Archery is one of the oldest arts of ancient times and is still being practiced today. It has played a very important role in many of the worlds civilizations. The earliest people known to have used the bow and arrow were the ancient Egyptians, who adopted the weapon at least 5000 years ago. From its first development until the 1500s, the bow was man's constant companion and has been the most widely used of all weapons in recorded history. The bow was an important tool in allowing prehistoric humans to become the most efficient hunter on earth, providing him safety, food and raw materials such as bone, sinew and hide.
The bow and arrow was Englands principal weapon of national defense for several centuries. It was also used by Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes to conqueror many nations. Native Americans used the bow and arrow as a means of subsistence and existence during the days of English and later American colonization. Since its replacement by firearms as a weapon of war, archery has become a favored sport enjoyed by millions.
Archery tournaments, as we know them today, can be traced back to England. Competitions were held as part of community festivals as early as the 17th century. By about 1600, three kinds of shooting were practiced in England, and they still are practice in some form.
In butt shooting, the ancestor of Olympic target archery, bowmen aimed at targets mounted on earthen butts at ranges of 100 to 140 yards. In clout shooting, the target was a piece of canvas, about 18 inches across, with a wooden peg in its center. Arrows are shot high into the air to descend on the target, which lies on the ground rather than being upright. Roving, the predecessor of modern field archery, grew out of casual hunting with bow and arrow. Archers are presented with targets of various shapes and sizes, simulating small animals, and they shoot at unknown ranges over rough ground, not a prepared course.
Archery competition was on the program of the second modern Olympic Games in 1900. However, International rules had not yet been developed, and each host country used its own rules and format. This resulted in great confusion and the sport was eliminated from the Olympic program in 1929. Founded in 1931, the Federation International de Tir a lArc (FITA) became the governing body for the sport of archery. The organization implemented standardized, international rules for competition. After enough countries had adopted the FITAs rules, archery was re-admitted to the Olympic games in 1972.
Today, technology has greatly advanced the equipment and some competitive formats have become obsolete while others have been added. Archery has been combined with skiing in the sport of ski-archery, and with running in Arcathlon.
Types of Equipment
The Recurve Bow - Many contemporary bow handles (risers) are made of aluminum alloys and are machined for a combination of strength and lightness. Some have wood risers and there are some that are made of a magnesium and aluminum mixture, which is heated to liquid form and poured into a mold. Once cooled, it is cleaned, final machined and painted.
Bow limbs are generally constructed of man-made materials, such as fiberglass, carbon and syntactic foam. The limbs store the energy of the draw and release it to the arrow. The string and the limbs are commonly removed from the riser when the bow is not in use, allowing for easy storage of the "knocked-down" bow.
Many bows have stabilizers to reduce torque (twisting) in the arrows upon release. They also have sights to aid in aiming and arrow rests to help align the shot.
Most bowstrings today are made of "Fast Flight, a hydrocarbon product that also has medical and other uses, or "Kevlar, the material used to make bulletproof vests. The important point to be made about the string is that it must not stretch under normal environmental conditions, as that would change the bows pull weight and make consistency impossible. A layer of string material called the serving is placed where the arrow is knocked, and serves to snugly match the nock on the arrow, and a small ring is permanently placed on the serving to mark where the arrow rests when knocked. A small button, called the kisser button, is often used to assure that the back end of the arrow is always pulled back to the proper, repeatable anchor point. When properly drawn, the kisser button rests right between the lips.
An arrow is typically pulled back to the anchor point using the middle three fingers of the draw hand. These fingers are often covered with a glove or a leather "tab" which protects them. The tab may have a metal shelf built in so that the two fingers on either side of the arrow do not squeeze it.
On Olympic bows a clicker is a small, spring-loaded lever that is held out away from its resting point by the arrow. When the arrow is drawn back to exactly the same point each time, the clicker slips past the tip of the arrow, producing an audible "click, which tells the archer he has the arrow at the same, repeatable release point. This causes very close to the same amount of tension to be used on every shot, so the arrow flight is the same.
A sight allows the archer, when the arrow is properly drawn, to line the bow up with the center of the target. The sight generally has adjustments in up-down and left-right dimensions with caliper-style read outs so that aging equipment, weather, temperature and distance to the target may be accommodated. Olympic archery allows for sights that do not have lenses or electronics associated with them.
Arm guards and chest protectors protect the skin from string burn, as well as provide a low-resistance surface that the string may skim over easily upon release. A pair of binoculars or a spotting scope allows the archer to see the arrows in the target, and thereby make corrections to the sight as required. A quiver to hold arrows and other paraphernalia completes the archer's accessories. The NAA, in accordance with FITA rules, has established a dress code that is used at all NAA tournaments; this accounts for the "whites" look of the competitors.
The Compound Bow - A Compound bow, unlike the Olympic bow, is never knocked-down between uses. The great tension preset into the limbs can only safely be countered when the bow is couched in a piece of equipment called a bow press. The cams are synchronized when this is done, and are held in place by the tension. Compound bow cases must be able to accommodate the entire bow. Because the compound bow's forte is accuracy, equipment that increases the accuracy is deemed fair for most all compound uses while it is not for Olympic archery. The site may include electronics and/or lenses to increase accuracy, and a release, rather than fingers, may be used. A release is a mechanical "finger" that grips the string and releases it when the trigger is pressed by the draw hand.
The Arrow - Arrows in the recurve (Olympic) bow events can travel in excess of 150 miles per hour, while compound arrows can fly in excess of 225 miles per hour. The shafts are made of either aluminum or aluminum with carbon fibers. Aluminum arrows are more uniform in weight and shape, while carbon arrows fly faster and provide less crosswind resistance, and are therefore more useful in long distance outdoor archery.
The business end of a target arrow is weighted and tipped with a target point, designed to penetrate but a short distance in the target butt (any material backing, bales, or dirt designed to stop and hold arrows). Hunting arrows, of course, use a different, extremely sharp cutting point called a broad head or field point. All NAA sanctioned events use only target points, except for certain Flight archery events.
The other end features a knocking point, a plastic cap glued or otherwise attached to the end of the arrow. Its fingers grip the string until flung loose, and it provides a protection for the shaft by deflecting hits from later incoming arrows. This generally destroys the nock, but leaves the arrow reusable. Sometimes, of course, the aim is too perfect to deflect; the resulting "Robin-Hood" is both spectacular and expensive, as both arrows are usually destroyed.
On the shaft itself fletching are glued to stabilize the arrow's flight. Sometimes they are glued in such a way as to cause the shaft to spin around its long dimension, further stabilizing its flight at a cost to its flat trajectory. The fletching is generally three in number, one of which (the index feather) is a different color than the other two. The nock is put into place by gripping the string perpendicular to the odd fletch, so that the other two fletches or feathers both brush the riser equally, minimally disturbing the arrow's flight.
Fletching may be plastic "feathers" or solid vanes, in a variety of shapes, lengths and, of course, colors.
Markings, called crests, may be drawn on the arrows at the owner's discretion. However, the NAA requires at all certified matches that all arrows be marked with the owner's initials so that they can be unequivocally identified while embedded in the target.
How much does it cost to get started in archery? It all depends on what kind of archery you want to pursue, and whether you start off with used equipment, rent equipment from an archery dealer, or buy new equipment right away. In general, here's some guidelines on what you might have to pay.
Beginners' Level - Equipment can be rented for approximately $3. Used beginners' equipment (bow, arrows) can be bought for less than $100. Basically, archery is like golf when it comes to equipment-if you want to buy top of-the-line equipment at the start, you can spend up to $1,500 or more.
Competitive Level - Equipment (bow, arrow, sights & other accessories) can range from $800 to $1,500 or more.
Coaching Costs - The cost of coaching varies with the circumstances. Many coaches work on a volunteer basis. For youth under the age of 18, the NAA supports Junior Olympic Archery Division (JOAD) programs where they may have good basic coaching and intra-club, even national, tournaments for nominal fees.
Range Fees - Let's not forget the commercial enterprises that support the sport on a local level. Range fees for indoor ranges vary from $5 per day to as much as $7 per hour, depending on local costs. Clubs or local government agencies, like park and recreation districts, run outdoor and some indoor ranges. All generally have a nominal, annual fee for the use of the facilities.
Archery Safety Rules
A knowledgeable adult should closely supervise the use of any archery equipment by a minor. Prior to using new equipment, read the manufacturer's instructions or obtain instructions from a qualified dealer or authority. Prior to each hunt, competition or practice session, inspect your equipment for signs of wear or damage:
Loose nuts, screws or associated brackets.
Any cracks or dents that may affect performance.
Inspect arrows for any signs of cracks in either the shaft or nock.
If the arrow shaft is cracked or badly bent, throw it away immediately.
If a nock is cracked or fits the string poorly, replace it.
Consult the owner's manual when making adjustments and changes to equipment. Any change or adjustment not covered in the owner's manual should be referred to a qualified dealer or an individual trained in service and repair.
Never shoot arrows straight up into the air. Distance shooting should only be done on ranges designed for that sport.
While using, observe the same common sense rules that apply to firearms:
Never take "sound" shots. Be sure of what you are shooting at before you release an arrow.
Never point or aim a drawn bow at another person.
Never shoot at a target or object until you are sure that it is capable of stopping your arrows and that the area behind and around the target is clear of living creatures and objects that could be endangered.
Never pull back and release a bowstring without an arrow attached. This is called "dry firing" a bow and each time it occurs you significantly reduce the life expectancy of your bow and may cause immediate damage to both the bow and yourself.
Use of safety glasses is recommended when working with or around mechanical devices and when shooting firearms. The bow and arrow is in this category and good eye protection makes good sense.
Be sure that your bow and arrows are properly matched to each other. Shooting too light an arrow in either weight or stiffness can damage your equipment and will result in erratic and inconsistent performance. Your bow should be matched to your physical ability and stature, i.e.: You should not have to struggle to draw the bow back, so peak draw weight should be correct for you. The draw length should be matched to you. You should not feel awkward at full draw.
Be sure arrows are of the correct length and stiffness for your bow. Use only accessories that are compatible with your bow in that they do not interfere with its proper operation. Never shoot hunting arrows in residential areas. Hunting arrows should only be shot on ranges designed for that purpose or under actual hunting conditions. When shooting hunting arrows, be sure to account for all your arrows. Hunting arrows are usually sharp and could be dangerous if encountered unexpectedly.
Hunting arrows should have their sharp edges covered with a protective hood or carried in a quiver to safeguard both equipment and user. Always use covers on your broadheads when not in use. When practicing with any archery equipment never allow anyone to retrieve arrows until all arrows have been shot.
9 Steps to the 10-Ring
STANCE - Place one foot on each side of the shooting line. Find a comfortable balanced stance with your feet shoulder-width apart. Stand straight and tall, with your head up and your shoulders down and relaxed.
NOCK - Place the arrow on the arrow rest, holding the arrow close to the nock. Keep the index fletching pointing away from the bow. Snap the nock of the arrow onto the bowstring under the nock locator.
SET - Set your bow hand on the grip using only the web and meaty part of your thumb. Your bow hand should be relaxed throughout the entire shot. Set the first groove of your first 3 fingers around the bowstring creating a hook. Keep the back of your drawing hand relaxed.
PRE-DRAW - Raise your bow arm toward the target, without raising your shoulder. Look at the target through the sight ring, and line up the bowstring with the center of the bow. Rotate your bow arm elbow under. The elbow of your drawing arms should be near the level of your nose.
DRAW - Draw the bow back by rotating your draw arm shoulder around until your elbow is directly behind the arrow. Continue looking at the target through the sight ring, and keep the string lined up with the center of the bow as you draw. Maintain a continuous drawing motion throughout the shot.
ANCHOR - Draw the string to the front of your chin, placing the knuckle of your index finger directly under the side of your jaw (first finger to the point of your smile). The string and string hand should be felt firmly against your jawbone. Lightly touch the string to the center of your nose. Continue to draw the bow smoothly, without stopping.
AIM - Focus your eyes and your concentration on the center of the target, looking through the sight ring. Keep the string lined up with the center of the bow. Continue your gradual draw.
RELEASE - Simply release all the tension in your fingers and drawing hand, all at once, while you continue to draw the bow without stopping. Continue extending the bow arm towards the target as you release. Continue focusing on the target.
FOLLOW-THROUGH - Drawing hand continues back beside neck with fingers relaxed, ending up near shoulder. Bow arm continues extension towards the target. Continue focusing on the target. Keep your follow-through until the arrow hits the target.
For Further Information
Archery Manufacturers and Merchants Organization
P.O. Box 5879
Ocala, FL 34478
International Bow hunting Organization
P.O. Box 398
Vermillion, OH 44089
National Field Archery Association
31407 Outer I-10
Redlands, CA 92373
National Archery Association
One Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80909.
(Material courtesy of National Shooting Sports Foundation)