XLIV. On stunt shooting
Part 3 of 4
The ninth is ring shooting, consisting in planting a cane into the earth at an inclined angle, and, with the aid of hair, hanging a ring or signet from the top of the cane. Another hair to which is tied a small piece of lead should be dangled from the ring or signet in order to weigh it down and thereby avoid having it tossed by the wind. Then with a soft bow fitted with a thick string and a heavy arrow you shoot from a distance of twenty-five cubits—the shortest permissible range in target shooting.
The tenth is hair shooting, and consists in planting a cane into the earth at an inclined angle, and hanging from its top a hair weighed down with a small piece of lead. Shoot against it with a soft bow fitted with a thick string and a heavy arrow. The arrowhead should, however, be wide and very sharp. If, because of the distance, you are unable to see the hair, you can aim at the dangling piece of lead.
The eleventh is lamp shooting, and consists in lighting a candle or a lamp, placing it at a reasonable distance, and shooting at its flame with a heavy, square-headed, and copious arrow—heavily feathered—and a soft bow with a thick string; thereby putting the flame out without upsetting the candle or the lamp, whichever it may be.
The twelfth is shooting the returning arrow: an arrow which, as it travels on its flight, suddenly returns to the point whence it was shot, and may even hit the archer himself. Such an arrow is made by shaving a shaft evenly and forcing it through a ring so that it emerges perfectly uniform. You then cut into it two nocks, one on each end, and thin each end down a little. Trim it with eight feathers, four at each end next to a nock, placing each feather on the one end opposite to a feather on the other, in the same alignment. You next bore in the center of the groove of each nock a small hole, filling the one with lead and leaving the other empty. Nock the arrow on the end which has been filled with lead and shoot it with the bow-hand raised as high as your head. No sooner does it reach the limit of its flight than it swerves and returns to the point whence it was shot. If it should fail to return to the place where you were standing when you shot it, know that you were not exact in its construction.
In describing the returning arrow, al-Ṭābari stated that its middle part should be thinned down but failed to mention anything concerning the hole in each nock or the lead filling of the one and the emptiness of the other. If hi description should work, then the thinning of the middle part of the arrow would take the place of the two holes and the lead in one of them. Otherwise, it would be better to follow the first description and to ignore the additional remarks of al-Tabari. The purpose of such an arrow is to deceive an enemy who happens to be at your side, and to shoot him while he is unaware.
The thirteenth is shooting a sidewise arrow. This is on that leaves the bow with the usual straight flight (that is with the arrowhead pointing forward and the nock to the rear) but which soon rotates laterally on its center of gravity, so that it proceeds in its course broadside on (that is with the head to one side, the nock to the other, and the middle of the shaft following the original line of aim).
The sidewise arrow is made by carefully shaving the shaft so that both ends are tapered like a pencil, gradually increasing in size from the ends to the middle, where it should be thickest. Its nock should also be very thick, and it should be trimmed with three feathers, one of which should be higher than the other two. If, on shooting this arrow it should fail to go sidewise, the failure will be because the nock is too light, and it should, therefore, b made heavier. This can be done by boring a small hole in the middle of the groove of the nock and filling it with lead.
Al-Ṭābari concurred in the description of the sidewise arrow, namely, that it should be thick in the middle and taper off gradually and evenly toward both ends, where it should be thin; but he also added that it should have neither feathering nor an arrowhead, and failed to mention anything concerning making its nock heavier. He said, however, that if you wish to shoot such an arrow and have it go sidewise as described, you should nock it not in the usual place on the string, in line with the kabid, but on a point about a span above the kabid.
What we have related on the authority of others than al-Ṭābari is probably more accurate, since an arrow cannot travel straight without feathers. How then could it travel sidewise without them?
This method of shooting is useful for hunting flocks of small birds. Birds which have been killed in this manner are unlawful to eat, since they have, in effect, been beaten to death. Those which have been hit by the arrowhead, however, and the mention of the name of God having preceded the shot, are lawful to eat.
The fourteenth is the trap arrow. It is made by shaving an arrow evenly except at the place of the feathers, where it should be thinned down and fletched with three or four vanes. At about one span from the front end of the shaft, two holes should be bored crosswise, one above the other and very close. The two, however, should never meet lest the shaft be thereby weakened and consequently be broken when used. You then take two small branches that measure about half a span each and force them into the two holes so as to form, as it were, a cross. You then join their ends with a ring made of bamboo, or pomegranate, or quince wood, or the like (wood which is flexible), inserting the ends of the two small branches into the wood of the ring or, if you so desire, tying them with thread or twine. Such an arrow is useful for hunting small birds. Here again only those birds that are hit by the arrowhead are lawful to eat.