“I can’t see it!” That was the normal cry heard from a few of us boys who, shielding our eyes against the sun, were looking straight up trying to see a twenty-two-cent arrow just shot from one of their little fiberglass bows. It was a test of how powerful our bows were. If they could shoot an arrow out of sight, it was a good bow. If not…well no one wanted the nickname of “Weak bow.”
It was always good to hear the cry, “There it is, look out!” as we all ran to get out of the way of the falling arrows. We didn’t want to go home with an arrow sticking out the top of our foreheads. Our moms would have pulled it out, doused it with alcohol, and put an end to our shooting. As a result, we were as careful as 8- or 9-year-old boys could be to get out of the way. (Editor: Kids, please don’t try this at home!)
Ten point Danny shot with his Black Widow retirement bow in 2018.
At 68 years of age, I can say for sure that life was simpler then. It was also more fun, even if it was a little more dangerous from falling arrows, but we were all a lot faster then. While my body has changed, along with the times, the one thing that hasn’t changed over the years is my fascination with the bow and arrow.
Back in B.F. (that’s Before Fiberglass), we would make a bow from any sapling we could cut down. We would use bailing twine to string it, then make arrows from small semi-straight sticks, or even straight hollow weeds.
We killed a lot of time back then, though not much else. We were living out our days of Cowboys and Indians, as well as Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. We all knew that Daniel and Davy had to be related, because they both looked like Fess Parker. I guess you would have to be my age to understand that.
Ohio didn’t have many deer in those days, so as we grew older we laid aside our bows. Instead we took up our .22 rifles, and shotguns, to hunt squirrels, rabbits and grouse. In those years most boys hunted, and in high school it wasn’t unusual for some of us to have a gun in our old cars to hunt with after school. My how times have changed. In the late ‘60s, the state began stocking deer, so that by the mid ’70s there was an estimated 100,000 in the state, and just a few around where we lived in southern Ohio. After getting married in 1972, I found that little red fiberglass bow. Though it was probably only 15 or 20 pound pull, I just had to shoot it a few times and remember those younger days.
Even though the bow fascination had laid dormant for some years, it wasn’t dead. In the mid ‘70s, a full-scale resurrection began taking place. Looking in an early chain department store called Heck’s, I saw the prettiest thing I’d seen since marrying my wife. There before my weeping eyes and watering mouth, was a rack of Ben Pearson Recurves. The price was about $30, so I took home a 58” Rogue, then later bought a 60” Renegade from my oldest brother when he gave up bow hunting.
2019 spike shot with the Black Widow bow.
Each one of these has provided a lot of shooting time, and enjoyment, in the woods over the years. Those beautiful bows are still shootable, and they hang on my office wall next to a Black Widow recurve that I bought myself a couple years ago as a retirement gift.
The question that needs answered however is, what is it about the recurve or longbow that can hold our attention for so many years? Many will say, like us boys looking up for the arrows we’d shot so many years ago, “I can’t see it.” For those of us who still have them, and use them, there is no doubt they have a special place in our lives.
First, I believe that they are a reminder of simpler, more carefree, times of our lives. Like Mark Twain, writing Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, I believe he pictured himself in their place. Skipping school to play river pirates, fishing and rafting, barefoot and free in imagination, as well as life. It seems stress and wrinkles fade as we handle our bows. We are able to think younger, simpler thoughts, at a time when we really need that.
Second, it’s just the enjoyment of the woods and the hunt. The statement, I don’t hunt to kill an animal, but I kill because I hunt, becomes truer with each passing year. Life is sacred, given by God, to fulfill His purpose in each of us. The same God that gives us life, also gives it to the animals for our benefit. I believe that’s why there is a little sadness when we make the good shot, which takes a beautiful animal’s life.
Most hunting videos I have tried to watch rob both man and animal of the dignity they both deserve. As laughter rings out, high fives are exchanged, and a deer shot with a gun at 200 yards by a celebrity runs off dragging a front leg. No enjoyment of the woods or animal. It’s just a kill as the outfitter collects his trophy fee, and the hunter the animal he never worked for, just bought.
Third, I believe it’s the feeling of accomplishment that comes when you are able to kill an animal, or even just hunt, with a recurve or a longbow.
Danny and his wife, Debbie attempting to take a selfie. Married 48 years this June, she’s still prettier than all of his bows.
I admit to hunting with all different kinds of bows over the years, but after killing my fair share of deer with bows of other kinds, the thrill isn’t there as it used to be. I didn’t want to quit hunting, that fall urge is still there. Ever feel like your neck swells in the fall? That’s the bow hunter’s urge. The recurve adds more to the hunt for me, while allowing me to enjoy any success I may have, a little more. Whether a big buck, small buck, doe or just time killed, it is special.
The Black Widow I bought as the retirement gift two years ago took down a nice 10-point its first year, and a spike this year. Both were special gifts.
As I look at those bows hanging on the wall, I have to admit I’d still like to shoot one arrow straight up and hear the boys say again “We can’t see it!” How about you? After all, there is still a little boy in every old man.