BOW AND ARROW
Terrors Of Testing By Jack Howard
Accuracy Tests For Bowhunters May Open A Can Of Worms That Becomes A Frankenstein!
I have been hearing a persistent rumor that some of our fellow
bowhunters in several states have been pushing for accuracy tests to be con-
ducted by fish and game departments before an individual will be issued a
bowhunting license. Three newsletters from three of the top bowhunting states
confirm these rumors. It’s more than just a passing thought; some already
have considered the distance at which the test is to be shot, size of the
circle and how many arrows. It goes something like this: three arrows in a
twelve-inch circle at thirty-five yards.
It’s commendable to want to upgrade archery, but in my opinion, any-
one who pushes for a test is ignorant of the full spectrum of archery and
bowhunting. From what I have seen in over thirty years of archery, it’s not the
hotshot archer who holds our clubs together, but more likely the low-man-
on-the-totem-pole bowhunter. Most archery clubs have been started by
bowhunters. The ones who show up at the work parties, do most of the work
and keep most clubs together are bow-hunters. This is not just guesswork on
my part. In the many years I have been in archery, I have been president
of clubs, shot in the first large money shoot ever held, shot in national tournaments,
both field and target, and have shot in over a 1000 tournaments
throughout the states. I have accumulated some knowledge of what goes on
in archery and feel I can speak with some authority.
Why do I point out so vividly that the die-hard bowhunter is the back-
bone of archery in our nation? Because I feel it’s these same archers
who do so much for archery that will be hurt most by so-called accuracy
tests. Over the years I have seen some of what are considered the greatest
bowhunters shoot; names known by most everyone. These fellows are
deadly at game, can knock off a rabbit or bird at thirty yards, but I sincerely
doubt if many could do well in a specific test. Many bowhunters have
given up shooting at any type of a target or exact spot because, to put it
in most of their words, “It bugs me.” These problems are undoubtedly
psychological. Many pooh-pooh any-thing psychological, but it’s there, it’s
real and, for most, cannot be overcome.
Many will not acknowledge there are psychological aspects in archery
until it becomes a first-hand experience. Recently one of my customers
started asking some questions about freezing off target. I quickly said, the
less you know about freezing, the better off you are. He then explained
that he had been shooting top scores until he asked some of his friends just
what is freezing. After being told, he immediately began freezing. He has
been trying to lick the problem for six months. but his shooting is steadily
Psychological problems seem to hit archery more than any other sport. I
can’t say exactly why, but I do expect a good part of it is the fact the release
hand is under pressure to release the arrow, but the mind is trying to say,
“No, not yet.” In turn, this conflict causes freezing. Although psychological problems in
shooting a bow show up in many archers as freezing off target, it can
show up in many ways; snapshooting, dropping the bow arm, etc. I have seen
excellent bowhunters with many game kills on there records get so uptight
when shooting at a target that some have broken their arrows, while others
have thrown their bows as far as they could.
I can always think back to when I first started to take the bow seriously.
I remember how naive I was. (Incidently, naive is a nice word for
dumb.) I was told many things by experienced archers — both physical and
psychological — about shooting; things I would not believe until they
happened to me personally. Of course, this did delay my progress. One time,
national champion Ken Moore was giving a bit of advice which I took
with a grain of salt. It took a few years, then something hit me; Ken
knew what he was talking about.
Understanding archers and their problems does not come in a few years
of shooting, hunting or contact with a few hundred archers. There are
thousands of archers who have shot for over fifteen years and in hundreds
of tournaments. These are the ones that know the full spectrum of archery
and their problems. For the benefit of all bowhunters, I hope these archers
will speak up on the proficiency test issue.
One of the bowhunters who recommends a proficiency test also feels
there should be a law that the broad-head point should weigh a minimum
of 150 grains. Just what would happen if a few in the right position to do so
rushed in and passed laws, because they personally thought it would be
great? The fish and game departments, not being well versed in archery, are
eager to listen to recommendations, especially —from those in executive
offices of state clubs. Some of us might think, “So what, if that state
does pass a particular law. It’s not my state. It won’t affect me.”
But when any state passes a regulation on archery, in time, it could
affect every archer in the country.
When a law is passed. it sets up sort of a precedent. The fish and game departments
of different states keep in touch with each other and work together,
Back to broadhead weight: To even suggest such a regulation of a
minimum weight of 150 grains shows how little some know about arrow
flight. Consider the women bow-hunters of this nation or anyone who
shoots a bow under fifty pounds. Just what would be the result for them?
Regardless of how one feels about arrow shaft weight — be it light or
heavy 4 the broadhead point should be as light as possible, if accuracy is to
be considered at all. The lighter the broadhead tip, the less critical arrow spine
and the more accurate arrow flight. About 100 grains is as light as we can go, because
of size consideration. A more ideal weight would be 65-70 grains, which is
the weight of most target points. Then our hunting arrows would fly just about
as accurately as the most accurate target arrow. The ideal weight of
65-70 grains is a far cry from the 150-grain minimum suggested by one
of our fellow bowhunters.
There is a variety of opinions, but there also seems to be a lack of know-
ledge with some in the position to pass regulations or influence their passage. I
just hope these archers will exercise caution before suggesting passing any
law that could affect every archer in this country. Most of the states have
their own bowhunting organizations and the members should have a vote
on anything suggested to the fish and game departments.
Not only would an accuracy test hurt a good many bowhunters, the test
-itself, really doesn’t mean that much, considering the most difficult, always-
present problem of judging distance. Distance judging is one of the most
important things to a bowhunter, but because of regulations within our own
organizations, the ability to judge dis- tance for many has been greatly
hampered. The initial intent of a roving range was to allow us to walk from
one place to another, shooting at different targets with the primary pur-
pose of learning to judge distance and maintain this skill.
It was the target archers who insisted distances be marked on roving
ranges. Passing this rule, upheld within most of the clubs throughout the
states, took away the real value of a roving range to a hunter. Many bow-
hunters dropped out of the larger clubs and tournament shooting, because
there was really nothing left of interest. There now are a number of
clubs that have been organized by these die-hard bowhunters, who have
gone back to the original concept of no marked distances.
The sad thing about all this is that the avid bowhunter — the one whose
life is surrounded by bowhunting, who lives and breathes this sport, keeps
broadheads razor sharp and is an excellent game shot is the one more apt
to do poorly on an accuracy test. The tournament shooter, who may not
have real hunting skill, would put his arrows dead-center in any accuracy
test. Just what would the test prove?
I am not saying all bowhunters would do poorly on an accuracy test,
but if any failed because of a psychological hangup, that would be too
many. As pointed out. these fellows are excellent shots, but because of
psychological reasons, cannot shoot at a target or perhaps take the pressure of
others looking on.
I once knew a fellow who could hardly bear looking at a target. He
loved archery, though, and would not give up. When he drew his bow back,
he drew back at approximately right angles to the target, swung his bow in
the direction of the target and let go when he felt in the right position.
Anyone who would stick with it and shoot with this much of a hangup has
to be in love with archery. Yet no one is really immune from catching a
similar psychological malady. For some, it just takes the right circumstance.
You might even picture yourself standing there in front of a target at
thirty-five yards. You must get three arrows in the twelve-inch circle or you
will not receive your hunting license. The fish and game examiner is observing
to see how you do, with fifty other hunters standing in line, watching,
waiting to step up and take their turns It can come to this.
The odd thing about psychological problems is that they hit you just
when you want to do your best. Those who push for an accuracy test might
have the old psychological sledge hammer come to rest right on top of
the head at the moment of truth. Perhaps the fish and game examiner is
strictly a gun hunter. After seeing some of the hotshots put three dead-
center and others with sloppy edge shots, he may consider a six-inch circle
would be more appropriate than the twelve-inch. There is no telling where
something like this could lead. If archers feel they must have some sort
of tests to improve their image, consider a safety test, perhaps combined
with the gun safety test, which are given in many states.
As mentioned. as long as we have the ever-present problem of judging
distance. extreme deadeye shooting does not mean that much. Look at the
distance judging problems we have; over streams, hills, gulleys, between
trees, shadowed, not shadowed, out in the open, uphill shots, downhill shots,
between branches, not to mention wind and rain.
If you misjudge the distance five yards at a distance of forty yards, you
most likely will have a complete miss, yet forty yards should be considered a
good, perhaps even close shot for a bow. l have seen friends miss deer
standing broadside, perfectly still at fifteen and twenty yards. l also have
seen the same fellow bag deer at forty and fifty yards. The point is that any-
one can misjudge the distance. You are never sure — no matter how good a
shot you are or at what distance you happen to be from the animal — just
how good your hit will be, Deer will constantly jump the string. Where does
accuracy stand when this happens? If you see an animal walking slowly
along in full view, are you going to pass up the shot simply because your
game is moving? Where is the precise accuracy if you take the shot? How
close could you judge it?
You not only have the distance to judge, but you must gauge how long it
will take the arrow to get there and the position your game will be at that
time. lf you hold at the front of a slow-walking deer at fifty yards and
shoot, he will pass by your arrow completely before it reaches him.
I have been told by many that I was the most accurate judge of distance
they had ever seen, but l know how difficult it can be to judge distance of
an animal. Friends and I do a lot of practice in judging distance during and
before our hunting trips. Even though I have been considered some kind of
expert, I have misjudged a fifty-yard shot as much as ten yards. A misjudgment
of ten yards at fifty hardly puts you in the right ball field. You might
misjudge a forty-yard shot one time, yet the next try, you will hit seventy-yard
This past season one of our fellow bowhunters was pretty much a beginner,
as this was his first year of bow-hunting. He saw a bull at eighty yards,
pulled back his bow and let fly. He hit the elk directly through the center of
the heart. He hadn’t really even dreamed of hitting the elk, much less
nailing it through the heart. His shot could have been all the way from the
hit he made to a poor hit or a complete miss.
Was it a mistake for this hunter to take such a long shot? Certainly you
never will convince him he was in error. This was the first elk he had ever
seen as close as eighty yards. Had he not taken the shot, he might never
have killed another elk in a lifetime of bowhunting.
No, the eighty-yard shot wasn’t a matter of pure accuracy, but more a
matter of good, old-fashioned luck with which most of the successful
hunters are blessed. Of course, there must be some skill even in the most
novice hunter, if he is to obtain success with a bow. It may just be the
skill of knowing his broadheads must be razor sharp.
The point is that there is just no way you can regulate what type of
shot or at what distance a hunter will take a shot at game. If there was a way
to make it so an archer could not shoot his arrow past twenty·five yards,
then an accuracy test might mean something. It certainly would not
change the situation whereby just shooting at a target, especially with
people looking on, bothers a fellow, even though there are some who
would wrong guess the distance at twenty-five yards. At least, this is close
enough that most would not have any distance problem. Then, if you could
regulate these same people that passed the twenty-five-yard test never to
shoot beyond twenty-five-yards, the test would have some value.
Don’t think I am saying accuracy is not needed; it is. The more accurate an
archer. the more game he will bag. Even if you judge the distance correctly,
it will be of no value if you are off to the left or right. Most bowhunters I have
seen shoot are extremely accurate, especially when
shooting at unknown distances and at .game, also at such items as pine cones,
clumps of grass; things that don`t bug them. l know of no possible fair way
to gauge the accuracy of these hunters.
Some seem to want to put archery in the same place as gun hunting, but a
bow is just too far away from the gun to ever consider similar status. lf we
try to convince the public that bows are as powerful and as accurate as
guns there is no reason to believe they won’t expect us to prove it. Most gun
hunters do not consider the range of big game. If they can see it at five
hundred yards away through a scope, they will take the shot. They feel if
they hit, they will have a sure kill. This could be the key to a more
successful field of bowhunting: Any hit is a sure kill; with proper broad-
heads, we could approach this goal.
Bowhunters wish to upgrade the sport; if any regulations are to be passed,
then something regulating broadhead sharpness would be more appropriate.
The precision of a good bow and matched arrows has gone about as far
as it can; l really can’t see much room for improvement. We will never be
able to get an arrow to shoot as flat as a bullet. but with razor blade sharpness
a bow’s killing power can be improved immensely, perhaps even
closely equalling the killing power of a gun. This is the one big area in which
bowhuntirig can improve.
There has been a considerable amount written on how to sharpen
broadheads and the importance of sharp broadheads. This simply goes in
one ear and out the other. as l still see too many dull broadheads while out
hunting. Some just don`t wish to take the time; others feel they probably
won’t hit anything anyway, so why go to so much work? With dull broad-
heads in the field. even with all the preaching from the experienced, the
only logical solution is some kind of enforcement. So you fellows bent on
doing something. might do it where it will really do some good and not hurt
so many. If a law must be passed, probably the biggest single step bow-
hunting ever could take is to pass a regulation outlawing any broadhead
that doesn’t use a razor blade as a cutting edge. l am not urging anyone
to pass this as a law, but if some feel something just must be done. this area
would do the most good.
Most popular broadheads are made of fairly mild steel. Primarily, they are
made fairly soft so they can be filed sharpened. Any steel that can be
sharpened with a file is not extremely hard; consequently, it is difficult to
obtain even a sharp edge, much less a razor edge. lf one spends enough time,
he can obtain a sharp edge. With honing some makes of broadheads
will even allow you to obtain a razor-sharp edge.
To obtain razor sharpness in the first place and to maintain it is another
matter. As the steel is a type that allows you to file an edge, it can also
be dulled easily. As you are hunting along, one swipe of the broadhead
edge on a limb or bush and Dullsville! Even the hide of the game or rib bone
can wipe off a mild steel edge. The head may hit the game extremely
sharp but be dulled by the time it reaches anything vital. I have used
many of the mild steel heads and know their problems.
For the past eighteen years or so, I have been using razor blades cemented
to my broadheads and find them far superior. Thousands of bowhunters
use this method. as they believe stock broadheads are not adequate. Some
may immediately think this is too much trouble. I will defy anyone to
sharpen a dozen broadheads as fast as razor blades can glued on.
Because of the extreme hardness of the steel in a razor blade, it will not
dull easily. Where one slice against a hard branch will wipe out the conventional
broadhead edge. a razor blade broadhead will take much of the same
abuse and still stay sharp. It has been my experience, using razor blade
broadheads, anything except a scratch hit is a kill. This type of broadhead
gives me as much confidence in a hit/kill ratio as I had when I used a
rifle many years ago.
You also can have a scratch hit when using a rifle. A razor blade
scratch hit will leave an excellent blood trail whereas a bullet will not.
When I say scratch hit. I mean one blade of the razor head cutting the
skin. I know that. if by chance. I can not find a game animal that I hit with
my razor blade head (which has never happened), it would have to be a
scratch hit and I would take some consolation in the fact this animal
would live to be much wiser and undoubtedly to a ripe old age. `
Again. if some changes must be made, lets work on the broadhead
issue. This is the most important part of our equipment; the part that does
the actual killing. If you feel, as I do, that accuracy tests will accomplish
nothing constructive and hurt bow-hunting considerably more than it will
do good, speak up or forever hold your peace.
Keep in mind that. once a law is passed, you`re stuck with it.