Advancements in the technology of archery have revolutionized modern day hunting. Some bows are still primitive while others have gadgets and gear and precision tuned measurements. Even if you have had rotator cuff surgery or a disability that would have previously prevented you from hunting with a bow you are able to bring out a crossbow, in most states, and enjoy the hunt. We might not think of these technological feats on a daily basis but I want to walk you through the evolution of archery tech.
Before we knew names such as Fred Bear and Earl Hoyt, Jr. we had pieces of archery in many cultures around the world. The earliest broadheads were made of stone or flint and found in South Africa. These pieces are thought to be 71,000 years old. Steel broadheads were not created until the arrival of the Europeans to the new world and the introduction of iron to the Native Americans. The manipulation of steel allowed for multiple blades to be used. Broadheads kill through hemorrhaging and multiple blades can increase cutting action and in turn a quicker and cleaner kill. Venting in the blades was created to increase to speed of the arrow by reducing the pressure of the passing air on the surface of the blade. Replacement of broadheads blades was found to be a huge advancement when introduced by Richard Maleski with the Wasp broadhead in 1972. Mechanical broadheads round out the general advancements with the introduction of Rocket Aeroheads by Greg Johnson in the late 1980’s.
In the beginning arrows were made of wood and used varieties such as cherry, cedar and hickory, among others. The supplies were readily available on almost any tree around yet the reliability of wooden arrows wasn’t precise. One key problem was that with any strike they were almost guaranteed to break. It wasn’t until 1939 that arrows were constructed of aluminum and other materials. The first to do such was James Easton. This was a significant advancement in arrow production and allowed more precision with the arrows as well as increased flight trajectory and speed. Fletching has transitioned as well from the standard turkey feathers of yesteryear to the more common plastic or vinyl vane used today.
The Egyptians were thought to invent a composite bow as far back as 2800 BC allowing them to increase abilities to hunt food and gain an advantage in warfare. Long bows were the first to be designed and typically made from wood with the ends being tipped in animal horns. Sheep intestines were used for the sinew of the strings. Recurve bows were said to be introduced next during the Middle Stone Age. This new design allowed for an increase in force, accuracy and speed.
H.W. Allen created the first compound bow in 1969 allowing a hunter to utilize the new idea of let-off so that less force would be needed to pull back and hold the bow. This allowed a higher FPS regardless of upper body strength. The mechanical advantage given by the compound bow is one of the most significant technological advancements in archery. The numbers prove the significance of the compound bow with over 61% of archers using only compound bows today. Another 12.6% use them in conjunction with another bow.
Ted Nugent, an avid bow hunter, said, “Without the compound bow, bow hunter participation would be inconsequential in wildlife management, industry impact, conservation awareness and the critical family hours of recreation that it creates and funds. The advances in technology have encouraged more people to experience what is surely one of life’s highest of highs… easier to shoot compounds, straighter arrows, more forgiving mechanical releases, arrow rests and sighting devices provide increased confidence, but dedicated practice is still the guiding force to become proficient.” He is not alone in his statement of truth about the advancements of archery yet his poignant opinion of fundamentals is not to be overlooked.
There is a tradition in bow hunting. Skill is still the fundamental element. The average shot hasn’t changed over the years and is still holding at about 22 yards, a distance that can be hit with any longbow, recurve or compound. Archery hunting started as a subsistence lifestyle need and is even more important today. Not only can it provide food for the table but it helps animal conservation efforts around the globe. Sharing these hunting traditions and practices with future generations will keep the spirit of bow hunting alive as well as continue to show success in conservation efforts.
Archery has seen a growth in participation numbers with over 25 million participants in hunting, recreation and competition shooting. That is almost 1 in every 10 people. While only about 9 million archers are hunters it is showing the tradition of bow and arrow is still strong and living today.
While advancements are inevitable in any sport, some archers believe the advancements aren’t all they are cracked up to be. The instinctive shooting one learns from using a longbow or recurve can be tampered with by the introduction of a compound bow with complex sights and advancements. According to the ATA over 40% of archers still use a traditional bow, whether or not in conjunction with a crossbow or compound, which means the tradition, is still appealing hundreds of years later.
No matter what you shoot or why, archery is a passion sport. It is a fun, entertaining and a skillful passion. Archery gets you closer to the target, demands all of your attention and teaches self-sufficiency. Now for my call to action: if you are an archer, teach someone new – if you have never shot a bow, ask someone who does. Spread the knowledge, share the tradition and foster the passion for archery.