Me and my bow and why

As a young boy I inherited a bow. I remember it quite well. It was a red recurve with a white rubber riser. The brand name was Shakespeare and the draw weight was 18 pounds. I was 7 years old.

Along with the bow were a few wooden arrows and a quiver. For a target I had a cardboard box stuffed full of crumpled newspapers. With this equipment and no instruction whatsoever I honed what writer Thomas McGuane would call a “high specific skill” that would stay with me for life. (Note: This is something quite different from a “highly specific skill.”)

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I recall shooting archery in high-school PE class at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Northern Virginia. Then in my 30s I briefly dabbled in the sport again with a compound bow that seemed brutish and lacked the elegance of the traditional recurve that I’d first learned to shoot.

And to which I’d return.

In recent months I’ve rediscovered the joy of archery with a 35-pound recurve. Like my first bow, it’s nothing fancy but much nicer — a smooth-shooting Samick Sage with a beautiful wooden riser. I’m able to regularly hit smaller targets out to 50 feet shooting this outfit and some nice Fleetwood carbon arrows.

What I like about archery is that it requires a Zen-like mental focus. If you can shoot, you’ll do well so long as your mind is clear. Let your mind wander somewhere else and the arrows will stray with it. Recently I sent a wild shot right over the target and the arrow stuck tight in the thick bark of a Ponderosa pine.

Archery offers a break and diversion from other more-physical aerobic activities I enjoy, like running, hiking, mountain-biking and cross-country skiing, though it does require a certain amount of physical strength. It offers a break from the stresses of daily life as well, though it can be addictive and fire up the old obsessive-compulsive machine if you are not careful.

I try to shoot a few arrows every day when the weather’s nice. And if I miss a couple days, or a few weeks, it’s no big deal. I can always come back to it like I’ve done all my life.

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6 Responses to “Me and my bow and why”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    I have a compound that my stepdad gave me circa 1980. Its not elegant but the Zen part works just the same.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Won’t save you down here in the Duke City, where even the Native A’s are carrying modern weaponry.

      Unless you call in arty using beehive antipersonnel rounds, of course.

      • Hal Walter Says:

        Well, it’s not my fault you moved to the Duke City . . . Oh, wait . . .

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        The locals even have drone technology. I see ’em buzzing over El Rancho Pendejo alla damn time. I’m not sure you can bring one of those down with your Little Beaver antiaircraft gun there, Chief.

  2. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Good day Hal. I was prodded to come to your blog by Patrick O’Grady (AKA the Mad Dog of Duke City.) I enjoyed this post, and my wife and I were deeply involved in archery; it was our main pastime for a dozen years both target and hunting archery. I can recommend two books for instinctive shooting. We read and referred to both often while instinctive shooting recurve bows. They are “Instinctive Shooting” by G. Fred Asbel and “Become The Arrow” by Byron Ferguson. We quickly gave up compounds and moved to recurve bows in our archery years. I loved the simplicity, light weight, and those frequent but short moments of “flow” that shooting instinctively can give you.

  3. Arthur Gerard Michael von Boennighausen Says:

    Friend Hal:

    I studied Zen Archery for over a year….. Long periods of time holding the bow at full draw until your muscles collapsed then rest and do it again.

    I remember shoting the arrow at the target from one foot away and then days later stepping back another foot and shooting the target until months later I was 50 feet away.

    Did you ever read that the long Zen bow reaches from Earth to Heaven with the Archer in the middle?

    Thinking Allowed…..

    Arthur Gerard Michael von Boennighausen

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