Friday, January 27, 2012

Getting Back Into Archery

In my teens and twenties I was into archery. Back in junior high school, I was in the archery club, and brought my recurve bow with me to school on the bus. I suppose nowadays that would result in the local SWAT team being called out. Anyway, last month my 7 year old daughter expressed an interest in learning how to shoot a bow, so I got her a youth set from Three Rivers Archery. Naturally, if she was going to be shooting a bow I wanted in on the action.

However, when I strung the one bow I still had, a 55# draw Martin Howatt Hunter recurve, I realized that I was way over-bowed with it. I hadn't shot a bow for probably about 15 years and therefore, I'll need to work my way up to shooting a bow at that draw weight.

So, I picked up the current issues of Primitive Archer and Tradional Bowhunter magazines, as much for the ads as for the content. After considering several options I ordered a 40# Magyar Horse Bow from Seven Meadows Archery. Service from SMA was fast and I shortly had the bow in hand. The picture below shows it with the Martin.

One of the reasons I decided on a horsebow is simply that it's different. I didn't have any interest in getting a modern compound bow, so I was looking at traditional longbows and recurves. The horsebow is just neat, so after reading several reviews online I went with this one.

The bow was made by Istvan Toth in Hungary. The limbs are fiberglass, while the rigid tips, called siyahs, are made from ash. (Traditionally, the limbs would have been made of a laminate of wood and horn held together with fish glue.) The handle and limbs are covered in leather, and both sides of the grip have an ash side plate, so the bow is ambidextrous.

I'm shooting cedar arrows with 100 grain field points and turkey feather fletching, bought from Three Rivers Archery. The bow shoots them fast and straight. There is a bit of hand shock when shooting, due to the siyahs reaching their forward position and stopping abruptly. I don't find it objectionable.

Traditionally, horsebows were shot with a thumb release. In this style of shooting the archer draws the bow using his thumb, wrapped around the string and supported by his index finger. Doing so requires the use of a thumbring made from metal, horn, or leather. I bought a leather thumbring along with the bow but found it very uncomfortable to use for more than a few shots. So, I've added another layer of leather and will be trying it out again. In the meantime, I've been using a Mediterranean release, which should be familiar to most Western archers. Shooting this way, the index finger is on top of the arrow nock with the middle and ring fingers below it.

So far my shooting has been limited to about 10 yards. If I can get accurate out to about 20, I may take the Toth bow deer hunting on private land where I can get short range shots. In Pennsylvania the minimum legal draw weight for deer is 35#. With a 40# draw and sharp broadheads, penetration should not be a problem.

Here's another pic of the bow, resting on top of my target. I shot this using some old Easton XX75 aluminum arrows I had left from the 90s.

Considering I was able to do this after a 15 year lapse, I'm happy with my shooting. It'll only get better with more practice.

Aside from shooting the horsebow and teaching my daughter how to shoot, I'm also working with a friend in processing an oak which fell on his property into bowstaves. We're planning to make a couple of flatbows at first.  I bought a copy of The Backyard Bowyer: The Beginner's Guide to Building Bows for my Kindle, and it provides some good instruction on making simple self bows and backed bows. I'll post more on this after we've made some more progress.

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