In 2010, I sat on an oak stump in the eastern edge of the Appalachian Mountains, at Sherwood Archers, where the mountain laurel sinks root in the banks of creeks fed by crystal clear, spring water. I spoke with former NFAA National Champion, Denny Cline, about the heyday of archery – the 1970s. It was a time when David Hughes, Denny and others launched aluminum arrows from recurves with mind-blowing results. As cherished memories flitted in and out of his mind like flies through a screen door, I wondered if anyone would ever sit around with one of my peers, one of my generation, and talk about the golden days of traditional archery – a new greatest generation.
Lord knows we were trying to make a come back, still are. It hasn’t been an easy road. Archery has changed since man exchanged his laminate limbs and springy rests for cams and cables. Those who long for tradition often make false assumptions of the past. They imagine a romantic, purist form of archery that exists, in some cases, only in their minds. The truth is, man has always strove to improve his equipment, but some things have changed very little. While man has tried to improve what he holds in his hand, what the man behind the bow does has remained pretty well constant throughout the years. Like one of those pills that will give you six-pack abs in two weeks, some men focus on the bow. Others focus on the man behind the bow.
I’ve been shooting a bow all of my life. I’ve shot with some of the greatest shooters that have held a bow in my lifetime and those men, those greats who have enjoyed the most success, had one thing in common – they focused on the man. In an attempt to achieve perfection by learning to shoot every single arrow identically, they spent countless hours shooting and shooting. When it was too cold for most to venture outside they shot bale in their garage. When the winds were so strong their arrow would not hit a target at twenty yards, they drove countless miles to get to an indoor range. When they worked late and their bodies begged for sleep they turned the floodlights on and got 25 arrows in that day. Those are the men Denny Cline recalled with a thin smile on his face that day, and those are the men I’ve seen making a comeback in recent years.
John Demmer set a new NAA National Indoor record this week – 1094 (545,549). John Magera set a new NFAA Texas record with 560 on two rounds (281, 279). Dewayne Martin shot a 293 32x in league shooting as he prepares for the NFAA National Championship.
As I sat with Denny I wondered if we’d ever shoot the scores they shot back in the early 70s. I truly wasn’t sure if it was possible. Today, I’m out of the game in Afghanistan, but I beam with pride as I watch my generation of archers, my friends, scratch their way ever nearer to perfection, not because of the bow they hold, but due to the countless hours they have invested in themselves. I wish I could be there to see it, to see their arrows fill the 10 ring. It’s not meant to be, but still I find great satisfaction in their success and am proud to call them friends.