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The Bow as a Hunter's Weapon
Part 2 of 5

A VISIT to the Museum of Natural History in New York City and a later visit to the New National Museum in Washington, D. C., incidental to a trip to the "States" gave the writer opportunity to acquire still further first hand information, for, through the courtesy of Mr. Allen, of the New National Museum, whose thoughtful courtesy and friendly interest will always be pleasantly remembered, he was enabled to spend considerable time on different occasions investigating and experimenting with old Indian weapons.

The character of these bows varied considerably, perhaps the most interesting point being ingenious methods of increasing their power and efficiency, and this brings us to the subject of the reinforced, or "backed" bow. In its simplest form this consists of a heavy cord strung along the back of the bow (the side away from the shooter) and so secured that it cannot slip off. As the bow is bent this reinforcing cord is, of course, tightened and the power of the bow somewhat increased. Another, and better method of re-inforcing bows is, to imbed animal sinews or rawhide on the back of the bow in glue. The sinews are, of course, glued on lengthwise and the work very neatly done. Bows of two kinds of wood, glued together, are made to-day by manufacturers of modern archery goods.

Arrows vary greatly according to their place of manufacture and the purpose for which they are intended. The essential thing about an arrow is that the forward end be heavier than the rear, i. e., the heavy end goes ahead and the lighter end trails behind so there is no tendency for the arrow to turn end for end in its flight. It will be seen that with an arrow of this type feathers are not really necessary, though they aid in keeping the arrow on a true course. In fact, in competitions where shooting for distance only is tried and accuracy is a minor consideration, unfeathered arrows are sometimes used, for feathering adds resistance to an arrow's flight through the air and slightly retards it. The usual "flight arrow," however, has small feathers. However, if an arrow be of equal weight throughout its length, or nearly so, feathers at the rear are necessary in order to preserve its straight course. In the highest development of arrows, for example those made by regular manufacturers of archery goods, such feathers are very carefully put on and are located to the very best advantage. In many of the Indian arrows, however, the feathering is often simply one, two or three bird feathers, sometimes tail feathers, tied to the arrow near its base by the quill end, the tip of the arrow being left free. A rather crude arrangement but it served the purpose after a fashion. While feathers were usually available, cotton or shreds of bark were sometimes used instead.

The point of an arrow itself has taken many forms, depending on the purpose for which it was intended. For small bird shooting the blow given to a bird by an arrow would be sufficient to bring it down. It would also be most highly undesirable to have an arrow, made at the cost of much time and labor, lost by being stuck in a high tree branch. Worse still, if a bird were impaled by an arrow and both bird and arrow lost! ! Therefore arrows made for shooting small birds in trees were commonly made with blunt points so that they would fall to the ground and not stick in the tree.

As might be supposed, the older men of a tribe or the crippled naturally became the makers of bows and arrows or the "bowyers" (though the work did not necessarily all fall to them), an occupation which contributed to their support, as the younger warriors who were actively engaged in the chase or warfare bought their product.

To these older men, also, often fell the pleasant task of teaching the younger boys how to shoot; as well as how to defend themselves if shot at. The flight of an arrow can be seen; and it has always been a game played more or less frequently among the Indians to shoot arrows at each other at some distance. The person shot at would watch their flight and dodge if necessary or would scornfully stand perfectly still if he saw that the shot would be amiss. Needless to say this is a dangerous game requiring good judgment.