Friday, July 27, 2018

Bamboo Arrows - Crafting and Review

I always shied away from trying bamboo shafts because I never wanted to deal with footing them with hardwood, I thought they would be very light weight, I thought they would be bumpy at the nodes, and I thought they would be very difficult to get straight.  Then a friend of mine at a shoot showed me an arrow he made from a boo shaft that did not need a special footing, used regular nocks and points, and the arrow was as smooth as any wood arrow.  It was also surprisingly heavy as any wood arrow, skinny, and felt like a natural version of a carbon arrow.

I ordered a dozen shafts from Ebay seller Oulay, and was so impressed I made another order for 50 shafts.

They are pre-finished, straightened, and sealed for about $2 each delivered. Can't beat that!  They are as straight as any other wood shaft and require a little bit of work but not bad. A little heat and they are in good shape.

Only drawback is the diameters and weights vary throughout the spine range.  I had up to 200 grain variance in grain weight from the extremes within my batch of 50.  They come in about 5/16th diameter but are naturally skinnier (tapered) at one end being a natural reed.

I was worried they would be bumpy at the nodes but they are sanded smooth and uniform.  Some just a have a little dimple void at the nodes, but I painted some and you can’t hardly tell them from solid wood shaft.

I made up the heavier ones (more than 500 grains at 33 inches of bare shaft) for elk.  Sorted those out.  Some were as low as 350 grains and a few were 550!  Most were in the middle.

I first determined the point end (fattest) and cut from the nock end to correct arrow length.  They came in 33 inch lengths.

I found I can point and nock taper these with a standard pencil type cutter as the hollow hole is very small.  I have read some glue a bamboo skewer in the hole, but I did not find that necessary. A sander would be better, but I don't have one set up yet.

No worries about nock orientation.  On my spine tester they were uniform all around the shaft for spine.  All were within the described spine range 60-65. 

I'm making this batch 29 inches BOP from the "heavies" for my brother's bow.

Cutting them on my harbor freight chop saw.  Abrasive wheel will work but is slow.

Nock Tapering:

I cut the point tapers and glue on the nocks.  I like painted shafts so I tape off the area where the fletching will be.  Duco works well for glue adhesion on the finish that is used, but I found if I painted them, the fletch pulls up the paint.  this happened even when I sanded first. Whatever finish they use seems to penetrate the wood deeply.

So now I don't paint the fletch area. My brother likes dark arrows so these will have a yellow crest. 

This finished test arrow with a 200 grain ribtek came out at 671 grains at my 27 1/4 inch BOP! 

Here are my brother's finished boo arrows:

Monday, July 16, 2018

Chesapeake Bay Stingray Bowfishing - Finally Success

It took 3 trips to finally harvest my first Stingray. Weather, water clarity, and poor shooting sent us home empty handed for 2 trips before finally achieving success.

Learning from the late Maryland pioneer J. Rob Davis on our first trip was a special experience.  Assisted by the help of his son, of the same name, we were lucky to have great weather and our patient host finally got us in front of enough rays that we hit a few.

Our host:

My gear:

 I just couldn't seem to hit those buggers at first, despite being pretty good in my youth at hitting riverside carp.

Had chances at a few in the 90 -100 pound range before we started hitting them. Huge rays!

Brent got this 60 pounder first and unwisely had the line tied directly to his reel instead of a float!  Rob looked at me in horror as we realized Brent could not release a float.  That bugger almost pulled his bow, and him, in the drink before we could get another arrow into it. Good thing it wasn't one of the 90-100 pounders!

 I finally connected with a cow nosed ray when a pair came by the bow of the boat, and I struck the trailing ray.  Finally got one on the boat, and broke the curse!

The wind picked up and things were harder to see.  I put an arrow into a big Southern, but it pulled out when we were trying to get another arrow into it.  I was bummed and really wanted a southern.

I finally manged to hit one, and we got it onboard as the wind really started making visibility very hard once we flushed the ray the first time.  Almost blew my Sunset Hill bucket hat into the drink during the battle, but I managed to catch it with one hand as it was flying away.

Victory!  I managed to boat the Big-2 in Eastern ray hunting.

We had good amount of meat now to eat.  Each wing holds a top and bottom fillet. The meat is pretty tasty.  Very delicate and not fishy at all.  I can't wait to go back some day and try for the 100 pounders again.


 Nice fillets:

What a super day and great memories! 

Monday, June 11, 2018

My Treatise Against a Deep Hook

As my style of shooting has evolved, I continually find issue with what I had heard from the target crowd as "fundamentals" regarding the proper way to shoot a longbow.

My first major deviation was the bent bow arm as Schulz describes in Hitting 'em Like Howard Hill" vs "bone-on-bone alignment" and a locked out bow arm.

The second is the "Deep Hook".

I had been struggling with my release for some time.  As I started to battle target panic, I heard many espouse the benefits of the deep hook in controlling the shot.

This is the common pictorial of how your hand should hook the string according to the target crowd:

Who has a string that thick anyway?

The more I tried to do this deep hook, the worse my shooting and arrow flight became.  Tension was all over the hand for me.
I actually find the lower depicted "fingertip grip" to be better suited to my shooting and a cleaner release.  The string starts off in the crease of the first digit, but as I draw, I roll the string until at full draw the back of my hand and fingers are flat.   Just barely holding the bow weight on all 3 fingers evenly and thumb pressing the pinky down.  When I release, the string is away clean.

I found an old web page when James Schulz used to run American Leathers and he seemed like he agreed with me.  So there is at least the one other person.

 Having a relaxed hand is the key for me.  Relaxation.  This string grip does that for me.

Just my experience....maybe I was overdoing it?  Maybe this will help someone else.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Refinements to a Hunting Back Quiver

There are several small refinements I have made to my back quiver for hunting that are worth sharing.

Just under the seam about a foot apart, I have made some holes with a drill and inserted some leather lace to secure an extra clothing layer, or rain poncho, as needed.  This position does not affect the balance of the quiver and is very convenient.

You can also see, I keep a small skinning knife tied to the string pouch.  This is a small backup knife and is always there if I need it.

The rubber bands are there for use as a cell phone camera mount you can learn more about from my post "Arrow Selfie Techniques for the Bowhunter"


You can also secure a squirrel or small game animal on there if necessary:

On the quiver strap connections, I have also added some leather lacing threaded through the ties.  This allow me to lash the quiver to a treestand, seat, or backpack if necessary.

I also carry a 6 inch mill file in the quiver to keep my heads sharp.  I simply insert this file between the lacing "X" that connects the top strap.

The other leather lacing is there to separate my blunt arrows from broadheads.

The wooden handle I have on the back of the file keeps it from sliding all the way through, and allows me to protect my hand from the tang which I have sharpened to a chisel point.

Batoning the file end with a piece of deadfall, and using the chisel pointed tang end, this file can now be used to remove wood from around a tree struck broadhead.

Inside the bottom of the quiver I have a small oval cutout of carpet.  This helps protect the quiver bottom from broadheads, and I can put stuff in between like a game tag or bread bag and baby bottle liners to keep my fletching dry in a heavy rain squall.

I also have flipped the strap over on the quiver so the smooth finish side of the leather is close to the body.  This helps me slip the quiver under my arm when I need to adjust it smoothly to go under brush.

See my blog on Hunting with the Back Quiver for even more information.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Backcountry Wilderness Elk Packing List

This is the latest revision of my packing list for those it may assist:

total carry weight in pounds

Pack Golite Odyssey pack 3.45
Tent  Kelty Teton 2 3.90
Sleeping Bag  Kifaru slick bag Zero degree  3.35
Exped air pillow 0.18
Sleeping Pad Big Agnes insulated 1.40

Minox BV II BR Compact Binoculars 0.57
Head lamp 2 each (Gander Mt. & Zebralight AA) 0.18 lb ea 0.36
bright LED hand light AA battery 0.27
Garmin radio -GPS / compass / map 1.50
Camera or Iphone 0.50
Tags, lic, ID,  pen 0.19
Game bags  T.A.G. BOMB bags 1.10
Gerber pruning saw 0.24
Waterproof compression sack for Bag everything else use Ziplock bags  0.15
Socks 3 pr (Murino wool socks) x 0.20 0.60
Belt pack 0.77
AA batteries 0.025 lb ea x 15 0.38
Military poncho   1.5 lb ea 1.50
Disposable mini lighters x2 0.05
550 cord  4 ea x 25’ 0.06
mini bungee x4 0.14 lb ea 0.30
freeze dried meals food 0.4 lb ea x 5 0.56
Ramen noodle x 4 x 0.195 0.08
spam singles 0.2 lb ea x 4 2.00
40 dried wet wipes 0.80
Tooth brush / paste 0.05 lb / Floss 0.03#  (travel sized) 0.31
flask w Wild Turkey Bourbon 0.10
mess kit and alcohol stove, utensils 1.10
camp towel 0.20
fire starters (cotton ball type) 35 MM 0.20
diaphragm calls 0.06
crocks / camp shoes 0.80
fishing gear/Tenkara 0.60
First aid kit / emergency kit 0.81
Base layer lightweight 0.88
Base layer mid wool 0.68
Field dressing / first aid compress 0.09
Compass 0.05
walkstool 3 legged stool 2.03
water filter dirty bag 0.34
sawyer inline filter and  syringe  0.08
emergency kit 0.21

ivory soap

On Person


Pliers and pocket knife 0.45
 Emergency fire starter kit 0.84
Bow   0.16
Quiver, glove, bracer & arrows 4.21
Headgear (wool beenie and floppy)

Gloves (lightweight wool fingerless) 0.13
Boots  (12"  uninsulated) Bean Maine hunting boots   5.00
wool shirt green plaid 1.60
Plaid wool top  0.66
Camo pants desert 6 color BDU 1.19
Cabelas Rainsuade jacket windbreak 2.13

In Truck

Pack frame Cabelas Guide 9.90#

climbing rope

extra bow & Arrows

more food



pack weight 32.80

total carry 49.17

Friday, May 11, 2018

Nate Steen and Sunset Hill Longbows

I have the great pleasure to be a customer of, mentored by, hunt with, and most importantly be friends with the highly regarded American Semi-Longbow bowyer and Hill style aficionado Mr. Nate Steen of Twin Falls, Idaho.

I have now known Mr. Steen for about seven years.  Nate saw some questions I had posted on an online forum when I was making the transition from recurve back to longbow. He generously volunteered  his advice and guidance which I happily accepted.  The rest is history.

Nate is a torch bearer of the Howard Hill legacy, and his passion and "attention to detail" bring some clarity to the muddied waters between fact and fiction regarding this great American legend.  Misguided misinformation, and sometimes straight-out untruths, are commonly spread. There are those who seek to ride Hill's coattails of fame, those that just "heard a story from a person" that Hill did such-and-such, and those who just assume Hill did things a certain way because that is their perspective.  I am also a "researcher" and historian at heart, so Nate's passion and information fueled my personal interests and we hit it off as kindred spirits.

There is not a plethora of accurate information available out there for those who wish to shoot and hunt in Mr. Hill's style. The mentality of archery coaching/teaching techniques prevalent today is based in target style archery.  Mr. Hill, while an expert in target archery, went out of his way to explain that hunting requires a different approach to be most proficient.  You can hammer in a screw, but that does not mean it's the best method.  Consider your ultimate goal and the advice Mr. Hill himself given to John Schulz and his brother, "Boys, make up your minds what you want to do, hunt or shoot target, because the two just don't go together".   Static target style will not get you hits on an aerial moving target very easily.  Hill style takes work, dedication, and an almost Zen-like approach to practice.  This is hard for the instant gratification crowd to embrace.  Nate has been my guide, and generously advised several other individuals as well.  He has steered me in the right direction and assisted with conquering the pit-falls, technical aspects, and most importantly mental state imperative to the Hill style of hunting and shooting.

Nate attacks his passion with the care and devotion of a research historian.  He has reached out to the Schulz family, and continues to correspond from time to time with some of the brothers, carefully receiving and recording first hand knowledge.  Nate was a true student of John Schulz, even before John started offering lessons to the public once more.

Nate's bows are highly regarded and almost never available in the used bow market.  Nate is a part-time bowyer, and full time business owner of a glass shop.  His day job responsibilities keep him from producing very many bows.  Currently, his backlogged build list is populated by his friends, past customers, and only those who he thinks will truely appreciate his bow and "do not change bows like they change socks".   I am fortunate to have two of these custom creations, and recently I saw one of Nate's used bows up for sale at the cost of $800.

Two of Nate's personal bows:

 "He has successfully combined the best characteristics, feel, and forgiveness of a stringfollow all bamboo laminated "Natural", with the efficiency and durability of a glassed bow."

Even within the last several years, Nate's bows have evolved slightly as he continues to take private lessons from John Schulz and uncovers more detailed design knowledge that continue to made Schulz's Hill style bows so sought after.  In my opinion, Nate builds the closest feel to a Schulz bow. Nate's glassed bows have somewhat of an improvement over the "Naturals" that John ended his bow making career with.

His earlier models were offered with a leather rest, then a leather disk inlay, and now he is producing a really unique antler inlay on the arrow pass.  Shooting "off the wood" so to speak as Hill and Swinehart preferred. 

Earlier leather button:

The current inlay offering has evolved to elk antler:

This is my custom Sunset Hill "White Feather" that has more "Schulz" looking lines that Nate's earlier bows.

Nate's design is unique in the longbow world.  He has successfully combined the best characteristics, feel, and forgiveness of a stringfollow all bamboo laminated "Natural", with the efficiency and durability of a glassed bow.  His goal was to create a  speedy glassed hunting longbow with the feel and forgiveness of a well crafted non-glassed bow. 

Nate prefers a low brace height on his designs, which he feels adds to the forgiveness of the system.  He states, "A low brace height makes the arrow perform more stiffly, throwing it into the sideplate further which makes a stiffer arrow point to the left more, and when it leaves the string, it's headed more left before it starts bending around the bow. As long as the arrow isn't so stiff that it clanks against the riser.  Because of a stiffer spined arrow I use, the arrow ends up flying up and left of my bow (in my vision) which means that the arrow flight is never hidden behind my bow as I'm following the arrow in flight in peripheral vision.  If I was using a softer spine, the arrow would bend around the bow, and the use of an ASL with minimal sight window causes the arrow to be hidden from peripheral vision because it's bending around the bow.  A stiffer arrow flying left, bends less, straightens quicker, and trains me to hold the bow out of the line of sight to the target.  I'm aiming the arrow, not the bow."  Also he believes that a low brace height takes advantage of longer string travel to get as much power out of the bow as possible.

Nate advises against a too-long bow of his design and says, "I've built bows from 62" to 68".  However,  for a string follow design,  too long a length ratio compared to draw length will get you a poorly behaving bow.  Not enough limb recoil speed to counteract the longer and heavier limb.  It's all about the sum total of lots of little things."
The following is a technical print-out he supplies with his new bows:

Nate's attention to tiller, and highly refined and designed limb tips, lose nothing in the speed and cast department to backset models by other bowyers.  Without going into technical details, Nate does not simply flip a backset form to make a stringfollow bow.  There is much heavy consideration to the tiniest of tiller changes during construction to get the finished product.  His bows take countless hours to construct, but to the true Hill aficionado it is worth every minute.

"Nate's attention to tiller, and highly refined and designed limb tips, lose nothing in the speed and cast department to backset models by other bowyers."

Nate puts the same level of craftsmanship and detail into his leather offerings.  His Hill style back quivers, arm guards, and the occasional glove are also very accurate reproductions of Hill and Schulz tackle.  Nate took time while visiting with John Schulz to study John's back quiver and re-create it.

Unlike Nate's bows, his leather goods are more available to the average person.  Nate continues to receive orders, and crank out quivers, as they take considerably less time and effort to construct than a longbow.

Nate's back quivers are also regarded as the best of the best.  They are typically a little more money than others available on the market, but Nate's quivers have refinements that make this durable piece of gear, "the last back quiver you will ever need to buy".  One should last the average bowhunter a lifetime.

"Don't buy a quiver from someone who does not use one while hunting". 

Nate is a longtime longbow and back quiver hunter:

Nate constructs his leather goods with English Bridle leather instead of the more common Latigo leather.  The rationale is that bridle leather will not bleed, is stiff enough yet breaks in well, and is more durable.  His quivers have modifications to aid the way the quiver will hang for best results in the woods.  The straps are set an an angle that differs from other quivers.  This helps to provide a more horizontal hang much like the longbow legends used.  The seam along the length of the quiver is positioned so the gap is facing down.  This keeps dirt, water, and debris from getting into the seam.  His legend model has the seam stitched with longitudinal lacing, instead of the more common "X" pattern.  This lowers the potential for broadheads to snag the lacing when being withdrawn.  Small leather hexagons reinforce the area of the strap stitching for durability.  Nate will ask questions on the archers draw length and size in order to custom fit the gear.  All of these small refinements add up to a high quality and well designed quiver with no equal in the field for hunting.  Nate's advice, "Don't buy a quiver from someone who does not use one while hunting".

John Schulz's personal Quiver:

Nate's quivers are functional and designed to be hunted:

To learn more about the practical function of these design aspects as it relates to hunting with the this tackle, see my post on "Hunting with the Back Quiver".

I have made it a point to go out and hunt public land elk in Idaho near Nate's stomping grounds the last several years.  Nate is always willing to stop by, visit, and share a campfire and hot cup of coffee at the least.  He is a good man and I am proud to call him my friend. 

Nate and my brother on a 2016 Idaho Elk Hunt:

Talking Bowhunting with Nate in his custom hunting camper:

Send Nate a email inquiry for custom leather goods or to just talk longbows and Hill style to (or through private message on Traditional Archery Society's forum.)  He is usually willing to spend some time and share some sage advice.

Unfortunately, because of his busy schedule, he is not taking orders for custom longbows at this time. However, if you have a question or know of a used Sunset Hill on the market, Nate can refinish and help get that bow to someone he knows is pining for one.  You can rest assured that bow will end up in the hands of someone who will cherish it forever.  That is exactly how I got my hands on my first Sunset Hill.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Nocking an Arrow - The Proper Way to Handle and Control an Arrow

A cascade of panic floods over the bowhunter's being from head to toe as he realizes the arrow just sailed harmlessly over bucks back!  Cursing under his breath as the buck continues to plod along unaware of the hunter's presence due to the near silent low hum of the elegant longbow.  He instinctively, without conscious thought, has another arrow on the string without ever moving his gaze from the quarry.  The second arrow fluidly zips into the buck's chest, and relief fills the gracious hunter as the buck bounds away.

To get to the point of nocking without conscious thought, or without looking, requires a certain way to handle your arrow.  I routinely see folks at traditional shoots or posting video online that depict nocking in a way that will never enable them to perform the task without looking.  I can only assume these methods might feel natural, or make sense on the target line, but they are detrimental in the woods.

Perhaps this method is popular because of the prevalence of the bow quiver, and the practice of removing an arrow from the hood in this manner?  I'm not sure...

The ONLY way to get the arrow guided on the string in this way is to look at it!  Having 5 inches of arrow shaft ahead of the small groove you want your string in is difficult.

The most efficient way, with the most control, is to handle the arrow by the nock.  The great instructor John Schulz spends a great deal of time on this topic in his video "Hitting 'em Like Howard Hill".  In fact, he contends Howard only allowed them to grasp the arrow mid shaft when moving through heavy brush or difficult terrain.

Learning in this way has great benefits.  The greatest of these in my opinion is the technique readily allows you to nock an arrow by feel, rather than sight.

Pinching the nock between your thumb and base of the index finger allows pretty good positive control of the arrow.  It also allows the overhanging length of index finger and thumb to act as a guide to funnel the string onto the nock.

 Getting something between your fingers is a natural and instinctive act, ingrained by eons of evolution from our ancient ancestors when they discovered the value of the opposable thumb.  Once you have the nock on the string, it can be slid into position.  Many archers today use a double nock set, and this can also work against you.  Larger nock sets may help you by feel, but double nocks sets in general will not be as efficient when things make you panic.

Howard Hill taught Schulz to nock above the nocking point with the bow string angled out to the side, only one motion down onto the string was needed.  Bob Swinehart had a slight variation where he nocked from inside the brace area of the bow string more into the string.  Either way the handling by the nock is what allowed both men to get second arrows quickly and without looking into dangerous game.

One other thing I would like to mention, is that some modern nocks also work against quick nocking and control.    Skinny snap-on carbon style nocks are more difficult by design to get onto a string.  Large indicators on some glue-on nocks limit how much comfortable pressure you can use with the pinch grip.  That large indexers just gets in the way.  I file my indexers down.  I heard a report of an individual who took lessons from John Schulz recently, and one of the first things he told the student to do was to file off the indexers on his arrow nocks.  I really prefer the flared ears of the mercury speed nocks, and I feel this nock is still the best for hunters and quick string nock acquisition.

Which of the two nocks below would be quicker to get onto the string without looking?