Past, Present, Future: The flight of the Archer
“He’s an old hippie and he don’t know what to do
Should he hang on to the old
Should he grab on to the new”
Archers today are faced with an ever-growing bank of choices. Wood, aluminum, carbon, foam, feathers, vanes, mylar, ILF, one-piece, two-piece, warf, screw in, glue in, glue on are but a few of the snippets heard in the vending tents at shoots today.
For many archers this is seen as a travesty. These archers seek to hold on to tradition as they define it. They seek a simple life of wood and feathers. I share many of their sentiments and the beauty of our current situation in archery is that they can choose the friendly familiar road of tradition with a wider selection than ever before.
Some archers love to pursue the limits of what’s possible. These archers seek to experiment and fabricate. I recently received an email from a gentleman who shot barebow with the late legend, David Hughes. He said that to him it was, “Interesting using the accurate and stable Olympic style ILF rigs in the trad [traditional] class.” The archers he is referring to are forced to fabricate a shelf which they glue or tape to the flat shelf of their Olympic rigs in order to shoot an arrow “off the shelf.” This has caused much consternation among some shooters. Are they straying too far from what is impossible to define with consensus – traditional? Should we, through regulation, force folks to shoot the exact bows of pre-1970? Will that benefit the sport?
Still other archers are torn. They whisper the lyrics to the aforementioned Bellamy Brothers tune, should they hang on to the old or grab on to the new? Perhaps they are torn between a desire to fit an appealing stereotype – the Indian, the mountain man or our primitive ancestors – and a natural tendency to desire to be as accurate as possible. I don’t think it’s unnatural at all to experience these emotions. In fact if we were all honest both primitive tackle and precise accuracy appeals on some level to most of us. This leads some to experiment with ever so slight deviations to the primitive bow ie. a cut in shelf on a selfbow or reflex in the limbs.
The beauty of our current situation is that there is a growing interest in archery and the more we enable people to experiment and fabricate the more options that become available. It is often through the trial and error of a lone archer that new innovations become mass-produced by the industry. Does this mean that others have to adopt new inventions? No. It merely means that we have more choices available. We should feel perfectly comfortable in our own skin choosing where our personal line in the sand is drawn. We should shoot what makes us feel good about our archery and embrace the adage, “to each his own.”
It will be left to the various organizations to grapple with rules for classes, but armed with the information that technology drives rapid change; archers should understand that rules must adapt yearly to address innovation and fabrication. Some innovation gives unfair advantage while others do not. It is incumbent upon the organizations to closely monitor the pulse of change and wisely adapt only when necessary.
What a wonderful time to live and shoot a bow. There are more choices available than ever before. In a world that increasingly wants it ‘their way’ the industry has delivered. Whether you long to strike and unexpecting stump with a cane arrow or pierce a 10-ring at 90 meters you still belong to our family. You are an archer and we share your passion for the flight of the arrow. May we ever be understanding and tolerant of one another is my hope as we move into the future together.