American Indian Weapons with a main focus on Bow and Arrows
Lobbing heavy arrows through dense foliage on uneven ground is an every day hunting drill that I practice to stay on point: using judo points for easy retrieval and hard wood shafts for durability...
I've had some insight to this practice, and while aligning the target vertically seems fairly straight forward with the arrow aligned under my dominant eye, trajectory is a little more of a feeling based decision, especially when a slight lobbing is necessary to clear through branches to the target.
So try this out:
While drawing the arrow, feel it's weight, it's center of mass.
Now at the same time feel the amount of tension in the string.
In doing this you are calculating the force, and the weight of your projectile... All that is left is to choose a trajectory and maintain a clean release.
Let it back down easy...
Finally, do it again, but this time loose the arrow!
This is much the same as when hefting a rock, or for you more modern folks, a ball, before you throw it.
You choose the force and trajectory based on it's weight while maintaining alignment with the target. Archery can feel very much the same...and when aiming for 40 yard targets with heavy arrows, I heavily utilize this practice.
It works for me, it may work for you too!
There are many things that I love about these arrows. I enjoy their natural materials, their historical roots, and intrinsic beauty. One thing I would like to point out today that I enjoy most about these arrows, is their durability and momentum.
Shooting in rough conditions, no problem
To show you what I mean, i decided to make a few holes in this steel/enamel pot lid. You can see that the arrows had no trouble penetrating with field points on the tips. The fact that they didn't go further is because I had been using a log to prop up the lid and they had buried themselves under it.
Fletching stayed on after a year of stump shooting
Often on arrows, it is common for archers to lose their feathers, but that has not been an issue whatsoever with these, due to the sinew wrapping on the ends of the quills. These particular arrows are from my "stump shooters", which saw the most impact and shock and wet weather of all my arrows this past year.
here is the beginning of an arrow rest used for our self bows, this one will be glued onto the side of the handle, and then wrapped with a brain tanned leather handle (buckskin)
The arrow rest and leather handle as made with our traditional style bows and arrows is shown above, while the picture below depicts a native american stick bow with a leather handle but no arrow rest.
First protect your knuckles if using a bow without an arrow rest and check to make sure all things are in working order, then warm up the bow and line up the arrow so that it is perpendicular to the bow, find the center of the bw with your bow hand by checking for a "sweet spot" when pulling back on the bow. Make sure that the bow is right side up.
Taping the Knuckles and Checking for sweet spot while lining up the arrow
The grips that I have found to work well with primitive bows and arrows have been the one finger, two finger and three finger bow hand grips.
Note the finger positioning on the bow and the tilted wrist
My shoulder position is usually 35° from the target. Noter that the arrow is directly in line with my eye.
These two pictures abover show that the shoulders can open and close the stance regardless of feet placement. As in all things regarding form, consistency is crucial to better groupings.
Stance while shooting is important because you must have steady feet, legs, torso and shoulders in order to have steady hands and aim.
Here you may observe a closed grip on the bow hand and a mediterranean string hold, ie one finger over, and two under the arrow
Here we can see the full grip on the bow is different than the two finger grip used above. I find the full grip to be ineffective and prone to wrist slapping
Anchor points are another vital part of your form. Here we can see a hunting form I use where the base of the thumb is pressed snug against the front of my cheek bone. It is a shorter draw, and very accurate. Note too, the alignment of the forarm and the arrow, allowing a clean release that goes straight back and not to either side.
Be the unorthodox
Accept the primal
Loose the arrow
Ok. So I had solid foundations, my shooting was from the same distance over and over. Ten yards, 20 yards and so on. Every shot I put my feet in the same angle, my shoulders, my breathing was always the same. I hit the target or I flinched or dropped my bow hand or pulled to the side with the string hand or what ever. There was nothing but me and the stick bow. It will always be an unforgiving reflection of myself: If I missed, something was off.
I felt stale. I wanted to try something new. Something I haven't read, or seen. I needed a new perspective, a new training method.
I turned to my roots in Systema, an ancient russian fighting method. Their excersises where always psychological, always training the warrior to relax under pressure. To see clearly. I took it into consideration and began training much differently.
I still use my foundational skills, I still practice blind bail shooting and hold my stance to reflect after my shots. Nothing has been taken away from my formal training, but now I have even more tools, more drills.
One drill, and one of the first I have shared with students, is the spin drill...
*Discalimer* Before shooting, make sure that all saftey precautions are observed surrounding your enviroment and peers. If doing this exercise with friends, Do not shoot at the same time. Have them stand well behind you. No people should be around the target, of course. Know your limitations and never let the arrow loose if it is slipping off the arrow rest or knuckle.
Be calm, breath, relax, take it slow. This isn't Holly Wood. Listen to the birds.
Stand facing the target with your arrrow lowered and nocked, simply step around in graceful a cicle until you are again facing the target and shoot. Keep your rythm, slow is best. Hold your stance for two seconds after the shot to reflect on your posture.
Simple? Yes, but with profound teachings. I have been very suprised to find that many of my students shot as well as ever they did shooting traditionally, and I bet you will too. From this I have learned a lot about my shoulder position. It seems that my shoulders angle to the target is the most crucial dynamic to my accuracy, and so I ask students to pay attention to this during this drill.
Happy target killing!
Arrow Heads of the Ages
Long ago, the Earth Tribes used their available resources to make all that they needed. They had special needs and limitations and so there is a rich diversity in arrow heads throughout the ages and throughout the 20,000 year history of archery has seen little evolution in arrow head profiles.
A diverse array of shapes and materials were available to early hunters. Arrow heads where made to suit the needs of hunting large or small game, and later in history, warfare.
The materials varied from stone, antler, bone, and wood...
Wooden arrow heads are extremely common world wide. A fairly simple wooden point on the end of arrows made from wild shoots offers surprising resilience. These were yesterday’s “field points” for practice, blunt tips for small game, and piercers for fowl.
This material can be used to make harpoons, broad heads and chisel shaped heads. Broad heads were serrated, while chisel shaped points where polished sharp, both for hunting large animals. Harpoon points were useful for bow fishing and fowl hunting.
Older points tended to be simplistic and unifacial with a larger “tang” for better securing the point to the arrow. More modern points were mad bifacially and with less tang, making them more apt to detach in the victim and so being a tool of war as well as hunting.
Iron and Steel
Steel and Iron offer a hollow at the base to fit around the shaft. From war bodkins to hunting broad heads and trade points, these points differ only slightly from ancient predecessors in shape and profile, but are heavier and require more attention to uniform weight than the lighter points of old. They are more durable against chipping or breaking.
Odin – God of ancient Hunters
Long ago in ancient Scandinavia, lived Hunters who lived by Bow and Spear. Their survival depended upon those ancient skills to hunt bear, stag and boar. They had no horses and so carried little.
By examining the gods that these people worshipped and prayed to, it gives us insight to the core values they revered in hunting. Their ancient gods are lost to us, but the heirs lived on, and I believe that the more recent gods would be alike to the ancient ones from that area. So let us look at Odin, the Norse God, more closely.
Odin was the hunting god of the Norse, appearing through out Germanic cultures as Otan, Odan, and Odin, and yes, santa too. Odin was the one eyed ruler of the Aesir, the Gods of Asgard. He resided as the ruler of Thor, Tyre and other Hero Gods. He had many children among mortals who became heroes and was the ruler of wisdom, justice, hunting, wanderings solitude, and runes .
His wisdom was such that he knew all that had been and all there ever would be. He knew the fate of all the Gods and Giants, for in that old world, even the gods would die. Odin could throw his spear, Gungar into the center of any Target regardless no matter how it was thrown. Odin was a wanderer of the worlds of Men, Giants and Gods.
Often Odin was associated with Wolves and Raven’s. Among Native Americans, it has been said that the raven possesses the gift of having a secret language, as they are seemingly erratic, but Odin understood them well.
Odin would sit and talk with the ravens every night to learn what had happened that day, much like the ancient trackers who knew bird language to locate prey and predators. The wolf is the ancient friend of the raven, and the raven will lead wolf to prey. We are a wild animal as well when we become a part of nature. Perhaps the wolf represents our ancient spirit of the hunter.
Odin reminds me of the ancient clan leader, the sage wandering the hills, the oracle, the scout, and the hunter all in one.
Archery helps to embody the strengths of Odin and other ancient gods of hunting by making us focus on the center, perfect our form, clear our mind and connect with the world around us. I hope that you are inspired in your own archery practice by the ancient heroes of legend as well.
Till Next time,
It was time for my friend Justin and I to visit the wild. No sleeping bags, no modern fire making tools, no tent or tarp, and no water purifiers. We arrived a few hours before sunset. While sitting by a stream we discussed the best areas to explore and find shelter and we hiked and gathered fire materials as we went. A wind storm was coming through with 40 and 50mph winds and it was 36 degrees.
Justin and I knew the area well. A valley with streams and hard wood forests on the mountain sides and wet fields, swamps and sandy brush on the valley floor. With seeps to drink from and forests to make shelter.
After finding a good site, we collected as much wood as we could in one hour. Sticks were laid upon the ground to make beds and keep us from the cold earth. Then we assembled bark shingles above them on wooden frames. The fire would go in between us.
Snow was still on the ground and the sun was going down. As we made the fire with a bow drill, it began to hail and the wind blew harder. Rocks were placed by the fire to absorb heat, these would be our heat sources under the wool blanket that each of us brought. The hail stopped and the wind continued.
Venison roast seasoned with mugwort and spruce, pemmican, and pine tea were for dinner. Justin and I laughed whole heartedly about the wind storm and talked into the night as the temperature dropped below freezing.
Smoke blew into my face for hours as I hid under my blanket to try and avoid a headache. A couple of red cedar logs in the fire seemed to make it worse. Three warm rocks close to my body kept me warm. A fox began to bark at us in the middle of the night and the owls began to call.
In the morning the wind was gone and I watched a squirrel hop along near camp. “I will set a trap near there.” I thought.
We banked the coals under the ash and went about setting primitive traps nearby for wild game and we gathered cattail roots in the valley. We kept our throwing sticks ready in case a squirrel or rabbit came along. Sitting by the stream cleaning and cutting the roots in the warm sun was very relaxing.
On the way back to the camp site, I was carrying a large flat rock to set a raccoon trap near a slow muddy stream when suddenly a rabbit darted out in front of me and froze in the bushes ahead. I dropped the 50 lb. rock to grab my throwing stick but in doing so sprained my thumb. I told Justin to go for the rabbit but it was gone. “What rabbit?” Justin asked.
My right hand was now swelling and I applied acupressure to let the qi flow. It’s always the most random accident that gets you.
When we got back I tended to the fire and roots as Justin collected the nights wood supply. I uncovered the coals and lit a new fire. The sun was going down as we roasted cattail roots and drank hemlock needle tea with warm rocks in our beds.
The next morning Justin offered me more of the roots and I instantly felt nauseous. He laughed and offered more of the pemmican. “I think I’ll pass for now.” I couldn’t take another bite of the stuff. I hoped that one of the traps might have gotten something, but of the four we set, none were full. I wished we could set more since I had brought over twenty, but we were leaving that afternoon. “Maybe next time.” We agreed.
My family picked us up around noon and we entertained my daughter with our stories on the drive home. “How big was the rabbit?” She asked.
Coming back I felt grateful for the luxuries I enjoy every day. My bed, my grocery store, etc. But I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if I woke up earlier and set fifteen traps? Maybe I should bring my bow next time…”
A Picture of My friend Justin and I when My family picked us up....
The greatest of American Indian weapons was skill and knowledge of bow and arrows