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Home > Books > The Archer's Guide > Chapter V
Chapter VI
The different Kinds of Shooting

There are six kinds of shooting with the long-bow, namely, roving, hoyle-shooting, flight-shooting, butt-shooting, prick or target-shooting, and clout-shooting.

1. Roving.

Roving, or shooting at rovers, appears to be the most ancient kind of shooting of any, and consists (as its title imports) of roving about and fixing on casual and unmeasured marks, at which to aim. These are generally selected at considerable distances, and shot at with longer and heavier arrows than those used for most other kinds of shooting. Roving has the advantage of target-shooting by carrying us over an extent of country, and thus enhancing the interest of the sport by continual change of scene. Hence, Dr. Mulcaster, speaking of the various kinds of archery practised in England, says, "Roving must needes be the best and most healthfule, both for varieties of motion in diversities of soil, and by using all archery in exercising one kind."

Other advantages of roving are, that as the distances are generally considerable, the archer is obliged to shoot at high elevations, frequently as high as forty-five degrees; he, consequently, draws more towards his breast, or the point of his shoulder, than in target-shooting, and hence learns to command a very strong bow, acquires a knowledge of distances, and becomes inured to more powerful exercise than most other kinds of archery can afford. In fact, when the distances are judiciously varied, shooting at rovers is an excellent mode of practising archery with a view to improvement.

2. Hoyle-shooting.

Hoyle is an old North-country word, signifying a small eminence as a mole-hill, and the like; which, when of sufficient prominence, may be made a mark to shoot at. In this kind of shooting there is generally a leader, who fixes on the objects to be aimed at; and it is frequently practised after butt or target-shooting, on the road home, either for mere amusement, or to determine a game, when both sides have left off equal.

Strictly speaking, as the marks shot at in this sport are varied and uncertain, hoyle-shooting is nothing more than a kind of roving.

3. Flight-shooting

Flight-shooting (so called from the flights, or light arrows, used in the game), is practised without regard either to mark or distance. To shoot the greatest possible length, is the grand object; and hence it affords opportunities of comparing the flight of different kinds of arrows in all weathers, as well as of trying the powers of bows.

4. Butt-shooting.

Butts are composed of turfs of earth, and are in form nearly square, though somewhat resembling a wedge. Those turfs which are dug from a common, where the grass is short, with roots of heath-plants matted in it, are preferred to all others. These are laid upon each other, and pressed tightly together. The length of each butt in front is generally somewhat more than nine feet, the height seven feet, four feet deep at the base, and one foot four inches broad at the top.

These are placed at various distances, generally in sets, and so disposed that they do not stand in the way of the archer when shooting at any of the lengths. Upon them is placed the mark, (about breast-high,) which is a circular piece of thin white pasteboard, of about four inches in diameter.

Other butts, which are now more approved of, are made of straw, laid first in trusses, and then pressed down as tightly as possible, the ends being afterwards cut smooth. Butts of this description, being kept under cover, are very durable, and, from their never injuring the arrow, must be pronounced preferable to those made of earth.

The great advantage of butts is, that they save the trouble of carrying targets and their stands to the ground; nothing more being necessary in butt-shooting than the small pasteboard target, of which we have before spoken, which may be conveyed without any inconvenience to the place of exercise, and easily fixed on the butt. Earthen butts, or mounds, for archers to practise at, were formerly erected by statute in every parish in England. 33 Henry VIII. cap. 9.

5. Prick, or target-shooting

Target-shooting we have explained at page 140. Prick-shooting appears to be merely a different mode of practising the same thing. Prick is a Saxon word, signifying point, whence it may be inferred that this kind of shooting was chiefly confined to small marks. These were arranged at fixed spots, and at less distances than the ordinary target-shooting.

"The marks used in this kind of shooting," says Mr. Roberts, "have, for more than two centuries past, consisted of a small circular piece of white paper, (fixed to a post by means of a hole and wooden pin,) or of a target. The former is now always placed upon a butt; the latter occasionally occupies its place on the butt, (especially at public shootings,) though it is generally placed upon a frame, which gives it any degree of elevation required.

6. Clout-shooting.

The clout is now a small white target, generally made of pasteboard, and of about twelve inches in diameter. It is fastened to a sharp upright stick, which is driven into the ground in rather an oblique direction, till the lower edge of the clout touches, or nearly touches, the round . Frequently several marks are so stuck about a field, at distances from a hundred to a hundred and fifty yards apart. The marks being small, it is usually understood at this game that every arrow counts that hits, or falls within two or three bow's lengths of the clout. As the incumbrance of carrying these small marks is but inconsiderable, this mode of shooting has its convenience to those who cannot have immediate access to a butt or target-ground; for it affords them the facility of practising in any neighbouring common or field.

Formerly, the clout was a square white cloth, whence its elegant designation. The game is noticed by Shakspeare, in the Second Part of his Henry IV. a. iii s. 2.; and from Justice Shallow's eulogium on old Double, penned in the bard's most exquisitely natural style, it may be inferred, that to shoot two hundred and ninety yards was an extraordinary achievement.

Shallow - Death is certain. Is old Double, of your town, living yet ?
Silence - Dead, sir !
Shallow - Dead ! See ! See ! - he drew a good bowhand and dead ! - He shot a fine shoot ! John of Gaunt loved him well, and betted much money on his head. Dead ! - He would have clapped you in the clout at twelve score[1] and carried you a forehand-shaft[2] a fourteen and fourteen and a half,[3] that it would have done a man's heart good to see. How a good score of ewes now ? - And is old Double dead?

In addition to those which we have enumerated, there are two other kinds of shooting, as the game of the Popinjay, before noticed, and still practised by the French, Dutch, Flanderkins, and Belgians; and a sport called "pluck buffet," ill which (in the "Garland," an old poem) Richard Coeur de Lion is made to engage with Robin Hood, and the essence of which appears to have been, that the loser should

"Beare a buffet on his hede,
I wys all right bare."
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