For good shooting, everything depends upon the arrow. No matter how true your aim, how staunch your bow, or how steady your hand, you cannot hit regularly without perfect arrows. A bent stick of any kind, if it have a good spring, will send a " best-footed, parallel-pointed " Highfield shaft straight as a bullet to the mark.
Arrows are of two kinds, viz.: target-arrows, and hunting-arrows.
The shaft, or wooden part of an arrow, is called the stele. This, for gentlemen, is about twenty-eight inches long, and a little less than one-third of an inch in diameter. For target-arrows hard seasoned pine or old deal is the best wood. For hunting-arrows, hickory, ash, elm, and pine rank in the order stated.
The steel head of an arrow is called the pile. This, for a target shaft, is round and passes over the end of the stele like a cap or thimble. It has a beveled point. For a hunting-arrow, the pile is a flat-barbed point set into a slit in the stele, and fastened with a metal band or a wrapping of fine wire.
In the end of the shaft opposite the pile is made a deep notch or nock to fit the bowstring. In the best arrows this is cut in a piece of horn set into the stele.
Next to having a perfectly straight and even stele, the most important thing about an arrow is its feathering. Three feathers are necessary. They are set on the stele about one and one-quarter inches from the nock, at an angle with each other of about one hundred and twenty degrees, or the third of a circle, and so arranged that one feather is at right angles with the nock.
This one is called the cockfeather, and is colored to make it conspicuous. It should always be next the thumb of the arrow-hand in shooting, i. e., turned out from the bow to the left.
The feathers used most for arrows are merely the broader side of the vane of a goose-quill stripped from the feather-staff and glued on the stele. India-rubber glue, such as is used by shoe cobblers, may be put on between the feathers to keep out moisture, but common oil paint will serve the purpose.
It is an old and honored custom in archery to have the stele of each individual's arrows painted or gilt with bands above the feathers, according to his own device, so that he may know his missiles wherever found.
For long-range shooting the feathers of the arrow should be narrow and the stele light. But for short-range accurate shooting let the stele be heavy and the feathers broad.
What are named in the dealer's catalogues as "whole horn nocked, best-footed, parallel-pointed arrows," are the best possible for target practice. They cost about seventy-five cents each. For la-dies, however, the horn-pointed French arrows are nearly as good.
It scarcely need be suggested that, for shooting in windy weather, arrows having narrow feathers and heavy piles are required. It is very hard to calculate the effect of a strong breeze upon a broad-feathered shaft.
The feathers of hunting-arrows should be stained or dyed bright scarlet, in order that they may be found easily when shot.
For bird-shooting the arrow-head may be a mere ferrule or cap of pewter.
To make a broad-headed hunting-arrow, prepare a perfectly round, straight, even, and smooth stick of hickory or tough ash, one-third of an inch in diameter and twenty-eight inches long; in one end saw a slit three-fourths of an inch deep and one-eighth of an inch wide to receive the haft of the head f (see plate), and in the other end cut a deep nock for the string. Now peel off from the broad sides the skin or outer covering of a goose-wing feathers with the broad vanes attached and glue three of these on the nock-end of the shaft, each one-third the circumference from either of the others -that is, the feathers standing parallel along the shaft and at an angle of one hundred and twenty degrees with each other. If necessary, they may be held to their place till the glue hardens by a wrapping of fine thread. The haft or shank of the broad-heads are then inserted in the slits and fastened by a close wrapping of fine brass wire. The heads of birding-arrows are ferrules of pewter moulded on the end of the shafts, or blunt caps of iron that any blacksmith can make. Pewter heads are best. The heads of target-arrows are pointed thimbles of steel.
For very light and swift-going arrows, the feathers should be very narrow, rather less than one-half inch wide. The vanes of the wing-feathers of wild ducks are excellent for this purpose, and those of the sparrow-hawk serve well.
An arrow's stele should be perfectly rigid. If it springs any in starting from the string, its flight will be "wagging" and irregular.
Hard, thoroughly-seasoned pine makes the best steles for target-arrows, but it is too weak for hunting-shafts.
If you can, always keep a full supply of Highfield's target-arrows. They are perfection.
The shooting-glove is made to protect the three first fingers of the right hand from the wearing effect of the bowstring in shooting. It is formed of three thimbles of stiff, smooth leather, having elastic stitches to allow them to perfectly conform to the size of the fingers. These thimbles are attached to strips of soft leather extending to and joining upon a wristband of the same, which buckles or hooks round the wrist. An elastic wrist-band is sometimes used.
A close-fitting glove of fine dog-skin, heavy kid, or Lisle thread is just as good or better. If your fingers can stand it, shoot without gloves. The true practice of archery demands a close sympathy (so to speak) between the bowman and his weapons, reached only through the delicately-trained sense of touch.
THE QUIVER AND BELT.
For target practice, the quiver is a round tin tube closed at the lower end and neatly covered with green-colored or fair fine leather. It may hold from three to six arrows.
The hunting quiver is best made of stiff harness leather, large enough to hold twenty-four arrows, and just deep enough to allow the feathers of the shafts to appear above its top.
The target or hunting quiver may be carried in two ways-to a belt or a baldric. If to a belt, it is worn well back on the right side, with the arrow-feathers slanting forward. If to a baldric-that is, a sash, it is slung, like the old-fashioned shot-pouch, to a broad strap resting on the shoulder and passing diagonally across the breast and back to the side. The baldric of our English forefathers sometimes had a mere slip-noose, instead of a quiver to hold the arrows. This was tightened, by a slight draw, whenever a shaft was taken out.
The quiver is easily ornamented, and, when taste is displayed in this direction, nothing adds more to the picturesque and pleasing effect of a lady archer's appearance.
Attached to the belt near the quiver there should be a large woollen tassel for wiping the arrows whenever they become dirty or soiled. This, too, may be fancifully colored so as to make it strikingly ornamental.
A small silver, ivory, or ebony grease-cup is also hung to the belt, containing a composition of two parts lard and one part white wax, with which to touch occasionally the string, the arrow at the nock, and the finger-tips.
The bracer, or arm-guard, is made to protect the left arm of the archer from the blows of the bow-string. Usually it is of heavy polished harness leather, with elastic bands to confine it to the wrist and fore-arm; but very beautiful ones are made, by some of the Indian tribes, of the strong wing-feathers of large birds. Among the relics in the possession of some of the old archery organizations of Great Britain are bracers elegantly wrought of pearl and ivory. The surface where the string strikes should be extremely hard and highly polished. The use of the bracer will strongly suggest itself to the beginner in archery, and needs no further notice here. The arms of some persons, however, are so shaped that a bracer is not needed by them.
Butts, or walls of earth neatly sodded over, are much used in England as a backing for a small circular paper at which the archers aim. This is more particularly recommended in long-range shooting. The butts should be six feet high and eight feet' long, placed from fifty to one hundred yards apart.
Straw targets, such as dealers advertise, are used for all distances. Their diameters may be according to the following table:
|1 foot.............||15 yards.|
|2 feet.............||20 yards.|
|3 feet.............||40 yards.|
|4 feet.............||50 to 100 yds.|
Each target has a gilt centre called the "gold," around which are drawn four equal rings colored respectively red, white, black, white, the red being next the gold and the rest in their order.
|When you hit the||gold||it counts||.....................||9|
|For a||1||foot target the gold is||2½||inches diameter.|
A shallow pine box three or four feet square, filled closely with earth, well packed, and having a coffee sack tacked over it for a lid, makes an excellent surface upon which to stretch a paper target-face for use in ordinary practice. The earth stops the arrow without injuring it and serves every purpose that a butt or a straw target can.
The faces of the targets sold by dealers are of canvas, but a cheap grade of white drawing-paper will answer the purpose just as well, at one-tenth the cost. Cheap water-colors or colored chalk will serve to mark the divisions of the surface.
A very pretty and convenient target is what the old English archers called a "clout." It is made of stiff white paste-board, cut into circular form and divided just as other targets. It is from six inches to one foot in diameter and when arranged for shooting is slipped into a split in a short pointed wand or stick stuck into the ground.
A round staff of wood, one inch in diameter and five feet long, standing upright, was a favorite mark for the old English long-bowmen. A good archer could hit this at one hundred yards.
The straw targets should be supported by an easel, called a stand.
Iron easels are sold by the dealers, but one may easily make them of wood to serve the purpose much better. To do this take three pieces of pine, walnut, poplar or ash, or any soft wood, three inches square, six feet long. Bore an inch hole through one end of each piece and so tie all together with a strong cord as to leave them free to spread four feet at the lower ends. In two of the pieces bore a hole and insert a strong wooden pin, six inches long, about eighteen inches from the end. Now set up this stand, or tripod, like a painter's easel and rest the target on the two pins. The ends of the pieces may be sharpened and stuck into the ground.
One of the most pleasing articles of furniture for a hall is the archer's ascham, so called in honor of Roger Ascham, one of the earliest writers on bow - shooting. It may be decorated with the richest carving, or it may be a mere box of walnut, cedar, or pine. In any style it is the general armory of the bowman. It should be six feet and a half high, two or more feet broad, and one foot deep; arranged in general like a cupboard with a panelled door. Inside there should be a shelf eighteen inches from the bottom, through which holes are made for the bows and arrows to stand in. On the walls inside, hooks should be arranged upon which to hang the belt and quiver, the bracer and gloves, and, in fact, everything be-longing to archery tackle.
A small portable case -sometimes called an ascham- made of thin, light boards, like those of a violin or guitar box, is a good thing in which to carry fine bows and arrows when travelling. Of course this, too, can be made as plain or "fancy"as the archer may desire. Black walnut, highly polished and oiled, is excellent and beautiful wood for the purpose.
A fine ascham should be lined with green plush or velvet.
THE CARE OF TACKLE.
It cannot be too often or too urgently insisted that, without great care, bows, arrows, strings, and all the archer's gear will soon be worthless.
Dampness, even the least, will absolutely ruin the finest bows, arrows, and strings.
The slightest scratch or dent may spoil a favorite bow.
Never allow the point of an arrow, or the nails of the fingers even, to touch the polish of a bow.
Keep bows, arrows, and strings well rubbed with an oiled and waxed woollen rag.
Never lay your bow on the ground.
Have an oil-cloth or rubber cover for your hunting-bow, and a large bag of the same for your hunting-arrows.
THE ARCHERY CLUB, AND ITS RULES.
To form a club, let any number of ladies and gentlemen associate themselves by a constitution and by-laws, taking some appropriate name, and electing their officers, such as president or master-bowman, secretary, and treasurer. I prefer the title of master-bowman to that of president, and suggest that societies ought not to cumber their organizations with too many mere honorary officers.
The master-bowman is, of course, the leader or chief of his band, and ought to be the best shot therein, for he should always be captain of any team chosen to compete with challengers, or challenged. He settles all disputes arising in the hall or on the grounds, except when he is a contestant; then an umpire is chosen.
The secretary and treasurer fill the same places respectively that are filled by like officers in other associations or companies.
At each shooting, the archer making the highest score is entitled to the honorary title of captain of the target.
A gold, silver, or gilt bugle-horn is the most appropriate club prize.
A fine bow is a very good prize for the patron of a club to offer yearly.
The following is a copy of the rules of the "Derby and Reddlestone Archers." They should be adopted for their directness, thoroughness, and brevity:
CONSTITUTION RULES.I. To meet one day in each month (or week).
II. Dinner to be on the table by four o'clock.
III. Bill to be called for and paid at seven.
IV. The ordinary not to exceed one dollar.
V. The absent members to pay for their ordinary.
VI. Number of members limited to (say twenty).
VII. Candidates for membership to be balloted for whenever seven members are present. Three black balls to exclude, and no excluded person to be balloted for during the season.
VIII. That meetings be advertised in a county paper, and members notified by secretary.
IX. That no alteration be made in constitution or rules, except seven members be present.
X. That the annual subscription of each member for expenses be (say three) dollars.
XI. There shall be admitted no honorary members.
XII. That the uniform of the members be (here describe).
The above have been, in substance, adopted by the "Wabash Merry Bowmen" as their constitution rules.