Traditional archery is like music from an acoustic guitar. It’s timeless and beautiful. Also called “barebow archery,” this original form of archery resonates with anyone who has ever held a traditional bow.
Beyond aesthetics, traditional bows are an absolute blast to shoot, thanks to their simplicity. These bows feature two basic limbs, and a grip, string and riser; but no wheels, cables, sights or other gadgetry. It’s all up to the archer to make great shots, which is the fun and challenge of traditional archery.
Although “traditional archery” and “barebow archery” are interchangeable terms, they can refer to two different shooting styles. Barebow archery typically means competitive shooting without sights. These bows are usually recurves with metal handle sections, called risers. You might see these bows at your club or while watching archery competitions.
However, traditional archery is a term that includes a wider scope of bows. It includes recurve and longbows, which might be all wood or made from a modern material like metal and carbon fiber. These varied options are part of traditional archery’s allure. Whatever your preference, these simple, effective bows are strikingly beautiful.
What separates recurve bows from longbows? Recurves get their name from the bow’s swept tips, which curve away from the archer. Recurves typically shoot arrows at faster speeds than what straight-limbed longbows can deliver. Longbows lack the recurve’s curved tips, but when strung they have a graceful bend and classic design that’s steeped in history.
These bows and their accessories are available from archery shops, where you can also test-shoot different bows to see what you enjoy most.
Traditional Archery Gear Checklist:
- Glove or Finger Tab
- Bow Case
Traditional bows are simple by nature and require few accessories. Still, you need more than just a bow to get started. You need arrows, and also a quiver, armguard, bow case, bow-stringer and glove or finger tab.
Arrows are an important part of traditional archery, so visit a pro shop for help selecting the proper material and arrow size for your bow. These pros will also fletch your arrows with feathers in colors you choose. That’s one of many ways you can put a personal touch on your equipment.
Likewise, you’ll have several choices in quivers, which hold your arrows. These include a back quiver like the one Robin Hood made famous, a waist quiver that’s worn on your belt, or a bow quiver that snaps onto your bow. Bow quivers are most popular with bowhunters.
For shooting, you’ll need a glove or finger tabs, which are thin leather pieces that go between the bowstring and your fingers for protection. They come in different sizes, so you must try a few before making your choice.
Another essential accessory is the bow-stringer, which is a must for installing and removing the bow string. You might want to remove your bow string when you store the bow because it makes your bow string last longer. Your archery store will teach you how to properly use the bow-stringer.
Finally, never take your traditional bow’s beauty for granted. To keep it looking good, secure it in a bow case to protect it from scratches. A good case also provides enough storage to keep your accessories organized.
No sights, No problem
One item not on that list, of course, is a bow sight. Traditional bows have no sights, so how do you aim? The most common method is not to aim. You simply look at the target, draw the bow and shoot, which is instinctive shooting. It’s like throwing a ball. Your mind learns the arrow’s trajectory and, through repetition, you can achieve incredible accuracy.
If instinctive shooting proves difficult, try using the arrow tip as a sight. Position the tip on, above or below the target, depending on the distance. By shooting and experimenting, you’ll learn where to place the arrow tip in relation to the target.
Here’s another option: A technique called “string walking” makes the arrow an adjustable sight. The archer grips the bowstring at varying distances below the arrow. The closer the target, the farther down the bowstring the archer grips and draws. They place the tip of the arrow on the center of the target just like aiming with a sight. This method of aiming is very accurate and used by top barebow competitors.
Traditional archery is a lot of fun, but it’s also a challenge. Taking archery lessons will shorten your traditional archery learning curve and make a better shot. An instructor will teach you proper archery form and give you tips on aiming your traditional bow.
Traditional and barebow archery are flat-out fun. They’re a relaxing, challenging way to shoot and enjoy archery. You can shoot recreationally at backyard targets or at woodland stumps, or compete in 3-D shoots or World championships.
Consider Dewayne Martin and Calvin Smock, for example. They’ll visit France this summer to compete in the 3-D World Archery Championships. Even though they’re serious competitors, they shoot traditional archery for fun, too.
“I’ve always liked the romance of traditional bows, and I like the challenge of shooting a bow without sights,” Martin said.
Smock agrees, and said it also attracts his kind of people. “It’s a big community that’s friendly and welcoming,” he said. “And it’s just plain fun.”
Not only that, but it’s a fascinating way to experience archery’s history firsthand. Don’t be surprised if the simple joy of watching arrows in flight triggers your curiosity and causes you to explore archery’s deepest roots. Why wait any longer? Get out there and try traditional archery today and see where it takes you!