Home Forums Campfire Forum Defining "Traditional" Bowhunting

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    • Hubertus
      Post count: 99

      First of all, I am aware that I’m opening THE can of worms here, but I am sure that we can have some great discusion on this one too.
      Secondly, I mean absolutely no disrespect for the weapon choices, hunting styles, or products of others and look forward to hearing from those who disagree with me.
      Thirdly, here’s some background so you all know where this is coming from:
      I took up archery 4 years ago (spring 2005) and hunted for the first time about a year later (autumn 2006). This has kept me very well fed on a diet of humble pie & tag soup :lol:. The compound held no real appeal for me so I started with a recurve. Today I use a longbow (laminated wood & glass) & carbon arrows.

      So here’s the meat of it:
      Bows must be stick & string. You can make your stick & string out of whatever you want, whatever shape you want. No adjustment knobs or screws (yes, that means I don’t think the 3rivers “Dalaa” or Trad-Tech “Titan” are traditional bows).
      Arrows can be made of whatever you want. No moving or electronic parts (ie, drop-away & light-up nocks).
      No electronics in the hunt. GPS & cell phones are fine for getting in & out & for safety, but no range-finders or game trail cameras. Recording your hunt with a video or still camera is fine.

      Please remember, this is my opinion, meant as a springboard for discussion, not something set in stone so that all can admire me. I look forward to the various opinions that will come up here.

      Honour the Creator
      Honour His creation
      Hunt well

    • aeronut
      Post count: 200

      Humble pie and tag soup are a mainstay here, not because I’m a terrible shot, but because the kill is not the main point of my hunting. Don’t get me wrong, I like venison, but just being in the outdoors and getting as close as possible to an animal is the thrill for me.

      What I think of traditional bowhunting is any bow without wheels, cables, sights, or any kind of gizmo that gives me a mechanical advantage, and some kind of wooden arrow.

      My gear for a hunt is simple.

      I grab whichever handmade by me bow that strikes my fancy at the time, be it a Bamboo-backed or glass-backed longbow. A tube quiver with four homemade arrows of wood, Bamboo, or Rivercane. A knife, flashlight, lighter, ball compass, short piece of small rope (10-15′), and a candy bar or two. I put on my Shaggie suit and still hunt/stalk, no tree stands or blinds.

      That is just me.

      A lot of people shoot carbon arrows but I’ve never had any hankerin’ to try them. I guess in reality, carbon is just really, really, old wood.:lol:

      If I was to go truly ‘traditional’ I would be hunting with a sharpened stick.:shock:


    • David Petersen
      Post count: 2749

      Good to see you over here, Aeonut! The best definition of traditional I’ve yet heard was spoken by a drunken journalist, name of Chuck Bowden, to a gathering of somewhate arrogant biologists at a mountain lion symposium. After all the experts had extolled the virtues of their particular studies as defining the essense of lion-ness, Chuck stands up and asks “How many of you have ever run down and killed a deer, or even a rabbit, with your teeth? When you’ve done that, then you’ll be qualified to tell us what it is to be a mountain lion!”:twisted: Selah, dave

    • MontanaFord
      Post count: 450


      Thank you for this “can of worms”. It’ll get a person thinking.


      Thank you for that bit of philosophy, even if it did come from somebody that was inebriated (did I spell that right?). It definitely puts “tradition” on the map as food for thought.

      As for myself and traditional bowhunting…Stick and string of whatever make and model not to include poundage adjustments, wheels, sights, scopes, release aids, etc. Arrows of wood, aluminum or carbon, it doesn’t really matter to me.

      I like my feet on the ground for the most part, so no “take-down/put-up” tree stands. Climb a tree and sit on a limb? Sure, why not?

      GPS? No thanks, tried it once, and they don’t work well in mountain canyons with steep walls. They just can’t triangulate your position properly and will tell you the wrong direction to the truck. Oh, and if you can’t find that elk wallow again by memory, I guess you weren’t supposed to hunt it the next trip in there. Cell phone/2-way radios? Maybe for safety or for conning your best bud to help you pack something out of that nasty hole it went into to die, but don’t use’em for hunting purposes. Trail camera? Nah, that takes all the fun out of running that big mulie into no-man’s land the day before season opens. LOL. No electronic calls, either. Mouth operated calls or vocal mimmickry is fine.

      My personal gear consists of a Bear Grizzly, 2117 aluminum arrows, my hunting pack with whatever’s in it and, because I hunt grizzly country a lot, a .44 Mag with heavy game loads.

      I don’t shoot wood because I lack patience to straighten them after every shot. I don’t shoot carbon because I’m too cheap to spend the money that they cost. That leaves me with the middle-of-the-road option, aluminum.

      That’s pretty much my hunting stuff in a nut-shell.

      Dennis, you get your sharp stick, I’ll find mine, and we’ll go try to get a…..whatever suits our fancy….sound good?


    • Hubertus
      Post count: 99

      Sharpened sticks?! I thought we were going to use our teeth!:twisted:

    • David Petersen
      Post count: 2749

      Coincidentally, I found this quote last evening in the Compton’s magazine, by Fred Asbell: “I feel that the traditional mindset is about more than just equipment. It’s an attitude about hunting that often points to a different mindset about the outdoors and a more basic and simpler approach to other things in this life.” I agree.

    • Mark Turton
      Post count: 759

      Well here goes……tradition, how long does something have to be around to become traditional…..if something’s been around as long as wooden bows is it primitive……the reluctance to carry lots of kit is more one of common sense…….reluctance to carry comms points to an independence of spirit and self reliance…….I’ve just started to carry a range finder to help drawing maps, never have pointed it at a beasty……I’m seriously considering hunting boar with a spear, why?……alcohol the great leveller, it makes us all philosophers and lifts the fog of reality, excluding my brother-in-law’s uncles Pig Killer cider that should be banned under the Geneva Convention……Traditional definitely a state of mind…..I think…..time for a beer

      Time flies like an arrow but, fruit flies like a banana. Aristotle.

    • heydeerman
      Post count: 45

      Traditional bowhunting didn’t become traditional bowhunting until the compound came on the scene. Before that everything was just bowhunting. A lot of things you might be thinking of shunning might have been acceptable in that day. In fact a lot of pre-compound bowhunters used sights.

      We are trying to define what we are by shunning technology in some areas but we will accept it in others. The use of man-made materials such as carbon, phenolic, fiberglass, aluminum and such in our bows and arrows for instance.

      I have no problem with the lighted nock if it will help a bowhunter judge his shot placement and aid him in recovering his game. I have no problem with anything within reason that will aid a hunter and help them take game ethically. In my mind what we call traditional is relativistically modern and very technological.

      The guys who make their own bows and arrows, knapp their arrowheads, pound out sinew for strings and such…their the ones who are primitive and have the right to call themselves such. But even most of them rely on some modern tool of form of technology somewhere along the line.

      It sounds good to call ourselves traditional and shun the modern compound. I am one who does. But we are just as modern in a lot of other ways.

      One could also throw in the is camo traditional question into this mix.

    • Jesse Minish
      Post count: 115

      To me there is no “definition” to traditional bowhunting only opinions. Just as all other things in hunting. But I think the quote Dave said in his second post is spot on in my opinion as to what I consider traditional.

    • heydeerman
      Post count: 45

      Well said Jesse.

    • SteveMcD
      Post count: 870

      My 2 cents, I agree with a lot of everything that has been stated here, I started bowhunting in the BCE era (Before Compounds), when it was just archery, as well. And yes, there were those who used sight pins on their bows. A shock to some but there were also bows with metal risers then too. The term traditional defines us as “non-compound”. A group of archers and bowhunters that shoot and hunt with bows without the aid of cables/wheels and the benefit of “let-off”. But “Traditional” carries with it, intrinsic qualities that are deep and personal to the individual hunter. I don’t consider it “hunting the hard way” although compared to other equipment options it is. For me, I do not wish to judge other hunters by what they carry in their hands to hunt with. That is their choice, and I have mine. In a world where technology, science, speed, and instant results count. I relish my time in the woods whether stumping or hunting with Stick & String… I can slow things down for a while in my own space and time. It is hunting in it’s simpliest and purest form – based upon practice, skill, knowledge and determination. It requires more of me (us), so it is no surprise, we as traditional bowhunters seem to reap more from our hunts, because in fact we do put more into a hunt – physically, mentality and for many spiritually.

    • Hubertus
      Post count: 99

      Thank you all for the great responses!
      Some thing we all seem to agree on:
      “Traditional” bowhunting is about intentionally applied & personally chosen limitations designed to change the hunt from an attempt to fill the freezer/record books to a much deeper experience. I’m sure we can all recognise that this is not limited to longbow and recurve users, but we have certain equipment choices in common that do create a basis for community.
      I’d be very interested to hear from our site hosts. I’m sure that to publish a magazine titled “Traditional Bowhunter”, there must be some sort of staff concensus as to what that means.
      I’m still confident in my own choices of tackle and method, & very interested in going “more traditional”, but less confident that a working definition can be reached. That’s fine with me.


    • Chris Shelton
      Post count: 679

      i suppose i will get in on this, good topic! I consider myself a traditional bowhunter . . . but am i really. I march into the woods carrying a recurve bow, with a quiver full of carbon arrows, steel broadheads, printed clothing, and to top it off, i carry a camera and a tripod everywhere i go! The actual term i use to describe myself is a traditional bowhunter with some modern flare, i like cameras to much to be completely traditional and i cant make myself use wood. But either way, i think what really makes a traditional bowhunter is not the things he uses, but the manner in which he uses them. We get closer to animals than any other type of hunter! And that is what makes us close to the land and the quarry we pursuit, when the rest of the hunting world is trying to find ways to get more accurate farther away from the target we are finding ways to get closer!

    • Don Thomas
      Post count: 334

      The question is so hard to answer because there is no answer. There never will be a universally accepted definition of “traditional bowhunting.” It’s all about drawing lines on a highly personal basis. I don’t have a GPS and have never had any desire to hunt with arrows made of anything but wood, but I have friends shooting carbon arrows… who can’t understand how I can hunt cougars with dogs. The important thing is to keep questioning the propriety of everything we do in the field and drawing those lines to increase the level of challenge. Where you choose to draw them is up to you. Don

    • heydeerman
      Post count: 45

      donthomas wrote: The question is so hard to answer because there is no answer. There never will be a universally accepted definition of “traditional bowhunting.” It’s all about drawing lines on a highly personal basis. I don’t have a GPS and have never had any desire to hunt with arrows made of anything but wood, but I have friends shooting carbon arrows… who can’t understand how I can hunt cougars with dogs. The important thing is to keep questioning the propriety of everything we do in the field and drawing those lines to increase the level of challenge. Where you choose to draw them is up to you. Don

      Well said.

    • T. J. Conrads
      Post count: 52

      I think Don sums it up pretty well. It’s hard to define the term as it means something different to many people. When we started TBM, it was a term that defined those of us who hunted with longbows, recurves, and selfbows, and who felt that archery … and bowhunting … had lost its true heritage.

      For me, it means hunting with a simple bow, challenging myself to hunt the game animal on its terms, in its home, giving it every opportunity to escape (which is usually the case). I shoot wood arrows because I feel they are the epitome of our bowhunting heritage; I like to work with wood and spend time building arrows, and appreciate the end result of my labors, no matter how ugly or imperfect they may be to someone else. Of all the things about archery, making my own arrows is the most pleasurable and the most important thing I do. It defines one aspect of what “traditional bowhunting” means to me. Like Don, I cannot imagine shooting anything except my beloved Port Orford cedar.


    • Hubertus
      Post count: 99

      Thanks to all who contributed to this discussion. I can honestly say I enjoyed every reply.
      I now think of Traditional Bowhunting as a journey rather than a place at which I can arrive. Perhaps this makes a “definition” impossible, but it looks like we can all live with that.
      I have always hoped to someday upgrade to shooting my own woodies off of a bent staff of yew…

      …then to chasing down a deer with my teeth:lol:…

    • johnny2
      Post count: 135

      O.K. this is really personal and ya’ll will probably think I’m crazy(you may already think that from my previous posts) but my hunting fantasy is me jumping from a tree limb onto the back of a deer with nothing but my pocket knife. So far I haven’t found any game regulations concerning this method. If any of you do please forward to me A.S.A.P. Thanks.:D

    • Jesse Minish
      Post count: 115

      Why the pocket knife?

    • Mark Turton
      Post count: 759

      Teeth Grrrrrrrrr.

    • Chris Shelton
      Post count: 679

      Hold on, is it a locking knife or one that doesnt lock, then we will decide if you are crazy?

    • MontanaFord
      Post count: 450

      If you’re gonna jump out of a tree onto a deer’s back, it only makes sense that your knife be knapped from the finest flint available…but the jumper should be the craftsman of the blade…but that’s only my minor opinion.


    • Chris Shelton
      Post count: 679

      there you go montana, that is some serious stuff, actually you might not need a knife depending on how high up you are, the deer could break your fall, but that would suck if you missed! I think I will stick to my stick and string!

    • PagosaBow
      Post count: 61

      Being that I am totally new to “Traditional Bowhunting” I have a lot to learn. I have yet to even harvest with a “Traditional Bow” I have 1 deer to my name with a bow,( yes it was a compound, that was before I go into a “stick”) and another deer to my rifle. I have sold both since being bitten by the traditional bug. In all honesty I could give a hoot if I don’t fill my elk tag this year. I love the way I feel about being out there watching and learning every time I go out. Traditional archery has thought me so much about life itself that I can say I couldn’t have any better thing to be into. It has completely changed me as a person. By the way I’m working on an article about this and I might have the guts to post it or maybe even send it into the magazine to see if it would be worthy of publication. I guess we will see.

      Anyway most of you have seen the pics of my new recurve. I do shoot carbon arrows at this point for the reason of learning curves and set ups. One thing at a time I think. Wood arrows are sure to follow. I’ll get there when I get there. So basically its me, my recurve, 5 carbons, a pack with safety gear and food, binoculars and me.

    • Wary Buck
      Post count: 15

      Traditional Bowhunter? Recurve or longbow. That’s the only hairs I’ll split.

      When you start examining what the bow’s made of, what sighting method is used, what types of broadheads or GPS or binoculars or arrow shafts it gets way too cloudy. Hmmm, is Gore-Tex a no-no if it’s plaid? Or is camo okay if it’s the kind Fred Bear wore? 😯

      It’s fun to think about this stuff, and fun to debate it with people you respect. But there are lots of compound hunters I’d gladly share a camp with. And then again there have been a few stick shooters I’ve shared a round of 3-D with that I’d prefer not cross paths with again. But the latter have been few and far between. The weapon doesn’t make the hunter.

      That said, when there are so many other shortcuts available out there, sticking with recurves or longbows USUALLY makes a fellow a pretty good guy (or gal). Either that or too stubborn for his own good. 🙂

    • oldcentaur
      Post count: 11

      The HUNT is what is important, the kill is icing on the cake. I am ‘traditional’ because I like simplicity, and because I desire the additional challenge that hunting with stick and string brings. If folks have to bring home meat every time, they probably need to hunt with a rifle, or stop by the grocery store enroute home. Using traditional equipment gives me the opportunity to spend more days hunting, enjoying the outdoors, watching wildlife and nature in general. I could do all that without bow in hand, but I am a predator, and despite what PETA thinks, human predators are designed and programmed to be hunters. As traditionalists, we just up the difficulty ante a bit over those who hunt by other methods. I have hunted with modern rifle, handgun, ‘old style’ muzzleloaders, and even compounds for a couple of years. Nothing satisfies me like the feel of a longbow and wood shafts while stalking game like the predator I was designed to be.

    • LanceColeman
      Post count: 17

      Jesse Minish wrote: To me there is no “definition” to traditional bowhunting only opinions. Just as all other things in hunting. But I think the quote Dave said in his second post is spot on in my opinion as to what I consider traditional.

      Amen Jesse,

      I also honeslty believe today many attempt to redfine, reword and rewrite things to better suit themselves, than what they are doing. In other words if they do not fit a certain mold? then change the mold.

      *IF* I honestly thought ANY person or group out there was using the term to attempt to preserve/help or protect the way we hunt I would throw my wieght behind them. But the only way I’ve ever saw the term used is as an adjective or excuse.

      I personally shoot what I shoot because it works best for me. In all seriousness I shoot a recurve better now, than I ever shot a compound during the 4yrs I played with one. Recurves are what I started bowhunting with and what I use today. They fit me and my style better. I shot the last 2yrs of my compound days with no sights. But did not like the finger pinch or lack of pressure at full draw.

      That said I place more emphasis on actually hunting than I do on what I am hunting with. I’ve been known to hunt with knives and spears and even be known to take rabbits with throwing sticks. I tend to be way more concerned with how I can get myself in to the right place at the right time to accomplish what I am setting out to accomplish than what other people may call what I am doing. I don’t have time to define what I am doing, I’m too busy trying to do it.

    • Treetopflier
      Post count: 146

      I like Centaur’s take on it. Naming aside, traditional, primitive, modern etc., what I’m after in the hunt is doing more with less: using more personal skill and determination, and less gear, technology, etc. For me, the less technology involved, the truer the hunt and the greater the satisfaction, because low technology demands high skill and determination, and vice versa. This is not a moral judgment of others’ choices, but the way it feels best to me, the only way I’ve ever done it, and the only way I have any interest in doing it. snuffs

    • surveyor527
      Post count: 10

      “Traditional” is a broad definition, at least to me. I am sort of new at the sport, and consider anything but a compound or x-bow to be in the traditional category. I have shot carbon arrows from the start (I never would buy them while using a compound-?)and have just recently begun cresting and fletching. It doesn’t matter to me what you drive, wear, or your arrow type – I’m not impressed with that stuff anyway.
      I like the clean lines and simplicity of a recurve bow. I have begun to simplify the way I hunt, and am getting more out of the hunt than the kill. I considered my compound bow to be no more than a tool, but it is different with the recurves. I enjoy shooting mine – I have shot the recurve (at) more targets in the last 2 years than the last 15 with a recurve. Archery has become fun – and from what I gather on these trad sites, many guys start late but come on strong.
      I started with a used Kodiak Magnum and have since gained a new Martin Serengeti which I happen to think is a beauty. Some day I may try to get a custom one-piece.
      I don’t bait deer, don’t do Sunday hunting, don’t drive deer, nor do I sit in a plywood box with a heater & magazine and 7 mag/10 power scope. Yet, these methods are “traditional” to lots of people. I think maybe too much energy gets wasted on categorizing stuff like this.

    • Hubertus
      Post count: 99

      This is great! I never thought the discussion would go on this long. Many of these opinions resonate deeply with me.
      I know it is a teedious task to try to define “traditional”, and I’m certainly not looking to pigeon-hole or exclude anyone. However, by participating on this website, we are all making claims to be “traditional”, and I wanted to hear some of those claims.
      What encourages me is the amount of common ground and the level of respect.

    • Carl
      Post count: 29

      im not sure i can define traditional, but i know a traditional bowhunter when i see one. where i live and hunt, 99% of hunters use compounds, and all of my friends shoot compounds. thats fine with me. the vast array of compound gadgetry now days just blows my mind! i would worry so much about all of my gadgetry performing properly i wouldnt be able to enjoy the hunting experience. the stick and string is just so beautiful in its simpicity. pure,simple,effective. i wish more bowhunters would give it a try and experience the hunt the way we do. not to put down compounders.our way is just different. simpler. carl

    • Brad
      Post count: 35

      I have always looked at this question from two different angles. First, there’s the angle of what one thinks of as “traditional” in their own mind. What is their personal definition of what traditonal bowhunting tackle is, or is not. The second way to look at this is in the sense of how would you want traditional defined in a more official sense, such as if your state natural resources department was going to designate a piece of ground as a “traditional archery only” area, such as has been done (I believe) in some western states.

      As for what I consider to be traditional, it would be a longbow, recurve, or some hybrid of the two, made of wood or a combination of wood/fiberglass, and fixed, non-replaceable blade broadheads. Although I prefer wood arrows, I have used aluminums on occasion. Never tried carbon, but don’t really have anything against them.

      If I was thinking of it from the aspect of an official designation, the only thing I would change would be to require wood arrows.

      From a broader prospective, I would agree with what several others have already said, in that “traditional” has a lot to do with the hunter’s attitude, probably as much as anything.

    • Chris Shelton
      Post count: 679

      You bring up another good point, and I would say that my dad is very traditional, but I havent gotten him into the stick and string craft yet. He hunts with the seasons, and when it is bowseason he hunts with his compound, I think that because he does not have time to practice all the time is why he chooses the compound. Every year he will get it out right before the season to make sure everything is still good, he will be shooting dead on, and that is that. But he hunts in a very traditional manner, still hunter by heart. We prefer to hunt from a tent, on some public ground!!!
      Last year we went on probably one of my most traditional hunts ever, there is a Island on the Potomac that is 194 acres of public land, used to be a farm but is nothing but thick woods that are home to some nice deer and some of the biggest fox squirrels i have ever seen. The only way to get there is by boat(obviously) and we stayed in little pop tents. I shared a camp with two compounders, my dad and a buddy of ours. And even though we had modern tents, aluminum john boats and they were using compounds, it just felt traditional. It rained the entire evening when we arrived there, the mosquitoes were bad, but it was awesome. I was the only one to score, on a gollioth pope and young fox squirrel:D!!!! Good times!

    • 2-BIG
      Post count: 7

      Like some here, I believe that traditional bowhunting is more of a mindset than basing it on ones equipment. I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the best people on the planet through traditional bowhunting gatherings…but I have met a few that call themselves traditional bowhunters because of their choice of equipment that I wouldn’t spend 1 minute at their campfire.
      The simple equipment can range from self bows, bamboo arrows, and home made flint tips wearing wool plaid clothing to the highest performing recurve, carbon arrows, sight pins, and new broadheads wearing scent proof name brand camo clothing.
      I would classify the bowhunters attitude and ethics as traditional first and then take a gander at his equipment.
      I was hesitant to throw pin sights into the mix but I am a firm believer that if one chooses to use sights on a simple bow then it is most likely that the person is doing this out of necessity and not to tip the odds in his favor when shooting at game. Like Gene Wensel said in his video (Spirit of the Bow)…”There is no shame in aiming when you are dealing with an animals life. Shooting a bow becomes an athletic ability and some just don’t have that.”
      To me traditional bowhunting in a nutshell is 90% attitude and 10% simple equipment.:)

    • lssa
      Post count: 38

      i agree with you i know some very good hunters that hunt compounds. their is very few trad shooters around here i agree it the person behind the bow not the bow that makes the hunter.

    • quiverfull
      Post count: 37

      My definition of traditional bow hunting, from an equipment perspective, would be recurve or long bow, any type of arrows, fixed blade broadheads that are proven reliable game getters (this is out of respect for the game we hunt),fingers only, sights optional. That is what I would be satisfied with as official parameters for state game laws.

      My personal setup is a bare long bow (Black Widow), carbon arrows, and I’m still thinking about broad heads, but they will be single blade, single bevel due to the prevailing evidence to their effectiveness. In my opinion, any equipment used to gain an advantage over these basic parameters, while certainly being acceptable hunting weapons, do not fit the “traditional” definition. I allow simple pin sights out of respect for the game hunted if the hunter needs them for good shot placement; my eyes are getting kinda old, to! I have hunted with rifle, shotgun, pistol, compound bow, and even killed some rats and mice with a blow gun, and a muskrat once with a rock, so I have no bias against any legal weapon. I’d rather hunt next to a crossbow shooter with a laser sight than an elitist snob uber traditionalist with a primitive set up. It’s not the equipment, it’s the attitude, dedication to practice needed to make clean kills, and respect for our great lands and fellow citizens that makes a great hunter, irrespective of his/her chosen weapon. Good hunting………Jim

    • RalphRalph
      Post count: 2544

      A broad spectrum here but that’s great. Some kind of stick and string and arrow and no wheels sounds good enough for me. It’s working for us and we’re having fun. Keep up the good work and good hunting.
      Everything that is traditional now was once the newest most modern contraption on the block so I guess traditional must be relevant to a time period.

    • Hiram
      Post count: 484

      One string.

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