The Thin, Blurry Line

Steve Angell lines up for a shot with his longbow at hunting camp.

My friend Steve (Angell) in full draw with his Yew longbow made by Jay St. Charles.

I knew, in the very beginning, that my bowhunting journey was unique. At the age of 27 I had never shot a bow or hunted with a weapon of any kind. Still, when the bug bit me, it left a mark. As that mark scarred and I became more experienced, I grew very passionate in how I hunted and what kind of traditional tackle I hunted with. I established limitations designed to make bowhunting the challenge I thought it should be.

The moment these limitations were in place, a funny thing happened. I began to judge anyone who didn’t approach traditional the same way I did and became quite opinionated despite only being a rookie. I wasn’t always vocal with my thoughts but felt them just the same.

The truly humorous part of this transition is the speed of which it all occurred. I started out with carbon arrows and a takedown recurve. I then moved to aluminum because carbon was “too modern”. I switched to a longbow after that. Then wood arrows. Then a selfbow. This isn’t an uncommon path for the budding traditionalist exploring their new passion, but every time I made the jump, I envisioned myself at the head of the pack looking back at the un-enlightened masses in my wake.

I spent a great deal of time and effort thinking about the way things should be done and what they should be done with, going so far as to blog about the hybrid longbow and how it was an abomination that would ultimately lead to the death of the traditional stick and string as we all knew it. I began reading about primitive bow design shortly after and discovered this “modern” style of longbow had been around a whole lot longer than 2010. In fact, the roots of most of the archery “advancements” I witnessed reached back hundreds of years before I was born. I felt foolish.

That embarrassment would permanently change my perspective on all things bow, arrow, and hunting. The revelation of the primitive world was humbling. It didn’t matter how traditional I thought I was; there would always be a primitive archer taking it further than I was was willing to go. That bothered me and I began building selfbows soon after. I enjoyed it and was convinced I’d stay that course for the remainder of my bowhunting career. I learned to appreciate bows and arrows of all designs, but couldn’t help turning my nose at anything not backed by sinew, snakeskin, or air.

All of that changed the moment my daughter was born. Time became a valuable commodity with two young children at home. I didn’t have it to shoot, write, or hunt and I damn sure didn’t have time to build bows and arrows. I was in desperate need of balance. One of the above had to go, or it all had to go.

I decided I’d rather spend my time shooting and hunting and less time building and tweaking. My archery tackle shifted to reflect the decision. I needed something I could grab off the rack and shoot at a moment’s notice with little maintenance or thought. After a brief search, I was shocked to find what I was looking for, in a hybrid longbow and carbon arrows. The combination felt great in the hand and I was delighted to find my enjoyment hadn’t suffered in the least.

I had come full circle, in both gear and attitude.

When you have little time to dedicate to an activity you enjoy, you must learn to focus on what you love about it, rather than getting lost in the distractions that make it less enjoyable. I feel bowhunting should be challenging and will have limitations in place to assure it remains so, but accept that other archers do not have the same limitations. Spending time worrying about how other archers are spending theirs is a futile endeavor that will leave you pounding a keypad when you should be pulling arrows out of a target. One of these things is productive, the other is not. I’ll let you figure out which is which.

Ultimately, the “traditional” line is too blurry to stand on with both feet. All we can do, as traditionalists, is to continually limit ourselves in ways that challenge our own personal comfort level without sacrificing the integrity and ethics we value so highly, as a whole. Choosing challenge instead of a fight is always going to be the more productive option, especially when the Block button is the popular response.

Walk a path of your own, share the experience, and hope others follow. You will be surprised by the results.

Authors note: do I always subscribe to the above? No, but I’m trying really hard. 🙂