The simplest form of release is that which children the world over naturally adopt in first using the bow and arrow, and that is grasping the arrow between the end of the straightened thumb and the first and second joints of the bent forefinger. I say naturally, because I have noticed that American as well as Indian and Japanese children invariably grasp the arrow in this way in the act of shooting. With a light or weak bow, such a release is the simplest and best; and in this release it makes but little difference upon which side of the bow the arrow rests, provided the bow is held vertically. This release, however, prevents the drawing of a stiff bow unless one possesses enormous strength in the fingers.
Figs. 1 and. 2 illustrate this release. Arrows used in this release are usually knobbed at the nock, or proximal end of the arrow, for convenience of holding; and an arrow of this form indicates a release of this or of a similar nature (Fig. 3).
The Ainos of Yezo practice this simple release. Their bow is short and highly strung when in use, and an arm-guard is not required, as the recoil of the string, from the high tension of the how, is arrested before striking the arm. Some of the old English archers also avoided the use of the arm-guard by using highly strung bows.
It is recorded that the Demerara Indians of South America practice this form of release; and from a photograph of a Ute Indian in my possession I should infer that that tribe also practiced this release. Col. James Stevenson informs me that when the Navajos shoot at prairie dogs they use this release, so that the arrow will not penetrate the ground if it misses its mark; and Mr. Daniel S. Hastings informs me that the Chippewa Indians sometimes practice this release.
I am indebted to Dr. S. J. Mixter for a photograph which he made for me, of an old Micmac Indian in the act of releasing the arrow in the primary way. The man is one of the oldest Micmacs in the Cascapedia settlement on the north shore of the Bay of Chaleur and he informed Dr. Mixter that he often used the bow when a boy, and practiced the release as represented. He also said that the other tribes in that part of Canada in the use of the bow drew the arrow in the same way. A member of the Penobscot tribe at Moosehead Lake gave me the primary release as that practiced by the tribe, and seemed incredulous when I told him that there were other methods of drawing; the arrow.
This primitive method of releasing the arrow I shall designate as the Primary release.