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Outdoor Life - Outdoor life is a column by Mick Bohonis.
2012-05-11 at 11:52

The evolution of the bow and arrow

Although bow hunting is on the rise in popularity in North America, the concept of the bow and arrow is one of the oldest tools for defending oneself and for the use of hunting in the realm of human history.

Today’s modern bows are at the highest level of technical engineering and can humanely and ethically dispatch with ease the largest of game on the continent. Modern bows are light, durable, precision-tuned and, of course, expensive.

The bow and arrow have had many birthdays and they date almost as far back as man himself.

Arrow heads that were discovered in Africa have been dated circa 50,000 BC and were probably used in conjunction with spears and other projectiles for the killing of animals.

It is somewhere around 20,000 BC when fire-hardened arrow heads were used. They were shaped to a point and inserted into a slot on the shaft then tied with sinew to the front of the arrow which gave them much more strength and reliability. Hardened arrow heads had much more bone-breaking ability and held an edge much longer.

Around  6,000 BC, archaeologists found bows in Denmark that were made from yew or elm and  were  somewhat “tillered”, meaning there was an even amount of bend in the bow on the top and on the bottom. This is when bows started to become more accurate and projected the arrow faster and longer down range. They were simply more efficient. 

Tillering was a major breakthrough.

Ancient art and rock paintings depicted archers with bow and arrow in hand as far back as 7500 BC and soon the bow and arrow became the main weapon in warfare as well as a tool to harvest game. Spears became too cumbersome and difficult to lug around.  The distance they traveled was not as far and they were not as accurate as a bow.

It was the Egyptian’s who really got technical in and around the 2300 BC era when they developed  a composite bow which had animal horn tips on either end and was held together with their version of glue. These bows were the best built and in conjunction with tillering, made great weapons and hunting tools. 

Egyptian bows were approximately 62 to 68 inches in length, and had arrows that were made from reeds with very hard fore shafts, which were set into the main shaft with very fine thread then tipped with flint broad heads.        

This Egyptian concept of bow and arrow was used for a few thousand more years until the modern musket was invented in the year 1520 AD which would soon replace the bow as weapons of war. However, the bow and arrow remained on the scene for many more years as the muskets were slow in production and hard to acquire through bartering and/or purchase. Only kings and the wealthy were able to get their hands on these new modern guns.

Today’s bow hunting and archery equipment has come a long way from the old traditional style long bows and hand-made wooden arrows. Although we still have, and always will, traditional archers and traditional gear such as re-curve, long bows, and home made cedar arrows,  names like Hoyt, Easton, Mathews, Bear, Martin and Browning just to name a few, are up to their necks in manufacturing competition.

Just like the big three North American truck manufacturers who are always trying that little extra to remain on the cutting edge, the bow manufacturers are doing the same.

Speed, lightness and ease of use are the top three goals for most manufacturers and now with millions being spent on engineering, research and testing, it’s only going to get better.

My first bow was given to me back in 1983 and made by a company called Darton Archery. I used that little dual-wheeled bow for a year until I travelled to Florida and went to the Jennings factory and bought a brand new Woody Lite.

At the time this bow was high-tech. It had a wooden laminated riser and fiberglass limbs with two plastic round-wheeled encentrics and a steel cable system with a tear drop Dacron string. At the time, it was the Cadillac of bows.

Although my arrows sped at a whopping 198 feet per second out of that old relic, I did manage to harvest my first moose with it down in Devon Township.

Even though comparisons could not be made on the advancement in technological design and quality from that old Darton bow to the new Mathews bow I use today, it still did the job well.

Archery is the sport of legend and will remain that way, forever.

The bow hunting industry today has exploded

Bow hunting is a very important part of my life. Since I first started in 1983, I’ve watched how fast the demand for decent equipment has increased.

Archery and bow hunting have been around for thousands of years and were not only a staple and a necessity way back when, but also meant life or death in many instances.

What does the future hold for archery and bow hunting in particular? Good question. I guess the answers lie within the current and future government ranks.

Bow hunting is a very challenging and traditional way of harvesting game and it has been done for literally thousands of years. Guns, in contrast, are infants and have been around for a relatively short period of time.

Can I confidently say bow hunting is going to be here for 100 more years? No, I cannot. However, it is stronger and better than ever, and I will enjoy it as often as I can.


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