Johannes Schabort

Have you perhaps for quite some time now, after years of hunting with a compound bow, started thinking that it has become too easy? Maybe that you need more of a challenge? Even glanced stealthily at a longbow or recurved bow and wondered …? Now is the time to get a real traditional bow – a longbow or recurved bow made of one piece of wood, backed with natural materials like bamboo, other bow woods, rawhide or sinew. Or even unbacked, no synthetics like fibreglass or graphite. The string however, being of Dacron.

Do I hear laughter? “Oh no! Not in this modern era of technology – we are living in the 21st century! Those things are outdated by ages, sluggish and inaccurate. Nobody can hit anything with it. I like to hit what I aim at, not to play “moer-en-soek”, as the golfers say. Traditional bows are real wounding sticks!”

I will still stick to my guns, I mean my bows .I have great respect for the modern technology of compound bows, but since 1996 I do not own one anymore. I do, however, own several modern longbows in the reflex-deflex style and three Howard Hill longbows, most of them made by Derick Nourse, and I love them dearly .I will not part with any of them as long as I can still pull them and shoot them accurately at bow hunting distances, or unless I am forced to sell (some) of them to keep the wolf at bay, but I love my homemade ones as much and hunt with most of them. (Big mistake! One should probably stick to one bow, but who wants to?)

Yes, a traditional bow does cast an arrow somewhat slower than a longbow or recurved bow made of modern materials, bow weight and arrow weight being equal, and quite a lot slower than the compound bows of nowadays. However, hunters the world over have defended themselves and fed their families with exactly such weapons for more than 5 000 years. Yes, it is a lot easier to hit with a compound bow, because of the technology and having sights on your bow. A traditional bow has none. I have only two “sights” on my bow: too far and close enough. I know when I am close enough, since your brain is a wonderful instant computer. You can shoot as accurately as you can concentrate on where you want to hit. Your brain will direct your bow hand straight towards that spot. (Release your string well, though.) Shooting a traditional bow accurately at unknown ranges does require much, much more regular practice, but bow hunting is essentially a short-range activity. A very short-range affair compared to hunting with a rifle, be it with a high velocity scoped rifle or a muzzle loader. Forty yards become a long shot with any bow, not because the bow and arrow cannot kill beyond that distance – it can – but because of the human factor. Just too many things can go wrong. Getting real close is the challenge.

A traditional bow is as accurate as you can shoot it. Accuracy lies with the human factor, not really with the weapon itself, regardless of the speed of the arrow.

Furthermore, you do not have to shoot a brute of a bow to hunt the ordinary game species effectively. It is wise to use the heaviest bow you can shoot accurately (and accuracy with a bow for hunting purposes is a much debated and also controversial topic – for another day).Traditional bow hunters the world over have discovered that even a fifty-pound wooden bow with a sharp, well-constructed broadhead mounted on a hunting weight shaft, is as deadly and effective on non-dangerous game as any bow. A well-made wooden bow, well treated, should not break either.

I already have or can make you such a bow. Accept the limitations of your weapon and your own and stay within the distances you are comfortable with. Practise hard at those distances. On some days you will almost not be able to miss while trying your hand afield at a little bush or piece of dung. On other days you will feel as if you had started with archery only yesterday. Do not despair and give it up! Next time you will shoot better.


Success will probably be less and more sporadic than what you maybe used to have, especially if you walk and stalk like I do. When you do have success it will be most rewarding You will, however, experience that success does not always mean to have actually shot something. It lies in the joy of the opportunity and privilege to have hunted, in the wilderness experience, which was part of the ordinary daily life of our ancient ancestors, 5 000 or more years ago.

Johannes Schabort 


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