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XLV. Targets and target practice
Part 1 of 3

THE first thing a novice should do is to practice shooting against targets of all kinds: near and far, still and moving.


The first type is that of the "imitation horseman" and is done as follows: Take a staff the height of a mounted horseman; attach to its upper end a disk about a span in diameter, representing the horseman's head; one span below the disk place a shield about three spans in diameter, representing the shield of the horseman. The target is then placed at a distance equivalent to the cast of the bow. Thus placed, the novice should shoot against the shield with five arrows. When he can shoot the entire five arrows in succession without missing a single shot, he should then proceed to shoot against the "head" in a similar fashion. He should continue with this practice until he perfects his aim.

The second type of still target is that of the "opposing targets." It consists in placing four targets: one to your right, another to your left, a third in front of you, and a fourth behind you. You then stand in the center, holding four arrows between the fingers of your right hand. Starting with the one on your right and moving on to the one behind you, then the one on your left, and finally the one in front of you, you shoot at each while standing with your feet planted firmly on the ground and not moving from their place at all. The only part of your body which moves throughout the operation is your waist, which pivots around to whatever direction you may be shooting.

When after days, even months, of practice, this operation is perfected, start to practice the same thing while mounted on a calm and steady horse. When this is perfected, start to practice the same while your horse is moving between the targets. Finally, when you become adept at this, hitting the target every time you shoot, start practicing the same thing- while your horse is running at full speed. When this stunt is perfected, you have attained the limit toward which every archer sets his eyes. This is, however, not possible except through perseverance and continued practice.


The first type of moving target is what is known as "imitation beast on a chariot." It consists of constructing a four-wheeled chariot, and tying firmly on its fore part a skin stuffed with straw and behind it a small skin stuffed likewise. The front and larger skin represents the beast to be shot. The hind and smaller skin represents the archer's dog which usually chases the beast. You then pull the chariot up a hill, and on reaching the top push it down the steep incline. As the chariot rolls down the hill you start to shoot at the front skin. If you hit, then you have hit the beast it represents; but if your arrow hit the hind skin which represents the dog you have hit your own dog, thereby killing it and missing the beast you wished to shoot.

Instead of the stuffed skins, some have recommended the drawing of pictures on the chariot to represent a lion and a dog. This is, however, an oversight since it is unlawful to draw any pictures of life. The Apostle said: "Those who draw pictures shall be tormented at the day of resurtection, and shall be told: `Bring to life what ye have fashioned.' " The Apostle also said: "Verily the angels shall enter a house containing statues." The learned have agreed that every likeness which casts a shadow and is in the form of something endued with life is unlawful to fashion or to draw. They did, indeed, differ on drawings which cast no shadow, like those on walls and tapestries and rugs. This is, however, outside the scope of the present discussion.

Another type is that of ball shooting. For this purpose make a ball of wood, neither large nor small, and wrap it in rags. It is then tied with a fairly long rope to the back of the saddle. The horseman archer spurs his mount to full speed and, turning in his saddle, shoots at the rolling and jumping ball. He should continue to practice this stunt until it is mastered.


If the horseman be galloping toward you, aim at his saddle bow. Should the arrow swerve high it will hit the horseman's chest; should it fall low it will alight in his belly. If, on the other hand, the horseman be running away from you, aim at the back of his saddle. Should the arrow swerve high it will hit the horseman's back; and should it fall low it will alight on the back of his mount.

If one of the two be standing still and the other rushing against him to run him down, the former should aim his arrow at the neck of the horse. It will alight either in the rider's chest or between the eyes of the horse. In the event of the horseman's running away, the archer who is standing stationary should aim at the horseman's head. Should the arrow swerve high it will alight between the horseman's shoulders; should it fall short it will hit either the base of his back or the mount itself. All this requires practice and perseverance.


One should not attempt to shoot a lion except from the back of a trained and reliable mount, agile in its forward and backward movements. Its tail should either be well combed or, what is still better, shaved—in order to avoid the possibility of having the lion plant his claws therein. If the lion should attack you, toss at him some shawl or garment. He will be busied therewith and you will be able to move away from him a distance of about one hundred cubits, dependent upon the speed of your mount. Then turn around and shoot. If he should rush toward you again, run before him zigzag fashion. This makes it difficult for the lion to overtake you. If he starts to fall back, turn around from a distance of about seventy cubits and shoot. If he tries to assault you for a third time, continue to run away from him, zigzag fashion, until he is tired and worn out. You then approach him as near as possible, dependent upon the degree of his fatigue, and shoot. Even then you should be on the alert, never trusting him until you have actually riddled him with your arrows.

Some maintain that a lion will never rush against a hunter so long as his tail remains hoisted upwards. Only when he lowers his tail does he attack.

Others suggest that a manacle made of hair and saturated with tar should be tossed at the lion when he is furious and therefore suspicious. He is apt to take it up with his claws, which will then become entangled therein. Thereupon, shoot, and with God's good luck you will succeed.