Thursday, June 23, 2016

Bob Swinehart - His Archery Equipment and Methods

In May of 1982, the bow hunting world tragically lost one of its superstars and most famous big game hunters in the world.  Ever Since, the legacy of Bob Swinehart has been fading with only the record books reflecting his accomplishments.  His two book publications are long since out of print, and collectors have put a high demand and price tag on copies.  His African photo collection was titled "In Africa" and his autobiography and accomplishments named "Sagittarius".

Since Sagittarius is so hard to come by, I wanted to recount some of the wisdom in this publication to folks that cannot acquire a copy to read.  Chapter 9 of the book is called "My Archery Equipment and Methods" and I will point out a few things from this chapter that may be contrary to the modern popular movement of target style archery for hunting, but have been proven effective by legends like Swinehart. The advice has much in common with the other proteges who actually lived and hunted with the great Howard Hill such as John Schulz.

Length of bow - Swinehart recommends not using any bow less than 60 inches.  The reason given is a short bow is more sensitive to error than a longer bow.  The most common length are between 64 and 66 inches.  He also recommended to learn on the straight limbed or reflex bow, and going to the "Fancy" recurve only after mastering the fundamentals.

Bob actually recommends that the average archer should not draw more than 28 inches.  He goes on to say that if the shooter is not comfortable bending the bow arm enough to get down to around 28 inches, that a anchor point closer to the front of the face should be chosen to that end.  The reason given is for "technical reasons" relating to arrow and bow materials and "ballistics".  He stated that Howard Hill contended that 27 inches was the ideal length for perfect arrow flight characteristics.

He describes his bow as 6 feet long.

Why does he use a straight-end bamboo longbow?  Because it gets the job done in hunting situations better than any other design or bow material.  Here are the specific 8 reasons given:

 1). Long length means geometrically less deviation potential at distance.  Less error in the trajectory of the arrow.  More forgiveness in the release under hurried or unorthodox situations. A poor release may still kill the animal, whereas with a shorter bow the same error may prove a miss at 30 yards. 

 2). Strength and dependability.  Tempered bamboo Straight ended longbows have 75% of the strength of the bow in the wood and only 25% in the fiberglass.  Other models with hardwood cores and wide flat limbs are just the opposite, and fiberglass is easily fractured.  So if a bow is nicked or dropped on a hunt it is more likely to fail completely if the glass if holding a majority of the weight.  A similarly damaged longbow may survive as there is not as much stress on the glass.

3). Unorthodox shooting.  Shooting from odd or awkward positions is easier with the longbow.  The action and design of the longbow helps in these situations, and if similar shots are tried with a short recurve they would not work "Half as well".

4.) Quiet. The design of the bow makes for the quiests bow of any according to Bob.  This important aspect when shooting at game is often overlooked by folks with "twangy" bowstrings.  If there is any background noise or a slight breeze blowing his bow is hard to detect at 10 feet.  His friend's recurve, "Wow, .....he alerts every animal within 100 yards". Bob did hunt with recurves from time to time.

5). Heavy Arrow. Longbows can accurately propel a heavy shaft  much easier than a short bow or recurve.

6). Stringing. Easier to string without tools, especially heavy bows.  While a recurve is more likely to be twisted or damaged upon stringing.

7). Carrying. the bow does not snag up on foliage like a recurve who's string lays over the curve of the bow.

and un-numbered #8.  He can stuff 3 bows in one tube for transport, whereas only 1 recurve would fit.  

Bob mounted his broadhead vertically, for two reasons. 1). So the back of the head will bite into his knuckle so that he does not overdraw.  and 2). It sights just like his practice arrow.

Bob uses 3 opposing wing feathers on his arrows (left handed using right wing fletch).  His feathers are higher, longer, and have more helical than most bowhunters use.  It straightens out an arrow quicker for shooting through brush and limbs."Better to lose a few feet per second and hit what you're aiming at, then to wiz by a miss".

His bow strings have over 20 strands of Dacron.He also rubs a "great amount" of beeswax on the string and then carefully bakes them in the oven for a few minutes.  This saturates the fibers with wax and when strung hot on the bow results in very little string creep.

Bob also uses dental floss to tie his one nocking point that is 1/8th of an inch above zero.  He wraps the floss crisscross over a loop and pulls the tag end under the nock once completed.  No knots and no loose ends. 

The backquiver.  The large off-the-shoulder quiver serves him the best.  For long trips it holds 3 dozen mixed arrows.  For quick second shots at game or rapid fire trick shooting the quiver has no equal. With any other type of quiver it would take a second or two more. It is also easier to shoot by feel, and easy to slide out of the way when crawling through brush.

Aiming.  Instinctively. He is aware of the arrow tip in his peripheral vision but does not consciously pay attention to it. He gets a feeling things are aligned like pointing a finger. The bowhunter has little time and generally shots are quick and usually not from the traditional upright position.  Shooting at game should be performed without conscious effort and as natural as tying your shoes.

He also advocates strongly for practicing from unorthodox positions "for the archer who desires to hunt - to bring things back once and a while".  Many photos of him shooting from many positions including laying down.

To summarize he also has similar sentiments to Mr. Hill's opinion when learning to choose whether your goal is hunting or targets because the two just don't go together.  Bob states "Seldom will an expert tournament archer make a good hunter and vice versa.  The methods of these two phases of the sport are too conflicting."

I hope you enjoyed reading these jewels of wisdom that are seldom heard, and often scoffed at, in today's popular hunting advice venues.  Mr. Swinehart sure had success using these principles in the not so distant past.  I have been doing the same with great success and so have a small group of other Hill devotees who still carry on the torch that Mr. Hill lit, and those like Swinehart and Schulz helped to promote.  It is a shame that the target mentality is presented today as the only way.... it is not. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Longbow - Here Comes The "Pitch", No Silencers

The hunter alert and on one knee struggles to keep the shakes of excitement at bay as the young buck feeds slowly toward a shooting lane through the multiflora.  With a final step, the wait has ended, and the arrow is drawn and smoothly loosed only to lodge in the ground beneath the startled deer.  Turning ends in midair, the buck takes a leap and then freezes.  Minutes tick by as both hunter and deer try to decide what to do next.  Finally, the buck walks nervously over to the where the sound of the arrow impact happened and sniffs around.  By this time the hunter has regained his composure, withdrawn another arrow from his quiver, and this time he does not make the same mistake twice.  The hit is good behind the crease of the front leg and the deer does not go far.  Does this scenario sound familiar to anyone else?  Well, there may be something going on other than just the lack of smarts on the part of a young buck.

I have been dedicated to hunting for many years now with what is known as the American Semi longbow (ASL), also known affectionately to its devotees as the "Hill" style longbow. I have always received questions from others inquiring why I don't have string silencers on my hunting bow.  My answer most times is something like "Well, I never felt the need for them", or "I like simplicity, and I don't want extra stuff hanging from my bow if I can help it".  Since my stint of hunting with recurves for a few years, and then returning to the longbow, I have noticed an increase in follow up shot opportunities when I  do miss.  There may actually be a scientific reason why.

At work I was recently asked to perform some sound level monitoring in the animal housing areas where construction activities were occurring in other parts of the building.  The sounds were not bothersome to the human caretakers or researchers, but they were stressing the animals.  While doing some research on the subject I came across some interesting information with usefulness to the hunter.

Animals can hear high frequency sounds that humans cannot as referenced by the right side of this chart below:

Turner et al., 2005; Adapted from the works of Richard Fay, Henry & Rickye Heffner, and others

This got me thinking that deer might also be affected more by higher pitched sounds that are outside of our ability to detect.  I found a research paper that specified just that. 

H. Heffner, Jr. and H. E. Heffner: JASA Express Letters DOI: 10.1121/1.3284546 Published Online 11 February 2010

Another paper showed how high pitched sounds that were imperceptible to humans can cause a stress response in animals such as an increase in blood pressure on a study of desert mule deer.

So our game animals do notice high pitched sounds in an adverse way that we cannot even hear.  In fact, deer have a better ability to hear higher pitched sounds and a poorer ability to discern low frequency sounds as compared to you or I.   I would have never guessed humans might be able to hear better than a deer, but for lower frequency sounds this is true.

Higher frequency sounds are also very directional in nature.  They are so directional that they can be used in our measuring instruments and by motion detectors that control the door at the supermarket.  Therefore, if an animal does hear a higher pitched sound, it is more likely to be able to pinpoint your exact location faster.  These adaptations no doubt evolved over the millennia to increase the deer's ability to discern the exact location of a predator by the crack of a twig in an instant. Yet this also explains why after a low grunt, a buck will often come in looking around in all directions for the animal that made the sound.

This knowledge has all sorts of implications for the thoughtful hunter.  The clank of an aluminum arrow off the rest, the jangle of keys or change in your pocket while walking, the chatter of our aluminum stand on a branch may be akin to shining a spotlight on your location.  Conversely the deep muffled cough in your sleeve as your allergies react to the musk of decaying leaves in the fall might not be as big a deal.

Then there is my beloved longbow.  Considered slow and inefficient by some compared to modern bow designs, it's long and fat elastic dacron string creates a deep low hum when shot.  It is quiet without the need for string silencers, but it could actually be even quieter to a deer than it is to you or I.  Something to think about now that the current trend in traditional bows is short compact equipment with skinny low stretch strings.  

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Best Hunting Stool


No stool!

Learn to shoot sitting on your rear end.  Nothing to carry, nothing to lose.  It is a skill like any other in traditional archery.  You need to lean forward and keep the bow almost horizontal.  Watch out for the bow arm sleeve dropping down and really put a bend in your bow arm.  It just takes practice.

Bob Swinehart Practicing.

Schulz Sitting


One of the things that draws traditional bow hunters to the sport is the idea of simplifying our methods and gear.   It is also human nature to try to improve upon technology and evolve.   This is what drove our species to innovations and improvements  ultimately securing the survival of our species over the millennia.  It is engineered into our genetic code to want to "Geek out" and over-analyze our gear and methods.  Unfortunately, sometimes this can work against us and our enjoyment of the aspects that interested us in traditional in the first place.

Our modern social media only works to help amplify these discussions and analysis.  The online forums are full of the latest general opinions on everything from speed, to arrow weight, to camouflage, to string material, etc.  Newcomers to the sport have a wealth of information bombarded at them to the point that some feel they NEED to have xyz gear, or this bow or that, or that EFOC, or super engineered single beveled broadheads in order to kill game efficiently.  This is just not the case.  To me, all this has become a trap in what is an otherwise simple and enjoyable sport.

Throw in the propensity or quick fixes and the cultural tend of immediate gratification and there is a recipe for frustration.   Sometimes, perhaps we are too smart for our own good. 

It is important to remember those that came before us.  It has been estimated the bow and arrow has killed more animals and humans then "guns and bombs" throughout history.  The bulk of which were accomplished with what we would call "Primitive" all wood self bows and wood arrows.  In the heyday of "modern" archery our bow hunting pioneers like the Thompson brothers, Saxton Pope, and Art Young and their compatriots killed everything from small birds to large African game with all wood gear.  Howard Hill amassed a list of 2,000 game animals he took with the cedar arrow and a straight limbed longbow that is considered by most neo-trads as antiquated and inefficient equipment.

Many of our community transition from techo compound hunting to the traditional bow and with them bring the short cut propensity and gear dependency that drove them to the stick and string to begin with.  My point is not to be divisive or discourage new ideas and equipment, but only to point out how we all can get tied into circles with over-analysis. Maybe this is even the cause of the onset of target panic for some?

It is to the point now that some of the doctrine being promoted by "the analyzers" is thought of as the only way or law.....well, there is another way.  The simple way, that has been effective for eons and can be the most enjoyable aspects of our sport.    Simplicity!

What is an "elk arrow"?  Haven't hundreds of elk already fallen to the Port Orford Cedar arrow with 125 grain or 145 grain double bevel point? Are those animals less dead? There are those that would convince you that hunting with anything less than EFOC is not ethical....  Give me a break.  Now we need a excel spreadsheet to figure out what spine arrow we need for a 55 pound bow.  Good grief!

Well, I propose an alternative.  Let's change our mindset, quit stressing, and just shoot. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Bow Hunting Stingrays

The spring is here, and having previously learned the basics of stingray hunting from the late legendary pioneer J. Rob Davis and failing to land any rays on that hunt, I have a renewed interest in getting some ray meat to eat.

Recently there have been a few others on the internet forums expressing an interest, and it was obvious that many folks out there needed some more detailed information on these larger rough fish.  I dug out my copy of Rob Davis's "FAFFY" (Flinging Arrows for Fifty Years) book and I will present some information on this blog for those interested to learn from someone with 60 years of bow fishing experience!  Below is some information cobbled from "FAFFY".

First, of all let's discuss equipment.  On our hunt with Mr. Davis, I used a strap on gadget device upon which I had screwed the rubber crutch tip to accept my plastic bottle.  Mr. Davis already had rigs that consisted of a bottle filled with expansion foam, a 2 inch strip of rubber bicycle inner tube stretched over the bottle, a plastic clip which was nothing more than a piece of coffee can plastic secured with glue under the inner tube making a tab, and about 20 feet of 400# test braided line attached to a heavy duty swivel as a slide threaded through a cabled fiberglass fish arrow.

Line is connected to, and wound around, the bottle allowing the shooter to fire line directly from the bottle which is then pulled off the crutch tip and acts as a float.  The float can be retrieved and line wound around the bottle until it is close enough for a second arrow to be put into the ray.

The shooters stand at the bow of the boat, while the helmsman steers at a slow troll until a ray is spotted by the shooters.  The shooters point in the direction of the ray with the arrow so the helmsman can steer to within 10 or 15 feet of the ray.  Because of the water refraction the point of aim should be at the bottom edge of the ray to stick it, otherwise a miss high will result.

Never handle the line alone without the protection of a leather glove!  The bigger rays may take 3 arrows to get up to the boat and gaffed.  After gaffing, the Ray should be pulled up so it's tail is in the water but it's head can be hit with a cudgel (mallet with a 1 inch screw protruding from the face) and struck between the eyes a few inches back.  

Once the cudgel has been applied, heave the ray on board the boat and immediately cut the tail muscles on each side (Mr. Davis uses a machete).  Then the barb can be cut away and placed inside of a soda bottle with a 50% bleach solution.  Kept in this solution overnight, and then rinsed with cold water, the venomous grey mucus will be dissolved leaving a bright white memento of your hunt. 

Cooking and Preparation:

First remove the skin of the "wings" before the underlying fillets are removed because of the difficulty in removing the skin.  Make sure ALL cartilage and the white membrane that separates the muscle from the internal organs  is removed, otherwise the fillets will have an ammonia odor and taste.

Cut into 2 inch strips and marinade overnight in equal parts of oil, concentrated frozen lemonade mix, and light soy sauce.  Barbeque over coals is the favorite cooking, but oven broiling for 15 minutes per side is a close second method.

Supposedly other commercial marinades also work well.  Cutting rays into 1 inch chunks and dipped into a milk/eggs mixture and coated in Italian breadcrumbs before deep frying is also popular.  Ray also works well once parboiled to an opaque consistency and added to casserole or crab cake recipes. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Tips and Tricks for the Longbow Hunter

This post will be a continually updated list of tips and tricks that I have found valuable in my quest for Longbow hunting proficiency consisting of simple nuggets of information that I have found to really work.

  • Besides ensuring your glove is well fitted.....Rub a little soft string wax inside of your shooting glove.  Moisten your finger with saliva before putting it on and your stalls will not slide off easily when shooting.
  • A rubber band, looped over your arrow stuck in the ground, then over your cell phone, and back over the arrow is an easy way to take a selfie of your game success.
  • File or grind the back of your broadhead file to a chisel point.  You can use a stick in the woods to baton the flat top of the file and use it as a chisel to free a stuck broadhead.  You may want to put a wood cap on the sharp end to protect yourself during normal use.
  • Carry your TP or baby wipes in a ziplock sandwich bag.  This can be used to keep clean and carry home the heart once your field dressing chores are completed.
  • Coat your feet with antiperspirant when it is really cold out and use wool socks.
  • unwaxed dental floss from your upper limb tip is the best wind indicator
  • Oil Based Rustoleum is a great arrow sealer and can be brushed on with a foam brush.  Duco sticks well to it also.
  • Get a little potpourri crock pot from the craft store.  This is great for melting beeswax and soaking your bowstring in after construction. You can easily dip your loops in it from time to time as these are the hardest part of the string to wax once the string is built.
  •  The side edge (short edge) of a file is great for removing the burr when sharpening.  Use it like a steel.
  • Turn the slick side of your back quiver in (suede side out) so that it slides around your body easier when going through brush.
  • Tie a dental floss nock by making a loop on the serving and wrapping a hump of floss over it.  When done put the tag end through the loop and pull that loop under the mound to lock it in place (it may break but that is fine).  Use some superglue to make sure it doesn't move when back at home. This tip was from Swinehart's Sagittarius.
  • Dust your string with baby powder after waxing and it will not transfer wax to your bow limbs.  Also your shooting glove to make it slick and protect it.
  • A small set of pliers with a 5/16th inch hole drilled out centered in the jaws is great for removing broadheads from trees without mangling the ferrule. The ferrule goes in the hole to protect it.  You can use your pocket knife as a fulcrum also to get leverage on the head (Howard Hill Tip)
  • A sharp old Barlow knife is about the easiest thing to dress out a deer with.
  • Shower curtain rings work great for hanging lanterns and gear in your wall tent with frame.
  • Use the same type of battery in all your electronics - headlamp, flashlight, GPS, and camera etc.  If one set goes bad in an emergency you can always swap and it allows you to carry less.
  • A KBAR fighting knife can be used with a log baton to split fire wood.  The flat pommel can be used to bang in tent pegs. 
  • Light grey wool is about the best winter camo out in the hardwoods.
  • Vaseline soaked cotton balls are about the best fire starting (tinder) in the field I have come across. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Hill Style Glove

The following information was provided by Nate Steen of Sunset Hill. I hope everyone finds this information as useful as I.

I prefer a Hill style glove.  I believe it's the best type of glove out there....Why?

The HH style of glove is made that way for a reason...and mostly what I hear from shooters all over the place is that how they dislike the HH glove...for the very reasons why it's a HH glove. 

 So, here goes.

A HH glove has double layer leather and inserts for the express purpose of stiffening the finger stalls  so that the fingers cannot bend too much at the first joint.  A softer glove can have a tendency to develop a groove in the leather at the area of the first finger joints because the fingers wrap around the string and the fingertips actually face back to the shooter when the string is gripped with a deep hook.  The only way to combat this is to use  an extra soft leather in the design of the glove....i.e. the deerskin style.   It's well known that a deep hook allows the hand to be more relaxed and a better release is the result.  So,  the double layer leather and stiff inserts of the HH glove allow the fingers to take a deep hook, and the hand stays relaxed but the finger tips will point more perpendicular to the string instead of back towards the shooter.  Hill's belief was that this allowed for a smoother release.  This was important to him as he shot targets off the heads of live people and he didn't want a string hanging up on a grooved leather stall.

The HH glove also is single seam style, so that the seam is on top of the finger where it can't interfere with the placing of the fingers next to each other on the string, as in a glove with side stitching like the Damascus style or the extra straps like the Stick Tite.

The thin back and straps kept the glove from getting hot and sweaty on his hand.  With a properly fitted HH glove,  there is no need for the straps to fit tight to hold the glove stalls on the fingers. The stalls shouldn't twist either.  As the stall stretches and is fitted to the finger,  small stitches can be placed on the top seam to tighten the stall for that particular finger.  Baseball rosin or pine pitch can be applied to the finger before inserting the finger into the glove, which will transfer to the interior leather and give a good grip for a good long while.  I actually moisten my finger in my mouth before it is slid into the the finger dries out, the glove sticks to my finger with enough tackiness that I have to really firmly twist the stall to get it off my finger when done shooting. (that trick is from Saxton Pope actually)

A HH glove is never "broken in" in the sense that the stalls are soft enough to "feel" the string.  It wasn't designed that way.  I would suggest that if a person wants to use a HH glove,  get one,  rub some pitch blend or baseball glove oil into the leather,  and shoot about 1000 shots to form it to the fingers, then adjust the stalls if needed by individual stitches to tighten where needed.  Most guys buy one,  they shoot about 5 shots with it, maybe 10 or 20 shots, and they say...."wow, what a stiff glove,  I can't feel the string" and they never shoot enough shots to get the glove where it was intended to be.  Sad.  Because if a guy will shoot enough shots to get the glove to become fit properly, and gets used to the glove's feel while gripping the string,  he will shoot that glove almost forever.  The gloves are phenomenal if they are used as they were designed

I see some pretty good Longbow shots out there with an old, well shot in HH glove dangling from their wrists.....John Schulz is one, so is Steve Schulz, JD Berry, Dan Berry ,Steve Turay, Joel Templin, Dave Miller, Byron Ferguson, Peter Stecher,   and humbly, myself.   Why?  because the guys gave the gloves a fair chance, shot enough arrows to condition the gloves and get used to them....and the gloves work, plain and simple.

Hill was a simple but exacting person in approaching archery.  His glove reflects his preferences.