My husband is well known among our family and friends for pursuing new hobbies every five years that can be simple one-supply activities and do-anywhere-anytime sorts of events, but inevitably end up being very expensive ventures, as he dives in deep, trying out gear, and learning all angles and aspects of his hobby. He’s gotten into running, pistol shooting, rock climbing and bouldering, biking, motorcycle racing, and car racing, just to name a few. The most recent hobby is archery.
What better than to get everyone around you involved too? My husband got me to enter into my first running race, both of us competed at Nationals when we were shooting in the International Defensive Pistol Association, and we rock climbed some of the most amazing routes to see some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen in my life. He never got me into motorcycle or car racing, but I did have an exhilarating Mother’s Day ride with about 5 laps around a professional race track on the back of a professional motorcycle rider.
Archery is an age-old activity originally conceived to give hunters an edge they didn’t have, with spear or hand-to-paw combat that was otherwise part of hunting. A projectile allowed the hunter to keep some distance between themselves and their prey, pretty necessary in the time of much more limited showers and subsequently more body odor, and lesser armor (carbon fiber, Kevlar, and tightly-woven fibers were still thousands of years in the future). In our modern culture, archery is done as a camp and curricular activity for youth, something equally gratifying as frustrating, if you are shooting a recurve bow, the classic one also shot by cupid, which is quite difficult to shoot reliably (even professional shooters have foot-wide groups of shots on the same target). This, by the way, is perfectly acceptable to professional recurve shooters, but to me, a pistol shooter, and perhaps to young people raised with shoot-em-up video games or movies, shooting outside a 3-inch-diameter circle on a target is disappointing.
A couple weeks ago, as part of our Summer Camp with Mom, Max and I read up on the history of archery, and made our own simple bow. We used bamboo shishkabob skewers that I split a little at the ends with a knife. While ancient arrow strings were made with stretchy sinew, connective tissue from meat, we used a rubber band that we knotted a few times along its length so it would act as a single string. A notched skewer fit into the string as an arrow, we pulled back, aimed, and shot. Our book told us to put silly putty at the tips of our arrows, but I recommend gluing on pom-poms; they’ll stay on better and be soft and light – perfect to prevent injuries for a stray arrow. Additionally, I highly recommend teaching your kids some good shooting behavior – standing behind a shooting line, assessing the foreground thoroughly before shooting, announcing you are shooting before and after loading your bow, and only retrieving spent arrows once everyone has put their bows down. As we shot our little bamboo bows, I was ever in awe of cupid. How he could have intentionally shot would-be lovers without having stray arrows is baffling to me. Or maybe there were some goofy love connections, on occasion.
Andrew took me out to the archery range last week, just beyond Stevens Creek Reservoir in Cupertino. It’s run by Bowhunters Unlimited, a local club promoting all that is archery, and managing this nice outdoor range so the community can use it for free, seven days a week, from 8 AM. It was neat to hike with him throughout the hills and gullies of this foothill property, stopping to shoot at targets permanently placed here (photo at right, if you clicked through to see the full post). They have a neat 3.5 mile course of about 33 targets, each donated by a different community member. While he shot, a small class was taking place, and by the time we were finished, members were practicing shooting with recurve bows at a huge target range that required no hiking. Some were being very successful, some getting frustrated due to their shoot-em-up media perspective. The instructor was reassuring and helpful to everyone, compelling me to want to know more about those classes. Andrew’s already on to a compound bow, which is used for most target shooting and hunting, a modern bow that can be accessorized to a tee, and can be easier to control and shoot reliably. Still, there are recurve bows that are shot competitively, and the recurve has been re-popularized based on their use in The Hunger Games.
Max has been shooting his simple recurve bow for a while, and got tips from his cousins and uncles a few weeks ago (photo at top), and is ready to get his first compound bow. I’m thinking about one too…
So there you have it – archery in the Bay Area. A very old activity finding modern holds in our community. It’s level of danger means it’s not quite something you can do anywhere, but you’ll find targets at parks like Huddart Park and Santa Teresa Park, schools like De Anza College, pro shops such as Archery Only (in Newark, which has an indoor range), and on private land like that managed by Bowhunters Unlimited.
-Debbie (Founder and President), Max (7), Holly (3), and Andrew