Bama Bows – An Interview with Nathanael Steele

I first contacted Nathanael in December of 2009 with the purchase of my first longbow. I was shooting a bulky takedown recurve at the time but was drawn to the mysterious world of the “crooked stick”. My friends had warned me about longbows and how hard they were to transition to from a recurve but my curiosity got the better of me. Before long I was pulling the trigger on a beautiful cocobolo longbow with walnut limbs. A “Hunter” model from Bama Bows. I emailed the seller and (soon after) met Nathanael Steele.

The man behind Bama Bows; Nathanael Steele.

I didn’t know anything about longbows, Nathanael, or what would be arriving in the mail in a day or two but the photos were beautiful and the price was ridiculously cheap. It seemed to good to be true and I couldn’t help but think I was getting scammed. Nate was an absolute gentlemen and after one conversation I felt a whole lot better about my would-be purchase. The fact that all Bamas were backed by a lifetime warranty (to the original owner) helped immensely. I was sold and a friendship was born.

A long brown package arrived a few days later and vanquished all of my preconceived doubts. My new longbow was cosmetically flawless, slender, extremely light, smooth to the very last of my 30″ draw and whisper quiet. A drastic departure from my recurve. I couldn’t have been happier. I had a longbow – a damn good one – and I couldn’t wait to shoot it!

While I swore I wouldn’t switch bows mid-season, I couldn’t stop shooting my new bow and became proficient with it quickly. I began hunting with it the following weekend and shot my first deer with it a week later on the 23rd of December; forever infusing the longbow with my DNA. My Dad ordered one shortly after based on my recommendations and we became diehard Bama fans from that point on.

Nate concentrates on the little things - never missing a detail.

We haven’t stopped bugging “Bowyer Nate” since. In fact, having seen what he could do with his entry-level bow, we decided to spring for his flagship “Royal” the next Spring and were blown away once again.

Nate’s amassed quite the following since then. I have yet to meet a single person who is dissatisfied with his product or is anything short of shocked by his service. I’m truly happy to be one of his original fans and have enjoyed watching him build a name for himself.

So without further adieu, I give you the longbowblogger exclusive interview with Nathanael Steele from Bama Bows!

Nate, what inspired you to begin building traditional longbows?

What really got me into building bows was the longbow. As a kid I wanted one but never could afford it. I tried to build them on occasion and then lost interest in bows throughout my teens. I knew I’d come back to them eventually but was busy pursuing other interests. In my twenties, I bought an old Ben Pearson recurve and thought; “I could build that!” I gave it a shot and here I am.

So why did you chose the name “Bama Bows”. Aren’t you from Tulsa?

LOL, yeah I currently live in Tulsa but grew up and started building bows in Alabama. Hence the name!

An Expedition model pre-grip.

That actually really confused me when I ordered my first bow! I initially thought “this guy doesn’t know where he is!”

Yeah, I can see where that would be confusing. I plan on moving back to ‘Bama someday.

Tell us a little bit about Bama Bows and what you do.

Bama Bows is a family business and i don’t really ever plan on getting big enough to have employees because I don’t want to lose the personal contact with the bows and my clients. My wife is the only help I’ve got right now and she does A LOT on the business side of things. She builds the flemish twist strings that come stock on all of my longbows, maintains the website, handles the shipping, and sows the bowsocks as well. I guess you could say she runs it and I work for her! LOL

“Elmer” my own personal Bama Bow: a Royal with red elm cores, a curly maple riser, bocote veneers, and cocobola accents. My soul mate in a bow if such a thing exists.

She makes an excellent string too! Do you have a 2nd job or are  you making bows full time?

I actually DO build bows full time and it IS a full-time job. lol I sometimes spend 7 days a week in my shop, whether it is filling orders for customers or experimenting with and improving my design, processes, etc. I do try to at least sneak in a few hours of fishing a week!

Let’s talk longbows! You are known for building glass-backed traditional
“D-style” longbows. Why did you focus on this style rather than the increasingly popular reflex/deflex design?

Honestly, I just love traditional longbows! They have a special, simple, yet elegant look… you just can’t make an R/D bow look like that classic D shape! They don’t shoot the same either! Contrary to popular belief, I’ve found D-style bows to be more forgiving (at least to my sloppy form). They may not be as fast in most cases and can have some hand shock but they’re also extremely quiet, accurate, and smooth drawing. Even at heavy weights!

My Dad's Royal, built shortly after mine and in time for Father's Day 2010.

So what was your reasoning for building the 58″ Expedition – an R/D forward handle longbow? That is quite the departure from your bread and butter.

Two reasons, 1) to satisfy the demand for such a bow, 2) I love to experiment! I like the Expi because it allows a hunter to hunt from a blind or treestand with a higher level of comfort and greater range of motion! Even for the bigger guys with longer draws.

An Elite Classic model.

The Expedition has been warmly accepted thus far. Is the hybrid longbow the future of Bama Bows, or will the D-style forever be your bread and butter?

I’m glad everyone has enjoyed the Expi but I don’t plan on turning my back on the straight-limbed longbow! It is my passion while the R/D (while being a great little bow) is more my answer to the current short-bow demand.

You’ve been experimenting with materials other than wood (graphite, carbon) and have actually incorporated it into your takedown design. Would you care to elaborate?

I have been experimenting a bit with other materials but haven’t found anything better than wood and glass for limbs. I started using carbon for my takedown system and wont ever go back to metal! The composite is much better and enables a perfect fit and finish. The end result is a flush connection that is hardly noticeable.

One of Nate's Royal models, the flagship of the Bama line.

I bet that carbon is a lot lighter than the metal sleeves too. What woods do you prefer to work with when building bows? Are any superior?

It really depends on the bow. I like an elm core in lighter bows and bamboo in the heavy ones, but there are alot of other woods like walnut, maple, and yew that make very fine bows. Each one has its own character but most are suitable. I think maple and bamboo are an even match but boo is perfectly straight grained and very consistent. Curly maple is beautiful for risers and veneers. I guess if I was going to build myself a bow, it would have as many bamboo laminations as I could squeeze into the core and use a set of curly maple veneers for looks. I have no idea what i would choose for a riser lol! Probably whatever appealed to me that day. There’s just too many beautiful woods to choose one!

Nate's carbon fiber takedown system.

Have you ever thought about venturing into the recurve market?

As a matter of fact I have! And plan to get one going before long! I will more than likely come out with something narrow and long with a slim longbow-esque riser akin to the old 50’s recurves. I’ll probably have that ready for purchase in a year or two.

All of Nate's bows are deeply cut to center.

Aside from a recurve, what is the future of Bama Bows? Do you have anything new in the works?

Constant improvement of what we already have. We’ll continue to get better!

Thanks Nate! It’s been a pleasure.

No problem Nick!

If you are interested in owning a Bama of your own, give Nate a call at 256-997-6349, email him at, or visit the Bama Bows website.