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XLIV. On stunt shooting
Part 2 of 4

It has been related that a certain king had a bodyguard consisting of twelve archers. On one of his trips by night they heard a suspicious sound and immediately shot their arrows. It turned out to be a dog, and all their twelve arrows were planted in its body.[66]

The fifth is shooting with the so-called fard or qīrāt into the earth, especially when the object at which you are shooting is in a well, cistern, or a deep and narrow place. To accomplish this, take a fard or qīrāt, place it in the earth opposite your left hand, stand upright with your feet close together, reach for a soft bow free from recurvature, string it, nock upon the string a thick and heavy arrow— since it is better hitting—and draw toward your face. When you have drawn half the length of the arrow, you turn over your left hand very quickly and, at the same time, swing your right hand up over your head until your right forearm lies on your back in line with the side of your neck; after which, you push your left hand downward along your left thigh—thereby completing the draw to the full length of the arrow-and simultaneously lean with your neck toward the fard or qīrāt. On completing the full draw, release and let the arrow go.

Another very unusual and dangerous way, and, therefore, one to be attempted only by experts who are adept at it, consists in using the tip of the foot for a fard or qīrāt and removing it the instant the arrow is released. If you should remove your foot first, your aim would be spoiled, on the other hand, if you were a moment late in removing your foot, you would hit it with the arrow. The secret of it., success, therefore, lies in removing the foot and releasing the arrow at exactly the same instant.[67]

The sixth is what is known as hoof-shooting and is staged by leading a horse into a place completely free of any hoof marks. You then take a soft bow free of recurvature and, stringing it, take five fine arrows the feathers of which are a little far from their nocks. Place them in your right hand; holding them next to their nocks with your little finger, ring finger, and middle finger, similar to the count of nine, or, if you so desire, you may hold them between these three fingers. With your thumb and index finger you then push one of these arrows so that its nock lies in the palm of your hand, and nock it. Then, holding the grip of the bow with your left hand, place it at the base of the tail of your horse, on the right if you are right handed, that is, if you draw with your right hand, or at the base of the tail on the left if you are left-handed. Shoot at the marks of the hoof on the earth, repeating the operation quickly as the horse is on the run. The stunt is useful in the event that you are followed by a lion or any other beast of prey which might hang to your mount. A shot would disentangle the beast.

The seventh is shooting birds while they are flying. Birds are either fast flying or slow flying. To shoot the fast flying birds, like pigeons and martins, other than accidentally is practically impossible. It is a fruitless effort, based on no principle. But the shooting of slow flying birds with wings outstretched, like storks, eagles, vultures, and the like, is a possible pursuit based on definite principles which may be mastered after painstaking practice as prescribed by experts. This is performed as follows: Take two long posts, as tall as you can find and stick them in the earth about twenty cubits apart. String a line between them and fasten to it a flat object about the size of a bird. Then mount your horse with your bow ready in your hand, and as you approach a point exactly below the line, lean your head over your shoulder, take aim, draw, and shoot. All this should be done while the horse is on the run. When you have mastered this stunt you should be able to shoot the flying bird, since this method provides shooting while the archer is on the move and the target is still and stationary, whereas in shooting the flying bird, the reverse is the case: the archer is still and stationary while the target is on the move. If you possess no mount, practice the same operation while running on foot; and if you, happen to be averse to running because of the effort, practice by shooing directly at the flying bird until you have mastered the stunt. If the bird be a stork, an eagle, or a vulture—birds the wings of which are usually outstretched—aim at the tip of its beak, draw quickly, and release without any pause. If it be one of the birds the wings of which are not usually outstretched, or a bird which is neither slow nor fast in its flight, like a crane or a crow, aim at a point about one cubit in front Of its beak, draw quickly and release without any pause. Even then there is no guarantee of uniform accuracy, because the winds often interfere with the flight of the arrow.

The eighth is shooting the edge of the sword. It consist: in taking a sword and planting its hilt firmly in the earth while its edge remains above the earth. You then make fore yourself full-bodied arrows with tips thicker than their steles and leave them without arrowheads. Their ends, where normally the arrowheads are fixed, should be cut straight and even without being pointed. You next take soft bow free of recurvature, fitted with a fairly thick string, and stand facing the edge of the sword squarely. If your shot be accurate, the arrow will be split in twain by the edge of the planted sword. You may also try the same thing while on the back of a galloping horse, shooting several arrows in succession against the edge of the sword.