WHAT accuracy can be expected from the bow under average hunting conditions? Can it be compared with the modern sporting rifle for serious game shooting? Let us consider a little. At the present day the hunter armed with a rifle and who is out for meat to eat and not for recreation will naturally get as close as possible to an animal before shooting, thereby increasing his chances for a kill. The bow and arrow hunter has always done the same thing and because his weapon was less powerful and less accurate his skill in woodcraft was necessarily correspondingly greater. Hiawatha killed his first deer, you will remember, by hiding in an alder thicket beside a deer trail.
"Hidden in the alder bushes,
There he waited till the deer came,
Till he saw two antlers lifted,
Saw two eyes point from the thicket,
Saw two nostrils point to windward,
And a deer came down the pathway."
To distinguish the deer's eyes and nostrils he necessarily had to be pretty close and its safe to say that he also kept away from the windward side of that deer trail too, lest the deer scent him. The probabilities are that Hiawatha shot that deer at fifty feet, or less. By way of comparison it may be stated that this is about the extreme sure kill range of buckshot.
A man of wide experience with Indian hunters said that in his opinion the greater part of their game killed with arrows was shot on the short side of twenty yards, and this seems probable. The Indian got as close as he could before shooting and tried to make his kill a sure thing and if the white hunter of to-day would more generally follow his example there would be less crippled and lost game and probably fewer people shot by mistake as well.
The records for accuracy have, of course, been made by the white man with his superior weapons. These authentic and comparatively recent cases of shooting as done by experts in the game will give an idea of what degree of accuracy may be obtained, given proper equipment backed by careful practice. The list is taken from "The Witchery of Archery."
20 shots 4 ft. target 100 yds. time, one minute 12 shots 2 ft. square 46 yds . . . . . . . . . 10 shots 8 in. square 30 yds . . . . . . . . . 11 shots 9 in. bull 40 yds. 13 arrows fired
This is approximately equivalent to the degree of accuracy that would be obtained by an average good shot with a heavy calibre revolver or pistol at these distances. An exceptionally expert pistol shot with special arms and under favorable conditions would do much better.
SPEAKING in a general way, an expert archer under average favorable conditions will be able to hit a mark one inch in diameter for every ten feet of distance, this with reasonable certainty. Some will do even better than this but most people far worse, due to lack of interest and practice. or poor equipment. This is not gun accuracy but it is sufficient for much small game work and for big game where it can be approached closely. Pope and Young and others have killed grizzly and black bear, deer, puma, and all sorts of varmints. This class of work means woodcraft of a high order, skill and nerve, for it takes physical bravery of the highest order to hunt, face and kill a grown grizzly as these men have, depending on bow and arrow.
The range and penetration of arrows is far greater than is generally supposed. Shot from a powerful bow at short range an arrow will pass entirely through a deer or bear, cutting a rib or two in addition if they happen to be in the way. Contests are often held in which the object has been to attain long flight, accuracy being a non-essential, and in such matches flight shots of over two hundred and fifty yards are common. Rapidity of fire is obtained by the archer simply sticking a number of arrows in the ground in front of him or holding several in his left hand. Through long practice he can grasp and fire them very rapidly without taking his eyes from the mark.
In many cases the bow can be used to good advantage in procuring large fish, and with blunt arrows it will account for many an English sparrow at short range. Fix a sort of "tit-tat-toe" (you remember the child's game) arrangement of cross sticks or wires on the end of the arrow to increase its area and effectiveness. If your bow isn't too powerful and you use a blunt arrow it is the ideal way of indicating to bird-hunting cats, the dog from next door that digs a hole in your smooth shaven lawn big enough to bury a cow in, and the chickens that scratch up the flower bed that they are all strictly, "personae non grata" in that neighborhood, while the total absence of noise, barring the remarks of the beast reasoned with, has its advantage.
Aside from this, there is a certain pleasant satisfaction in the possession of what has been for ages mankind's best weapon, and in having acquired the knowledge and skill to use it.