The Challenge

I was asked a very good question the other day: “Why do you choose to shoot a longbow?  Why not shoot a compound?”  It was a question I really had to think about, and found that it wasn’t so easy to answer.

At a very early age, the archery fuse was lit. I can remember hours and hours of practice in the backyard, shooting arrow after arrow into the double stacked hay bales.  Back then I had my favorite cedar shafts, and I could remember shooting so much, I shot the paint coating right off the shafts to expose the raw wood underneath.  The Wing recurve that my dad gave me had thousands and thousands cycles of the limbs that cast those arrows into the bales… I was hooked on archery!  Traditional archery was the foundation, and the catalyst that sparked the archery excitement within me!

As time progressed,  I too caught the exciting wave of compounds bows, which was still fairly new technology back in the early '80s.  My first compound was the Bear Mini Magnum, then the Bear Whitetail II. It wasn’t long before I hit what I considered the big leagues when my dad helped me buy the Bear Delta V.  I was fourteen.   Anyone who can remember the Delta V bows, knows the incredibly loud crack the bow made when the arrow was released and the string came to a sudden stop against the rubber string stoppers.  My neighbors didn’t appreciate me waking them up early on the weekend when I was practicing early mornings… This bow was not a silent killer in any way, shape, or form, but it did get me hooked on the arrow speed of performance compound bows, and launched my quest for faster and faster bows.

In my late teens, I was hooked on 3D and shooting all the time.  If I wasn’t practicing with my bow, I was scouting and getting ready for bow season!  I lived archery!

Jumping ahead six years, I was stationed in Maine while serving in the Coast Guard. I was sitting in a treestand that overlooked a bear bait.  After hours in the stand, I began seeing movement through the thick brush and I was totally expecting to see a big black bruin stroll in, but to my surprise, it was full-grown porcupine.  “Ah cool!”  A porcupine was considered a trophy in my book, being I had moved from Ohio up to Maine and had never taken a porcupine.  I had hunted a pile of groundhogs as a kid, but now I had a prickly target in front of me. I quickly drew my compound bow and made the 45-yard shot through the thick brush.  Bulls eye!  I had just taken my first trophy porcupine.

That shot on that cold crisp fall day in Maine changed history as I knew it. Even though the shot I had made on the porcupine was what I considered a perfect shot and dispatched the animal very quickly, it made me think.  Reflecting back on the experience and the shot, I considered the challenging through-the-brush difficulty and was very pleased with my accuracy.  But there was something more I was feeling.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but that shot through the woods left me wanting more from my bowhunting challenge. At that moment, I realized that the arrows I shot from my traditional bow of my past were haunting me.  Traditional archery was calling to me once again. I wanted more challenge from my bowhunting and once again wanted to watch my arrows twist and spin through each shot.

Shooting traditional equipment accurately is not a given. You must practice, and practice a bunch!  It’s an art that takes dedication.  For me, it’s more about living the bow in order to be efficient in the woods!

Even though I still get excited to shoot modern compound bows, and even opt to take the wheeled bows into the field on certain hunts, I’ve found the excitement of tradition bowhunting gear gets me fired up!  Especially when a good shot is made with a quick harvest.  No shot from a compound bow in a hunting situation is ever a given, but traditional bows definitely throw an extreme twist into the scenario. Closer shots, slower bows, and instinctive shooting will quickly humble even the most skilled hunters in the woods.  

After taking the porcupine on that fall day, I decided to once again take on the traditional bowhunting challenge. The first chance I had, I confessed my decision to my best friend Ron, who had been shooting a recurve all along.  He always made fun of my training wheels. I quickly picked up a Bear Kodiak recurve from the local pawn shop, and I was back on the road to traditional bowhunting. 

The choice to once again pick up stick-n-string definitely brought on a huge challenge… but worth the frustrations, the misses, and the hair-pulling when trophy animals walked just outside my effective range only to watch them walk by when they had easily been taken with modern bows.  Yes, all that is worth it when everything does come together. There’s nothing more exciting for me than when that one shot makes the mark when fired from a traditional bow.

Why do I choose to hunt with a traditional bow?  For the same reason I choose to be a bowhunter…. I love the challenge, the up-close encounters, and the feeling of successful hunts!  I love the pureness of a simple bow and instinctive shooting…. I love traditional bowhunting!


Heath Painter

Tribe Archery