In ancient times when archery was practiced in open fields and shooting at butts or clouts, men walked between their distances much as golfers do today, and having completed their course, it was often customary to shoot a return round over the same field. This was called the upshot, and has descended into common parlance, just as many other phrases have which had their origin in the use of the bow and arrow.
So we have come to the end of our story and prepare to say good-bye.
Although we have said much, and probably too much of ourselves, we have not spoken the last word in archery. There are a few things that we have learned of the art; others know more. And though we would praise our pastime beyond measure, protesting that it is healthful, admirable and full of romance, yet we cannot claim that it accomplishes all things and is the only sport a man should pursue.
Its devotees will find ample room for differences of opinion. The shape of a feather and the contour of a bow have been subjects for argument since time immemorial. Nor is our art suited to all men. Few indeed seem fitted for archery or care for it. But that rare soul who finds in its appeal something that satisfies his desire for fair play, historic sentiment, and the call of the open world, will be happy.
People will scoff at him for his "medieval crotchet," will think of him as the Don Quixote of Sherwood Forest, but in their hearts they will have a wistful envy of him; for all men feel the nobility and honorable past of our sport. It carries with it dim memory pictures of spring days, the green woods and the joy of youth.
It is also futile to prophesy the future of the bow and arrow. As an implement of the chase, to us it seems to hold a place unique for fairness. And in the further development of the wild game problem, where apparently large game preserves and refuges will be the order of the day, the bow is a more fitting weapon with which to slay a beast than a gun or any more powerful agent that may be invented.
Of course, there are those who say that all hunting should cease, and that photography and nature study alone should be directed toward wild life. That sweet day may come, but at least no man can consistently decry hunting who eats meat, wears furs or leather, or uses any vestige of animal tissue; for he is party to the crime of animal murder, and murder more brutal and ignoble than that of the chase.
And those who think the bullet is more certain and humane than the arrow have no accurate knowledge on which to base their comparison. Our experience has proved the contrary to be the case.
Yet these are not the reasons why we shoot the bow: we do it because we love it, and this is no reason; it is an emotion difficult to explain.
Nor should I close this chapter without reference to that noble company of archers, the members of the National Archery Association--men and women who can shoot as pretty a shaft as any who ever drew a bowstring. The names of Will Thompson, Louis Maxson, George P. Bryant, Harry Richardson, Dr. Robert P. Elmer, Homer Taylor, Mrs. Howell, and Cynthia Wesson are emblazoned on the annals of archery history for all time. To them and the many other worthy bowmen who have fostered the art in America, we are eternally grateful. The self-imposed discipline of target shooting is much harder work than the carefree effort of hunting. The rewards, however, are less spectacular.
To you who would follow us into the land of Robin Hood, let me say that what you need most is a great longing to come, and perseverance; for if I should try to explain how we have accomplished even that little we have in hunting, I would protest that it is because we have held to an idea and been persistent. In my own mind the credit is ascribed to the fact that I have surrounded myself with good companions and tried again and again in spite of failure.
All that we have done is perfectly possible to any adventurous youth, no matter what his age.
Nor is that which is written here the finis, for even as I scribble we are on our journey to another hunt, and bowmen seem ever to be increasing in numbers.
May the gods grant us all space to carry a sturdy bow and wander through the forest glades to seek the bounding deer; to lie in the deep meadow grasses; to watch the flight of birds; to smell the fragrance of burning leaves; to cast an upward glance at the unobserved beauty of the moon. May they give us strength to draw the string to the cheek, the arrow to the barb and loose the flying shaft, so long as life may last.
Farewell and shoot well!