The Archer’s Edge: History and Heritage of Archery

Archery is more than just a sport, a spot and stalk hunt, or a weekend hobby — It’s a passion. Over the next 16 weeks I want to take you through some tips, tricks and fun facts to best your archery knowledge and skills to get you ready for the thrill of a lifetime.

Archery has been debated to date back to the Stone Age around 20,000BC but the earliest archeological finds were in Egypt around 5,000 years ago. The Egyptians used archery for hunting and warfare. The first bows were made by joining antelope horns with a piece of wood in the center. Strings were made from animal sinew or plant fibers and the arrows were shaped of reed and tipped with flint or hardwood. Later in time the tips were cast of bronze. These ancient bows demanded strength, agility and years of practice.

China has a long history of archery dating back to the Shang Dynasty from 1766BC through the modern age. Archery was used in war with mounted soldiers as well as by nobles in archery rituals and tournaments. Even Confucius himself was an archery teacher who said “A refined person has no use for competitiveness. Yet if he cannot avoid it, then let him compete through archery.”

Japan took archery ideas from China and turned them into a physical, moral and spiritual development segment of martial arts. It was originally known as Kyujutsu but is now referred to as Kyudo. These practices are meticulous in form and style. Archers hold the bow in the left and hand and draw the string with the right in order to always have their left side facing the target. There are ‘eight stages of shooting’ that are arranged by the All Nippon Kyudo Federation. The final stage is Zanshin, “the remaining body or mind” or “the continuation of the shot.” This refers to the state of concentration used by the archer during his practice and ensuring he remains in position until completion of the shot.

In modern times archery has been taken up as more of a sport or for hunting. The first organized archery tournament was recorded in Finsbury, England in 1583. It included over 3,000 participants. Archery has been a recognized sport at the Olympics since 1900 and the Paralympics since 1960. The recurve bow is the only bow allowed to be used in the Olympics.

There are many different types of bows including the recurve, compound, traditional and crossbow. In order to decide which type of bow to use first it is good to look at what type of archery activity you are interested in. Target archery is the most popular type in which archers shoot at a stationary target with a bullseye. This can be done indoor at a range or outdoors.  This style of archery is used in the Olympic Games. Field archery is more for the adventurer. There are stationary bullseye targets placed along a wandering trail through the woods. 3D archery includes the use of 3D targets and can be great practice for hunting. Bowhunting and bowfishing are a great way to harvest your own meat and experience the rush and thrill of real-time archery. You can truly gain a deeper connection with the outdoors through bowhunting. Traditional archery is for the old-school purist who loves the authentic bows and perhaps even the new students who have caught the fever from watching “The Hunger Games.”  Traditional archery removes the modern accessories and lets archers connect with their bow.

No matter what style of archery you prefer or are interested in — it can be a great way to connect with nature, find your inner strength, and just have fun.

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4 Responses to “The Archer’s Edge: History and Heritage of Archery”

  1. Mark Hood

    I have harvested many animals with firearms of various types. Hundreds of them. Nothing compares to bow hunting. Bow hunting takes way more preparation, skill, scent control, and stealth. I have had animals come so close and not see or smell me. With in two yards. There is nothing that compare with harvesting an animal with a bow. With maybe the exception of a knife or spear, of which I have never done.

    The information provided was excellent. Many things I did not know about. The horns used to make a bow was very different. Anyway if you are physically able and want a challenge. Then bow hunting is definitely for you.

    • Amanda Zerebko

      I too enjoy being out in the field with game near. Whether I am scouting or hunting when I hear the footsteps of a deer or the beating wings of a grouse I feel a calm adrenaline rush over me. I have yet to be within a few yards of prey when hunting but perhaps more field time will provide that. I agree that bow hunting is a challenge and look forward to introducing more people to it. Thank you for your comments and I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

  2. Jack Ammons

    I’ve been involved in archery for 58 years. I can’t explain the feeling I get from shooting my bow. I started with traditional bows went to compounds, but after shooting bottle caps at 30 yards I went back to traditional bows. My favorite is the long bow. I also enjoy reading about how it all started. I still have articles about Howard Hill and Fred Bear and other archers. I’m looking forward to more of the same.

    • Amanda Zerebko

      My grandfather and I used to watch the 1938 ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ and I still remember being shocked by the archery skills of Hill. Hill and Bear were true pioneers in the archery business and without true sportsman like them we might not be where we are today – and I might not be shooting a Bear Prowess Bow. :) I am glad you enjoyed the article and keep an eye out for more to come.