Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Tent Flap

The tent flap, wet and clammy with condensation, brushes a damp chill across the hunter’s stubbly face as he fumbles out of his tent in the frosty early morning darkness.  With his thickly woolen feet finally snug inside of the well broken in soft leather Bean boots, he struggles by headlamp in finger-less tattered surplus glove liners to get the lighter to finally catch his already prepared camp stove.  There is no need for an alarm despite weary legs and sore back from 4 days of clamoring over rocky ridges and thickly woven valleys in search of elk sign.  After stuffing a granola bar and some jerky into his pockets and cursing the rudeness of the manufacturer’s noisy packaging, the hunter chugs down the bitter coffee scolding his lips on the hot metal of the titanium cup in a cloud of rising condensation.  Tossing the wayward grounds, he stashes his cup and quietly and briskly weaves past his companion’s tent lines and exits camp.  There shelters tremble as they too are slowly rousing themselves from the stupor of exhaustion induced sleep.  He knows the long steep climb ahead, and the necessary haste he must undertake to get into a position ahead of the well-fed elk heading for their beds. 
                After the struggle of clamoring up the hillside as quickly and quietly as possible, the hunter curses his decision to wear that extra sweater that seemed like a necessity back at camp.  It was shed on the first quarter of the trek uphill.  With beads of sweat now rolling down from his sideburns and the feel of a soaked shirt back under his well beaten back quiver, the man slinks across the crest of the ridge as the first rays of morning sun begin to filter through the surrounding terrain.  

                With no time to reflect on the beauty and glow that surrounds him, he reaches the uphill side of a well-worn trail, clears away the dank and musty smelling pine litter, and takes care to extricate any branches that may interfere with his longbow’s limbs.  Finally, his demeanor can switch from hurried anticipation, to one of peaceful contemplation as he slowly becomes one with the mountain, that feeling that only the hunter knows.  The yellow tinted rods of morning sun beam down between clouds like fat lasers, then filter through the foliage giving the ground a mottled pattern.  The now rising thermals are given away by whatever dust particles are highlighted by the light’s path.   

While listening to the deep throaty “CAAWL” and swishing wing beats of a passing raven, he is violently snapped out of his trance by some muffled – yet approaching sounds.  Without any animation from years of conditioning, and only the shifting pupils of the eye, he catches brown movement 50 yards below his hide.  Instant telemetry calculations are performed unconsciously by the brain telling him that the animals will pass to his right out of range unless he moves.  He is suddenly keenly aware of his heart now thumping in his eardrums like big bass drum.  Attempting to convince his body to move against all his senses, he crouches and swiftly scurries 15 yards behind the eight-foot-tall trunk of a rotted and broken off woodpecker riddled pine trunk.  It is the only substantial cover left between him and the path of the now looming lead cow.  He pulled it off!  Introspectively bearing down now on his mind, he talks to his consciousness…” this is it…. concentrate…..pick a spot…. keep pulling….”.  Fingers tense on the string…. hands beginning to shake slightly…. Abruptly, like a slap across the face, in his peripheral vision he catches a huge grey form moving toward his uphill side and only 8 scant yards away!  Spinning and smoothly swinging his slender bamboo bow up into position instinctively, the huge bull catches the movement and turns to flee, but it is too late.  The wood arrow slices into the bull’s chest burying up to the orange fletch.  The panic stricken herd seems to explode in all directions as the sounds of snapping limbs, thundering hooves, and grinding rock quickly ends leaving the hunter to attempt to regain his breathing as he watches the still moving foliage slowly stop swaying.

By now he is shaking violently, everything happened so quickly.  He feels himself there now…one hand in the cool soft soil keeping his balance…. the other on his bow grip with an arrow he never remembers pulling and nocking on the string. 

It is over…..  or has it just begun?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

5 Things Howard HIll Always Carried While Hunting

Knife, file, binos, pliers (for removing stuck broadheads), talcum powder (for glove)

I would propose one more.... a lighter.  I doubt he went anywhere without flame being a regular smoker.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Part of the joy that led me to hunt with a simple longbow was the simplicity. Knowing I was not relying on a crutch (technology) and was more intimate with the process of my hunting. I still clearly remember the excitement of my first miss with the longbow, and I have not hunted with the wheels since.

Even so, I was slow to release myself from the other gear I thought essential to being successful. I was decked out in head to toe camo, struggled with a face mask or messy paint, covered my fletching, wore gloves in July, had the latest high tech calls, gear, arrows, and carried around a backpack full of support stuff. Not that all that is terribly wrong… but I was missing even more joy.

I began to study some of the bowhunting greats and marveled at their lack of “technology”, yet having success despite the scarcity of game animals compared to today. Simple plaids, brightly colored arrows and bows, sitting by the campfire and smoking! Yet, they still connected.

I began to shed the gear and with it my joy increased…..hunting became easier. I noticed the camo did not matter. If I wore wool and soft colors I was still hidden if I did not move. I did not need four different kinds of knives to field dress a deer. 

My gear began to simplify as well. I started using a one-piece longbow with no bow quiver. I saw that my fletching, although bright, still did not scare game unless I moved it. My aluminum and carbon arrows became wood.

At the same time, I began to curse my climber and safety harness as it did not allow me to hunt my way to stand very well or adjust to a new location very easily. I began to hunt from the ground more…. And I noticed I started to have more encounters with game. Granted my shots from the stand were a little easier because I could move more….but I started to get more shots from the ground. As I did it more I got better at sneaking and my chances improved. The other benefit was …. WOW! A blown stalk from the ground was exhilarating! In the past, I would never consider it possible to try a stalk on two bedded whitetails…but once I started to try it, I realized sometimes it works! And I got better at it. Still learning.

Instead of hanging stands and sweating my arse off in the summer, or lugging a heavy climber up to the top of the mountain every morning in a lather. I just spent time on the ground and began to enjoy it.

Sure I still hunt from a stand from time to time…..but lately the areas I had the stands are just as good from the ground…. And now I can slip in and out as the wind changes or I feel like it. Ah freedom.

I began to spend more quality time in the woods also. Instead of extensive preparations I could just slip on a back quiver and plaid shirt-jack and head into the woods after work.

I was now hunting with a new all-white glassed longbow. Bright white shafts fully painted, bright fletching, and no camo…. and I began to enjoy the hunts even more. 

This past year I started to struggle hard with my old friend target panic but I had so many opportunities from the ground. I was able to slip within 25 yards of one of the biggest bucks in my area after an 85 yard stalk sliding on my butt at times. All the while his girlfriend was watching also, yet I still slipped in on them. I missed the shot but man! I also had a few encounters with a really wide 8-point my friend was able to shoot later in the season with the shotgun. His luck finally ran out.
One particular cool October morning this last season, I rolled out of bed and went downstairs to grab my quiver and bow from the basement. Pulled on my bean boots as the coffee perked. Ate some toaster waffle for breakfast and stuffed a breakfast bar into my pocket. I was in no real hurry.

I pulled into the parking area of my hunting spot and continued to sip on my travel mug as I listed to the talk radio a bit, shaking my head at some of the latest political blah blah idiocy. Stretching as I exited my truck as the sunrise began to brighten up the landscape I snatched my back quiver, strung the longbow with a simple push-pull, and set out. I was casually strolling across a meadow to the field edge, I just decided to hunt based on the wind and my whims that morning. I knew of a spot there that was a bit of a hollowed out vine choked hedge that overlooked a large white oak with a deer runway under it.

I slinked into the wood line quietly through a small path I had snipped with my pruners on another walk earlier in the season, when I found this little hidey hole with such great back cover. The nut hatches and chickadees were noisily about their business all around me when a doe nosed into the clearing slowly browsing. As her head was down, I rose from my seat and positioned myself. She briefly looked up with a quick head jerk….straight at me. I knew if I didn’t move she would not see me….and she didn’t.

It was all a genetically engineered ruse to get me to move and I didn’t bite. Head back down she took a step forward with her near leg and I began my draw. I blacked out as the TP took hold of me and I release short drawing again. Dang! The arrow struck her high and back. Terrible shot. I sat back down and kept still for about an hour and ½ before heading in her direction. Mad at myself again.

Luckily she lay there in the open about 30 yards away….no blood trail at all. The large Ace Super Express severed an artery near her straps and she bled out quickly. 

I was mad at myself for the bad shooting and didn’t even want to post a picture. Felt ashamed.


Well, I am back on track with controlling my little TP friend and now when I look back on that day I realize how enjoyable it all was. How easy. How free and unencumbered my hunting has become. I see the traditional ranks swelling with newbies lately. It is great. Still I must ask myself do they know there is another way to hunt without looking like a gear pimp. The older guys are growing older and sometimes I wonder if they even know it is possible to kill a whitetail without all that gear?

Yes, I know my way is not for everybody. I understand I am at a different place than most. But I still think it is useful to see that there is another way. To see you can be successful without the crutches.

To understand that it can be cool to simplify. The gear manufacturer’s may not like it much….but man, I get some satisfaction from doing things on my terms.

Now I look at pictures of myself 10 years ago and kind of chuckle.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Howard Hill's Grave Restoration Project

Renowned and well respected bowyer and Hill aficionado Steve Turay of Northern Mist bows has started a project to repair and restore Howard Hill's grave site.  It is badly eroding and there are no funds for the upkeep available to the cemetery.

Here is the message from Steve:

"Since moving to Alabama I have had the opportunity to visit Howard Hills  grave in Ashville several times. The grave is in very poor condition. There is a retaining wall on two sides of the grave, a large section of the wall has fallen down. The soil is beginning to erode from the right side of the grave.
A few months ago I decided to do something about it. I contacted the caretaker of the cemetery to see if they had any plans on repairs. The gentleman informed me that they have no money to make repairs, they only get a few dollars to keep the grass cut. The cost of repairs and maintenance are the responsibility of the family. I asked if I could have it repaired and he said that would be fine.
 I talked with a contractor who has agreed to do the work. He's planning on starting around the 1st of April.
I'm looking for donations to help fund this project. I have started an account at Wells Fargo to house the funds until the project is complete.
If you would like to help out you can contact me at 906-458-5035 or and I can give you details on how you may contribute.

Thanks everyone

Lets spread the word and give this legend the proper respect and care.



Steve had great participation from the traditional archery community and was able to begin restoration.  Looks awesome Steve!

The project is now complete! Thanks to everyone for their support.  Extra money was donated to upkeep the cemetery in the name of Howard Hill.  Everyone should feel proud of this project. Thank You Steve!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Idaho Elk 2016 - Worth The Wait

Sit back, enjoy a hot cup of coffee, and come along with me on the hunt.

Airport drama started off this year's hunt.  I didn't recall paying a whopping $75 last year for the extra bag fee (one way) which constituted my sturdy extra thick cardboard bow tube and 2 Sunset Hill bows nestled inside, nor do I recall the attendant telling me that this is "non-standard" packaging and having to sign a waiver for any damages to the "package".

I was surprised when we saw our luggage being carted onto the flight from the terminal window and seeing my tube flopping around!  Yikes!  It appeared in this photo that my straight tube was now doglegged!  Could it be true that both of my beloved Sunset Hills were now kindling?

After a long layover in Denver and the subsequent flight to Boise, I finally retrieved my bow tube from the oversized luggage area.  Panic!  The tube was busted open and dangling.

I quickly opened up the tube to check on my valuable contents and to my relief there was no apparent damage done.


Finally arriving at the Sawtooth mountains after the 2 hour drive from Boise, our host had already picked out a camp site for us, and sent an email with directions.  Nate had already scouted an area that evening that was reachable from camp.  Nate already had his sweet little homemade camper set up and the weary travelers discussed the hunt to come with hot coffee in the warmth of the camper as fire restrictions prohibited a campfire.  We hoped the dry conditions might make water holes and wallows an attractive ambush site.

The next morning Nate drove us around the complete area in his truck picking out a few good backup areas to check out in the future based upon his experiences there.   This scouting was a huge help to us as we only had a few days to hunt.

Part of the preparations involved constructing a log and rock bridge over the small creek we had to traverse to get to our initial targeted drainage.  This was a fun task that went pretty fast with 3 guys helping out.  Crossing the bridge every morning and evening with a walking stick reminded me of Fred Bear's bridge in his hunts on the Little Delta.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent taking in lunch and shooting the beloved longbow.  We shot at ranges of 40-60 yards, first at nothing and just grouping, then as the competitive spirit rose we set up one of those miniature soda cans to fire at.   All three of us were shooting well and making the can dance from time to time. My brother even managed to find an old discarded soccer ball and fun moving target practice began. 

That afternoon we began the hunt.  Here is a picture of us heading out.  What breathtaking terrain!  That ridge in the background held a healthy sheep population.

We would hunt a small north facing drainage above camp.  The bowl consisted of a small stream up the middle, thick dark timber to the west and south rimmed with grassy bedding areas.  The east was mostly rocky open areas predominated by two peaks of varying elevations with a lightly wooded saddle area between them.  That saddle was a good travel area between the dark timber on each side and the drainage basin. Nate found this skeleton earlier in the year of a 6 x 6 bull he thinks was killed by wolves.  The skull now adorns his shop wall.

Nate and I would still hunt together in this area, and my brother Chris would go up the west side for this first evening.  As we approached the first bench area, Nate and I split up.  He went up a small draw to the left and I was to work straight up the hill meeting him somewhere at the top of the bench. I got into sneak mode and slowly crept up the hillside.  At the top I did not know if Nate was already ahead of me or behind.  I continued slowly on.  The saddle area looked great.  The runway was about 200 yds long at it's narrowest, bordered by steep open rocky slopes on each side. Lots of beds and rubbed trees.  I found the bones of that wolf kill also.

Circling, I finally cut Nate's distinctive chain pattern LL bean boot tracks on a side hill trail and I picked up my pace.

Cresting the back of the main peak and bowl, I gave out a soft cow call.  Another call sounded back from Nate a little higher up.  Found him!  Moving closer we called back and forth again to establish location when suddenly a bugle sounded off in response down the bowl rim!  Hot damn!  The game was on.

I cow called back and hastily moved up and off to the downwind side in preparation as another bugle let out.  My heart raced and excitement rose up my spine as I gripped the string.  I tried to walk through the key elements of my shot sequence one last time and clear my mind.  Here we go boys and girls....

Then just as quickly, everything rushed out of my body like a flood.  I spotted the other hunter trotting up the nearby pack trail.  I had to laugh at how gullible I was.  I knew from Nate that these pressured elk were unlikely to bugle.  They are used to living in proximity and in secrecy of people to avoid the wolves.  The ones that survive know better than to bugle and give themselves away and any bugles are likely to be hunters.   Nate explained they will usually only give a soft chuckle.

Despite the outcome it was a very exhilarating short encounter.  Great stuff!

 That evening we again shared stories, tips, and tactics.  Talked Howard Hill and legendary hunters of yesteryear. Spoke of the strategy to come and longbow design in to the late hours over a strong cup of coffee. Sleep came quickly.

On Sunday night Nate left is to our own devices and since that initial drainage only held a little fresh sign, we decided to move camp and explore three more larger drainages deeper in the area searching for more elk activity to increase our odds.  Nate left us with some good options and we were eager to explore.

That we did!  Over the next day and a half we split up and hit those three drainages with everything we had.  I can't tell you how many miles we ghosted through, but at the end of each morning and evening the dogs were barking.  But life is good!

During one mid-morning I caught movement off to my left.  I spotted a bunny off to my right entering thick brush.  I moved to the side and scanned the area for the tell-tale big dark eye of the rabbit.  I found it and it allowed me to draw.  One bunny in the back quiver for lunch! Since we were bivy'd out away from the main campsites we decided to suspend the fire restrictions for a night and I dug a two foot deep stone lined hearth to cook my rabbit in.  Man was it good roasted over the coals.  Yummy young tender rabbit with a nice white wine.

After a day and a half of scouting new territory we still came up lacking with any fresh elk sign.  It was time to move camp and return to the primary drainage.  As we set up it started to rain lightly.....  by the next morning we were getting plenty of cold rain.  it was steady into the light so we decided to head into town and found some hot showers at the "Y" and hit the coin-op laundry to freshen up our clothes.  Once a hot breakfast was had we headed back to camp determined to hunt the afternoon, rain or not.

The rain was steady, but beginning to taper off.  I put a bread bag over my arrows in the back quiver and placed a baby bottle liner on a single arrow and pressed the nock through the back side as a quick backup shot.  If need be, I could shoot the arrow out of the liner.  It makes a little noise but is effective for a backup shot.

I decided to still hunt the thick timber as sneaking around in the wet conditions should be quiet.  There was a choke point funnel located on the bottom side of the open east slope that looked like a likely travel route for elk entering that area at evening.  There was a well worn trail there that would be my goal to reach for a few hour sit.

The small creek was now swollen badly and we had to walk upstream anther 1/4 mile to find a crossing as our homemade bridge was now swamped.

Alternate crossing was found farther down.

The conditions make for very quiet sneaking and I quickly ghosted my way to my sitting position without much drama besides seeing a few mulie does. The rain let up enough for me to remove my waterproof fletching covers.  I felt deadly, like a part of the woods itself and not an outsider.  After, about an hour I glanced up to see a light brown colored coyote sniffing around the trail.  As he was headed off to my right, I decided quickly that it would not get any closer and started my draw.  The yote was about 60 yards at this point but what the heck.  It heard the hum of the bowstring and looked up, but did not move until the arrow struck a few feet away in the duff. Then, he was out of there on jets.    I shot a follow up with a blunt and wouldn't you know I hit exactly where it was sitting.

As I retrieved my arrows something big blew out of the top side of the thick draw I was watching.  Interestingly I did not hear it blow like the deer always do after being startled.  Hmmm....  I sat back in my hide on the now dry spot my butt made on the deadfall log and let things quiet down again.

It was time I started sneaking back toward camp.  I climbed a little higher on my finger to find a group of fresh rubs and another trail crossing the gully a little higher up.

I crested the finger and as I stepped down into the side hill I glanced up to see a very light colored boulder on the side of the mountain that I did not notice coming in.....  What!?  That was no boulder!  I was looking at the broadside body of a very large elk with it's head down behind some brush about 100 yards up the mountain.  No clue I was there.  This animal's body was immense.  The side view reminded me of those big Brahma bulls that have the broad chest.

I immediately began my stalk straight at it. I was moving quickly but staying quiet as a mouse due to the still wet forest floor.  As I began I tried not to notice light colored antler tip above his still lowered head.  Despite this my heart began to pound and my mouth went dry. I made up about 20 yards when I noticed I had to decent down a small ditch where I would lose sight of the animal briefly before I could ascend the other side.  As I committed to this and began to descend out of sight, I noticed he was now facing completely away from me.....hind quarters showing.  Perfect.

I slowly eased up on the other side and scanned the thick brush.  I couldn't see anything for a few moments as I stool statue still and scanned with my eyes only.  Then suddenly I saw a head and rack rise above the brush about 15 yards further away then when I last saw it.  This bull was huge!  It's head looked shrunken and tiny compared to that wide spread of antler that seemed to reach several feet one either side of him.

He was definitely on alarm now....starring straight in my direction.  I froze.  He retreated a few feat, and them came back in an attempt to make me move. A few more tense moments passed and he started to head up and away.  In a desperate attempt, I moved a few yards across the side hill and let out a soft cow call.  No dice, it only quickened his pace and as he crested the hill away I heard him chuckle at me.  Too smart!

Near as I can figure, the thermals gave me away.  I do not think he saw or heard me advance. He was directly uphill from me as I stalked in closer.  Maybe I should have tried to go back over the finger and gain elevation before the stalk. That is always a tricky endeavor as I would have lost sight of him and it is usually best to move head on and not lose contact.  Oh well.  Another learning experience. 

What a great evening hunt.  A shot at a coyote and a chance at the bull of a lifetime!  Perhaps a reward for venturing out in tough wet cold rainy conditions.

  The next morning I gave  "Brahma" a rest and it the back edge of that saddle crossing while Chris sat on the front edge.  Working my way up the draw towards the back side I came across some bones and found this bull skull that had been killed last winter.  Wow, these animals are huge!

I continued on my slow hunt through the dark timber.  When I ended up over the crest of the back side, I heard that low chuckle of a bull down in the dark deep slope.  I made a soft cow call and tried to get 20 yards cross wind.  The problem was that wind again.  It was prevailing down in the bull's direction.  I was hoping the thermals might keep him from winding me, but as the minutes ticked on and no bull arrived or answered my calls, my fears were realized.

I slowly slunk back down the draw, stopping at that skull again to retrieve it on my way back to camp.  Crossing the log bridge was an experience carrying that 5x5 limb grabber, but I manged to make it.

Not quite the circumstances I wanted to carry antlers out in, but there way more time to hunt and I was not going to give up yet.

My brother never came back to camp that afternoon.  I figured he must have found a good area or maybe even had a shot.  Turns out he found a good wallow and was sitting on it all day.  unfortunately, all he saw was a cool pine martin hunting chipmunks.

The next morning was one final chance.  I would go back into the thick timber after "Brahma", and my brother would go after "Chuckles".  The weather finally broke, and as I was side-hilling toward the bench where "Brahma" was spotted before, the woods was alive with rising steam.  Towering pine and fir trees filtered the mottled sunlight through the rising fog of warming deadfall.

How beautiful and wondrous.  I thought how self important and impenetrable ones mind must be to think that all these natural wonders occurred by some cosmic accident rather than by some plan or guiding spirit.  Truly the two places where God is always apparent is on the battlefield and in the wilderness!

Things remained uneventful until the evening shadows drew long across the mountainside.  I eased down near the draw to sneak back along the steam / wallow area.  As it started to get dark I began to move across the open rocky east slope when I heard a deep throaty elk cow call.  I knew it was "Brahma" likely hearing my footfalls but not being able to make out what I was.

I immediately cow called and moved away from him.  I was hoping he would think this cow was ignoring his calls and moving away.  Maybe I could draw him out of the timber.  I t was barely light enough to shoot but it was worth a try.     He called back to me again and I called out again toward by back as it I was still moving away and I re-positioned across the hill instead to get a shooting lane at him should be pursue this "reluctant cow".   This was likely it!

Well, darkness came with the speed of a train and soon I was feeling my way back downhill.  I'll never know of the the bull bit on my rouse or if I just ran out of time and light.

Back at camp we reflected on the hunt which was now nearing an end as the flames of our campfire illuminated the antlers from this deadhead.  We were spent emotionally and physically.

We had one final hunt before we had to pack up and leave.  We decided to attack the backside of the bowl from the direction of the pack trail and go at the rear of chuckles, hoping to catch him before bed.  We split up and headed uphill in the early morning. As I moved up the steep slope I could hear my knees creaking and I hoped they would not give me away.

Moving up closer to the position where I heard chuckles to begin with, I spotted a big barred owl.  I allowed me to stalk within about 10 yards from the tree it was in.  Pictures never do this justice, but it was close!

Later,  I watched a mouse dart uphill toward my boot.  I thought about what a hard life to be a mouse among all the predators in the woods trying to eat you!  I was feeling a part of the wilderness.

The walk was otherwise uneventful and regretfully we began the task of packing up.  As I walked back down the pack trail a group of 4 does past by and I thought of the deer season to come back home.

This was my 9th out of state trip.  Once you go, you are forever hooked.  Hunting these leviathans is extra special.  I am already planning for next year.

Happy hunting!

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.