Friday, September 18, 2009

Robin Hood In A Flannelette Shirt...

Yeah, I like a bit of archery. Have done for a long time. But I've been stuck with this goddam compound thing, about 30kg+ in draw, with all the pulleys and the hunter-stuff, and frankly, I never really enjoyed it. I like my archery fairly primitive, I guess: a bowstave, a string, an arrow and a target.

Really, I do the arrow-shooting thing in the spirit of kyu-do -- as a form of meditation, to chill out and empty my head. Possibly because I've been doing it longer, I find that sending a few flights downrange is even more relaxing than spending half an hour practising iaido drills.

Anyway, a while back the string on the big compound motherforker got a bit more frayed than I felt comfortable with. You really, really do NOT want one of those bastards explosively de-tensioning next to your ear... or frankly, anywhere within a couple metres of you. There's an awful lot of stored energy in a powerful compound bow.

Logically, I should have got it restrung. But... I've had it ten years, and it was secondhand when I got it, and it really doesn't suit my needs. And on top of that, getting one of those puppies restrung in Tasmania is, apparently, quite a trick. I hear a rumour there may possibly be somebody in Hobart who can do it. But not up this end of the state, apparently.

So I thought: to hell with it. I got down a full jar of change, and when the boys went into gym yesterday, I ducked down to the bank in Launceston, and cashed in all those coins. Then, armed with about $250, I bought myself a nice, simple 15kg draw bow, and a few new arrows to go with it.

"Simple" is probably a minor exaggeration. There are two laminated arms that bolt onto a heavy, laminated centrepiece. But there are no pulleys, and you string it yourself every time you want to use it. And even though there are innumerable mounts for counterweights and sights and balances and shite -- there's no rule that says I have to use 'em.

I got the bow home, and when I could steal a moment, I tried out a couple of the new fibreglass arrows. I've never shot fibreglass before, and I wondered about them. They were thinner than I was used to, and a little shorter, although still nicely within the proper draw-length for my arms.

Well, they flew okay and the bow felt good, so I put it away and got back to kid-wrangling.

Today, though -- today I decided I'd have a 'proper' shot. I built a nice little backstop with some old tyres (a bit of give so stray arrows don't shatter on impact), popped a cardboard box full of cardboard and polystyrene scraps in front, and went back about 20m.

I know. 20m isn't much, really. But I was just getting the feel of the bow, and besides, Natalie wasn't home -- so I pretty much had to expect the boys would want to shoot alongside me. (I bought them a lightweight fibreglass kids/beginner's bow a couple years back. They love it; particularly Younger Son.) 20m is a good distance for them, with that bow.

And it was nice. We took turns, arrow-for-arrow. I offered a few corrections here and there. Younger Son finally found the range, shooting (with his short arms!) up at an angle of about thirty=five degrees, and he was delighted. And I found the target pretty quickly at that distance, so that was okay too.

Then it happened. One of the new fibreglass arrows went through the centerline/top of my improvised cardboard target. It bounced off the tyres behind, but didn't come all the way free of the top flap of the box. Instead, the arrow hung down across the target box from top to bottom, like a centreline.

Naturally, I used it as an aiming guide. I mean, it's not like I was actually gonna hit it or anything. And remember: these are rounded, target-point arrows. And the shafts are goddam fibreglass -- they're very hard, and very smooth. So what do you reckon the odds of THIS happening would be?

Robin frickin' Hood, eat your Lincoln Greens.

I have to hand it to those little fibreglass arrows, though. Once I pulled the killer arrow out of its victim, the wounded shaft closed up neatly. Out of curiosity, I nocked it and let fly. And what do you know? Bullseye.

I think that as my older arrows gradually die, I'll continue replacing them with the fibreglass variety. They're not particularly expensive, and honestly, they do a hell of a job. It's not very traditional, but who cares? I reckon they'd have been glad of 'em at Crecy or Agincourt -- and Robin Hood wouldn't think twice about it.


  1. Hell of a shot, must say I haven't dragged any of my bows out for some time. Maybe time to try out some new arrows too. I've only used wood (recurve only) and aluminium.

  2. Impressive shot. I haven't done any archery for a while but agree that it's good meditation. I've never used a compound bow, only recurve.

  3. Get outta here!! Next you'll be showing us pictures of how you shot a cherry tomato off the dog's head at 75 meters.

    Never seen anything like that pic. The odds of that happening have to be huge! Nice shot!

  4. YD: believe me, I'm just as dumbfounded as you. I figure this kinda thing has to happen sooner or later, but... ummm... what? Anyway, the boys were completely delighted. They know the Robin Hood story, and as soon as Nat came home they went charging off full tilt to tell her all about it.

    I'll let you know when I get tired of my dog, though. Cherry tomato, eh?

    I am definitely keeping that split arrow!

    NatV: Thank you, ma'am. We aim to please.

    Reki: I can see where a compound bow is useful for the hunting fraternity. You can hold the draw for extended periods. But it kind of thwarts the meditational side - that bit where you're trying to lose yourself in the precise instant... I like recurves. And I like this new bow, even if it isn't anything particularly special. In fact, that's probably why I like it.

  5. That is just chockful of awesome - and photographic evidence to boot!

    My second son (13) has been getting into trying to make his own bows (as you do when you are a kid)and is now eyeing off a big bit of wood to make his own longbow. I don't think he is very professional about it though. He wants to do archery at school too.

    For myself, I picked up a pistol crossbow in England many years back (brought it back in the hand luggage!). When I lived by myself I used to at times set up a target at one end of the house and let fly over about a 10m range indoors. But it isn't the same as a bow I'll grant you that. I did used to enjoy shooting the stick out of Figure 11 targets on the range to make them fall over whilst using an F1 SMG....

    I think this 'purist' thing is lost on me.

  6. It's not so much the 'purist' thing, though - at least, not for the sake of the 'pure art'. It's entirely possible to hang all kinds of stuff on a bow, and to 'sight' your arrowshot the way you'd sight a gunshot. You can turn firing an arrow into a fairly boring proposition.

    On the other hand, firing a bow on instinct is... alive. You practice with your bow and your arrows until you know the arc of flight instinctively. And then, you nock, draw and breathe, and as the tip of the arrow comes into just the right place the bowstring comes back to your chin and right in that perfect instant you have to simply let go, and the arrow flies.

    It's not easy to describe. But the feeling of being one with bow and arrow and target all in an instant, the perfect arc of the flight -- it's alive, and it's brilliant.

    I think I'd quite like to make a decent bow myself, sometime, just to complete the picture.

  7. Shame i hear that your aim hitting the toilet pan is not so acurate!!

    Nice one Dirk

  8. Only a god dam Flinthart, nice job sport. Might I suggest, being on the opposite side of a body of water and all , and in the interests of the continuation of your blog and so forth. That perhaps incorporating....running whilst shooting the cross bow....just..because you could is all!, no other reason really!

  9. Showoff!

    You know FH - I sometimes think that if I was a bloke, I'd be you (and a spookier version of that - if you were a chick, you;d be me.)

    I LOVED archery at school - the only athletic event I could be bothered with. I was pretty damn good too.

    Now, once bush fire season is over - might I suggest the concept of the burning arrow? Kids LOOOOOOVE that one (well, young nephew does). The target is a pond/pool/river.

  10. come on Hughesy..what about a SML container of petrol...sheeez

  11. Oooh! A flame arrow! Oh, yeah - Natalie will just love that one.

    Actually... I could use it to light the whacking great bonfire heap. That wouldn't suck, and it would mean I could safely pour all kinds of exciting accelerants on the heap without having to get too close!

  12. Dirk obviously remember that you have to use long arrows for incendary purposes!!

  13. Hmm. You hear that, Chaz? I think that's the sound of your grandma suckin' eggs... (Translation: thank you for the kind thoughts. However, I do have a modicum of experience in doing stupid things with flammable materials.)

  14. I know more than a few wives that would've seen this, and in response said, "oh, you can do this, but you can't hit the toilet on the first try?"

  15. Eh. I've got two small boys. They can always take the blame for things like that...