INFO: Trad Archery for Bowhunters

Author Topic: THE TERRORS OF TESTING By JACK HOWARD  (Read 2591 times)

Offline Terry_Green

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« on: July 09, 2004, 05:31:00 AM »
Submitted by JACK MILLET

The following article was originally published in the August 1975 issue of BOW & ARROW Magazine.
I felt that it was worth a review with all the present discussion going on regarding Proficiency testing for Traditional Bowhunters.  It makes a point that this is not a new issue, rather something that has been addressed in the past, possibly many times.  Jack Howard has been on the traditional scene since before many of the TRAD GANG members were born.   His experiences and knowledge of bowhunting is extensive and beneficial to all of us today.  I feel that it is important to look back at the history of our sport in an effort to protect its future.  Please keep in mind that the original article was written 29 years ago.
In an attempt to post this article on TRAD GANG, I am having to retype the whole thing.  I will try to type it word for word; however, any typo's or misspellings are probably mine rather than Jack Howard's.  I am submitting this with the permission of Mr. Howard, at my request.


By Jack Howard
Accuracy Tests For Bowhunters May Open A Can Of Worms That Becomes a Frankenstein!
          I HAVE BEEN hearing a persistent rumor that some of our fellow bowhunters in several states have been pushing for accuracy tests to be conducted by some fish and game departments before an individual will be issued a bowhunting license.
            Three newsletters from three of the top bowhunting states confirm these rumors.  It's more than just a passing thought: some already have considered the distance at which the test is to be shot, size of circle and how many arrows.  It goes something like this: three arrows in a twelve-inch circle at thirty-five yards.
            It' is commendable to want to upgrade archery, but in my opinion, anyone who pushes for a test is ignorant of the full spectrum of archery and bowhunting.
From what I have seen in over thirty years of archery, it's not the hotshot archer who holds our clubs together, but more likely the low-man-on –the-totem-pole bowhunter. Most archery clubs have been started by bowhunters.  The ones who show up at the work parties, do most of the work and keep most clubs together are bowhunters.  This is not just guesswork on my part.  In the many years I have been in archery, I have been president of clubs, shot in the first large money shoots ever held, shot in national tournaments, both field and target, and have shot in over 1000 tournaments throughout the states.  I have accumulated some knowledge of what goes on in archery and I feel I can speak with some authority.  
Why do I point out so vividly that the die-hard bowhunter is the backbone of archery in our nation?  Because I feel it's the same archers who do so much for archery that will be hurt the most by so-called accuracy tests..  Over the years I have seen some of what are considered the greatest bowhunters shoot; names known to most everyone.  These fellows are deadly at game, can knock off a rabbit or bird at thirty yards, but I sincerely doubt if many could do well in a specific test.  Many bowhunters have given up shooting at any type of a target or exact spot because, to put it most of their words, “It bugs me.”  These problems are undoubtedly psychological, but it's there, it's real and, for most, cannot be overcome.
Many will not acknowledge there are psychological aspects in archery until it becomes a first-hand experience.  Recently one of my customers started asking some questions about freezing off target.  I quickly said, the less you know about freezing, the better off you are.  He then explained that he had been shooting top scores until he asked some of his friends just what is freezing.  After being told, he immediately began freezing.  He has been trying to lick the problem for six months, but his shooting is steadily getting worse.
Psychological problems seem to hit archery more than any other sport.  I can't say exactly why, but I do expect a good part of it is the fact the release hand is under pressure to release the arrow, but the mind is trying to say, “No, not yet.”  In turn, this conflict causes freezing.
Although psychological problems in shooting a bow show up in many archers as freezing off target, it can show up in many ways; snapshooting, dropping the bow arm, etc.  I have seen excellent bowhunters with many game kills on record get so uptight when shooting at a target that some have broken arrows, while others have thrown their bows as far as they could.
            I can always think back to when I first started to take the bow seriously.  I remember how naïve I was.  (Incidently, naïve is a nice word for dumb.)  I was told many things by experienced archers – both physical and psychological – about shooting; things that I would not believe until they happened to me personally.  Of course, they did delay my progress.  One time, national champion Ken Moore was giving a bit of advice which I took with a grain of salt.  It took a few years, then something hit me; Ken knew what he was talking about.
Understanding archers and their problems does not come in a few years of shooting, hunting or contact with a few hundred archers.  There are thousands of archers who have shot for over fifteen years and hundreds of tournaments.  These are the ones that know the full spectrum of archery and their problems.  For the benefit of all bowhunters, I hope these archers will speak up on the proficiency test issue.
One of the bowhunters who recommends a proficiency test also feel there should be a law that the broadhead point should weigh a minimum of 150 grains.  Just what would happen if a few I the right position to do so rushed in and passed laws, because they personally thought it would be great?  The fish and game departments, not being well versed in archery, are eager to listen to recommendations, especially from those in executive offices in state clubs.  Some of might think, “So what, if that state does pass a particular law.  It's not my state.  It won't affect me.”
But when any state passes a regulation on archery, in time, it could affect every archer in the country.  When a law is passed, it sets up sort of a precedent.  The fish and game departments of different states keep in touch with each other and work together.
Back to broadhead weight:  To even suggest such a regulation of a minimum weight of 150 grains shows how little some know about arrow flight.  Consider the women bowhunters of this nation or anyone who shoots a bow under fifty pounds.  Just what would be the result for them?  Regardless of how one feels about arrow shaft weight - be it light or heavy – the broadhead point should be as light as possible, if accuracy is to be considered at all.
            The lighter the broadhead tip, the less critical arrow spine and the more accurate arrow flight.  About 100 grains is as light as we can go, because of size considerations.  A more ideal weight would be 65-70 grains, which is the weight of most target points.  Then our hunting arrows would fly just about as accurately as the most accurate target arrow.   The ideal weight of 65-70 grains is a far cry from the 150 grain minimum suggested by one of our fellow bowhunters.
            There is a variety of opinions, but there also seems to be a lack of knowledge with some in the position to pass regulations or influence their passage.  I just hope these archers will exercise caution before suggesting passing any law that could affect every archer in this country.  Most of the states have their own bowhunting organizations and the members should have a vote on anything suggested to the fish and game departments.
            Not only would an accuracy test hurt a good many bowhunters, the test itself really doesn't mean that much, considering the most difficult, always present problems of judging distance.  Distance judging is one of the most is one of the most important things to a bowhunter, but because of regulations within our own organizations, the ability to judge distance for many has been greatly hampered.  The initial intent of a roving range was to allow us to walk from one place to another, shooting at different targets with the primary purpose of learning to judge distance and maintain this skill.
            It was the target archers who insisted distances be marked on roving ranges.  Passing this rule, upheld within most of the clubs throughout the states, took away the real value of a roving range to a hunter.  Many bowhunters dropped out of the larger clubs and tournament shooting, because there was really nothing left of interest.  There now are a number of clubs that have been organized by these die-hard bowhunters, who have gone back to the original concept of no marked distances.
The sad thing about all of this is that the avid bowhunter – the one whose life is surrounded by bowhunting, who lives and breathes the sport, keeps broadheads razor sharp and is an excellent shot at game – is the one apt to do poorly on an accuracy test.  The tournament shooter, who may not have real hunting skill, would put his arrows dead-center in any accuracy teat.   Just what would the test prove?
            I am not saying all bowhunters would do poorly on an accuracy test, but if any failed because of a psychological hangup, that would be too many.  As pointed out, these fellows are excellent shots, but because of psychological reasons, cannot shoot at a target or perhaps take the pressure of others looking on.
I once knew a fellow who could hardly bear looking at a target.  He loved archery, though, and would not give it up.  When he drew his bow back, he drew back at approximate right angles to the target, swung his bow in the direction of the target and let go when he felt in the right position.  Anyone who would stick with it and shoot with this much of a hangup has to be in love with archery.  Yet no one is really immune from catching a similar psychological malady.  For some, it just takes the right circumstance.
            You might even picture yourself standing there in front of a target at thirty-five yards.  You must get three arrows in the twelve inch circle or you will not receive your hunting license.  The fish and game examiner is observing to see how you do, with fifty other hunters standing in line, watching, waiting to step up and take their turns.  It can come to this.
The odd thing about psychological problems is that they hit you just when you want to do your best.  Those who push for accuracy tests might have the old psychological sledge hammer come to rest right on top of the head at the moment of truth.  Perhaps the fish and game examiner is strickly a gun hunter.  After seeing some of the hotshots put three dead-center and others with sloppy edge shots, he may consider a six-inch circle would be more appropriate than the twelve-inch.  There is no telling where something like this could lead.  If archers feel they must have some sort of test to improve their image, consider a safety test, perhaps combined with the gun safety test, which are given in many states.  
            As mentioned, as long as we have the ever-present problem of judging distance, extreme deadeye shooting does not mean that much.  Look at the distance judging problem s we have; over streams, hills. Gulleys, between trees, not shadowed, out in the open, uphill shots, downhill shots, between branches, and not to mention wind and rain.
If you misjudge the distance five yards at a distance of forty yards, you most likely will have a complete miss. , yet forty yards should be considered a good, perhaps even a close shot for a bow.  I have seen friends miss deer standing broadside, perfectly still at fifteen and twenty yards.  I also have seen the same fellow bag a deer at forty and fifty yards.  The point is that anyone can misjudge the distance.  You are never sure – no matter how good a shot you are or what distance you happen to be from the animal – just how good your hit will be.  Deer will constantly jump the string.  Where does accuracy stand when this happens?  If you see an animal walking slowly along in full view, are you going to pass up the shot simply because your game is moving?  Where is the precise accuracy if you take the shot?  How close could you judge it?
You not only have the distance to judge, but you must gauge how long it will take the arrow to get there and the position your game will be at that time.   If you hold at the front of a slow-walking deer at fifty yards and shoot, he will pass by your arrow completely before it reaches him.
I have been told by many that I was the most accurate judge of distance they had ever seen, but I know how difficult it can be to judge distance of an animal.  Friends and I do a lot of practice in judging distance during and before our hunting trips.  Even though I have been considered some kind of an expert, I have misjudged a fifty-yard shot  as much as ten yards.  A misjudgement of ten yards at fifty hardly puts you in the right ball field.  You might misjudge a forty-yard shot one time, yet the next try, you will hit a seventy- yard shot dead-center.
This past season one of our fellow bowhunters was pretty much a beginner, as this was his first year of bowhunting.  He saw a bull at eighty yards, pulled back his bow and let fly.  He hit the bull directly through the center of the heart.  He hadn't really dreamed of hitting the elk, much less nailing it through the heart.  His shot could have been all the way from the he made to a poor hit or a complete miss.
Was it a mistake for this hunter to take such a long shot?  Certainly you never will convince him he was in error.  This was the first elk he had ever seen  as close as eighty yards.  Had he not taken the shot, he might never have killed another elk in a lifetime of bowhunting.
No, the eighty yard shot wasn't a matter of pure accuracy, but more a matter of good, old-fashioned luck with which most of the successful bowhunters are blessed.  Of course, there must be some skill even in the most novice hunter, if he is to obtain success with a bow.  It may just be the skill of knowing his broadheads are razor sharp.
The point is that there is just no way you can regulate what type of shot or at what distance a hunter will take a shot at game.  If there was a way to make it so that an archer could not shoot his arrow past twenty-five yards, then an accuracy test might mean something.  It certainly would not change the situation whereby just shooting at a target, especially with people looking on, bothers a fellow, even though there are some who would wrong guess the distance at twenty-five yards.  At least, this is close enough that most would not have any distance problem.  Then, if you could regulate these same people that passed the twenty-five test never to shoot beyond twenty-five yards, the test would have some value.
Don't think I am saying accuracy is not needed:  it is.  The more accurate an archer, the more game he will bag.  Even if you judge the distance correctly, it will be of no value if you are off to the left or right.  Most bowhunters I have seen shoot are extremely accurate, especially when shooting at unknown distances and at game, also at such items as pine cones, clumps of grass, things that don't bug them.  I know of no possible fair way to gauge the accuracy of these hunters.
Some seem to want to put archery in the same place as gun hunting, but a bow is just too far away from the gun to ever consider similar status.  If we try to convince the public that bows are as powerful and as accurate as guns, there is no reason they won't expect us to prove it.  Most gun hunters do not consider the range of big game.  If they can see it at five hundred yards away through a scope, they will take the shot.  They feel if they hit, they will have a sure kill.
This could be the key to a more successful field of bowhunting:  Any hit is a sure kill; with proper broadheads, we could approach this goal.  Bowhunters wish to upgrade the sport; if any regulations are to be passed, then something regulating broadhead sharpness would be more appropriate.  The precision of a good bow and matched arrows has gone about as far as it can; I really can't see much room for improvement.  We will never be able to get an arrow to shoot as flat as a bullet, but with razor blade sharpness a bow's killing power can be improved immensely, perhaps even closely equaling the killing power of a gun.  This is the one big area where bowhunting can improve.
There has been a considerable amount written on how to sharpen broadheads.   This simply goes in one ear and out the other, as I still see too many dull broadheads while out hunting.  Some just don't wish to take the time: others feel they probably won't hit anything anyway, so why go to so much work?  With dull broadheads in the field, even with all the preaching from the experienced, the only logical solution is some sort of enforcement.  So you fellows bent on doing something, might do it where it will really do some good and not hurt so many.  If a law must be passed, probably the biggest single step bowhunters ever could take is to pass a regulation outlawing any broadhead that doesn't use a razor blade as a cutting edge.  I am not urging anyone to pass this as a law, but if some feel that something just must be done, this area would do the most good.
Most popular broadheads are made of fairly mild steel.  Primarily, they are made fairly soft so they can be filed sharp.  Any steel that can be sharpened with a file is not extremely hard; consequently, it is difficult to obtain even a sharp edge, much less a razor edge.  If one spends enough time, he can obtain a sharp edge.  With honing, some makes of broadheads will even allow you to obtain a razor edge.
To obtain a razor sharpness in the first place and to maintain it is another matter.  As the steel is a type that allows you to file an edge, it can also be dulled easily.  As you are hunting along, one swipe of the broadhead edge on a limb or brush and Dullsville!
Even the hide of the game or rib bone can wipe off a mild steel edge.  The head may hit the game extremely sharp but may be dulled by the time it reaches anything vital.  I have used many of the mild steel heads and know their problems.
            For the past eighteen years or so, I have been using razor blades cemented to my broadheads and find them far superior.  Thousands of bowhunters use this method, as they believe stock broadheads are not adequate.  Some may immediately think this is too much trouble. I defy anyone to sharpen a dozen broadheads as fast as razor blades can be glued on.
Because of the extreme hardness of the steel in a razor blade, it will not dull easily.  Where one swipe against a hard branch will wipe the conventional broadhead edge, a razor blade will take much of the same abuse and still stay sharp.  It has been my experience, using razor blade broadheads, anything except a scratch hit is a kill.  This type of broadhead gives me as much confidence in a hit/kill ratio as I had when I used a rifle years ago.
You also can have a scratch hit when using a rifle.  A razor blade scratch hit will leave an excellent blood trail whereas a bullet will not.  When I say scratch hit, I mean one blade of the razor head cutting the skin.  I know that, if by chance, I can not find a game animal that I hit with my razor blade head (which has never happened), it would have to be a scratch hit and I would take some consolation in the fact that the animal would live to be much wiser and undoubtedly to a ripe old age.
Again, if some changes must be made, lets work on the broadhead issue.  This is the most important part of our equipment:  the part that does the actual killing.  If you feel, as I do, that accuracy tests will accomplish nothing constructive and hurt bowhunting considerably more than it will do good, speak up or forever hold your peace.
Keep in mind that once a law is passed, you're stuck with it. <-----<<<

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