together you will surely understand why people decide to lock up the compound bow and carry on with the traditional stick and string.
The Minimalist Mentality
There is a growing trend to take life off grid. This trend to trim everything down to the very minimum is taking hold and there are even mainstream tv shows about it. It is within this mindset that some hunters turn to traditional archery and also non hunters break into the sport through traditional archery and embrace the minimalist lifestyle.
These minimalist hunters are often in love with the ancient and traditional feel of the weapon. These hunters often utilize cedar arrows with traditional two blade broadheads and stock them in a leather quiver. I can respect this whole experience and what they are trying to emulate and enjoy.
I appreciate what these minimalists hunter are holding onto. It’s a very real piece of our existence and history. There was a time when these wooden arrows and traditional bows brought us all the meat we needed to survive. It’s easy to forget this when you are staring down the scope at a buck from 150 yards.
The Romance of Stick and String
I often find myself returning to the electronic pages of a book called “Hunting with the Bow” and “Arrow It” is the account of a british bowhunter in the early eighteen hundreds and his adventures with the traditional bow and arrow at the side of a native American hunter. Every page of this book is not just a memoir but a budding romance about the art of bowhunting. It is a constant reminder that the endeavor of traditional archery is one that should be respected and enjoyed to the fullest.
Maybe it’s the fact that you have to get so close to your animals. When I am in the woods with just my recurve bow and some broad headed arrows, it makes me feel like I am more a part of the woods than when I set up a blind with a high powered rifle and scope. I love to track and spot animals with my bow and arrow. I think it’s one of the most primal adventures out there.
Of course when you are hunting with the traditional bow and arrow you are charging ancient wires deep within your DNA. What you have to understand about the bow is that our ancestors have been slaying beasts nearly 3 times their size and up for 15000 years with the bow and arrow. That is an amazing thing.