Longbow – Progress and Setbacks
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My better groups have improved since the first week of slinging arrows with the Howard Hill Big Five, but I’m less concerned about accuracy right now and more focused on building strength and working towards a form that works for me. A couple startling discoveries along the way…

*A longbow will slap the #&$^#! out of your forearm if you use a grip similar to that of your “normal” compound archery form – that is, a grip where the weight of the bow is pressed directly on the webbing between your thumb and forefinger. Trust me I know.

*A longbow will not slap the #&$^#! out of your forearm if you use a different grip – that is, a heeled grip where the weight of bow rests more on the drumstick of your thumb. Takes some getting used to, but drastically less awkward that walking around with a raised bruise on your forearm the size of an elongated tennis ball.

*I started off 2 fingers under the arrow and 1 finger over. This did not work for me. I transitioned to 3 fingers under and I noticed an instant improvement in my groups.

*My current grip arm is absorbing the bulk of the buzz/vibration in my elbow and it freaking hurts. 20-25 shots and my elbow is screaming. A sort of tennis elbow I suppose. I’ve got to get this figured out ASAP and planning to mess with brace height as a first step. The Howard Hill bow is a D-shaped flex, many other longbows have a reflex/deflex hybrid shape and are far more forgiving. Trying an alternate style longbow would be a more drastic step. Going to recurve would be a more profound move still. Buying back a compound bow would be…wait, no, no, no…put that out of my head.

Most of my groups are still real loose. A 6″ spread is probably my average at 10 yards, but occasionally I concentrate everything into focus and get out 5 or 6 consecutive good ones. I need to get here consistently with my 10 yard groups by hammering home whatever form and anchor system I wind up adapting. All part of the progress, one that’s proving both challenging and painful…thankfully rewarding and satisfying as well!

Anecdotes of American Buffalo, “Gluttony”, and Intolerance
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Been reading an old volume (written in the late 30′s) on wildlife management called Our Wildlife Legacy by Durward Allen. Some of the examples that are used are astounding and it’s great perspective to read how the field of wildlife ecology and management has transformed in the last 80 years.

The first chapter is written about the American buffalo – how and why it was systematically and virtually exterminated. We all know of the great swarming herds that covered nearly 1/2 of the United States and of the radical and wasteful success of market hunting in eliminating numbers to a landscape of bleached bones, but some of the passages blew my mind and I’ll relate those now. I can’t write them any better than the original author, so here they are in block quotes with my .02 cents to follow in italics.

Winter pemmican was gone, and hunger had brought alarm over the disfavor of an ever-whimsical Great Spirit. Then word came from look-outs atop the lodges, and boys dashed wildly about the compound. The hauled in hunting ponies and…armed with bow and arrow or iron-tipped lance…with a yell the Indians circled back into the dust cloud and confusion. The encompassing line had closed, and arrows were thumping into the mass of bawling bison…In twenty minutes the torn sod was strewn with more than 200 carcasses…a deputation carries the news to the old chief, and throng of squaws and children set out from the village to spend the day butchering out skins and meat… It was a good life for the strong, and those who lived were strong. For such an existence the Indian needed space, and he had that space because constant warfare kept his numbers down.

Our DIY pemmican experiment was interesting and the pemmican was good for the first two bites.

A quote from Howard Stansbury, a member of a War Department expedition to the Great Salt Lake in 1849. “Some idea may be formed of the great digestibility of this species of food, as well as of the enormous quantities devoured at a single meal, from the fact that the regular daily allowance or ration for one employee of the Fur Company’s service is eight pounds, the whole of which is often consumed. It is true, however, that an old mountaineer seldom eats anything else. If he can get a cup of strong coffee, with plenty of sugar, and as much buffalo meat as he can devour, he is perfectly happy and content, never feeling the want either of bread or vegetables. It is significant that the mountain men who crossed the plains lived high and healthy on unlimited quantities of choice cuts, while expeditions of inept greenhorns were plagued with scurvy and other deficiency diseases and left many a shallow grave in their wake to be excavated by the frugal wolves.”

8 pounds. Seriously, a milk jug packed overflowing with red meat…consumed daily and the next day and the next day… Move aside Man vs. Food.

A quote from Colonel Dodge. “The Indian is an enormous feeder. But that corroborative evidence is so easily obtained, I should hesitate to give details of his wonderful capacity of stomach. In the course of a night of feasting, dancing, and story-telling, an average Indian will consumed from ten to fifteen pounds of meat; and if he has an abundance of food and can make selection of the parts to be eaten, he will swallow, without indigestion or other inconvenience, not less than twenty pounds.”

Indian > Mountain man > Man vs. Food. “…or other inconvenience” – such as a bursting and exploding innards? Native Americans operated in a lifestyle of scarcity and abundance and ate as you might imagine a carnivorous species such as lions or mountain lions or wolves.

Once the buffalo had numbered perhaps sixty million strong. [Only a few decades later]…from a captive bands numbering less than 600 in 1889, enough stock was acquired by the federal government to establish our present museum-piece herds in national parks and game preserves. Thus the buffalo escaped extinction…In the history of the world, almost no resource that was plentiful and easily come by has been sensibly and conservatively employed for the benefit of mankind.

Not making a political statement or anything, but darn if that last part isn’t true. The fact that we have buffalo today is truly surprising.

Truly an interesting read…

Scouting Trip 3/8/15 – “Kansas”
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For miscellaneous reasons, some images or some environments trigger memories or expectations of places we’ve been or places we’ve conjured up in our imaginations. For me, I stumbled onto the perfect south-central Kansas cedar flat on last Sunday’s scouting trip. Probably 120 acres in total and over a mile walk in from the nearest access, but just a couple paddles distance with the canoe!

I don’t think that there is enough cover to hold many deer for bedding and there definitely aren’t adjacent crop sources that would make this a go-to for early season. However, I’m thinking the sheer visibility that can be had and the placement of this patch on the landscape should really funnel traveling bucks during the first 10 days of November. I haven’t deployed a decoy yet in Ohio, but this is a likely first place to try.

I found one single tree capable of supporting a tree stand, threw my sticks up in the tree real quick, and trimmed a little hole for my lock-on next fall. Real excited about this one.

This entire strip of public land is adjacent to a lake and there are some rather rugged draws that funnel deer around the more subtle saddles at their heads…I marked several trails like these within 50 yards of one another.

I trimmed a set near this small clearing smack dab in the middle of literally hundreds of acres of dense regrowth and invasive honeysuckle thickets. This may be a spot to try later in the rut after intense bowhunting pressure has pushed deer off the normal looking locations. An unbelievable amount of cover and there are a zillion trails feeding through this spot. Might be a great place to lay a scent trail or catch one cruising with a call.

All in all, a very productive afternoon of hiking and scouting. I want to get my normal spots trimmed this spring plus get to one of the state forests down in the southeastern part of the state. Lots of clearcuts and logging activity in the last 3-4 years that I want to investigate. I’ll keep posting as I keep scouting. This is the time of year to do it. Limbing trees is easier without any foliage, the weather is beautiful, and all of last year’s deer sign is still plenty obvious.

Welcome Longbow!!!!!!!!
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Okay, so not quite as significant as the arrival of daughter numero dos, but this does mark an important event in my evolution as a hunter. There are degrees of challenge — compound bow more difficult than crossbow, private land simpler than public land, seeking older age class animals more challenging than freezer filling mentality. The last thing I want to become is a snob traditionalist, but I must say that this does mark the dawning of an era in terms of sporting challenge.

Pete and I both have sold our compound archery equipment and armed ourselves with longbows. For Pete, this is going back to his roots. For me, this is like trying to speak Swahili. I watched ArcheryTalk, Craigslist, TradGang, Leatherwall, and eBay for a while before taking the plunge on a local Craigslist post. 2 hours and $300 later, I was the owner of a Howard Hill “Big Five” longbow. It was built in 1990 and stretches 68″ from tip to tip. Not 48″, not 58″…68″. At 28″, it propels a heavy arrow forward with 50 pounds of draw.

A quick search of the forums had a dozen turkey-feather fletched arrows headed my direction, and a $10 leather tab from Cabelas completed the ensemble.

I’m sure I’ll elaborate more as time goes on about my decision making process in this whole deal. Bottom line is this – in the hands of a skilled archer, the longbow is a deadly weapon, really tailor made for such game as elk…sounds crazy. Like I said, I’ll elaborate down the road.

Let’s get back to the word skilled… Here’s the best 8 yard group I could muster after 4 or 5 shooting sessions. That’s depressing yet motivating at the same time. I did say 8 yards and I did post the correct picture.

Just how proficient do I hope to become? My plan is to shoot true instinctive. This entails no discernible pause at the completion of the draw motion and no use of any aiming aid. No using the arrow tip as a guide, no split vision method, just see it and stick it. My plan (i.e., goal) is to be lethal out to 20 yards. See 8 yard group above to make your own judgment about how difficult that may prove to be. I was excited about 20 yards and then I recalled a simple geometry equation about the area of a circle. 20 yard proficiency is still a 4 times reduction in effective range from my prior weapon of choice. Being proficient at 40 yards with a compound means you can cover 1,256 square yards. Being proficient at 20 yards with a longbow means you can cover 314 square yards.

So there you have it. My journey towards becoming a proficient hunter with a longbow has begun. I’ve already made a couple breakthroughs, but still a long ways from attaining “lethal assassin” status. Right now, I’d be an ethical hunter out to 10 yards (keep 10 out of 10 arrows in a pie plate). The good news is that there is a long time until September, and looking back over my past archery kills – 20 yards includes roughly 70% of my archery success. The best news is that shooting a longbow is one of the most purely simple and enjoyable things I’ve ever done.

Welcome Vera Jean!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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I interrupt the normal programming of this blog to make a very important and special announcement…

On Friday night at 10:09 PM, the Karns clan grew from 3 to 4. 7 pounds 10 ounces and 21″ long. Vera Jean entered the world after a short but intense labor and delivery. Mommy and baby are doing great, and we were able to come home from the hospital ahead of schedule. Welcome Vera Jean!!!!!!!!!!!!

Infolinks 2013