It is “that” time of the day, when the shadows lengthen and the wind calms, when I envision the movement of an elk as it manifests itself from the intense desire that has always been within me. I watch, and gauge its movement, anticipating its path, and decide when the opportunity to shoot will come to me. I do my best to dedicate this time of day to focused archery practice when at home in Richfield Springs, near Cooperstown, NY (Home of The Baseball Hall of Fame). It is hard, sometimes, to maintain these images when a tractor trailer applies its “jake” brake coming down the hill in the heavy traffic in front of my home. I have never actually seen an elk with my own eyes. Over the years I have managed to learn how to block out the distractions and focus on the thing I have enjoyed most of all.
I am in constant awe when I read Traditional Bowhunter Magazine, or go to a 3D shoot. I am most profoundly enchanted when in the presence of those who hunt extensively. Throughout my life, it has been at the very rare hunting camp visits that these feelings are stirred most heavily within me. Although these feelings are deep and undeniable, and I feel most at home in the woods, it seems that I have missed most of my own hunting opportunities while focused on my work as a consultant in the most congested areas of NY, NJ, and CT. I understand how I have accepted this as my fault and yet maintained my passion for traditional archery. It is because I look for every possible opportunity to enjoy what I love and share my experience freely with those around me. This process has always brought me more opportunities and a sense of gratification.
I do not regret my choices, I have had a great and most colorful life and have loved traditional archery through much of it despite the missed opportunities to hunt and enjoy the outdoors. There must be quite a few of you, like me, out there. Those that wish you could have more opportunities. We have few and precious places to hunt, and even fewer opportunities to be in the places depicted in the pages of this, and other magazines. Even though I don’t have a beard and have not spent most of my life in wool walking around in the mountains pursuing some antlered creature, my love of traditional archery has guided an important portion of my personal and family life in the urban environment I live in. You have to be on the lookout for any opportunity and always be ready to enjoy them. There is no time spent shooting traditional bows that is wasted. Any traditional shooting can only fuel your passion and make you feel better. Have you ever taken the time to shoot and not enjoyed it? All you have to do is be prepared at all times and keep your eyes open.
There is a child-like satisfaction available in traditional archery. You need only be able to pull back the string and watch the arrow fly. It is the most freeing experience to enjoy. This is what archery is to me. There have been occasional infatuated forays into becoming proficient but it is that child-like release that has always captivated me. It is this feeling of “release” that allows me to place myself far away from my surroundings when I shoot. This is the underlying basic element that remains true to almost everyone I have ever introduced to this sport. Traditional archery is fun.
Traditional bows do not carry the same political and social stigma as other devices of the shooting sports. They do not exhibit violent qualities. This allows traditional bows to be effective diplomatic vehicles. They have beauty and a sophisticated elegance in use that allows them to compare favorably with many other widely accepted urban activities. There are few non-hunting and non-outdoors people who cannot be shown that the enjoyment of traditional archery is comparable with Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, the “genteel” academies of martial arts and other disciplines of physical form and mental benefit. Nobody can hold in their hands any of the many traditional custom bows available today and not be impressed with them as expressions of physical and technical art which may deserve a place in the Modern Museum of Art. It is my confidence in these facts that makes me able to express my love for traditional archery among any group of people in any urban surrounding.
I have found that I have a significantly better opportunity for acceptance, when walking among the non-hunting community, than the gun, or compound carrying, camouflaged outdoorsmen that are boldly characterized on TV and in magazines focusing on the “killing of trophy animals”. These images, undefended, in private discussion are far too moldable for detrimental focused agendas. Dressed neatly in slacks and golf shirt, or button down shirt, I can articulately introduce people to traditional archery. Expressing the fun, physical and mental development, and the art in traditional archery as a family activity has been gratifying to me. The “non hunters” and “animal protectionists” cannot deny that through the ages the most elite levels of our greatest cultures have held archery as both an important social activity and sophisticated, and friendly, test of skill. “Traditional archery” and “killing animals” are not synonymous. Look at archers in Europe as evidence. Traditional archery is truly an activity that can be enjoyed by all people, at all levels, for many different purposes, and still allow for the natural separation of classes that will prevail.
I always have a traditional bow with me. I have shot at lunch time on the beach in Gay Head next to the Onassis Estate in Martha’s Vineyard, on the exclusive Fishers Island, NY which is just off the coast of CT, on the lawn of my long time friend and ex-executive of Saturday Night Live, in the back yard of an advisor to Jimmy Carter in the Hamptons in Long Island, in the basement of a high profile doctor’s home in Manhattan, and on the Hudson Riverside property of a government advisor and many other very unusual places. I love shooting traditional bows. I try to be an ambassador of traditional archery and outdoorsmen at all times. This provides me opportunities to contribute to my sport and enjoy it more thoroughly. I am shameless in that I will shoot anyplace that I feel is safe and will contribute to the purpose of promoting the sport of traditional archery. I am always prepared to do so.
I hunt when my schedule allows. Being a single owner business, it is actually tougher than being employed. When I am at home in the off season I shoot traditional archery equipment with my youngest daughter in two weekend archery leagues, traditional and compound. She is my partner and very accomplished at 16 years old. During the week, throughout most of the year, as I travel for work to the Metropolitan New York area, I shoot weekly with my 27 year old boy/girl twins at a beautiful (compound) archery range near the city where they live. I have three of my five children that shoot with me regularly. I am incredibly grateful to have this opportunity.
I am always on the lookout for previously inspired and drifted, future potentially interested traditional archers, and other dedicated shooters to join us. It is surprising that by keeping these people on my phone contact list that we occasionally have eight or nine shooters or more show up for an impromptu traditional archery shoot. You have to sometimes invest in creating your shooting opportunities. At these events I do not always get the opportunity to shoot. I help the new recruits and able shooters in any way I can. This time is always returned to me in one form or other. It always brings me more opportunities.
Occasionally, a “real” hunting opportunity presents itself.
I am in my late 50’s and have been shooting traditional bows for well over twenty five years. I am a born hunter and have felt this strongly in my few experiences. Recently, on an invitation by a city raised, converted, previously non-hunting investment land owner I had the opportunity to shoot a buck that had handcuffed me, eye to eye, at half draw at 11 yards. He lost both lungs as he hesitated momentarily in his turn to leave. I never thought about the shot, the decisions made by both of us governed the outcome. I thanked him quietly when I arrived at his side in the woods. It is with great solemnity, framed by the natural instincts within us all, that I express this act when questioned by those that may have a uniformed opinion. This part is not always simple but I have been fortunate to have good success because I am sincere and allow that one person’s opinion does not diminish another’s.
On this same property two weeks later with my son in a tree stand below me, I had the most exhilarating experience in having a “larger than life” whitetail buck attempt to chase me from “his” mountain top. Starting at nearly 70 yards, he shook his head, stomped his feet, and charged me in stages until he was within 30 yards before realizing what I was and made the most spectacular backwards leap in disappearing. If I had videotaped this event it would pale beside the image I retain from the experience. If I hadn’t promoted the sport of traditional archery, this land owner’s permission would not have been granted and these events would never have occurred. The resulting images of the events I retain in my memory have incalculable value to me.
I have had some of most wonderful mentoring successes. One of my clients is a “diamond setter” for one of the most recognized firms in the world. He asked me to help introduce his two young boys to traditional archery after having some exposure in gym class the previous spring. By the way, this highlights the value of maintaining exposure to our sport in the educational system. This gentleman has taken up traditional shooting himself. He shoots now with his boys twice a week in his finished basement at home after work and at a range some 35 minutes from his home. I join them occasionally to share in the fun and offer them guidance. This gives me more opportunity.
For this gentleman, the journey began when I loaned him a Super Kodiak, matched arrows and a single Mikuta Kids bow (with matched arrows) which he soon insisted that he purchase from me. In three short months, he is an amazingly focused traditional shooter with great natural form. One of his boys has embraced a wheeled version of bow, the other remains traditional. They are participating in archery as a family, advancing in skill level, and looking for opportunities to expand their enjoyment. It was a great investment and rewarded all for the effort.
Bearing in mind that friends and relatives are a given. Somewhat like Girl Scout cookie customers at “that” time of year. It is a constant pursuit for opportunities.
There was a NYC Public Servant that had moved an hour upstate to a better environment to raise a family. He was curious and searching for longbow information at the compound shop I frequent near NYC with my twins. His strong Irish heritage and love of European history gave him an intense curiosity for English long bows. Since he was not a compound customer and the fact that the shop owner respected me for the range traffic (there is nothing wrong with $10.00 range fees for everyone I bring in on a regular basis) and my demonstrated skill as a traditional archer, he connected me with the “interested” gentleman. This “interested” gentleman is now shooting a left handed traditional longbow that I was fortunate to have donated to him by a long time shooter, and friend, who is similarly motivated to encourage new people into our sport. He joins our gatherings on a regular basis and his two young boys get older every year and soon will be able to join their father.
This past Christmas, the boys received two new kids’ bows from “Uncle Bob” due to his wife’s intolerance of anything that could be associated with violence and the potential personal damage from the resulting explosion that would occur should the bows have come from “Santa”. It is not always easy to convert the uninformed but we make the best effort at all times to do so. Sometimes you have to be the “bad guy”. If you love the sport of traditional archery, you can’t help but share with others.
So, this is how I meet the challenges of enjoying a sport, in a heavily congested and populated area, that is normally associated with open country, tall trees and distant neighbors. I have met so many fellow archers that hunt within sight of percolating coffee pots through kitchen windows, heavy traffic and street signs in the congested suburbs just outside the city limits that it makes me realize that someone will always find a way to be close to their passion. This passion can be your personal attachment to any dream, sport, ideal, or belief of your choice. The truth is, that in this country, we are all allowed to do so. It is traditional archery that ties us all together here in Traditional Bowhunter. Each traditional archer reading these pages should not be judged by their location, and what they hunt, and how, but completely appreciated for the power of their passion and evidence of their desire. This is what will keep our sport growing. If you feel this as I do, invest the time to help introduce traditional archery to others, where ever you may live.