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Section V
French Archery
Part 2 of 2

If the arrow enter at the loins, she will die in an hour. If at the chine, between two joints, she will void herself and fall, but not die. If among the great ribs, in a slanting direction towards the shoulder, she shall die briefly; but if the arrow points towards the haunches, she shall run a long time. If struck high up behind the shoulders, she shall not die; but if lower down towards the ribs, instant death follows. If in the middle of the neck, death will not ensue; nearer the setting on of the head, your weapon shall be fatal. If the arrow enter right through the neck, three fingers from the shoulders, that is among the vitals, she shall fall instantly. An outside wound in the thick part of the haunch is not mortal; but on the inner part of the same, just the reverse. Lastly, an arrow passing directly through the throat, severs the windpipe, and causes instant death.


When the archers have taken their stand, as before indicated, the chief forester should station those who are to drive the deer right across the thicket, at a stone's throw from each other; then should they gradually walk towards the archers, whistling and shouting as they proceed, to alarm the herd. And when a deer is struck, he who is inclined to the love of archery should have with him one good dog trained to hunt upon the blood. And farther, I will describe other things peculiar to this mystery. First, then, the bow with which an archer shoots at stand, should be more elastic and easier to draw, than that used by him who shoots at view, or when a beast is in chase, for three reasons: because he who shoots with too strong a bow, will be compelled to incline his body forwards from the tree, and thus expose himself to the view of the approaching game; because he cannot hold the arrow when drawn up to the head, for any length of time; because his bow hand will be unsteady, and his loose uncertain and irregular. These are the reasons why every archer who shoots at stand, should be master of his bow. There are yet other requisites for a chief of the game; viz.:--a file wherewith to make his arrow heads sharp and pointed, some spare strings carried in his pouch, and a coat of green; or, in summer and autumn, of russet colour, resembling that of the woods.

Then King Modus's scholars demand what the second chapter of archery shall contain. And Modus answers, that the second chapter shall treat of killing deer with the bow, by riding in upon them unawares.

When archers go to the forest to take deer after this manner, two horses will be amply sufficient; for where there are more, the game, becoming restless, straightway decamps. Two mounted foresters, skilful in discovering the haunts of deer, each followed by a small party of archers, are to proceed into those glades and open woodlands which afford an easy passage to the horses; and if they discover the herd feeding at a distance, let them ride cautiously one a little in advance of the other. On arriving as near as prudence will admit, both archers and horsemen should stop. The former then station themselves in a semicircle, about a stone's throw apart, and so as to gain the vent.[11] Of the beasts; their bows, ready braced, are to be held perpendicularly before the body, with an arrow on the string, the right hand should hold the nock of the arrow before the archer's face, very near to it; and they are to remain in this position, keeping their eyes fixed on the deer. In the mean time, the two mounted foresters, having made a large circuit; on arriving opposite the archers, should walk their horses forwards in a direct line. The deer, startled at their appearance, will rush towards the ambuscade, when each bowman, singling out the one which likes him best, discharges his arrow with a cool and deliberate aim. Such as do not fall directly, are tracked by the bloodhound, kept waiting at some convenient spot.

Then King Modus's scholars demand of what the third chapter on archery consists. And Modus replies, that the third chapter treats of shooting deer at view, both on foot and on horseback.

The foot archer who designs to shoot at view, must order himself in the following manner :- let him seek the game among the forests, with bow in hand, and shafts buckled under his belt. And here the bow may be much stronger than that used by the archer on horseback, for three reasons: because he will have to take aim from a greater distance; because his mark being a flight shot, he may extend his arms more fully, and lay his body in the bow; because he will have no occasion to hold the arrow drawn up, even for an instant, as he is directed to do when at stand. On discovering a stag, let him forthwith brace his bow, and place an arrow upon the string, approaching him as near as he can; and if the stag raise up his head to gaze around, at that instant must he pull the string to his ear, and having drawn and redrawn the arrow for an instant, to secure his aim, he is then to let fly. If the shot take effect, the archer should speedily fetch his bloodhound from the place where he left it.

The sportsman who shoots at view on horseback, must provide himself with some sober jade, that will, when necessary, remain quiet without moving. As soon as the game is in sight, let him brace his bow, which should be a weak one; then placing his arrow on the string, he is to hold both in his left hand, by throwing the fore-finger over the arrow to secure it, and guide the horse with his right. Then, putting him to the gallop, the archer should make a wide circuit around the whole herd, in order to select the best opening through which to direct his shot. If the deer grow restless and alarmed, which he will be presently aware of, by their raising up their heads, let him halt until they recommence feeding. When he preceives they are quiet, he may approach very cautiously, until in a favourable position for shooting; in other words, until he can discern the side of the fattest of the herd fully exposed to his arrow: let him then halt, and handle his weapons. Now, the skilful archer will so order himself, that he may conveniently draw his bow behind him, and not on one side, or directly in front, supporting himself in the left stirrup, which should be a little shorter than the other. Let him shoot with all his force, drawing the arrow fully up to its head, and levelling his bow-hand at the spot where he wishes to pierce the game. If the shot be fatal, he may go and seek his bloodhound, as before said, or slip his deer dogs, which latter will be better able to pull down the stag, in case he be but slightly hurt.

King Modus's scholars demand of what the fourth chapter on archery is to consist. And Modus replies, the fourth chapter treats of shooting in covert during the prevalence of windy weather.

The best season is from the middle of August to the middle of September, for two causes; because in these months deer are yet in full season; and because they go forth very early in the morning, and bray so loudly at one another, as to be heard afar off. A strong wind, accompanied by rain, is, for two causes, the most favourable weather for this kind of shooting: the deer being then more a-foot, and less able to discern the archer, by reason of the force of the wind. Let the hunter proceed alone, early in the morning, creeping from stand to stand, through the overgrown bushes of that part of the forest where he suspects the game is harboured. Having got sight of a stag, he cannot be too wary; if seen, it is all over with him, his shot is spoiled. But should he succeed in creeping unperceived within range, let him kneel behind a bush, and there brace his bow; then placing an arrow on the string, he is to hold both of them in the left hand, while with each blast of wind he changes his position, taking notice if the animal continues to feed.

When two stags are braying and fighting together, the hunter may approach exceedingly near; indeed, it often happens that they are so blinded by fury as to be easily killed with a sword. And when the archer has got so near that he cannot possibly miss, let him move cautiously from his hiding-place and discharge his arrow. This is best done whilst kneeling on one knee, the bow being short and weak. He should hold a small green branch in his mouth to conceal his features, and the habit he wears must be the colour of the woods.

In a country well covered with lofty trees, stalking will afford the archer much diversion. Procure a piece of linen sufficiently large to admit the figure of a hind[12] being painted on- it, and fasten its extremities to a couple of poles, like those of a stalking horse. The hunter keeps this device extended, while he advances very cautiously down wind upon the deer, which he discovers by looking through the eyelet-holes made in its centre. Let him creep from tree to tree under cover of his disguise, until within bow-shot; then fixing the poles in the ground, so that the painted deer may be fairly displayed, let him rise cautiously and shoot over the upper edge of the cloth. This is a very agreeable mode of hunting, and the archer cannot fail of sport in a country tolerably well furnished with stags.

King Modus's scholars demand what is the pastime of shooting wild boars at soil.[13] And Modus replies, that to shoot at soil is the fifth chapter of archery, and the finest sport a single archer can enjoy.

The proper season extends from mid-October to the end of November. And now it is proper the archer be informed that "a soil," in hunter's language, means a standing pool of mud and water. Thither the boars assemble while roaming in search of food, to drink, wallow, and rest therein.

Having discovered such a place, look out some moderately sized tree, growing on the edge of the water, and as nearly as possible opposite to the path by which wild boars make their approach. Then select a bough of four forks, a couple of feet at least from the ground, which may serve for a seat. And now I will inform you why it is necessary to be placed thus high. Rest assured, if the wild boars are near, either with the wind or against it, they will neither see nor smell the hunter, who is lifted above the ground. Mount then, to your seat, with your bow ready bent, and a good tough-shafted arrow, well headed and sharpened. Keep good watch, looking narrowly around, and there is a certainty of sport, for not only wild boars, but every other description of game, will pass by your hiding place, and you may kill them quite at hand; more especially the former, for they will dash into the pool, and wallow therein before your eyes.

Lastly, King Modus's scholars demand what is the pleasure of shooting hares sitting. And Modus replies, that to kill a hare on her form.[14] is a pleasant diversion in a favourable country.

The season for this sort of hunting is the month of April, when hares resort at daybreak to the green corn, to feed thereon. Let the archer mount on horseback, and ride forth, bow in hand, with a varlet at his side, leading a brace or a leash of greyhounds. Then let him ride up and down the corn, until he espy a hare, when the hounds are to be placed in front, that the sight of them may occupy her attention. And as soon as she sees the dogs, straitway will she tap with her foot among the corn, a sure sign that she is squatting close: then make a wide circuit, with the bent bow in your left hand, and an arrow nocked upon the string; draw up and shoot, without stopping the horse' and know, that as soon as the hare espies the dogs, she will allow the hunter to approach as near as he listeth. This is a marvellously pleasant amusement in a country abounding with hares.

And now my friends and pupils, ye will be duly qualified and skilled to practice and enjoy all the pastime which I and Queen Raco have taught; provided ye give heed unto our words.

Thus far the Book of King Modus. Altogether, it may be considered an interesting production; nothing similar existing among the literature of our own country.

There are at present, in the suburbs of Paris, one or two feeble "reunions des Tireurs," as the modern French term our bowmeetings. Yet, not a few of their nobles of the last age practiced archery during the usual summer sojourn at their maisons de campagne, and green alleys, decked with flower-beds, and having butts at each extremity, may still be found within the precincts of many a dilapidated chateau. Those familiar with Chantilly and its magnificent forest, will remember a double set, for shooting the eight and twelve rood lengths, which stand upon La Pelouse, a delightful range of lawn attached to that now untenanted edifice, once the palace of the "great Condé."

In Belgium one, rarely sees a village, never certainly a market town, unprovided with a tall mast for the exercise of an amusement common to nearly the whole male population, from 12 to 70 years of age. Of the younger people's dexterity, I witnessed many pleasant examples, especially when disembarking one very delightful July evening at Ostend, from the treckskuyt, which plies between that city and Bruges. A merry party of youngsters were amusing themselves shooting at a small wooden bird, the size of a sparrow, perched upon the summit of a tall pole, which stands upon the magnificent canal bank. They used bolts tipped with horn, as, indeed, all Flemish arrows are; in this case, about the circumference of a shilling. I loitered near, an interested spectator of course; since, if truth be spoken, my five weeks' ramble through Brabant, terminating at Ostend, had been projected under the influence of pure toxomania.[15] After many clever shots, the bolt belonging to one juvenile got entangled in the small cord, contrived for replacing their popinjay upon its perch without the trouble of an ascent. Seeing this, a little brown visaged, curly pated urchin, scarcely twelve years old, but perfectly equipped for the sport, set himself to bring down the lost shaft. Accordingly, he adjusted his aim with the adroitness of an old hand, and, releasing the imprisoned bolt, at a second attempt, sent it spinning, in company with his own, to the distance of a dozen yards. That lovely summer's eve, the broad and glassy bosom of the magnificent Canal de Bruges, the beautiful little lawn, on which stood the tall white maypole, are associated in my recollections with the pigmy archer's feat, and have helped to impress it there.

Flemish bows and arrows are truly excellent. For perfect straightness and seasoning, with beauty of feathers, the latter cannot be surpassed. In their bows they are a little fanciful; I saw many formed of two pieces, united by an iron hinge; and to construct them so as to be put together like the joints of an angling rod, seems a favourite fancy. In most Flemish bows, the upper horn is of beautiful and even classical form, imitating the heads of swans, griffins, snakes, &c. &c.

Archery prevails very generally throughout Brabant, and that portion of French Flanders bordering upon it. I recollect, whilst seated in a carriage which rumbles along between Paris and Brussels, to have seen a stalwort peasant unbending a magnificent yew bow, nearly seven feet in height, at the door of a woodbined road-side cottage. It was about dusk, in the month of July, and apparently, he had just returned from shooting "matches and masteries," as did our merry English yeomen five centuries ago. In butt practice, they rarely exceed seventy paces, the distance between the Ostend marks; which, by the bye, are dated 1673, and made of haulm straw, set endways, and pressed tightly.

At Brussels you find butts of earth, well rammed and moistened daily, within flower gardens, at the rear of many an auberge in that town. The archers shoot under a portico at each end, passing from mark to mark by a second alley bordered with frequent knots of the gaudy tulip; so, there being no danger, the sport never stands still. A small sheet of cartridge paper, which I have often brought away as a trophy, forms the mark, for most of the elders loose their arrows with the precision of riflemen. They shoot games, and a flagon of "Louvain," or "bonne bierre double," forms their stake. Every town has similar companies, and similar accommodations, together with their salles des archiers, often very tastefully embellished. Those of Ghent, Bruges, and Antwerp, are worth a visit; there being, four fraternities existing in the latter place:--

The Ancient Company of Bowyers.
The Modern Company of Bowyers.
The Ancient Company of Bowmen.
The Modern Company of Bowmen.

Ghent has two celebrated toxophilite societies, respectively styled, the Knights of St. Sebastian[16], and St. George. The former wear an uniform of green, the latter of scarlet cloth. Independently of frequent assemblies for ordinary practice, there is an annual rendezvous of all the archers of Ghent, Bruges, and the surrounding towns, villages, and hamlets, which lasts for several days. A hundred lofty poles are erected in the suburbs, to receive the same number of popinjays, of which each society produces its own; and for the chief prize, the wooden bird is elevated to a height equalling that of the cathedral. The crossbow, still popular in Brabant and the rest of Flanders, is used in the contest for this principal stake; and the bowman who strikes the popinjay from its iron peg, gains a certain number of napoleons, besides a superb gold cup or medal. With these he returns into the city, at the head of his brethren, with drums beating, trumpets sounding, colours flying, and all the pride, pomp, and circumstance of triumphal archery. There he is duly feted and feasted, and after gratifying his friends and kindred with a sight of the precious trophy, he deposits it in the Archery Saloon of his native town, in commemoration of victory; there are also many inferior prizes, such as watches, gold keys, chains, and pieces of silver plate, distributed to competitors in shooting with the bow. These knights of St. George and St. Sebastian also give splendid fetes and balls to the ladies of their acquaintance during the period of this celebration, and attend mass at the cathedral in full costume. Indeed the whole spectacle is grand and imposing, and realises our ideas of those ancient festivities, "when English kings and princesses, with the lords and ladies of their court, patronised similar manly exhibitions, to welcome in

The merry month of May.