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.
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.