Since prehistoric man discovered that he could launch a tiny spear with the assistance of a bent limb and string, he has remained fascinated with the flight of the arrow. From that fateful day when man cast the first arrow, throughout the centuries, he has continued to improve the performance and design of his tools. From experiments with different varieties of woods to sinew and bamboo backing, man has persisted in searching for ways to make his weapon faster, stronger, more efficient and certainly more accurate. One could easily argue that, since its Paleolithic conception, the only revolution in archery was the advent of the compound bow, in 1969. Aiming techniques, variable anchors, lighter arrows, elevated arrow rests, and different string materials simply improved upon an already established form of archery. Only with compound bows did the sport change in a truly revolutionary way.
In the 1970s and 80s archers flooded to the compound bow. In less than a decade bow manufactures were forced to produce a line of compound bows or suffer the consequences of an industry centering on cables, pulleys, and sights. It wasn’t a case where the black sheep brother of the family created a small following and went the way of technology, thus polluting the purer art form of archery. It was a revolutionary shift in the sport to the compound bow. Certainly, there were those who continued the way of the minimalist, but they quickly became the minority.
The compound industry continues to thrive, even dominate, the sport today, but an interesting thing occurred at the end of the 20th Century. A renaissance of sorts began to occur. Pockets of recurve and longbow archers zipped their compounds up in a case, slid them under the bed and dusted off their recurves. It was somewhat of a romantic movement back to a more simple purer form of the sport. These archers needed, even wanted, a way to delineate themselves from the high tech side of the sport and thus the term “Traditional” archery was born.
Internet forums soon sprang up, providing a means by which traditional archers could unite. Their following slowly began to gain momentum. Initially, those who returned to the original form of archery were men and women who grew up shooting recurves and longbows. They were simply returning to what they had previously known, but by the turn of the 20th century a generation of archers existed that had discovered archery in an age of compound bows. They had no basis from which to return. In most cases those archers did not know their history and therefore many of them identified with their perception of those who led the charge back in time.
Two types of people emerged and remain today. The first group of people is those who define “traditional archery” as something they do. The second group is those that define “traditional archery” as who they are.
The first group of traditionalist enjoys shooting without sights, releases, and all the gadgetry that accompanies compound bows. Many of them tired of the slow shooting pace at tournaments while others simply like the challenge of hunting and taking game with a stick and string. These archers are apt to pull their compound back out on a rainy hunting day. They are open to incorporating some of the things they learned while shooting compounds into their traditional archery. Most of these archers appreciate the skill required to shoot a perfect 300 60x indoor round with a compound, sights, back-tension release and long stabilizer. They harbor no grudge and maintain a “to each his own” attitude.
The latter group – those who identify “traditional archery” with who they are, are somewhat like diehard liberals or conservatives. They tend to be those that have more recently found traditional archery – NeoTrads. They find it very difficult to compromise or accept other forms of archery because it threatens who they are and what they stand for. They tend to view archery as an Us and Them proposition. They can be heard at the range telling compound shooters that they should take the training wheels off their bows. They rank those who gap shoot, facewalk , string walk or use any other form of aiming right up there with Judas Iscariot. Their sense of being is derived from their beliefs and for these archers if you aim using the point of the arrow, use binoculars to look for the 11-ring, or use a draw check devise “it’s the Devil Bobby Boucher.”
Because so many NeoTrads do not know their history they fail to understand that archers of the mid-20th Century unceasingly experimented with aiming techniques, multiple anchors, varying arrow rests, and draw check devises. The competitive side of man has always been driven to find advantages in competition and in hunting situations.
The promising truth is that archery is gaining worldwide popularity. Hollywood has assisted in a resurgence of the sport by bringing it to the big screen. Lord of the Rings, the Hunger Games and Pixar’s Brave have increased public interest in what is perhaps the oldest sport on the globe. The National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) has already succeeded in putting bows in the hands of thousands of school kids all over America. The popularity of archery is growing so the cold hard fact is, we don’t have room for segregation. We need to be more inclusive. Archers should strive to be more tolerant of those who prefer differing bows, arrows and aiming styles. We all need to get along and unite in order to grow our sport. We are brothers, you and I, and we are all archers. Yes, after four decades of separation we approach many aspects of the sport differently, but we both still share the passion of hunting and the great outdoors. We love to watch the flight of the arrow. We have a wonderful sport that the entire family can enjoy together. There is no room within the sport of archery for exclusive, snobbish and intolerant behavior. There is nothing wrong with exclusively shooting the form of archery you prefer, but we have no room for looking down our noses at one another. So let us unite and exploit a positive movement within archery together. We have a wonderful sport – let’s make it a positive experience for all that choose to participate.