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Preliminary Considerations


The arrows used on a bow are of course of great importance in flight shots. The average native arrow is a crude contrivance and is illy calculated to fly far or straight. Some, such as certain of the Yaqui ones, are of the most primitive types, being heavy, unfeathered, crooked, and rough in the extreme. These are doubtless most effective at short distances where accuracy of flight is not a desideratum.

The best type of arrow which has come under my observation is undoubtedly that made by Ishi, the Cali­fornia Yahi Indian. In flight shooting we have tried several hundred arrows of various kinds, including some of the best English make. Two shafts made by Ishi of bamboo, having a birch fore-shaft and very low-cropped feathers, have repeatedly proved themselves the best flyers. They will carry 10 per cent farther than the best English flight arrow, and 20 per cent farther than the standard target arrow weighing 435 grains. These bam­boo flight arrows, therefore, have been used in all our tests (see pl. 10). One is 29 inches in length, the other 25 inches. The former weighs 310 grains, the latter 200 grains. They are feathered with soft turkey feathers, clipped as close as is compatible with steering require­ments. It is safe to say that the average archer cannot draw more than a 29-inch arrow. Even the historical cloth- yard shaft was a Flemish yard, or only 27½ inches, and was the usual length arrow. The anatomical construc­tion of man renders him incapable of exerting his great­est strength when the extended left arm and the flexed right arm are separated a greater distance than this— 29 to 30 inches. He simply cannot draw the string of a powerful bow past his cheek. This limit is well within 30 inches. That it is possible to draw a weak or even a moderately strong bow over 30 inches, even up to 36 inches, will be shown later.

The average Indian bow, however, is obviously con­structed to draw less than 28 inches. This fact, and a study of their arrows and the bending capacity of their bows, will convince any archer that 25 or 26 inches is the average draw of most natives. Wherever possible, therefore, we shot the longer arrows on the tested bows, drawing them till a sense of resistance warned of im­pending fracture of the bow, then released. In the very short bows we shot only the short arrow. All bows were shot repeatedly, at least six times, over the same ground on calm days. The distance was measured with a tape and marked off into ten-yard sections.