Archive for the ‘Archery’ Category

Dusting off old friends

Posted: June 6, 2016 in Archery

I haven’t written about archery for a while, but I thought I’d pop in and just do a quick post about what’s been going on.

This season, I’ve been shooting the Bear Archery Kodiak Magnum. It’s a 52″ AMO recurve, rated at 50#. I picked it up from the Bargain Cave at Cabela’s a few years ago, and it’s proven to be a good little bow. Yes, there’s a bit of handshock. I have a fairly long draw for such a short bow, and it doesn’t weigh a thing. Still, it’s a nice shooter, and gets along quite well with full length 400 spine carbon arrows. I always like it when I can slot in arrows that don’t need any fiddling to get on target.

In any case, I decided to change things up yesterday, and went for my biggest recurve, a Martin Hunter at 65# (62″ AMO). It could not be much more different. Huge, low grip handle, at least twice the heft, and the arrows I have tuned for it are big Easton 2317s with 200 grain points. I call it “Daddy Rolling Stone”, from the old Who song.

After a few shots to establish point of aim, I was shooting great (for my definition of said term – I’m not an Olympic archer by any stretch). Those massive arrows were slugging the target straight and true, and life was good. Do you get tired faster at 65# than 50#? Yes. But if you pace yourself and take small breaks, a fairly high volume of shooting is still possible. You just have to recognize when your bow arm shoulder starts to get tuckered out.

For whatever reason, the Martin/Damon Howatt bows I have seem to have some magic about them. I very rarely have a bad outing shooting those bows. If I miss, I tend to miss small. They never seem to feel as heavy as their draw weight, even when they measure spot-on. I guess there is a reason that they’ve been in business so long. Most people would probably not think about a 65# recurve as a “plinking” bow, but it is so smooth, quiet, and natural to shoot, that I find myself treating it as such. I shoot it kneeling, squatting, sitting down on the ground, bent double…all my weird practice shots. Even the kinked-up Asbell style is fine, or the “reach back” shot as if you were a Magyar shooting from horseback.

And the satisfying sound of the nearly 700 grain arrows hitting the target? Classic.

Don’t forget your old friends. They don’t have to be perfect, they don’t have to be pristine. They can be friendly to the hand like no spiffy new bow. I bought the big Martin for, I believe, $275 through the mail. I put a string scavenged from another bow on it, made an arrow rest out of Velcro, and I’ve never had to do a thing to it beyond that. That is a lot of fun for the dollar, my friends.



Writer’s Guide to Bows, Part Four

Posted: February 13, 2013 in Archery, Articles

Last time, I put forward a list of terms and definitions. This time, we’ll bat cleanup and see if I can leave you with a fair understanding of archery, such that you can portray it convincingly in your stories.

If there is one thing that I can stress before the end of this series, it’s that nothing I can say will teach you as much as actually trying out archery. Do yourself a favor and go down to your local archery club. Chances are, they’ll have a bow to rent and an instructor who can give you a few pointers. If you’re not lucky enough to be near a place like that, it’s possible a friend or relative might have a bow you can try.

Failing that, there’s always my article about how to shoot an arrow on this site. CLICK HERE to check that out, as it goes through a step-by-step process of a typical target shot with a bow. If you’re a little handy, you can also build your own bow out of PVC pipe. I have an article about that, as well. CLICK HERE to check it out.

Finally, if you want to see some footage of bows being shot by yours truly, please look in the Videos section of this site, and you’ll find me shooting a variety of different bows in all manner of ways.


Last time, we talked about the usage of bows as both hunting tools and weapons of war. This time, I’ll be discussing terminology. As I wrote this one, it became clear that I’d need at least one more segment for the “thoughts” element of the series, so this one turned into an extended list of terms and ideas.


Riser: The fixed portion in the middle of the bow, where the bow’s grip area is located. On a traditional longbow or flat bow, these grips are often very simple. They may be bare wood or have leather, fur, or cloth wrapping.

Limbs: The bending portions of a bow. If, at rest (unstrung) the limbs are bent away from the direction they’ll be moving in use, this is called a reflex or recurve, recurve being a much more pronounced bend. The reflex is usually applied by steaming wooden limbs and pressing them into a form. It should be noted that any excess weight added to a bow’s limbs decreases efficiency. The highly ornate bow designs that are sometimes seen in fantasy art are unrealistic. Some of those designs would likely not function at all in practice. Functional bows are fairly plain.

Limb Tips: At the point where notches are cut into the limbs, such that the string is retained, you have the limb tip. Because this area is subject to a lot of stress, it sometimes reinforced. Animal horn, antler, or even bone can be used to reinforce this area.

Arrow Shelf: Primitive bows do not have this feature, instead using the archer’s knuckle to hold the arrow steady. If an arrow shelf is cut into the bow, it serves to be a channel where the arrow travels. Arrow shelves serve a few purposes. One is normalizing the point at which the arrow sits, rather than using the hand, which can be variable. The other is to protect the knuckle from the fletching, which can cut skin as it passes at speed.

Nocking Point: In order to fit the arrow to the string (nock the arrow) at the same point each time, archers often affix a small demarcation point at the middle of the string. This is most frequently done by tying a small amount of thread onto the string at the place which will put the arrow at the appropriate orientation with the riser of the bow. An archer can tune the arrow flight by raising or lowering this nocking point. When they find the best position, they can drop a dab of glue onto this string loop to hold it in place.

Brace Height: When a bow is strung, there is a measurable amount of space between the string and the lowest point of the grip. This measurement is called brace height. To string a bow is also called “bracing the bow”. In longbow history, an appropriate brace height was called a “fistmele”. To test this, make the “thumbs up” sign and place the bottom of your fist into the deepest part of the bow grip. If the string is touching or slightly above your extended thumb, you have sufficient brace height. Different bow designs require more or less brace height to shoot their best. In most cases, a recurved design requires a higher brace height than a longbow.


In the first segment, we talked about how bows operate and the materials they’re made from. This time, we’ll dig into how they have been used through history.

The bow as a tool:

As humans, we need tools to get many things done in the world. From the first heavy stone that let us smash open a seed pod and get something to eat, we’ve been coming up with stuff to help us out. The bow occurs in almost all historical cultures, and its most familiar role is that of a hunting tool. After all, we might fight from time to time, but eating is mandatory.

The most primitive cultures found that a spear was successful at hunting game, provided that you could get near enough to throw and hit it. Even we modern folk, with our lack of skill at basic survival, can grasp how to make a spear. Find a stick, sharpen the end or affix something sharp to it, and boom, you’re ready to go. As a tool or a weapon, it’s about as simple and effective as you can get.

Spears, though, have pretty limited range, as well as having a logical limit to the amount of them that can be carried around. Many game animals are wary and difficult to approach. The kind of animal that will actively attack you or fail to run away, such that you can fight it with spear in hand..well, that type of animal is probably not the kind of beast you want to tangle with in order to get through the day.

Enter the bow. With a simple bow, even a very light one, it’s possible to hunt small game like rabbits and ground birds effectively. With a bow of greater power, hunting larger animals becomes viable. The Native Americans used a variety of bow designs, some of them quite intricate, to hunt with. Even an animal as large as a bison could be hunted successfully, if a good strategy was employed.


It occurred to me recently that many people who write historical or fantasy stories could benefit from some information about how bows actually work, as well as how to speak knowledgeably about them. This series of articles is the result.

Part I: How bows work and what they’re made of

A bow is a fairly simple machine. In essence, it is a spring with a string attached.You may also hear them termed “a bent stick and a string,” which is not altogether incorrect for most types of bows.

The bow itself can be broken down into two distinct elements. The first is called the Riser. The riser is the part of the bow where the grip is taken. In most types of bows, this element is rigid, and does not flex during the action of the shot. Some longbows “flex through the handle”, but even those only deflect a few degrees within the span of the bow grip.

The active part of the bow, the element that flexes during the shot, is the limb. There are two limbs, and they are usually symmetrical in resistance and dimension. Some bow designs, specifically the Japanese Yumi, are quite asymmetrical. Modern theory dictates that a bow’s limbs should be within certain tolerances in terms of degree of flexion during the shot, but archaic or primitive designs would often diverge from this.

When a bow is strung, the material of the limbs is put under pressure. This is often called “preload.” As the bow is drawn back, this load increases. With a bow of traditional design, the draw weight should increase at somewhere between two and three pounds per inch. Any limb design has a finite amount of flexibility, however, and as they reach that point, the draw weight will climb rapidly. This is termed “stacking”. Stacking is generally to be avoided, as it tends to put extra stress on both the bow and the archer.


Some old friends were in town from Arizona yesterday, and I ended up demonstrating some of my goofy caveman stunts. I shot arrows, bent nails, hoisted sandbags, swung k-bells, pressed big dumbbells, and so forth. It was fun, and I found that, though I haven’t been cavemanning much lately, I still have the knack.

Introducing the Omega Raptor:

Posted: June 26, 2012 in Archery, Videos


I just realized that I hadn’t shared my videos of my new custom bow, the Omega Raptor. Kegan McCabe made it for me, and it’s a takedown hybrid longbow that I’m pretty sweet on at this moment. Here’s the two videos thus far:

First Impressions:

Omega Raptor First Shoot from Patrick Tracy on Vimeo.

And some fun shooting:

First Day with the Omega Raptor from Patrick Tracy on Vimeo.

A High Volume of Shooting

Posted: June 25, 2012 in Archery

Through the last few weeks, I’ve been shooting my bows. A lot.

Primarily, it’s been the two newest bows, the Omega Raptor and the Martin Hunter. Two very different bows with different feels to the shot.

The Omega Raptor is long and lean, a hybrid longbow that I bought specifically for long shooting sessions and to be a “form bow” to help me work on my shot sequence. It only pulls 41#, and is very smooth and easy. I’ve gotten a Robin Hood, and flirted with several more lately. If I do the work and get a solid shot off, the arrow’s going right where I want it most of the time.

The big Martin Hunter is a burly recurve that pulls 65#. I’ve had days that rank up there with some of my best ever shooting excursions with it already, but its weight makes it harder to be consistent some days. I had a few iffy days last week where I was a little all over the place, though the second day I shot with it was like shades of …I don’t know, someone really good.

Anyhow, that’s what’s been going on.

Shooting Moving Targets

Posted: May 19, 2012 in Archery, Videos

Here’s a recent video of me shooting “stuff” in the back yard. Enjoy.