In This Issue: plus: - Primitive Archer Online

In This Issue: plus: - Primitive Archer Online

Display until March 25, 2013

In This Issue:

Finding Arrowheads,

Making Arrowheads Page 20

Off-Season Carp Page 44

Selfbows and Hand Tools Page 60


Milkweed Bowstring Page 46

The North Georgia Knap-In and

Primitive Skills Festival Page 52

Volume 21 Issue 1


0 09128 46220 2


Feb. 2013/Mar. 2013


“Passing It On” Since 1992



Primitive Archer Magazine

Feb./Mar. 2013

Volume 21 Issue 1

Inside This Issue


10 When Hunters Go A-Warring


20 Finding Arrowheads,

Making Arrowheads


22 Living in Guaraní Land


34 Milkweed Bowstring


39 The Swiss Connection—Part I


44 Off-Season Carp


52 The North Georgia Knap-In

and Primitive Skills Festival


60 Selfbows and Hand Tools


64 The Triangle or Fitz-Rauf Target


On the Cover

“Medicine Pouch”

by Tom Lucas Volume 21 Issue 1 1


Hunting Column

6 Vanishing Turkeys



A Closer Look

8 Product Reviews


Book Review

9 Straight and True: A Select History

of the Arrow by Hugh D.H. Soar

By Ed Ingold

From the Pit

18 Flintknapping FAQ


Ask PA

32 Weekend Project: Target Bow


Bows of the Month

48 From


Medicine Man ®

56 Tulip Poplar


Primitive Chef ®

66 Spaghetti Squash Primavera with Fresh

Tomato Sauce and Breaded Chicken


Poet’s Corner

80 Down Wind Danger

By Homer Luther


80 Where Eagles and Gods Roam


71 Calendar of Events

72 Marketplace

78 Classified Ads

Primitive Archer magazine (ISSN: 1089-4268) is published six times a year in

February, April, June, August, October and December by Bigger Than That Productions

LLC. The annual subscription rate is $26.99 USD in the United States, $28.99 USD in

Canada and $30.99 USD for all other foreign subscriptions. Primitive Archer executive

offices are located at 8601 Jameel Road, Suite 150, Houston, Texas 77040. Periodicals

postage paid at Houston Texas and at additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send

address changes to Primitive Archer P. O. Box 79306 Houston, Texas 77279-9306 Volume 21 Issue 1

Primitive Archer Magazine

A Wholly Owned Division of Bigger Than That Productions-LLC

PUBLISHER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Monroe M. Luther

PRESIDENT & CEO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Michael M. Moore

MANAGING EDITOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Ed Ingold

TECHNICAL EDITOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Marc St. Louis

HUNTING EDITOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Tony Kinton

EVENTS EDITOR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Marie Luther

EDITOR EMERITUS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Gene Langston

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ASSOCIATE EDITORS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Marc St. Louis, James Parker, Marie Luther and Paul Wolfe

SOCIAL MEDIA MODERATOR . . .Patrick Blank & Marie Luther

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PRIMITIVE ARCHER MAGAZINE strives for accuracy and honesty in its advertisements and

articles but assumes no responsibility for content. ©2013 by PRIMITIVE ARCHER

MAGAZINE. No part of the contents of this magazine may be reproduced by any means

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Write: Primitive Archer Advertising

P.O. Box 79306 • Houston, TX 77279-9306

Call 713.467.8202

email for ads and classified ads

or visit


nother year has come and gone and, with it, the

milestone of twenty years of Primitive Archer Magazine.

As 2013 is upon us, I guess our next milestone will be

our 25th anniversary.

Needless to say, a lot of changes have been made during this

time, and one of the most apparent is the effect computers and the

Internet have had on our business. A great deal of our readers may

make bows and arrows out of trees, bushes, and rocks, but when it

comes to communication many of them “light-up” cyberspace

with their e-mails and website participation. Most of the “Letters

to the Editor” I receive now come in the form of e-mails or

comments in the “Letter to Editor” section of the Primitive Archer

message boards on the Primitive Archer website, rather than the old

“snail mail” letter writing that used to be the norm. As a result,

Primitive Archer Magazine is now available as an electronic

publication as well as, as my grandkids say, an “old and fashioned

grandpa” printed media.

While many of us still enjoy the printed versions laying around

the house, there are several advantages some of our more “up-todate”

readers enjoy, such as earlier access to the latest issue (our e-

Mag version is released ahead of the mailed magazine), i-Pad or

electronic reader compatibility for those on the go who want to

access the magazine anytime from anywhere, whether it be

between planes or waiting in the doctor or dentist’s office. As a

matter of fact, you can now sit and read it by the campfire of your

favorite hunting lodge or in your hunting blind if you have the

right kind of telephone. It may not be for all of us, but it’s certainly

something to consider, especially when you take into account that

the PA e-Mag comes as a subscription for substantially less money

than the printed version.

Regardless of your preference, we strongly encourage you to

consider subscribing to our magazine. In addition to costing less

than purchasing it at any retail outlet, you’re assured of receiving it

on a regular basis without missing an issue. It is delivered directly

to your home or office, whether it’s your mailbox, or downloaded

From the Editor,

on your computer, phone, i-Pad, or digital reader screen. By the

way, speaking of the digital versions, Primitive Archer is now

available for subscription on Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader. So all

you Nook owners, here is one more benefit of your Nook.

If you are already a subscriber, either electronically or through

the traditional printed form, we want to thank you for your

continuing support. We hope the wide variety of subjects you’ll

find throughout this issue is of interest to you. We would love to

hear from you as to how we’re doing. We would also love to hear

some of you reminisce about your favorite issue or article and

why. Please drop us a line and we’ll post it in our “Letter to

Editor” column.

–Ed Ingold Volume 21 Issue 1 3


Need my Medicine

Do you have the Medicine Man

columns available as a packaged set? Or ...

do you know of some way I may be able to

contact the author? That is the one part of

Primitive Archer I look forward to the most

... but the entire magazine is great.

–Adrian H. Glen, Burnie, MD


As of yet, we do not have Medicine Man

articles as a packaged set, but we are working

on putting together a CD. Stay tuned, and

we’ll let you know when it will be available.

–Ed Ingold

Within Range

Dear Ed,

In the article “Pestilence and Pleasure”

by Tony Kinton in the Oct./Nov. issue,

there was a picture of a canvas tent used

for hunting camp. Can you tell me/us

where it is available from please?




That picture is of a David Ellis Range

Tent. David can probably be reached by

simply typing his name into a search engine

like Google. The official website is David is from Durango,

Colorado. Two of us here have the Range

Tent. David built these for us a couple of

years back, and we have kept them in regular

use. We both love them. I’m sure that is the

case with anyone who has one. They go up in

a flash and are highly weather-worthy. I was

talking with Ellis recently and he says that

he has made some improvements. That is

hard to imagine! Those things were perfect as

they were. I am not sure that he still makes

this exact tent; it may have been replaced by

the newer model. Yep, I love my Range Tent!

–Tony Kinton

Don’t Forget to Write

Dear Editor,

I heard you were concerned when you

had not received any “letters to the editor”

and were scrambling to find something for

the upcoming issue of P.A. Most guys are

happy they aren’t getting their butt

chewed. By the way, even though I am not

4 Volume 21 Issue 1

one of those flakey rock knockers, I do

appreciate the new column from Patrick

Blank. Thanks for keeping the magazine

fresh without slipping away from the core


–John Halverson


Thanks for your note. You’re right, I do

not get a lot of Letters to the Editor and I’m

grateful for every one I receive. Hearing from

our readers is so important to us in our

continuing effort to provide a product that is

of value.

–Ed Ingold

Expanding the Subject

Dear Editor,

I don’t understand why you never

feature arrowsmiths in your magazine. I’m

sure there is plenty of them to interview

and expound their views as to what is a

great arrow and why. The fanciest bow in

the world is nothing without a good arrow.

There are so many different ideas as to

which is best for given situations.

Wouldn’t it be a great feature article in

each issue?

I thought that a magazine for archers

would include articles about bows, arrows,

quivers, strings and all the equipment that

is used in the sport of archery. What are

your thoughts on this?

–James Garoutle

Grand Junction, CO


If you peruse our back issues, you will

find several articles regarding archery

equipment including several on making

arrows. This issue alone has an article on

making a bowstring along with much

information in our “From the Pit” and “Ask

PA” columns. Just go to our home page Then along the

left hand side you will see a link that is titled

“Back Issue Overview” it is the fifth link from

the top. Once you click on that you will be

taken to a list of every magazine from the

past 20 years and the list of articles

contained in each one. I know you will find a

plethora of information on all of your

favorite topics. Don’t forget the back issue

boxed set special we are running. Enjoy.

–Ed Ingold

Road Reader

To Primitive Archer,

First I would like to say thanks for

producing such a great magazine. Being a

trucker I don’t get the time I would like to

practice the craft of bow making and arrow

construction. However, a recent article on

finding flint to make arrowheads was right

up my alley. As I drive across this country

I now look for possible flint deposits. It’s

very fun and makes my drives a lot more


I do not recall ever seeing an article on

how to process sinew for a bowstring, or

how to split and process the wood for a self

bow without using modern technology

like belt saws, etc. You may have printed

such articles, I just don’t recollect any.

Anywho, I just think a primitive bow

should not include epoxy and exotic

woods, although I do appreciate the beauty

and craftsmanship of such bows. I would

like to see more bows made by a campfire

rubbed over an obsidian edge and some

guys knee. Either way, I really enjoy

reading your magazine and keep the good

work as you help keep tradition alive.

–Donald Gilbreath

Kings Mt., NC


I sent your letter to Marie Luther to ask her

thoughts and this is what she sent back to me.

In scanning our back issues, Volume 1 Issue 4

does have an article entitled “Sinew String”

written by Mike Bare. You can find it on page

9. Also in Volume 15 Issue 2 there is an article

by John McPherson titled “Primitive Bowstring.”

In this article, McPherson discusses several

different mediums for primitive string including

sinew and says that it is his “standard for


As far as splitting and processing wood

with only primitive tools, we have a few

articles that can be helpful. For example,

Bob Uptagrafft wrote an article for Volume 8

Issue 1 entitled “Making Your Own Varnish.”

It can be found on page 17. Volume 7 Issue 2

gives instructions on black walnut stain in an

article by Paul Hogue, page 12, and a great

article entitled “Laying Out a Bow Primitive

Style” by Bob Linksvayer, page 14. Volume

17 Issue 2 discusses “Primitive Supplies for

the Primitive Archer” on page 14. This year


EMAIL: or POSTED MAIL: The Editor, Primitive Archer, 4579 Goshute Dr., Riverton, UT 84096-7761

in Volume 20 Issue 1, Mike Yancey discusses

making your own hide glue. These may not

all relate directly to your topic but are in that

general area. We would love to hear how the

readers process their wood primitive-style so

send me a letter so that I can publish it in the

next issue.

All these issues are available as back

issues and can be ordered.

Thank you Donald for your interest and

safe driving out on those roads especially

during this Holiday Season.

–Ed Ingold

Building with Stone

Dear Editor,

After hunting last season with an old

Pearson recurve I bought on ebay, I was

intrigued by the ways of traditional hunting

and picked up my first issue of Primitive

Archer. It inspired me to try carving my

own bow. I went for a pyramid/flat bow

and, in keeping with the primitive spirit,

only used hand tools (no machines). My

dad assisted me in quartering staves from a

hickory tree and after a year, I’m finally

done with it! It is 59" long and draws 50#

@ 27". I can’t tell you how nervous I was

about it breaking and was ecstatic when I

tillered it and shot it! I used many of your

articles as reference as well as The Bowyer’s

Bible and YouTube videos. A lot of my

friends thought I was crazy, but now they

are intrigued! I even have a little archer to

practice with! Thanks so much for your

amazing magazine and all the inspiration!


–Brian Stone Volume 21 Issue 1 5

HuntingCOLUMN ®

For thousands of hunters, particularly here in the

United States, this time of year points the hunting

spirit in one focused direction and that is to the wild

turkey. These grand birds captivate the mind and consume the

efforts of those who pursue them like few other species of game

can. Turkeys are regal, amusing, intriguing, and addictive. They are

masters at evasion and can be one of the most frustrating creatures

God ever created when it comes to hunting. Rare—probably nonexistent—is

the hunter who has not been made to look completely

unskilled when dealing with these birds. Switch from a shotgun to

a primitive or traditional bow, and life can become complex and

cumbersome if you are expecting a turkey dinner.

Oh, you saw them during deer season. Had one or two drift by

your stand or blind and offer untold opportunities for a viable shot

had the season been open. But in the spring, hunters are dealing

with a unique situation. This situation is matching wits with a

gobbling bird and doing your best to coax him into range. The

script changes under such circumstances. But rather than dealing

with how to do this and which call to use when, let’s step back to

the most rudimentary aspect of turkey hunting, and that is finding

turkeys. You can no longer rely exclusively on those fall and winter

sightings, for the turkeys may have vanished.

Wild turkeys tend to have clear preferences for specific habitat,

and those preferences, as well as the habitat, change with the

seasons. This leads to a wandering bird that covers more ground

than many would think possible. Reliable research has recently

shown that in some areas the birds will have a total home range of

six square miles. In locales of wide-open country to which the

hunter has access, this may be a minor obstacle. But move that into

more closed country such as the Southeast and add to it the fact

that most hunters have limited acreage, and the hunting can get

complicated, even Spartan.

The primary routine for fall/winter birds is simple survival.

Gobblers may be clustered together in rather large flocks. Hens

and their young will generally be separate from these older males

and can at times be collected into gatherings that are astounding

in size. All these, whether bachelor groups of gobblers or family

groups of hens and young, are simply seeking a measure of

security and food near roosting sites.

Prime habitat choices for these are hardwoods and other mastproducing

trees. Stands of oak, beech, or pecan will likely hold

turkeys because these trees are dropping mast that is to the

turkeys’ liking. These are also the places that many deer hunters

frequent, thus the reason for those sightings as winter begins to

grab hold. Turkeys will generally stay close until the food supply

dwindles and hormonal changes begin to dictate behavior. This

occurs with the change of seasons from winter to spring. If that


Vanishing Volume 21 Issue 1


B y To n y K i n t o n

winter habitat is in proximity to areas that meet the needs of

spring-time turkeys, those deer-hunt sightings are viable.

But with small tracts of land and restricted access, the

turkeys can literally disappear from what earlier appeared a

veritable storehouse of birds if habitat is not suitable for the spring


Topography can also play a role. Turkeys may use bottomlands

in fall/winter, but in areas where spring floods threaten, the hens

will opt for more upland habitats, places where nests won’t be

destroyed by rising water. And like fall/winter ranges, spring turf

will be chosen for its available foods. Grasses, insects—these are

high on the list of preferred foods. Potential nesting sites are also

crucial, so hens will gravitate toward tall weeds and grasses that

they would have avoided earlier. Such spots afford cover for the

nest itself and for the poults shortly after hatching.

And the gobblers lose their minds! They mingle with the hens

and young. They strut and gobble and posture and fight. No longer

are they a separate entity. They are now for a brief time part of the

overall collection of turkeys, and it is these that we turkey hunters

seek most often.

There may be a brief window during this time of madness that

stacks the odds in favor of the hunter. This will often be

determined by how the breeding cycle coincides with the season.

If it hits, it is magic. I refer here to those times when the hens have

bred and are setting on eggs or tending their new broods. This

takes the hens off the breeding market and puts them fully into a

maternal mindset. That leaves lonesome gobblers still in search of

companionship, at least until their own hormones cool to a

manageable rage. These gobblers will at times practically run over

a hunter who sounds even remotely like a hen. There are

experienced turkey hunters who declare that such a gobbler will

come to the sound of a squeaking gate or slamming truck door.

Perhaps, but they surely will come to a call.

So, what are you to do this spring if you go to your favorite deer

spot, that place where you saw untold numbers of turkeys in

November, and find there are no birds available? Do you stop

hunting? Well, only if you have nowhere else to go. If there are

options, do what the turkeys do. Look for suitable habitat, habitat

with grasses that are beginning to green up. Habitat that has

grown-up fields festooned with weeds and heavy cover. Habitat

that is not subject to flooding. Habitat that, well, spring turkeys

like. Maybe it is right there close to those fall/winter haunts.

Probably it is not. Remain mobile; determine to explore; stay with

the pursuit. Your turkey-hunting success can easily depend upon

such flexibility.

For more information about Tony Kinton,

check out his website at

CloserLOOK ®

Every hunter or wildlife photographer knows the value of

remaining undetected. It is practically essential if close work is

involved. That is perhaps the reason that camouflage clothing in a

whirlwind of patterns is so popular. All work with some measure of

efficiency. But there is another approach to camo that can be

employed rather than or in addition to clothing. This is the timehonored

system of using natural vegetation as concealment. It is,

after all, what the animals see daily and takes second place to

nothing when it comes to hiding.

CamoBands has introduced a clever and practical way to

easily use vegetation. And, it allows that use to be fully portable. No

need to wish that bush was a bit closer to the subject of the hunter’s

or photographer’s interest. It can now move with the user.

CamoBands hold vegetation on the user by a functional,

rugged, and comfortable system. Two adjustable elastic bands are

mounted into a high-tech rubber frame that has tiny follicles on the

back. These allow air to circulate between the frame and user’s




B y To n y K i n t o n Volume 21 Issue 1


body. Additional vents in the frame increase ventilation, thus

assuring a cooling effect. Vegetation is placed under flex bands that

are on the outside (front) of the frame. Frames come in medium

and large and should fit most any user’s thigh, shin, or bicep. There

is also a cap with bands attached. Those on the sides have a similar

frame system to help hold everything in place and prevent sagging.

The advantages are clear. Even when the user is wearing

traditional camouflage clothing, CamoBands can add to the 3-D

impact. If the user opts to dispense with camo clothes,

CamoBands can easily serve as the first-line in this endeavor of

becoming invisible. And scent is not to be overlooked. Fresh

vegetation cut or broken off and placed on the body can help cover

human odor. As a result, the user blends in with the environment

of any given location both in the visual and olfactory elements.

An expansion of a centuries-old tactic is now high-tech. A most

useful idea, indeed! For additional information regarding

CamoBands, go to (see classified ad on page 78).

With the cost of everything going up, you owe it to yourself to subscribe to P.A.

Why subscribe?

With the printed hard copy you:


2) Have the magazine delivered to your home or office!

3) Have it in your hands quicker than waiting on newsstand delivery!

4) Never have to worry about store availability and missing an issue!

Primitive Archer NOW offers an electronic subscription package that can be accessed not

only by your home or laptop computer but also through smart phones, I-pads and I-pods.

With the digital copy you:


2) Have it instantly delivered from the PA website!

3) Have it available on multiple platforms!

To Order: Use form on

page 69 or go to

Anyway you cut it, any type of subscription provides a distinct advantage over newsstand

pricing. Our international readers will reap even higher rewards.

Save Up To 55% Off The Cover Price

Straight and True:

A Select History of the Arrow

by Hugh D.H. Soar

Westholme Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-59416-147-6

Hugh Soar is one of the world’s leading

experts in the history of archery. He is the author

of a number of archery books including The

Crooked Shaft, The Romance of Archery, and with

Joseph Gibbs, Christopher Jury, and Mark

Stretton, Secrets of the English Warbow.

Straight and True is a history of the arrow that

traces its inception from a ballistic missile in the


by Ed Ingold

hands of the cavemen to modern day aluminum

and carbon fiber shafted projectiles. The history

of the arrow through the course of the world’s

civilizations is both interesting and educational.

From tiny crossbow to giant atlatl darts, this is a

comprehensive history from one of the world’s

foremost archery historians.

At some point in time, an ancient early man

picked up a rock and threw it through the air at

some particular object and thereby started the

evolutionary thought process of what eventually

became rockets sent through space to distant

planets, deadly intercontinental ballistic

missiles, and tiny projectiles shot from a .357

magnum handgun. They all have one thing in

common: an object moves from one place to

another from a particular launching point. The

energy to do so may come from a variety of

sources. In the case of archery, it comes from the

large hand-held spring we know of as a bow.

Archery arrows are what this book is all

about. It not only traces the history of arrows

through the ages, up to and including modern

times, but it also describes the various designs

and construction used throughout time by every

kind of culture and civilization imaginable. You

don’t have to be an archer to appreciate this

comprehensive account of how archery and

arrows have shaped our planet and brought us to

where we are today. The history of the arrow is

the history of mankind. • Volume 21 Issue 1 9






B y N i l s V i s s e r Volume 21 Issue 1

Imagine for a moment that your

country is in political turmoil, led

by an inept and cruel leader whom

you probably don’t like but prefer to his

opponents. Imagine that they have invited

a foreign general to bring troops and take

over power. You’re determined to resist but

you’re surrounded by country yokels.

They mean well and are eager for a scrap,

but your opponents are heavily armed and

exceedingly well trained, and your lads are

most certainly not.

If you can imagine this then you know

what it was like to stand in the shoes of

A depiction from a hunting scene

in the mid-thirteenth-century

Maciejowski Bible (Morgan

Bible). Besides the use of

longbows, the offer being given

to the seated lord reflects the

strict guidelines for the division

of the spoils after a hunt. The

deer has been “undone.”

A scene of early- thirteenth-century warfare showing the aftermath of an encounter: dead and

wounded combatants, victors, prisoners, and those fleeing. The projectiles depicted in the fleeing

troops seem to represent both crossbow bolts and longbow arrows.

young William Kensham from the hamlet

Cassingham in the English County of

Kent, way back in 1216.

The cruel leader in question was King

John I. Why cruel? Well, besides

repeatedly betraying his brother, King

Richard the Lionheart, John wasn’t kind to

other family members either. He had his

niece, Eleanor, Fair maid of Brittany,

locked up when she was sixteen and

ensured that she would spend the

remainder of her life as a prisoner. His

nephew Arthur fared worse. When his

knights refused to dispose of the 14-yearold

boy, John himself travelled to Rouen

where Arthur was kept and shortly

A depiction from the midthirteenth-century


Bible (Morgan Bible). Though

the scene is biblical, it could well

reflect a French man-at-arms

attempting to conceal himself

from foresters in the Weald.

thereafter the boy was never seen or heard

of again. There is debate whether or not

John had the lad castrated and blinded,

took the murderer’s knife into his own

hand, threw the boy off the high castle

walls, or interned him in a very deep


When the King’s eye fell on Isabella of

Angoulême, he divorced his wife, had

twelve-year-old Isabella abducted from her

family home, and married her. According

to contemporary accounts, he often stayed

in his bedchamber until noon before

emerging to run the country, so taken was

he with his young bride. During both

marriages he fathered many illegitimate

bastards with his mistresses. In the

meantime he fought a losing battle against Volume 21 Issue 1 11

A fourteenth-century scene from the famous French hunting

manual written by Gaston Phoebus. This illustration shows the

use of hunting hounds.

A medieval depiction of a deer being undone. All hunters, from lowly

foresters to lords, prided themselves on their skills in flaying their catch.

12 Volume 21 Issue 1

the French, first in Normandy and later in

England. He managed to lose so often he

was nicknamed John Softsword. Moreover,

wars are expensive and his brother

Richard’s crusading adventures had already

practically bankrupted the country.

Nonetheless, John taxed and taxed and

then some.

Historians will tell you that this was all

relatively normal behavior for a Medieval

king. However, you and I share a gut

feeling that it ain’t right, and so did many

of John’s contemporaries, some of whom

dared to suggest he was a relatively

unsavory character, indeed a thoroughly

nasty piece of work.

In 1215 a number of Barons rebelled

against John because of his refusal to

honor the Magna Carta and invited the

French crown prince Louis to come to

England and claim the throne. This

attempt to depose John was popular—up

to two-thirds of the nobles in England

declared support for Louis. In Kent, only

Hubert de Burgh held out against Louis,

valiantly defending Dover Castle against

all comers for the duration of the war

which would become known as the First

Baron’s War and was to last from 1215 to

1217. De Burgh was aided in his defense

by partisans who disrupted French supply

routes. These partisans operated from the

Weald, a broad expanse of woodlands

between the North Downs in Kent and

South Downs in Sussex, parallel ridges

that ran from east to west through these

two counties for about a hundred miles.

The word comes from the Anglo-Saxon

“Wald” (German “Walt”), meaning woods.

It was William Kensham who led these

partisans. Kensham was the owner of a

small estate in Cassingham in Kent, legal

records indicate 120 acres and some

smaller landholdings in the area. This was

sufficient for Kensham to be considered

part of the gentry, but only just, from a

snob’s perspective he was an insignificant

nobody stuck in the middle of nowhere.

That nowhere, however, took on strategic

importance, as the Kent and Sussex roads

were busy with traffic from the channel

ports on the south coast. Supply wagons

headed east to the siege works at Dover or

west to the strategically placed city of

Winchester or north to London, where

A fourteenth-century scene

from the famous French

hunting manual written by

Gaston Phoebus. This

illustration shows how different

elements of a hunting party

work together as a pack of

hounds chases the quarry

towards fixed shooting

positions. Men and hounds

were well trained in this, and

we may presume that Willikin’s

men used similar tactics against

the French invaders.

Prince Louis had set up HQ.

Numerous chroniclers mention that

Kensham set up bases in the Weald and

gathered 1,000 archers around him. The

successful resistance that followed earned

him the nickname “Willikin of the Weald”

and “Wilkin the Wose.”

Though we know very little about

Willikin of the Weald himself, we can

glean something of an insight from his

actions. In the movies, this would have

consisted of the conscription of a

philharmonic orchestra to play uplifting

bombastic tunes whilst the peasant rabble

entered intensive fast-track training.

Within two weeks every last man of them

would have been on a par with the

professional warriors.

In reality, however, professional

warriors of the time began training as

children. They rode war-horses trained for

battle—the best ones worth more than

Willikin’s entire estate. They wore body

armor, either made to fit or collected

A reminder of the power of the longbow—even before the

powerful Warbows of the Hundred Years War, the longbows used

for fixed shooting positions in hunts packed a very powerful punch.

Photograph by Nils Visser.

When commoners were involved in a defensive role, like the

members of the city militia shown in this picture, the longbow was

often the weapon of choice. Photograph by Christoph Wiekart. Volume 21 Issue 1 13

across a host of battlefields that marked a

career in dealing out death. They also had

access to good weaponry. As we all know,

if your life is going to depend on your

equipment, buying it at the local five-anddime

store is usually not the best option.

For a medieval man-at-arms, life and

livelihood depended on his skill with—

and the quality of—his weapons.

Willikin’s lads, on the other hand, were

a motley collection of rustic rurals: colliers

and smelters who worked the ore furnaces,

verderers and limerers who concerned

themselves with the game, foresters and

famers trying to eke out a living in the

High and Low Weald. They would have

been armed with bows and staves,

protected by leather aprons or jerkins, and

for the most part untrained for battle.

Willikin understood his men would

not have stood a chance against the

professional warriors in a set-piece battle

and conducted a guerilla campaign

instead. In this, he was remarkably

successful. French chroniclers suggest that

Louis tried to tackle Willikin but failed to

bring him to heel. Instead the French

learned to fear both Willikin and the

Weald and were very wary of going there,

even companies of knights preferring to

14 Volume 21 Issue 1

take long detours rather than facing

ambushes and hit-and-run attacks in the

Weald. How was this possible? Usually any

attempts by medieval commoners to stand

up to nobility led to their annihilation,

simply because of the differential in

equipment and training. In modern

parlance, such a situation is akin to the

security guards of a large shopping mall

challenging the U.S. Marine Corps to


Hints offered by chroniclers form

circumstantial evidence which, coupled

with general historical knowledge, allow

us to gain an overall picture of events in

the Weald back in 1216. That in turn

enables us to identify possible causes for

Willikin’s success.

The first cause we can identify is

leadership. The Weald is a large place,

some 100 miles long and 50 miles wide.

Orchestrating operations along the entire

circumference of that area requires skillful

planning, the ability to organize a good

communication network, and the ability to

inspire men at a distance, because it’s

unlikely that the 1,000 men under his

command, a number repeated with

insistent frequency, would have been

gathered in one place. There are a few

Regular archery practice

was important. If an archer

performed well during a

hunt, he could bring home

portions of meat and hides.

Photograph by Christoph


other examples of peasants tackling

professional warriors successfully, such as

Bertrand Du Guesclin’s achievements in

turning Breton farmers into a formidable

fighting force. In those cases, we know

that men like Du Guesclin had the

magnetic conviction to attract followers to

his cause, the force of personality to

inspire and motivate them, and the

intelligence to deploy them there where

they could and would succeed. It stands to

reason that Willikin must have possessed

these qualities to some extent.

Willikin was obviously adept at

making do with available means and

turning every advantage he had into a

strength. Several sources mention that he

made the utmost use of the landscape of

the Weald. A closer inspection of the

geological features of that Weald allows us

to make a pretty accurate guess how this

was done and gives us yet another reason

to appreciate bacon.

A typifying characteristic of the Weald

are the dennes and droves. The Weald used

to be the most dense woodland in

England. The original inhabitants of the

Weald would have lived along its edges

and used it as a natural resource. This

included an autumn migration into the

Weald with the village pigs, so that they

could feast on acorns which were in

plentiful supply deeper in the woods. It’s

estimated that anywhere between 100,000

to 150,000 pigs trekked into the Weald

annually and had done so for over a

thousand years by Willikin’s time. The

fixed routes these pigs followed were

called droves. The clearings these droves

led to were called dennes.

Some of these droves connected

villages with one another, other ran for

miles and led only to a dead end denne. In

other words, travelling through the weald

was like travelling through a maze. From a

military perspective, it is rather convenient

when you know your way around and

your enemy does not. Moreover, your

enemy was bound to the droves. The

woodland was either coppiced or

deliberately unattended. In the former

case, trees were cut close to the trunk so

that they would spout lots of smaller

trunks. This made it very convenient for

harvesting and transporting to one of the

30 iron ore furnaces in the Weald.

Although a coppiced wood seems less

dense than a normal wood, there is

actually a higher density of wood. The

unattended woods were intended as safe

havens for game, this is where game could

breed and rest uninterrupted, during the

breeding season these woods were strictly

off-limits, and even outside of the breeding

season you needed to have a pretty

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An assortment of

archers in a forest

context. Photograph by

Christoph Wiekart.

convincing reason to be there. “Going for

a nice walk” wasn’t one of them. Both

wood types were pretty inaccessible for

men in armor and nigh insurmountable

for knights on horseback.

By 1216 over one hundred million pigs

had traversed the droves, eroding the

droves deep into the earth in the form of

sunken lanes. Anyone familiar with the

American Civil War will be familiar with

the tactical importance of such battlefield

features at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and

Shiloh. However, where the sunken lane at

Shiloh was three feet deep, the Weald’s

lengthy myriad of deep droves could reach

depths of up to ten feet.

So picture this, armored knights riding

single file or two abreast on sunken roads

they are unable to leave, then, ten feet up,

appear the men of the Weald, armed with

bows. Bows which form Willikin’s next


The type of bow that was available in

England in 1216 was not yet the mighty

Warbow which would dominate Crécy and

Agincourt. Nonetheless, we need to be

careful not to underestimate them. Often,

references to bows predating the Hundred

Years Warbows contain an air of dismissal.

These aren’t the 120-lbs-plus Warbows of

Edward III, they’re mere short hunting

bows, is the suggestion. Added to this is









19059 AMMAN RD.


989.845.7740 Volume 21 Issue 1 15

Hunting skills were

easily transferred to

that of defence.

Photograph by

Christoph Wiekart.

the laconic comment that no early

medieval longbows have survived for us to

examine so we can’t be sure. This very

consistent with the “English Trap,” i.e., the

assumption that if it isn’t in England, it’s

not worth examining.

This is a shame, for at least two early

medieval longbows have survived in the

Netherlands. They are made of yew and

follow a design that has been in use for some

5,000 years within the continental cultural

area from which the Anglo-Saxons hail.

Though some five to ten inches shorter than

Warbows, these are definitely not so-called

short bows and they’ve been estimated to

have a draw weight of 80-100 lbs—no mean


Some hunting bows would have been

lighter, specifically those intended to be

drawn on horseback or kept partially drawn

for a longer time during stalking. However,

the hunting bows shot from a fixed position

were heavy enough to warrant the warning

never to shoot straight at a deer’s flank in

order to avoid wounding hunters on the

other side. In short, the bows Willikin’s men

would have had were not the powerful

Warbows of later years but with an average

draw weight of 90 lbs and made of yew,

16 Volume 21 Issue 1

these weren’t mere toys, as anyone who has

ever shot a similar bow will be able to affirm.

We now return to the concept of training

and tentatively identify it as one of the

causes of Willikin’s success. Not the

Hollywood fast-track training scenario, of

course, but there was another form of

training which Willikin’s men had received,

their training as huntsmen. There were fulltime

professionals who managed the game

stocks and organized the hunts, but many

extras were drafted in for the actual hunts,

often involving most of the men in a local

community. Their tasks were to drive the

prey towards fixed locations, or man the socalled

stable stands which were fixed

positions behind screens where an archer

could conceal himself, dressed in seasonal

colors (instructions for color combinations

have survived) and even camouflaged with

leaves and branches. Hunting manuals often

contain rules for the allocation of meat and

hides as rewards for the extras, depending

on their participation in bringing a deer or

boar down.

Foresters understood their roles in a

hunt. Add to that their fluency in hunting

calls and signals and there’s an element of

communication which will greatly help in

the pursuit of any quarry. Huntsmen

communicated by means of a pattern of socalled

moots on a hunting horn or by calls

intended for the hunting hounds. They

were able to convey to each other that a

quarry: had been spotted going this way or

that; had gone to ground and was hiding;

was gaining headway; was being pursued;

needed the leeway to flee in a required

direction; was approaching a stable-stand;

had been disabled by archery or by hand.

They could also be used to instruct hunters

or hounds to: assemble; return home;

pursue faster; pursue slower; pursue more

quietly; change direction; call off the chase;

change quarry; converge on the quarry;

move in for the kill; or surround an

exhausted quarry.

It doesn’t require a great deal of

imagination to grasp the disadvantages of

this for the hunted, be they beast or man.

For the latter, the understanding that his

position was being continually broadcast

to all and sundry must have added

considerable discomfort.

Furthermore, professional huntsmen

were adept in positioning multiple stablestands

so that a quarry could be driven

further towards specific kill zones. This

included the use of packs of hounds in relay

teams. A pack would funnel the quarry into

a specific direction with another pack

taking over at a fixed position, the so-called

Chasse à Titre.

There are hints that hounds were used

by Willikin. At one point, Prince Louis led

an army of several thousands south and was

ambushed by Willikin near Lewes. The

French made towards Winchelsea and lost

close to a thousand men during this flight,

suggesting this was not an ordered retreat

but a headlong flight, straight through the

dangerous droves and dennes.

A squire who accompanied the Regent

William Marshal into the Weald after the

French flight mentioned that he saw bodies

which had been eaten by dogs. Seeing the

care that was taken to maintain the harmony

of the areas where game bred, it is unlikely

that packs of wild dogs would have been

tolerated, suggesting that these dogs acted

on instruction and were hunting hounds.

The corpses were either savaged by dogs as

part of the pursuit or were an edible reward

allocated after the pursuit—a traditional

element of hunting called the Curee in

which the hounds were served the neck,

bowels, and liver on the hide of a slain stag.

Interestingly enough, the same squire

suggested that there were even worse sights

to see than corpses eaten by dogs. More than

one chronicler makes mention of corpses

left to hang in trees or beheaded, but it is

unlikely that a soldier, used to the horrors of

war, would have singled out these relatively

common sights as being particularly

horrible. To add to this was the fear amongst

the French occupiers, who became

increasingly wary of entering the Weald.

These too were professional soldiers. What

were they afraid of?

Is it possible that yet another hunting

ritual had been applied to captured or slain

enemies? Flaying a hide was an admired

hunting skill. Skilled hunters took pride in

not rolling up their sleeves whilst “undoing”

the deer and showing all that they did not

have a drop of blood on their clothing when

the task was done.

Flaying men was, in fact, one of the less

savoury Anglo-Saxon traditions. In the

forest of Dean, for example, not two

centuries previously, three trespassers had

been flayed alive, their skins nailed to the

doors of the Speech House. On occasion

Anglo-Saxons would flay Danes, dead or

alive, and hang the skins in places to serve

as morbid scarecrows, as they did at

Worcester where the skins were nailed to the

cathedral doors.

We cannot know for sure, but the skills

and tradition existed. If Willikin’s men

“undid” their foe, the foe undone and left to

hang in trees would have provided a very

grisly sight indeed. Such behaviour would

certainly explain why Willikin’s other

nickname was “Wilkin the Wose,” a wose

being a savage wild creature that inhabited

the woods.

Willikin of the Weald remains an elusive

figure. However, knowing that he made

optimal use of the lay of the land and

available weaponry, we are able to envisage

the type of fighting that took place,

especially as it is reasonable to assume

Willikin’s men relied on their skills as

huntsmen. This latter notion is supported

by the use of hunting hounds in battle. Slain

foes were left in a manner that caused

revulsion and fear. Besides decapitation

flaying is a possible culprit, implying that

Willikin understood a thing about

psychological warfare.

To the French occupier, the Weald

would have been a dark and savage place,

where he was lured or chased into deep

roads that gave him no chance to fight

back against archers who would suddenly

appear over his head and drive arrows into

his columns at point blank range. Upon

fleeing he would be chased deeper and

deeper into the Weald, pursued by baying

hounds that fell upon and ravaged his

comrades if they fell. Unrecognizable

chunks of raw red skinless meat would

have formed grisly decorations by the

roadside, while the woods echoed with the

sound of horns, the foe telling each other

where their quarry was heading and telling

him that there was no safe place to hide

once hunters were on the scent. Words

from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

spring to mind, Kurtz’s last words: “The

horror! The horror!”

Nils Visser teaches English at UniC

High School in Utrecht in the Netherlands

and in his spare time practices traditional

archery with the Dutch Warbow Society as

well as conducting historical research on

behalf of the Bowmakers´ Guild of the Low

Countries. He is currently involved in

various projects related to the examination

of the archery heritage of the Low

Countries and Germany, focusing

specifically on the Medieval period. Volume 21 Issue 1 17


From the Pit is a place for PA readers to ask questions about

flintknapping and stone artifacts. I will do my best to

answer your questions or point you in the right direction.

My flintknapping experience is mainly producing Texas

arrowheads using rock that I pick up locally. I’ve seen collections from

various parts of the country, but Texas specimens are what I have

personally studied. I have some real artifacts of my own and a few of

them I have found myself.

I’ve been knapping since 2007 but didn’t get the hang of it until

2009. I have about equal experience with modern tools and abo

(aboriginal) tools. Right now, I’m developing my knapping skills in

reproducing paleo points like Clovis and Plainview. I have a YouTube

channel called “AllergicHobbit” where I demonstrate flintknapping.

Q: When positioning the stone, how do you judge whether to

hold the stone neutral, or slightly upward, or slightly downward?

What are the different effects each posture produces?

A: Experience tells me how to position the stone. The different

angles, along with different amounts of force, produce different

lengths of flakes. There is also a bit of luck involved.

Q: Is there any advice you can give to a new knapper that you wish

you’d had in the beginning? I’ve been knapping on and off for a while

and I still feel like a beginner. Are there any benchmarks that could tell

me when I’ve reached the next level? How do you know when you can

start teaching other people, for example?

A: When I was first learning to knap, I wish I’d known about the

various grades of stone and how to spot the finest grades of stone.

When I tried to make an arrowhead (and failed) I didn’t know if it was

my lack of skill or if the stone was just hard to knap. Looking back, I

spent hours and hours just breaking all kinds of stone that looked

good and trying to feel the differences. Sometimes I spalled hundreds

of pounds of stone without making a single arrowhead. I learned later

that many of the failed attempts that frustrated me the most were the

result of poor material or material that was not consistent.

My advice to new knappers has always been to use the best

material available. You can judge your progress much better when you

don’t have to deal with the extra hassle of hitting the rock really hard

and/or working around cracks and pockets of “concrete.”

Q: The hardest part about abo knapping for me is thinning the

arrowhead. I can’t seem to get the flakes to travel as far as I need

them to and I end up with “fat” points. If I apply a lot of force, the

tip of the tool breaks off. I can thin the points with a copper bopper

or copper pressure flaker just fine. I’m using antler mainly. Is there

another material that’s better?



B y P a t r i c k B l a n k Volume 21 Issue 1

A: Whitetail deer antler and moose antler are the best

materials for knapping, as far as antler is concerned. Various

grades of hammerstones, from hard to soft, are also an essential

part of your “thinning” toolkit. The striking platforms for antler

and soft hammerstones don’t need to be as rounded off as the

ones for copper. On the other hand, platforms for hard

hammerstones need to be stronger than those for copper. In

addition, I’ve found that hammerstones on the smaller side are

easier to control and strike with than lager ones. When I first

learned to knap, everyone was using large pieces of antler and

large hammerstones.

Your tools can be small as long as you strike accurately and

with concentrated force. Tool breakage is part of the game. It

can’t be eliminated. It can be reduced somewhat by keeping your

antler very dry and dressed. Stone has to be dressed as well.

Striking with a crumbly or irregular tip or surface causes energy

to be lost and dispersed.

To get flakes to travel across the piece, you’ve got to be more

careful about following the rules: use the best tools and stone

possible, follow ridges, hit below centerline, prepare platforms,

make sure the surface is convex, support the work piece, strike

carefully but purposefully, and be mentally alert and focused.

Imitate the successes and forget the mistakes.

Q: What is “paleo flaking”? I’ve heard a couple of guys talk

about paleo flaking as opposed to woodland flaking or archaic

flaking. What’s the difference?

A: This terminology has been used by some collectors who

want to try and understand and identify real specimens. In my

opinion, these terms don’t have any value. I don’t use them. The

best way to describe a knapped artifact is on an individual basis.

There are too many exceptions to any general rule or observation

you may try to put into place when it comes to classifying

knapped stones from a certain period in history.

Q: What is the best shape for a stone knife? I’m going to make

some for gifts and I want them to be durable.

A: The best shape for a stone blade is one that allows room

for re-sharpening, has a length to width ratio of about 4 to 1, is

thickest where the blade and the handle meet, has a strong tang,

and doesn’t have a tip that can easily break off when you are

using the knife for its intended purpose. A slick or lustrous

material also helps and is similar to having a polished surface on

a steel blade. A leaf-shaped, non-serrated, bi-convex, bi-face

seems to be the best all-around shape and has been used at one

point or another in all areas where man has used stone tools.

Q: How did the Indians heat-treat rock? I’ve seen that the heat

should be between 300 to 450 degrees centigrade. Can you heat the

rock inside the fire or does it always have to be buried under the fire?

A: First of all, 300 to 450 degrees Celsius (the current official name

for this measure of temperature) is way too hot. This is probably a typo

in the article or book where you saw it. The temperature should be

between 300 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, or a maximum of 320 degrees

Celsius. Some stone will need higher temperatures but these are the


Rock was usually buried in dirt, sand, rock dust, or ashes when the

Indians were heat treating their stone. It is possible to heat treat stone

inside the fire itself, but the results are not predictable and the stone

will not be heated evenly. The reason heat-treating works is because

when the stone is heated and then allowed to cool slowly, the

molecules inside the stone “line up” in a more orderly way than before

the heat treating.

Q: I’m setting up my platforms slightly below centerline. I have

them set up to follow a ridge and I grind them slightly to strengthen

them, but I can’t seem to get my flakes to cross the center. So I end up

having a hump down the middle. The more I try to remove the hump,

my point gets narrower and narrower. Any suggestions?

A: Your platforms are not far enough below centerline, the surface

is too convex, and/or the force being used is not enough to drive long

flakes across the type of stone you are using. Be more aggressive until

you are getting overshot flakes and then back off.

Q: I’ve been working on my thinning lately, and it’s really starting

to come around (as long as I use heated rock). But now I’m having

trouble keeping the point weight up. Not sure what I should do to not

make them so light. Seems like by the time I have the base thin enough

to put in a cane shaft I’m under 100 grains.

A: It’s okay to use lightweight arrowheads as long as they are not

too thin. Real arrowheads are very light and they were undoubtedly

effective. Many modern hunters in the “primitive” community are

hunting with very small and light arrowheads (where the law permits)

and they have been successful. If you really want to increase the weight

in the front of the arrow, you can make the arrow longer or add a heavy

foreshaft/footing to the front. If you want to increase the weight of the

arrowhead itself, you can make it longer, use heavier stone, or both.

Q: I have been knapping for about two years now. Everything I

know has come from trial and error. I can make a fairly good

arrowhead, but they are usually small (none over three inches). How

can I get bigger blanks and improve overall?

A: When I started, I made very small arrowheads and then

progressed to larger and larger pieces. This was mainly for economic

reasons, but it’s a good strategy.

To get good at making very large blades (six or more inches long),

you need to obtain large nodules of stone and then proceed carefully.

Big rocks become small rocks very quickly! Make the preforms much

bigger than you need, use the smallest direct percussion tools possible

reduce the preform to the correct thickness, and then finish off with

heavy pressure and/or punch work to shape and notch the workpiece,

followed by light pressure for final touch up and sharpening. Use a

random style of flaking until you get the hang of it, then you can

progress to the fancier flaking styles on future points. Make sure you

prepare all platforms well!

Of course, you can also use big, thick slabs of stone or glass, but

the technique is basically the same once you have the preform made.

If you have a “slab” that had already been ground into the shape of a

lenticular preform and all you need to do is run flakes across the

surface, that is, of course, the easiest way to make any blade, large or

small. It’s called FOG or “flake over grind” and many knife makers use

it to save time and material.

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that

created it. –Albert Einstein Volume 21 Issue 1 19




B y K a y K o p p e d r a y e r Volume 21 Issue 1



As a kid, I used to like to look for

arrowheads in the fields on the

farm where I grew up. I didn’t

find all that much, usually pieces of flint I’d

show to my dad with the hope that this

time I’d hit it big. I never seemed to—

maybe once or twice, with a little

imagination and a lot of wistfulness, we

could suppose that what I was holding

might have been a flint arrowhead. Those

pieces went into a special box, the sort that

all kids use to keep their treasures. Mine

had arrowheads—the few I’d found, plus

the ones I managed to get my parents to

buy for me when we were on a trip

somewhere, plus a piece of stone chiseled

off the house in Genoa, Italy, where

Christopher Columbus had once lived. The

piece of stone was actually my brother’s,

given to him by a neighbor as a get-well gift

after he’d been hit by a car while on his

paper route, but he didn’t seem all that

interested in it, so I confiscated it.

As for the arrowheads I wheedled my

parents into buying back then (way back

then, over half a century ago), they came

from the box of genuine Indian

arrowheads that every tourist shop had.

Exactly how many were genuine is hard to

say. Certainly some of them were, but there

are only so many that were made. In the

parlance of collectors, you could call them

limited editions or limited releases, though

at the time men were making them, they

weren’t thinking of them as collector

items. They were just part of everyday life,

implements needed for survival. It is us,

centuries later, who look at the arrowheads

with some sense of reverence or awe or

fascination or something like that. That’s

why even the bogus pieces held my

interest. I wanted to believe they were real.

I wanted them to take me to another time.

Of the real arrowheads, a lot are

stashed away in museum collections,

catalogued and classified. Others are in

private hands. Some of these arrowheads

are in continual circulation, staying for a

while with one collector, then moving on.

It’s like they are alive, still on the move,

with lives of their own. I know they will

outlive me. Long after I am gone, they will

still be carrying on. I wonder just how

many old arrowheads are in circulation.

Over the course of a lifetime, how many

arrowheads did a single man—one man—

produce? How many did the men of one

family or of one generation produce? And

how many were produced over the course

of many generations? By my reckoning,

there should still be some in the ground

waiting for a kid to come along, unless of

course an artifact hunter gets there first.

Some people I know have strong

feelings about picking up something.

Rather, their strong feelings are that you

shouldn’t pick it up, that the piece of the

past should be left alone, left to continue

on its journey without interference.

Professional archaeologists have very

careful protocols about removal and

excavation. Identifying the artifact in situ,

in the place where it is found, is very

important. On public lands, removal of

any artifact is forbidden. On private lands

it is a different matter altogether. If the

artifact is on the surface, federal law

allows you to pick it up as long as you’re

the owner or have permission from the

owner. From state to state, however, laws

vary and are worth checking into; in some

places it is okay, in others, not so.

There is the legal question but also the

moral one. To take or not to take, maybe you

should, maybe you shouldn’t. Maybe if you

do, you’ll destroy some clues about the past.

If you don’t, you’ll never know. All I know is

that the allure of a promising triangle of flint

in a freshly plowed field is too much for a

kid to bear. It beckons for the picking, but

why? I know from experience that the

finding is better than the having.

So what is it that makes us treasure

hunters? What makes an old arrowhead so

valuable? My guess is that it has to do with

making a linkage to what makes us

human. In finding an arrowhead, the

connection is both tangible and tactile and

it comes to us like a gift from the past. We

know there were people who came before

us—earlier peoples, first peoples—yet

with all good attempts at reconstructing

their history, we have but fleeting glimpses

of it. But despite what we don’t know, in a

flint arrowhead, there is something we can

recognize. It is an implement, made by

someone who understood how to use

tools. It is a real thing brought to life by

someone’s imagination and technical

skill. In looking at it, we see a reflection

of ourselves.

Someone, somewhere crafted it, and

in some ways our lives depended upon

that action. Volume 21 Issue 1 21

or seven days last November, my

wife and I lived in one of the most

beautiful locations of the Guaraní

Region in South America. We were at

Iguazu Falls, which while we were there

was declared one of the New Seven

Wonders of the World. We walked in areas

of the jungle in the Misiones Province that

only the Guaraní walk, and we spent one

day in a Guaraní village. We went to areas

in Iguazu Falls where the water was

cascading over us, and we walked areas of

the Iguazu Falls that were used in the film,

“The Mission.” Our seven days in this

mysterious land was an unforgettable

experience that took us into the jungle,

allowed us to see close up some of the

animals the Guaraní hunted but most

importantly allowed us to live the Guaraní


The Guaraní are one of the most

important tribes of South America. Their

story began in the 11th F

century according

to documentation left by the Maya

Indians. The Guaraní territory during

ancient times extended from the Amazon

River bordering the northern portion of

their territory to the Madeira River on the

western border.

About 3000 B.C., there existed three

main ethnic groups in South America: the

Andinos who were located in the western

portions of South America, the Araukos

who were located in the northern portion

of South America, and the Tupí-Guaraní

who were the largest group and occupied

the largest part of South America. Since

that time, the Tupí-Guaraní started to

migrate from Central America to South

Old Jesuit map

22 Volume 21 Issue 1

Iguazu Falls from the Argentinian side

Living in


America. There is conjecture that a

migratory movement occurred sometime

before the birth of Christ and that this

migratory movement created a rift in the

Tupí-Guaraní causing the tribe to split into

two main sub tribes. The two groups

became the Tupí and the Guaraní. The

Tupí went eastward to the Atlantic coast

following the Amazon River while the

Guaraní moved west and southwest,

inhabiting the Rio de la Plata Basin formed

by the rivers Paraná, Paraguay, and

Fire arrows


B y J o h n B o r g e s o n

Uruguay. One of the primary reasons the

Guaraní migrated was because they were

looking for a “land without evil.” The

areas they settled in were fertile and

allowed the Guaraní to live in a good and

productive way.

The first entry of foreigners into the

Rio de la Plata, the estuary of the Paraná or

Paraguay, was made by the Spanish

navigator, Juan de Solis, in 1511. Sebastian

Cabot followed him in 1526, and then in

1537 Gonzalo de Mendoza ascended the

Cannibal ceremony

Paraguay River to what is now the present

Brazilian frontier. It was Mendoza who

made the first contact with the Guaraní.

Until the arrival of the Jesuits, who

reached the Guaraní territory of Guayrá, in

what is now the Province of Paraná,

Southern Brazil.

As was common in the

Spanish/Portuguese colonies of that time,

slavery was a part of life and the great

center of the Indian slave trade was the

town of São Paulo, located below Rio de

Janeiro in the south of Brazil. Rio de

Demonstrates application of remedy

Janeiro was originally a rendezvous of the

Portuguese, Dutch, and Spanish pirates.

These brigands became the larger portion

of the Spanish and Portuguese colonies’

population and regarded it as a right, a

privilege by virtue of conquest, that they

should enslave the Indians. However the

Jesuits, who came after the first Spanish

settlors, assumed the dual role of civilizing

and Christianizing the Indians and

defending them against the merciless

cruelties and butcheries of the slave

traders and the slave traders’ employers.

Insect repellant plant


Bamboo itch repellant plant

Guarani bow

Drawing of Guarani bow Volume 21 Issue 1 23

Picture of the Guayubira tree.

This one fell during an electric


Author holding a Guarani

child's bow being sold as a

"tourist bow.

Guarani bows and their

decorations. Photograph by

Jason Rothe

24 Volume 21 Issue 1

A vendor's display of Guarani bows.

The enslaving and selling of the Guaraní is

vividly portrayed in the movie “The

Mission.” The Jesuits offered sanctuary to

the Guaraní, and they flocked to the

Jesuits in such numbers, and listened so

intently to these the first white men who

had come to them as friends and helpers,

that twelve missions arose in rapid

succession, containing in all some 40,000


Warrior Culture of the Guaraní

The Guaraní were continually at war

with other tribal groups surrounding them

Handle decorations.

Photograph by Fernando


in order to gain more territory so they

could develop their agriculture. The

Guaraní cultivated cassava, corn, tobacco,

cotton, and vegetables and used slash-andburn

methods of clearing the jungle to use

the land for crops. They were skilled

warriors; to initiate their attacks, the

Guaraní would rain stones and arrows on

their enemies followed by an assault using

lances and clubs.

The conquered peoples were subjected

to extreme cruelty. Some of the conquered

peoples (they were called Tekoa by the

The bow on the left is a child's

bow. The bow on the right is an

adult male's bow. Photograph

by Fernando Stankuns

Drawings of excavated Guarani Stone points.

Guaraní which means foreigner) were

made slaves to the Guaraní, while others

were consumed by the Guaraní in a form

of ritual cannibalism. The Guaraní

believed that by consuming their defeated

enemies, they gained power from their

dead enemies.

One of the rights of passage for

Guaraní boys to become a man and before

he could marry was to kill an enemy in a

ritual ceremony. Another interesting facet

of the Guaraní culture was once a Guaraní

man became a father, immediately after the

birth of his child he had to fast for 15 days,

during which time he was restricted from

making any type of weapon.

Guaraní Botany and Hunting

Due to the semi-nomadic character of

these people, the early Guaraní left no

evidence of their culture. However, they

developed such an extensive base of

knowledge of the flora and fauna that

when the first Europeans arrived, they

recognized the scope of this knowledge

and relied on it extensively. An example of

this is that the Guaraní language is the

most widely used to name flora and fauna,

third only to Latin and Greek. Even today

Guaraní are sought out for their

knowledge of local plant and animal life.

My good friend Roberto Rodas who is the

grandson of a Guaraní chief, demonstrated

Two photographs showing how the feathers and arrow point are

wrapped with philodendron vine

Guarani arrow points

Actual stone tools that were

excavated. These are Guarani

and were found in Brazil.

to my wife, Cecilia, and I the plants used

to stop itching and to repel insects.

Guarani Bows and Arrows

The bows used by the Guaraní were

long, measuring two meters (about 78") in

length. The war arrows of the Guaraní

were tipped with points made from human

bones. Each Guaraní bow was

distinguishable from other Guaraní bows

because the maker marked his bow to be

readily identifiable to the entire

community. For example, no two Guaraní

bows were designed the same and neither

were the arrows that went with a particular

bow. Unlike Native American bows and

arrows, for example, the Hupa bows which

are paddle shaped or the Lakota bows

which are readily identifiable because of

their design, such was and is not the case

with the Guaraní bows and arrows. The

favorite colors to decorate bows were black

and white, black and brown, or all red.

A close-up picture showing

how the philodendron vine is

twisted into a bow string. The

name for the vine in Guarani is

Guembe-Pi. Volume 21 Issue 1 25

A two meter long piece of

philodendron vine

Modern day Guarani

demonstrates aiming a

bow at a monkey.

Photograph by Roberto

Two Guarani hunting in the jungle in Misiones.

26 Volume 21 Issue 1

Side view of Guarani bow

showing Costilla de Adan

(Adams Rib) – the bow string

and how it is tied. Note the tool

marks on the belly of the bow

The Guaraní made their bows from a

tree called guayabi or guayubira

(Patagonul americana). The heartwood of

the guayabira (which is an extremely hard

wood) is taken to make the bow. The

guayubira wood’s primary characteristics

are that it is hard, flexible, and resistant to

moisture. This makes this wood excellent

for making bows and arrows. Also used to

make bows was the palm tree called

mbokaja. The bows were made so that they

were always longer in length than the

height of the man. There was no standard

for measurement to determine how much

longer the bow should be and this also

meant that there was no standard size of

Back of the bow showing the

nock and the bow string which

is made from philodendron


Guaraní bow because each man was of a

different height. Shorter Guaraní had

shorter bows and taller Guaraní had longer


The Guaraní manufactured their arrow

points from wood and stone. The drawing

depicts some of the excavated stone arrow

points that the Guaraní made. However, as

the Guaraní moved further away from

sources of workable stone, a shift in

material to make arrow points was made to

wood and bamboo.

The bow string was primarily made

from the philodendron vine (costilla de

Adan—Adam’s rib) by cutting a long piece

of the vine and stripping away a part of it

Guarani handicrafts Animals

Coati which is hunted by the


A type of lizard hunted by the


and then twisting that piece either

clockwise or counter clockwise (the

owner’s choice) and making enough string

so that there was at least an excess of 30

centimeters (about 12”).

The arrows used by the Guaraní were

made from the same wood as the bows,

guayabira and alciren in addition to

bamboo. An interesting facet of Guaraní

archery is that the arrows were carried in

the hand and not in a carcaj or quiver. The

arrow points for hunting were always

straight-edged and had no barbs or

serrations. This was so that the injured

animal would rapidly bleed to death after

being shot. For monkeys and jaguars they

used an arrow point with teeth in it. The

Yacare in the Iguazu River

One of many birds hunted by the Guarani.

Guaraní style of shooting was premised on

how the bow was held. Guaraní boys were

taught to use a bow and arrow from the

age of three.

Guaraní Hunting

Hunting by the Guaraní involved

trapping as well as the use of bows and

arrows. Their methods varied with the

animal they were hunting. Their favored

animals were peccaries, tapirs, coati,

carpinchos (capybara), deer, turtle, iguanas,

yacares (South American crocodile), and

various birds. The arrow points used for

hunting birds were blunts, and the Guaraní

often used their feet when shooting at birds.

The children and young adults hunted

with a stone-like pellet made from dirt

A turtle just downriver

called arcillas (a type of clay). If the animal

being hunted was only wounded, the

hunter would finish off the animal using a

wooden mallet or a spear. The Guaraní

also used arrows tipped with a toxin

obtained from a type of frog endemic to

the region to hunt monkey and other small

animals. These hunting arrows were

usually two meters long (about 78“) with

wooden tips.

To lure animals, the Guaraní imitated

the noise of the animal being hunted.

Their knowledge of animals was such that

they created small wooden sculptures to

teach the children about the animals and

then later reproduced these to sell to


Simple trap for birds or

rodents. The name of the trap

is La Aripuca in Guarani. Volume 21 Issue 1 27

Complex trap for pecaries. The

trap in Guarani is called

Monde Guazú.

The Guaraní traditionally hunted in

groups of ten to fifteen men. However,

nowadays, both men and women hunt

together. Once the animals were killed, the

carcass was returned to the camp and the

women became in charge of cleaning the

animal and butchering the meat and inner

organs. Normally the woman roasted the

meat over a fire so that it could be kept for

a longer time period. To cook larger

animals, a fire pit lined with stone was

used. The fire was built in the pit and

allowed to burn until the rocks were

heated. Then the meat was cooked using

the heated rocks.

The jaguar trap from a distance

28 Volume 21 Issue 1

Modern day Guarani, dressed as their ancestors were when the

Spanish arrived, demonstrate how they set a trap. Photograph by

Roberto Rodas

The traps used by Guaraní were varied

and quite ingenious. The trap could be a

simple snare laying on the ground or a

complex trap that took many people a few

days to build. These traps are still used

today. The trap used to capture a jaguar

was baited with an animal (usually a

monkey) suspended above the trap.

The Guaraní also fished using their

bows and arrows. They primarily fished

for surubi and sabalo, which are large fish

primarily found in rivers. They fished from

canoes made from the trunk of trees

indigenous to the region.

The trap opened. It could be up to

two meters in length.

Close-up of the wooden spikes

A Guarani about to catch an arrow during

Xondaro practice Volume 21 Issue 1 29

Map depicting where

the Gaurani are

located in Argentina,

Brazil, and Paraguay.

The light green areas

of the map displays

their historical

homeland but the red

boxed area is the

primary concentration

of the Guarani in

these countries today.

Military Organization in Times of War

Because the Guaraní were continually

at war, they were known as fearless

warriors. Physically the Guaraní were

larger in stature than other tribes. Guaraní

tribal warfare was organized by either the

Cacique, the political chief of the tribe, or

by the Jefe General, the war chief. The Jefe

General was elected by all the men of the

30 Volume 21 Issue 1

tribe to lead the tribe in time of war. Each

time the Guaraní went to war, however,

they could elect a new Jefe General. This

position was not secure like the Cacique’s

position. It should also be noted that the

Guaraní were not completely unified and

each sub-tribe could have its own political

and war organization. During the

preparation for war the whole tribe

Author’s wife stands in the

door of a Guaranies house that

is representative of how the

Guaranies lived for hudnreds

of years.

Current housing of the Guarani

and not too different in

construction from the house in

the other picture. Notice the

land for farming in the


participated in activities that included not

only making weapons and weapon

practice but also songs and dancing.

Guaraní Martial Arts

The Guaraní developed a unique

fighting technique that was little known

except to those the Guaraní warred with.

This martial art was called Xondaro. The

movements of Xondaro are primarily

based on the movements of certain

animals which placed the Guaraní in

advantageous positions and allowing them

to conserve energy and force the opponent

to waste his. The practice of this martial

art honed the participant’s sense of

direction as well as his balance. Another

primary focus of Xondaro was to teach the

Guaraní to catch their enemy’s arrows.

The Guaraní Today

Today, the Guaraní inhabit Paraguay,

Brazil, and Argentina. In Paraguay, the

Guaraní language is the official language

along with Spanish; in addition,

Paraguayan money is called guaraní.

Today the Guaraní in all three

countries have a total population of

approximately 100,000 and, most

importantly, the child mortality rate for the

Guaraní is decreasing.

Probably the biggest current impact on

the Guaraní is the deforestation and

privatization of the public lands in the

countries where they live. Programs in all

three countries have reduced the area of

Guaraní land resulting in increased

alcoholism, domestic violence, and suicide

rates among these people. With time and

the help of the Argentinian, Paraguayan,

and Brazilian governments, the Guaraní

are adapting and entering into a new style

Guarani kids who gave us the

international sign for good.

of life where they are able to maintain their

culture, live on lands provided by the

governments, and develop marketable

skills and crafts to sustain them.

The Guaraní live now much as they

did in the past. Their housing is very

similar to what they lived in during the

time period that the film “The Mission”

portrays. They live in structures made of

wood that are constructed by the owners,

and each house has land surrounding it

that allow the Guaraní to farm and raise

food. In addition, each house has some

type of electricity and a TV antenna. In

Argentina, the government provided each

Guaraní family with a concrete house. The

Guaraní refused to live in them and

converted them to chicken coops.

One of the schools built by the

Argentine Government to help

educate the Guarani.

However, they have accepted other

programs designed to help them assimilate

into the outside world such as bilingual

education programs and schooling. The

Guaraní are slowly adapting to the outside

world. Their handcrafts are superb and

provide much needed income to help

sustain them.

My wife and I wish to thank Fernando

Standkuns and Jason Rothe

( for

allowing the use of three of their

photographs. But most importantly, we

wish to thank the Guaraní, especially

Roberto and Carla Rodas for introducing

us to these people and their way of life.

Please visit Roberto at his website at:

Three photos showing basketry and bottles made by the Guarani. Volume 21 Issue 1 31

AskPA ®

Brent Macfarlane from Apsley, Ontario, asks:


: I’m interested in making a selfbow as a weekend project,

mainly for target shooting. I would be looking for wood in

the Apsley area. I’m wondering if you have a type of wood that

would be well-suited for making bows. I think the forest is made

up of cedar for the most part, but I haven’t spent much time

looking. I’ve also read for the backing of the bow to try and stay

within one growth ring for durability. I’m also wondering about

heating and curving the bow and other tips in general. I’m also

wondering if it is better to use a branch, or the trunk of a younger

tree to carve a bow? Last question for now is do I have to let the

wood sit and rest? Or can I start working on it right away?


: I am a bowyer, consequently most all the wood I have is for

making bows. Elm is a very good wood for making bows and

fairly widespread throughout Central and Southern Ontario.

Ironwood (hop hornbeam) is another along with sugar maple and

white ash. They are all quite common in Ontario.

The best wood is a stave from a medium-size tree, but you can

make a bow from a small diameter tree or even a large branch.

Once cut, you can roughly shape the bow but after that, it needs to

sit and dry out before you can begin working on it. If you put the

roughed-out stave in a warm dry area with a lot of air movement,

then you should be able to work on your bow inside of a month.

You have to be very careful when removing the bark so that

you don’t do any damage to the wood just under the bark. This will

be the back of the bow. Any violation of the first growth ring can

be disastrous. For a target bow, keep the bow length to a minimum

of 65" on a 26" draw and add 2" to the overall length of the bow

for every 1" of draw length. This will give you the best

combination of durability and performance.

Caleb Musgrave from Southern Ontario asks:


: I’ve seen your work in Primitive Archer over the years and

have a great respect for your knowledge. Add that we are

both in Ontario, and well I just had to look your email address up

to pick your brain.

First off, I am currently dealing with several salmon skins that

I would like to add to my bow. I own a 40-45# 28" draw longbowflatbow

made by the folks at Rudderbows Archery (I was new to

selfbow shooting when I got it, and the price was right at the time).

32 Volume 21 Issue 1



Target Bow

B y M a r c S t . L o u i s

I would like to back it with these salmon skins, as they are quite


The first question is: what process would you suggest for

processing and applying the skins to the bow? Is there any specific

glue for laminating the salmon skins to the hickory bow?

The second question is: outside of aesthetics, is there any

value in applying salmon skins or any other fish skins to a bow? I

know sinew backing and even some forms of rawhide backing to a

bow can strengthen it, and I believe increase the draw weight a

little. But is this possible with fish skin as well? They are tough

hides for sure, but I am just interested in whether my desire for a

“pretty” bow is of any extra value as well.


: Are the skins fresh or dried? Assuming they are fresh, I

would make sure that there are no flesh or fat deposits

remaining on the inside by scraping them clean. Then I would

wash them well in warm soapy water and rinse. The bow you want

to apply the skins to must also be clean and free of any sealant you

might have applied to it.

Practically any glue will work but some of them make the

process of applying the skins easier and less messy. Personally, I

like TB3, but regular carpenter’s glue will work. You can use

commercial fish glue made from fish skin; it has a fungicide, which

prevents the glue from turning bad and/or rotting. You could even

make your own fish glue from trimmings of the salmon skins or

animal skins. This method requires a lot more work, not only in

the making of the glue, but in the application. If you want to try

making and using your own glue, then let me know and I can give

you more detailed info on that method.

Once the skins are cleaned, cut them so they fit the limbs. This

is easier done when they are dry, but it can be done when they are

wet. Using TB or carpenter’s glue, apply a thin coat, doing each

limb individually, to both the back of the bow and the skin; the

skin should be wet for this. Then lay the skin down on the bow

and run your finger down the skin to feel for any air pockets. If

you find any just work them off to the side and out.

The application of skins, whether fish, snake or animal is

mostly aesthetic. They do provide a bit of moisture protection once

dried. If they are thick enough, they will add some protection to

the back of the bow against possible breakage. They won’t add any

noticeable performance to the bow.

Doug Graham from Huntsville, Ontario,



: I am in the process of fabricating a native-style quiver such

as Jay Massey writes about in The Bowyers’ Bible, Vol. 2. My

challenge is to fabricate, in this quiver, a means of protecting the

bottom and sides from being cut by shaving-sharp two-edged

broadheads. I have considered a heavy leather bootie for each

arrow, or an arrow cup with lifting stick such as illustrated on page

179 of the book, Native American Bows, Arrows, and Quivers, Vol. 2.

Do you know of any better way of protecting such a buckskin

quiver, or any similar type of quiver for that matter, while carrying

and withdrawing arrows? Should the bottom of the quiver be sewn

straight across or fashioned into a rounded shape? Have you any

thoughts on how to form a piece of heavy leather into a 5-6 inch

deep cup to hold the broadheads? Any suggestions or advice will

be greatly appreciated.


: The problem with leather boots over your broadheads is

getting them off quickly in a hunting situation. Here is one

method I use, though it’s not too primitive. I push a piece of dense

foam into the bottom of my quiver and stick the broadhead into

that. The foam holds them securely and keeps them safe and away

from each other. A cup for the broadheads could be made by

forming a piece of wet rawhide over a suitable shape and letting

them dry. As to the bottom of the quiver, the shape is up to you.

Either way would work; personally I think a round shape would

hold your arrows better, a bit more difficult to execute though.

Gerald Fitzpatrick from Windsor, Ontario,



: I have some old red oak that I would like to make a bow

from. The timber in question was dug up from an old railroad

building that was built in the early 1900s in Windsor Ontario.

There are three pieces; the shortest is 62" with two 18'. All are a

true 2" by 7.5". I would like to make a bow out of this if at all

possible. I have the wood in the basement to preserve it, the

growth rings are very close. I was hoping to cut them up in lengths

of 72" or so to give to my son and family to make their own bows

out of. If they should be backed (if possible) and any help with

build-along would be great. This will be my first time bow making.

I am thinking of a longbow. Really liked your work in Primitive

Archer on the flight-bow and small game blunts; both were a great


Send your questions to: Marc St. Louis

P.O. Box 1132 • Mattawa,

ON • Canada P0H1V0

Or email:

You can also reach me on the

Primitive Archer Message Board at:


: For red oak, a length of 72" would be good for bows. Can you

tell if they are flat sawn or quarter sawn timbers? Also can you

tell if the growth rings run straight down the plank? If the growth

rings are straight with no run off then you could get away without

backing them. Seeing as how they have very fine growth rings, it

would be hard to chase a ring if you needed to. If the growth rings

do not run straight down your timber, then you would be better to

back the oak. The first thing to do is carefully examine the growth

rings to see if the timber was cut from a straight tree. For more

advice you can become a member of the Primitive Archer message

board ( and tap

into a great deal of information from a large number of experienced

bowyers. They can help you with a build-along. Volume 21 Issue 1 33




make Osage bows from trees on my

land, and I wanted my bow to have

a bowstring built from organic

materials located on or near my home here

in southeast Iowa. My early attempts were

huge failures due to haste and low quality

fibers. I learned that building a complex

corded milkweed bowstring requires a lot

of attention to detail. The following is a

description of my process, which is a

combination of ideas from many sources

and things that I have learned along the

way. There are many techniques for making

a bowstring, some more complicated than

others. My technique is very primitive, yet

time consuming and complex. In theory,

the complexity of the design creates a

stronger and lighter product by increasing

the surface area and decreasing the material

needed to create it.

Before we begin, we need an

understanding of how I use the following

terms to describe the assemblage of fibers

and related techniques. Volume 21 Issue 1

Milkweed B

“Chasing a ring requires an eye.

Building arrows, understanding why.

But only complete with a string

That brings it into the Ten Ring” –Bybee


y J o h n B y b e e



Simple Plies – Fibers as described in

the first article are twisted into a 1/32"

string (not a cord)

Cords – An assemblage of simple plies

rotating in the opposite direction of its

constituent plies

Complex cord – An assemblage of both

cords and plies

Reverse wrap – A technique used to

create cords or complex cords constructed

of simple plies or plies made up of two or

more cords

Serving – a protective thread that is

wrapped around a bowstring

Scutching – hitting fiber bundles to

break the woody part of the plant so that it

falls away

When I first read how to make a

bowstring, I was lost in the description

and terms. I am going to try to simplify the

confusion I found into a couple of basic

steps that I used in making my bowstring.

The bowstring I made is not a replica of

any particular aboriginal group but rather

a combination of primitive ideas much like

you see in common bow building. There

are many ways to assemble a bowstring; I

am going to break it down into three steps.

Step 1: Fiber Processing and Cord

Production will create the 672 inches of

cordage used to construct the bowstring.

Step 2: Loop and Assemblage will

cover measurements, weights, loop

construction, and the building of the body

of the string.

Step 3: Serving will cover the where,

how, and why.

Step 1.

When I began making my own

bowstrings, I started by using flax. When I

tried to apply those methods to milkweed

fibers, it became apparent that my process

didn’t work. I used a common method for

processing flax fibers that began with

retting the fibers and scutching the flax to

remove the woody stem. In this process, a

bundle of fiber is gathered, and water is

introduced during thread/ply production

to facilitate fiber adhesion. This type of

flax processing separates fiber extraction

from ply production and becomes two

separate operations.


I have combined these two operations

when using milkweed, because fibers

harvested during late summer have a

sticky surface that facilitates adhesion

during thread/ply production. If these

fibers are left to dry, it becomes more

difficult to process them into thread/ply

and then into cordage.

I begin by removing fibers and

producing a 1/32" ply as outlined in the

first article. Then I reverse wrap these two

plies, and continue feeding in plies as I

process them from the stalk until I have

672 inches of cordage (see photos 3 & 4).

It is important to control the quality so

that the thickness remains consistent. To

maintain this consistency, introduce

tapered/feathered plies and feed in shorter

lengths to fill thin spots (see photo 5). You

may find that as you reverse wrap the two

plies, some of the fibers start to unravel. I

stop at this point and address this issue to Volume 21 Issue 1 35




make sure the ply is twisted well enough

to continue. If you do not address this

issue early, the unraveling will create a

thick area in your cord (see video at PA

Community Web Site post titled

“Milkweed Article”). With good quality

cord, you can make a good quality

bowstring. The strength of this cord is

going to set a series of events in motion.

Make sure that the cord has the weight to

produce the bowstring that you desire.

Step 2.

I needed to determine two key factors

before building my bowstring. First, I Volume 21 Issue 1

tested the break weight of the cord four

separate times during Step 1. My cord broke

at an average of 20-22 pounds. I placed

them in a group of three and they it broke

at 64-66 pounds. Second, I need to build a

bowstring for a 46# bow that is about 62"

long. This bow now has a modern Dacron

b50 bowstring that is 57" long.

With figures for the break weight and

length, we can make some basic

calculations. A bowstring needs to be four

times the weight of the bow to function

safely. My 46# bow needs a bowstring of

184 pounds. The cord I have is only 22


pounds at best, so a 9-cord bowstring

would be required. This calculation will

work, but know that the bowstring can be

built lighter because reverse wrapped cord

will become stronger with each reverse

wrap sequence. Each cord will need to be

23 pounds to function safely. The

additional 8 pounds is only asking for a 4%

increase as the bowstring is constructed,

which is not an unreasonable figure

considering it could be as high as 10%.

My numbers are as follows:

1 reverse wrapped bowstring (for a

46# bow) made of:

2 plies containing 4 cords in each (for

a total of 8). Each cord (tested and broken

at ~22#) was made from 2 plies that were

1/32 of an inch thick.

I could have worked with the 9 cords

in the following configuration.

1 reverse wrapped bowstring made of:

3 plies containing 3 cords in each.

Each cord (tested and broken at ~22#) was

made from 2 plies that were 1/32 of an

inch thick.

You will need to adjust your string to

fit the needs of your bow.

Now that you have determined the

number of cords needed, a simple rule of

eight should work for determining the

overall length of each cord. Starting with

57 inches, add an additional 8 inches for

the loop at the top and 8 inches for the

knot at the bottom. Next calculate an

additional 8% for shrinkages that will

occur as you complete your bowstring.

My figures are as follows: 57 + 8 + 8 =

73. 73 x .08 (or 8%) = 10.9 inches. 73 + 11

= 84 inches for each cord. 84 inches x 8

individual cords equals 672 inches of cord

needed for making a 62-inch nock-to-nock

longbow bowstring. These calculations may

change for other bow styles (see photo 6).

I have chosen a Flemish-style

bowstring but will leave out the additional

reinforcement plies in the loop. Toward the

end, I will add serving to reduce chafing.

My final string will have two plies. Each

will contain 4 cords that will be reverse

twisted into the final cord (see photo 7).

I begin by setting up the loop end 8

inches from the top and start reverse

wrapping the 2 plies (that contain 4 cords

in each) toward what will be the knot end.

You need to reverse wrap about 4 inches

for the loop length. Photo 7 is the

completed loop and the loop in

construction of separate bowstrings.

Now take the unwrapped end and

feather the eight cords so that the plies

taper to the top end. Now you are ready to

make a loop. Reverse wrap the top 8

inches into the body of the string as you

work your way toward the knot end. I

enlisted help from the “village” to make

the job easier (see photo 8).

My helpers spun the plies one

direction while I went the other. It is

important to make sure that you are not

wrapping one string in a serving type of

manner. Keeping the twist equal is the key.

Temporarily tie a knot in the end of your

new bowstring when you finish.

Step 3.

The final step in completing your

bowstring will be serving the loop, knot,

and nock area. At this point, you are a

professional thread maker, and those skills

will be put to the test as you make the final

yards of serving. Take time to make the

highest quality thread for the serving, it

will be the first line of defense against

chafing. I use the longest threads from the

milkweed, discarding the short ones.

Before serving, wax the thread using

beeswax. I start my serving by laying

thread down the bowstring and wrapping

over the line toward the end that is lying

on the string (see photo 9).



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Strap-mounted compass for convenient orientation. Volume 21 Issue 1 37




At the end of the serving, I take a

separate piece of thread and fold it in half to

make a loop. I place the loop ¾ of an inch

past the serving and continue serving the

thread over the loop. After 4 to 6 times

around the end, it is fed through the loop,

and the loop is pulled back through the

serving (see image 10). There are better

ways to tie the end of a serving, but I use

this method because it is an easier method

for me.

I have dressed up the end of my string

with a feather (see photo 11). Additional

design work can be accomplished by dying

your thread (see photo 10). My dye was made

from the berries of staghorn sumac,

blackberries, and wild black cherry. I placed

the juices from these berries in a jar, added

yeast, and allowed it to ferment for four

weeks. Each day I opened the jar to release

pressure. After four weeks, I placed the wine

in a pan and added a ½ teaspoon of salt. I

heated the mixture on low heat. Then, I

added the fibers and cooked for 15 minutes.

Afterwards, I spread the fibers in the sun and

allowed them to dry for one hour. After that,

I twisted the fibers again to ensure a tight,

quality thread. Then I bundled the threads

and hung them to air-dry. Volume 21 Issue 1

Words of Caution:

Never twist a milkweed bowstring to

shorten the length! You should always

shorten it at the bowyers knot. The twisting

of the string will cut fibers in the cord and

create runs which will eventually lead to the

failure of your bowstring. Never allow

anyone to bend the string around this/her

hand to test its strength because it will put

undue stress on one side of the string. When

storing my bowstring, I hang it on a peg and

allow it to relax in a natural state.

I used about 70 milkweed plants to


produce my bowstring. This may seem like a

lot, but only the high quality fibers were used

for the string, and the lower quality fibers

were used to make additional items. These

items contain about the same amount of

yardage as the bowstring. My string was a

labor of love and represents about 40 hours

of spinning to produce the highest quality

product that my hands can make. I have

made bowstrings from deer hide with only a

couple hours of labor and they weigh about

the same amount, which is 290 grains. The

bowstring I made from flax was about 150

grains and was very strong but also very time

consuming. The upside to my milkweed

bowstring is that it can handle changes in

humidity and is resistant to rot. I also wanted

to make my bowstring from available

materials native to southeast Iowa.

After this article is published you can

view a video of this process and the firing of

the bow by visiting the PA Community

forum website and following the thread titled

“Milkweed Article.”

I have read many articles from various

websites on milkweed and the traditional

Bowyers Bible on string. I highly recommend

that you read the section in the TBB on

making bowstrings. I also would recommend

reading Swamp Monkey’s and “Stringman’s”

informative post on Primitive Archer’s

Community Web Site.

Time to Shoot! (see image 12)

Final thought…

The Ropewalk

“Human spiders spin and spin

Backward down their threads so thin…”



Four Lakota arrows circa 1870.

Private collection of Chris

Ravenhead, South Dakota.



B y J a y R e d H a w k


– Part I

It was the fall of 1875 within the

Unceded Territory of Sioux hunting

grounds as dictated by the 1868

Treaty, and the last big hunt on horseback of

the season was taking place. It had been

discussed for several days after a herd was

spotted nearby and a plan was formulated by

the older, more experienced hunters.

“Buffalo Runner” horses were grazed

Another type of flared nock typical

of Lakota Sioux arrows.

well and watered by the young men. Even

these small, swift stallions knew what was

about to happen. They pranced and snorted

with excitement. Finally, they were brought

to their riders by nephews and sons. It was a

cool and cloudy day, excellent for running

horses and keeping bison meat cool while

butchering. There were no flies and there was

no glare from the sun.

Men strung their bows, checked their

arrows, and stripped down to moccasins and

loincloths. They mounted up, some with

lances and about two-thirds of them with

short 60- to 70-pound horse bows. Many of

them had trade rifles—flintlocks and

percussion cap, 54 caliber—but they

preferred the old way. It was much more


The herd of 200 or more bison were

grazing in a draw when from behind them

came a band of screaming young men

flapping blankets and riding fast. The buffalo

raised their tails and ran forward in a panic

while the mounted Lakota came down on

their left and right flanks riding hard and

fast. Holding extra arrows points up, those

with bows drew back short and released their

deadly missiles into the sides of the Pte

(PTAY – buffalo cows) that would provide

meat and new robes.

The hunters blind-knocked as they reloaded

from their bow hand, shooting their

first four wahinkpe (wah-HEEN-kpay –

arrows) into their prey. Then reaching down

to the left, where hanging quivers with

quilled and beaded designs contained a dozen

or more deadly, metal-tipped shafts, they

reloaded until their quivers hung empty and

light. They fired arrow after arrow, sinking

them into the wooly hair and inch-thick hide

of the 700-pound heifers and 1300-pound


Over the mile-long stretch the Spanish

Mustangs were slowed down by their riders,

their small, taut frames heaving to breathe,

every muscle twitching from the excitement

and rigor of the chase. Looking back, Mato

Maza (mah-TOW mah-zah – Iron Bear) saw

An original 1838 Karl Bodmer copperplate

engraving in the museum. Volume 21 Issue 1 39

over forty downed cows. As he rode back to

identify his kills, family members rushed

down to retrieve his arrows and women and

girls with butchering knifes exhalted their

“Li-Li-li-li-leeee” vocal trills of excitement.

Iron Bear’s three sons retrieved 15 of his 18

arrows, and he put them back in his quiver.

The arrows were marked with dark blue

paint mixed with hide glue. Some were lost

over the years, but they were a treasure kept

by the family even when they settled onto the

agency after returning from Canada in 1881.

Iron Bear passed and in the 1920s a man

from the Eya s’ic’a Oyate (German/Swiss

people) came. It was during the depression

when there was no work, especially on the

remote and isolated Cheyenne River Sioux

reservation. Crops were failing and times were

hard. The man from Europe was looking for

bows, arrows, moccasins, shirts, bonnets and

other artifacts. He had $5 to offer for a set of

arrows. That would buy a month’s worth of

groceries for the family of eight—Iron Bear’s

descendants. The man purchased the arrows

along with clothing and beadwork and left the

next day never to be heard from again.

In April of 2012, I had the privilege to

go to Switzerland and to stay with a very

special family whom I am proud to call

friends, the Gassmans. I taught Plains

Horse Archery for the first time in Europe

to 17 students over a two-week period.

Jack and Sam Gassman, brothers, helped

wrangle horses and give ground technique

instruction to students. We used Spanish

Mustangs only (from the Windcross

Conservancy Herd) for the clinic; they

40 Volume 21 Issue 1

Bow and arrows

made by the author.

were the original horse brought to the

Americas from Europe.

During my stay in the small village of

Buhler, my friends took me to one of the

places I had wanted to visit, the Museum

of St. Gallen. It was a marvelous house of

treasures. During the 1920s, collecting

American Indian artifacts was quite the

rage in European countries like Germany

and Switzerland. The oldest and quite

possibly best examples of Native American

artifacts can be found in museums in

Europe, due to the fact that for 400 years

prior to the 1920s, Europeans had been

bringing back material items of every kind

from the New World.

Buyers would be given a bankroll and

Author working with a young

Spanish Mustang in South

Dakota. Photo by Pam Keeley

sent to the United States to go around to

reservations and buy items for museum

collections. Sometimes, of course, that

included bows, arrows, and archery tackle.

Many of these items were postagency/reservation

era. These are items

made specifically in the late 1890s or early

1900s. However, a few older treasures

seem to have wound up in the mix.

Most of the buyers weren’t searching for

specific items as much as they were on a

trip for Indian “stuff.” However, I’m sure

weapons and clothing were high on the list.

My friends' son had done volunteer

work at the museum, through him and the

family's connections in St. Gallen, an

appointment was set up for me to view the

collection. This allowed me the opportunity

to help identify some of the items and give

Chokecherry shaft, purple chert, flared nock arrow

used by the author to down a 2,000-pound bison in

Cheyenne River with a 16-inch penetration.

further insight and information about their

"Indianer" collection.

I spent the day examining the items with

Nadine Zacharias, the researcher/curator in

charge of Native American artifacts for the

museum. I did come across some

remarkable Lakota (Sioux) arrows: four war

arrows and a matching set of buffalo

hunting arrows from the late 19th century in

exceptional condition.

The museum had stored them for

almost a hundred years and they are

probably from the 1870s. For arrows that

are likely at least 140 years old, the shafts

were still straight on the hunting arrows,

the sinew was still clear, the fletchings

were in excellent condition allowing me to

easily identify what birds they were from.

The paint used to mark and identify

two of the arrows was still bright and

colorful. Green and red marked two of

them, and dark blue marked an additional

seven—all common colors for Lakota

arrows—but I could not positively identify

the types of green and red paint. In my

opinion, they were painted with

commercial pigments acquired in trade. If

you look closely at the blue painted

arrows, you will notice a semi-glossy sheen

with small bubbles, which is produced

when pigment is mixed with hide glue.

I believe that the manufacturers as well

as the original owners of these arrows were

two separate individuals. The points on

the war arrows are shorter than the blue

arrows. The shafts on the red and green

painted arrows are not barrel-shaped,

which they are on the blue set. The barrel

shaping appears on chokecherry shafts

because when you harvest the wood for

arrow shafts, one end is usually thicker

than the other. The thickest end will

become your flared knock when carving.

The thinner end will become where you

fasten your point/arrowhead. Starting from

the middle of the shaft with the edge of a

blade, sharp bone tool or shell, one scrapes

back towards the flared knock to take off

excess wood and weight and achieve a

“barrel” shape. On these arrows it is

particularly subtle. The shaft is ever so

slightly thicker in the middle which

prohibits warping and create a stiff-spined

arrow. Furthermore, one’s chance of

retrieving a stiffer-spined arrow after a

Close-up of


and paint.

hunt are much better because the shaft is

stronger and penetration deeper into a

buffalo. A shaft with too much flex breaks

easily and does not go as deep into a bison.

I learned this from my own personal

experience. (Note the photograph on the

previous page of an arrow I used on a

2,000-pound, 13-year-old bill.)

I read an article about Comanche

arrows several years back in PA in which

the author mentioned that laundry bluing

was used to color the arrows. While this

may have been true in later years and

through trade, blue earth paint pigment

occurs naturally and tribes often mixed

blue paint with hide glue. I have seen

many sinew wrappings on Lakota arrows

painted this way and still do it myself

when making arrows.

Lightening grooves appear on

almost all Lakota arrows and

some Cheyenne arrows.

The average length of the shafts was

22", with the points being all about 3½ to

4 inches. The points were vertical to the

knock on the hunting arrows, and their

length told me these were designed to go

in between the 1½" to 2¼" gap of a buffalo

cow’s ribs. To me, these were obviously

trade points and all of them had serrated

tangs. The arrow heads most likely were

made from mild steel, being more iron

(with less carbon) and therefore not as

strong as a knife blade or spear point but

deadly to be sure.

The pitting and patina on the war

arrows told me the points themselves

could possibly be much older and were

recycled onto new shafts after repeated use

and recovery. The four war arrows had the

arrowheads placed differently and were Volume 21 Issue 1 41

Odd bow, blunt arrow,

and quiver combo in

St. Gallen museum.

slightly shorter in length than the hunting

arrows, their points being about three inches

in length. When examining them and

holding them as if to be knocked, they went

at a horizontal angle to the knock, thus being

designed to go through a man’s ribs which

are horizontal because we stand upright.

The arrows are colored red and black,

which appeared to be vermillion paint

acquired through trade and deadly when

used repeatedly as body paint due to its

high lead content. The black appeared to

be hardwood charcoal mixed with hide

glue. The fletchings were worn down on

these arrows, and the sinew wrappings dry

and dark with age, again suggesting these

four arrows could be a decade or so older

than the hunting arrows, or at least

suffered more repeated use.

The buffalo hunting arrows had some

points with broken-off tips. I have seen

situations where ¾ of an inch of the tip of

a mild steel point gets bent completely

back from striking a rib, the skull, or the

shoulder blade or leg bone. Sometimes you

miss the bison and your arrow point hits a

rock on the prairie. This can cause a bend

that will weaken the tip; if it does not

immediately break off, over time it can

separate and fall off. To me, this indicated

that these sets of arrows had been well

used and then kept and stored by a family

42 Volume 21 Issue 1

on the reservation until the 1920s when

the buyers came to purchase them and

take them back to Europe.

The fletchings are from 7½ to 9 inches

in length and are mostly from eagle and

hawk feathers. The knocks are the typical

flared knocks, and the shafts appeared to

be mostly chokecherry with possibly a few

made from ash saplings. They all had

“lightning grooves” etched into the shafts

which almost all Lakota arrows have on

them. These are not “blood grooves.”

These grooves do nothing in the way of

letting blood flow faster from wounded

prey. I have experimented with arrows that

have grooves and arrows without and there

is no difference. What matters is where

you hit the animal and the sharpness of the

tip you use—that will make the difference

of how much blood flows. For example, as

most of you bow hunters already know,

most kill shots are in the lung; this will

produce blood flow out of the side and

nostrils with air bubbles in the blood. The

pierced lung will fill with blood and the

animal will stop running and die.

The first time my research turned up

lightning grooves called “blood grooves”

was in a paper written by General Henry B.

Carrington in 1874 (first published in

Boston in 1884) entitled The Indian

Question, published by The Geographical

and Biological Sections of the British

Association for the Advancement of Science.

“The arrow is shot with more precision

than the pistol-ball and its blade is not,

like a bullet, to be deflected by tendon,

cartilage or bone. Its shaft has grooves,

through which, as conduits, the blood of

the wounded man or buffalo must

continue to flow, if the victim escape

capture as soon as shot.” While his

hypothesis may have sounded intriguing

at the time, it holds no water, or blood for

that matter. The lightning grooves are put

on every shaft for the purpose of giving

your arrows the “power” of lightning—

swift, deadly, powerful and precise just like

lightning strikes.

The Lakota have an origin story of the

bow and the horse, which are gifts from

the Wakinyan (wah-KEE-yah) or Thunder

Being. This being is sometimes represented

as the Wakinyanla or Thunderbird. It is

described by some Lakotas in early 20th

century interviews as a giant bird with no

head and a long sharp beak, no body but

huge wings, no legs but big talons. I live

on the prairie and in spring and summer,

at times you see ominous storm clouds

coming at you from the west and with just

a little imagination, you can see the

Wakinyanla. There is even a song, one of

the many my learned and scholarly brother

in law, Chris Ravenshead, keeps in his

memory banks, that is the Wakinyan

singing to the people, and he states that

“the bow is mine.”

Heyokah ta Ollowan

kola heyaya manipelo,

kola heyaya manipelo,

mahpiya kin sina wayelo

heyaya manipelo, hey.....lo

kola heyaya manipelo,

itazipa kin mitawayelo,

heyaya manipelo, hey.......lo

Lakota to English translation:

Friend I am coming walking,

Friend I am coming walking,

Friend I am coming walking,

The clouds are my blanket,

Friend I am coming walking,

The bow is mine,

Friend I am coming walking.

One of the things the Lakota elders

would say twenty years ago when I would

ask them about bows and bow wood was

that if a man came across an ash tree that

was struck by lightning, this was the ideal

tree to make a bow from. It had power.

To get back on point with the arrows,

these are definitely lightning grooves. My

brother-in-law Chris, and many of my

colleagues and peers agree that these

grooves also help to keep the shafts from

warping to a certain degree, that the

depressions made in them actually help

to compress the wood so that it is

“spined” in by those wavy lines and

therefore stronger, like when you burnish

wood. Burnishing smoothes and shines,

but it also compresses wood cells and

makes the wood harder, stronger, and less

likely to warp.

I enjoyed spending the entire day in

the Museum of St. Gallen, especially

examining the arrows and wondering who

owned them, where they had been and

what they had done—if only they could

talk! In a way, they do talk if we listen

closely and do enough research to

understand them. That is, for me, one of

the thrilling parts of being a perpetual

student of plains archery.

Of particular interest to me, besides

the arrows, were the original 1838

copperplate engravings by Swiss artist Karl

Bodmer, which I was able to view. Prince

Maximillian of Weid had hired the 23year-old

Swiss man to accompany him on

his expedition to America and paint tribes

while the Pince documented everyday life,

customs, ceremonies, and buffalo hunts.

The expedition took place in 1833 – 1834.

To think that Natives were living in an

aboriginal state at that time would be a

mistake, however, as tribes had had

European trade items such as guns, iron,

beads, brass, and cloth for a century

already. Like American artist and

ethnologist George Catlin who embarked

on his expedition a year earlier, Bodmer

and the Prince witnessed, documented

and painted many different tribes using

plains archery/horse archery for warfare,

for the hunt, and for games and gambling.

There was an odd combination on

permanent display, not in storage like the

arrows. It included a quiver, arrow, and

bow. The brain-tanned quiver had

beadwork only on the side facing out that

an observer could see, while the side

which would face the quiver wearer’s back

had no beadwork. Practically, such a

quiver would be lighter and the beadwork

would not get beaten, worn or rubbed off

during use. This is, however, atypical for

plains quivers. The blunt arrow, including

the fletchings, was painted with a

beautiful bright red vermillion. This is a

typical plains blunt arrow.

The bow, however, seemed out of place.

It appeared to be sinew backed but looked

more like a West Coast item. The wood

was possibly western juniper or red cedar

and the handle was sloppily wrapped with

a long hide strip. This is something I don’t

normally see on Northern Plains bows. The

tips of the limbs were not tapered but had

diamond-shaped knock ends. The paint

job seemed very ungraceful, and I didn’t

recognize the theme. This could have been

an item manufactured during the

reservation/agency era to be sold to tourists

and trading posts. There are Lakota arrows

Serrated tangs on trade points

gave a better grip when wrapping

sinew to secure them.

inside the quiver (upside down) with the

points sticking up, no doubt placed that

way in a much earlier period so museum

goers could see them.

To find these treasures in such

excellent condition, in a small corner of

Switzerland, not far from the border of

Austria, thousands and thousands of miles

away from the prairie on which I live and

where they were made a century and a half

ago was truly a remarkable thing.

Special thanks to the Gassman family,

Windcross Conservancy for Spanish

Mustangs (US & Switzerland), Achim

Schafer, Assistant Director of the Museum

of St. Gallen, and Nadine Zacharias in

charge of the Indianer Collection, and to

my favorite archery magazine of all time—

Primitive Archer!

Coming up in Part II of The Swiss

Connection: the Seggesser Hide, Plains

Horse Archery Clinic in Switzerland and a

visit to the 1st Annual Swiss Horse

Archery Festival in Baltenscheider! Volume 21 Issue 1 43

Photos by

Kali McKinney

A Off-SeasonCarp

nyone who has ever been bowfishing

or who has followed it

knows that the best time to hunt

invasive carp is in the spring. This is when

they are the easiest to find and shoot as

they make their way into the shallows to

spawn. There is no shortage of videos

available showing just how successful a

spring bow-fishing excursion can be, as

literally boat loads of carp are off loaded at

the end of the day.

Unfortunately, just like the rut of the

white-tail deer, the carp spawn seems to

end too suddenly, and most hunters either

put their bows away and grab a fishing

pole or find a 3D shoot to fill their time

until fall arrives. The carp, like other fish,

prefer deeper and cooler water as the full

heat of summer arrives, and the accepted

wisdom is that they are too difficult to find

to make bow-fishing for them worth the

effort. This is not necessarily true,

however, and if you do a little homework

you may not have to lay your bow aside.

The assumption that carp will

eventually move into deeper water after

the spawn is based on their ability to do so.

44 Volume 21 Issue 1

But what if they sometimes don’t have that

option? What if because of their

unfortunate location they are physically

unable to move into deeper water and can

do nothing except swim in shallower

water? It would follow that they could

then be hunted using a bow and arrow. In

fact, because of this captivity in shallow

water, you can even leave the boat at home

and pull on your favorite wading shoes!

No doubt you are now asking yourself

where is this magical land of shallow

swimming carp? Finding the answer

requires a little homework, the use of

satellite maps found on the internet, and a

little summer exploration on your part.

Focus on rivers and tributaries that are too

shallow for boats to navigate. An obvious

A sit-on-top kayak provides a

shooting platform and allows

you to cover more water than

when wading.

B y T i m L e w i s

point to begin is with any river near you

that passes through a hydro-power plant,

because these rivers are typically shallow

on the downstream side of the plant and

can often be waded easily. This is

particularly true when the water is being

diverted in order to generate electricity.

The sudden diversion of water leaves carp

trapped in the deepest pools that they can

find and wondering what happened to

their river.

Other areas of possibility are rivers or

tributaries with sections of calm water

with shallow ‘riffles’ at the top and the

bottom of that same area. This structure

leaves the fish trapped in the center with

no way to make it to the deeper parts of

the river. In most cases, fish can be easily

spotted along the bottom of these funnel

points by simply standing on a protruding

rock and looking into the water with

polarized glasses.

A kayak will pay for itself in spades in

these small pools, particularly the type

that you can stand on. You don’t even need

a trolling motor! You can simply ride the

current down stream, shooting as you go,

or you can throw a small anchor in the

water behind you and wait for them to

come to you. No matter which tactic you

use, the key is to elevate yourself as much

as possible above the water so that you can

see the fish at the bottom. I have often

suspected that the best tactic would be a

step-ladder placed in the water, which

could then be sat on and arrows launched

from the top of it. Perhaps a little

cumbersome in practice, but it illustrates

the importance of elevation. The higher

you are from the surface of the water, the

greater your field of vision in the water

will be.

The fish will be at the deepest part of

the shallow water that they can find. There

will be sunny, clear days when you might

see a few sitting almost on the surface, but

most of the time they will be trolling up

and down stream, in the center of the

water body. On sunnier days they can also

be found schooling within the shade of

over-hanging trees. This means that

although they are visible, there is more

water above them than you would expect

to see during the spawn and therefore

more water to be dealt with when you


For this reason, heavier bows seem to

work better. The more energy the arrow

has, the straighter it will travel underwater

before deflecting. Though the shots can

sometimes come at a frantic pace with this

type of bow fishing, they seldom come as

quickly as during the spawn. As a result, a

heavier bow is not unmanageable and aids

greatly in hitting the fish.

I should warn you now that this type of

bow fishing is extremely addicting and is

more akin to deer hunting than bow

fishing. These fish will see you if you move

a lot or suddenly appear in front of them

but usually not before you can get off a

shot if you are prepared and quick enough.

A friend of mine bow fishes the same way

that he deer hunts—he uses the same

compound bow that he uses for deer,

utilizing his release, peep site, fiber optic

pins, and all. The only difference is that he

attaches a reel to his bow and uses a

fiberglass arrow. He is very successful and

prefers to take longer shots at carp as they

surface in the deep pools. I prefer to use a

wide, flat bow that not only allows me to

‘snap’ shoot at the fish as they pass but,

due to the wide cross-section limbs, also

allows me to mount a commercial fishing

reel or ‘bottle’ to it. In fact, my favorite is a

red-oak bow I made from a home supply

store specifically for this purpose.

From a tactical standpoint, use the

current to your advantage and look for

underwater funnel points the fish likely

use to get from one pool of water to

another. Or if you are hunting from a rock

over a deep pool, locate an underwater

shelf that is visible just before the water

deepens and you will often see fish expose

themselves as they swim over it. Another

very effective tactic is to stake out a spot

where the bottom is light colored, due to a

sandy bottom or pile of rocks, and wait for

the fish to create a silhouette as they swim

over it.

If you fish a known collection point,

such as shadows on the water and

submerged logs, a good tactic is to position

yourself just off the edge of the shadow or

structure and shoot at those members of

A wide-limbed flat bow makes

mounting a fishing reel easier.

Polarized sunglasses

are a must for seeing

through the water to

the fish below.

the group that stray away from the others.

By not interrupting the main body of fish,

the ones you miss will simply return to the

group for safety as opposed to moving

from the area completely.

Carp are lazy creatures and will often

place themselves at the bottom of fast

moving stream in order to eat whatever

gets washed down to them. This means

that they sometimes collect at the bottom Volume 21 Issue 1 45

46 Volume 21 Issue 1

These pools of water hold fish and

can easily be hunted by wading.

of the riffle, where the water begins to

calm. They also like to sit in the quiet and

often shallow pools next to fast moving

water where they don’t have to fight the

current but are close enough to the dinner

table that they can swing out and grab a

bite when the urge strikes them. Though

difficult to see through, don’t rule out the

faster water as carp are extremely strong

and seem to find it a minor inconvenience

to swim up and down stream in fast

moving eddies and currents.

The best days for bow fishing late

season carp are cloudless, sunny days

preceded by periods of little rain. This

makes the water clear and the sun

penetrates even the deepest of small pools

ensuring that, if nothing else, you’ll at least

be able to make out large shadows as they

glide past you. I have found very few

things as exciting as shooting at one of

these ‘shadows’ and, upon connecting,

reeling it in to see how big or how small

my prize is.

As stated, I have used any bow I can get

my hands on for this sport and have used

everything from the kind of commercial

bow fishing reels that you see on television

to winding up the string in my cargo

pocket and allowing it to feed out as I

shoot. It is really a matter of how much

equipment you want to buy or what your

imagination can concoct. Of course, Fred

Bear simply tied his fiberglass arrow to a

line coming from a fishing rod and reel;

when he got a hit, he would drop the bow

and grab the fishing rod in order to reel in

his prey.

A kayak or a canoe can expose you to

many more fish simply because you can

move around easily and are elevated over

the water. The river I hunt can easily be

waded across as the water is not higher

than my waist. However, I often take my

kayak because I can stand up on it and use

it for a shooting platform. A canoe might

work even better since I suspect that when

the fish spot me they are actually looking

at my legs.

Another tactic is to wade out to any

rock protruding from the surface of the

water, stand on it, and wait for the fish to

swim past you (sounds like ambushing

deer, strangely enough!). If you are

fortunate to find an area with several large

ocks, you can easily lose track of the day

as you wade from platform to platform,

shooting at whatever fish may be in the

area. Also, if you have a kayak or canoe,

don’t be afraid to wade alongside it to pull

it over the fast shallow water and place it

in the deeper pools beyond. These are

areas you can be sure have never been bow

fished by the larger boats.

These tactics will seem second nature

to you once you begin. You will find

yourself perched on a rock and staring

intently into the water below and looking

for a shadow or the outline of a fish. I have

waited as long as twenty minutes in this

position before I giving up. From small

watercraft, the shots will come more

frequently as the fish meander around the

bottom of the river and hardly expect to see

anyone suspended in the middle of it with

a tightly strung bow to welcome them.

Make sure to check your local game

laws and shoot at only fish that are legal.

In my home state of West Virginia, only a

fishing license is needed which makes

this a great sport for young hunters who

may or may not have a hunter safety card

yet. Also pay attention to laws that may

govern how the fish can be disposed of

once you reel them in. My state prohibits

leaving them on the banks of the river or


The river in these photos is

the Shenandoah River just

before it joins with the

Potomac in Harper’s Ferry.

If you find yourself sitting inside and

wishing it was hunting season, then stop!

Throw a rig together, grab some shorts and

old shoes, and get in the water. Even if you

don’t shoot a fish, you will at least get

some exercise, practice your stalking

skills, cool off, and (most important) have

an excuse to carry a tightly strung bow in

your hands. Volume 21 Issue 1 47

B y C i p r i a n o R i v e r a



Congratulations to Cody “misslemaster”

from Huntley, IL, for winning

September Self Bow of the Month with

his Buckhorn Character Bow! There is not

much that I can say about this young man’s

ability to make a fine bow that his bows do not

say for themselves. This bow has that primitive

look. I am sure it feels ancient in the hand, and

yet it’s a modern marvel at bowery.

Here is what Cody had to say of his build:

Hi guys. I know I’m a little slow, but I

finally got it done! A lot of you guys saw me

building this and I figured I would post the

finished product. It’s buckthorn (I love it!),

about 55# @ 27". 59" NTN. 1-1/8" at the

handle, 1-½" at mid limb, tapering to ½"

nocks. She stands dead flat after shooting a

bunch, and holds 1” reflex at rest. I was

surprised how much wood I had to remove in

order to get it down to poundage! It only

weighs 15 oz.! Tips are bloodwood. This is my

first attempt at a Strunk-style handle wrap. It

turned out okay. This bow shoots a fast arrow

(I’m surprised at how tight the string is at

brace!) and is quiet. In the braced photo, there

appears to be a hinge just below the handle. I

was worried when I first got a string on her! It’s

simply a natural deflex that is actually a little

thicker there. I used eight coats of oil and a coat of wax. Enjoy!

Here are the comments from some forum members:

“Man Cody that bow is sweet! Great character in that one, real nice

bend and top notch workmanship on tips and handle, way to tame

that rugged wood. I love it. Still have some buckthorn in my shop, it

scares me, not quite up to the challenge yet. Great job on yours.” -


“You did an excellent job working with the character of the wood.

And your handle wrap turned out great. Well done!” –Godon

48 Volume 21 Issue 1

“Really nice job! Great tiller and finish work. That grip looks topnotch

too!” –Adam

“Man oh man, Cody! You just keep raising the bar. An excellent

looking bow from a challenging piece of wood.” –mullet

“Cody you have propelled yourself to the list of top bowyers in the

world. Your quality and attention to detail is seen in all the bows you

have been making and this one is certainly one of the best.

Congratulations, my friend, on another amazing work of art and

lethal weapon.” –Keenan

Congratulations to Ed Kleinhesselink “Beadman” from

Corydon, Iowa, for winning September Backed Bow of the

Month! This is Ed’s debut bow post online, and it is a

dandy for sure. This is obviously not Ed’s first build, as you can

clearly see the attention to detail and craftsmanship in his build.

Hickory/horn/sinew … here is what Beadman had to say

about his bow:

Hello all. I decided to make a bow with a high enough

percentage of composite materials to give the bow more durability

with a profile that would enhance performance. I’ve seen Asiatic

bows be very resilient after being strung for long periods of time.

My percentages would be scaled down a bit compared to the

Asiatic bows. Asiatic bows are generally made 33%, 33%, 33%.

My thought for this bow was 20%, 60%, 20%. More time in

construction, but I was up for the challenge. Wood of choice was

hickory. I have a lot of it around me. A stave that I tillered a

25#@28" bow from. Composites were gemsbok horn,

deer leg sinew, and something a little different, backstrap

from a beef. After bending my recurves in and gluing my

horn and sinew on, I waited two months.

The long string told me I had a 75# bow in my hands.

Mass weight was 22 ounces with a reflex of 7-3/8". My

mission was on track. After tillering it to 58#@28" mass

weight was 18.75 ounces with a resting reflex of 4-1/2".

After shooting a couple hundred arrows, it shot smooth,

sweet, quiet, and hit where I was looking. I noticed after

unbracing the arrow was getting 3-1/2" reflex to it. It shot

a standard weight arrow with 4" fletching in the low to

mid 170s with a standard weight string. Not excellent but

good anyway. It really by rights probably should be

drawn to 29". The composite materials are doing at least

70% of the tension and compression work. The overall

stats are 58-3/4" ntn 1-3/8" wide at the fades tapering to

1-3/16" then quickly down to 3/4" then to 7/16" wide

tips. I finished it with some light brown dye, bulletshaped

horn overlays on the tips and belly of the handle,

a water snake skin, black silk wraps, and a blackish

leather wrap handle. I gave it a lacquer finish for a


Here are what some forum members had to say:

“You know I’ve been waiting to see this one thru our messaging...

and boy was it worth the wait. That thing is sexy as females curves

from every angle. Thanks for posting it.” –Blackhawk

“Beadman, great bow! … love that quiver too. Good luck this hunting

season, you definitely got the bow to get the job done.” –Greg

“I think those are the sexiest photos ever taken! Amazing amazing

bow and I got to shoot it this afternoon. This bow is smooth

shooting. Once I matched an arrow to the bow, it was bullseye time.

Great job, Ed, remember me in your will haha.” –iowabow

“Very nice, Ed. You did a great job with it.” –Marc St Louis

“Excellent...and sexy!” –Pat B Volume 21 Issue 1 49

B y C i p r i a n o R i v e r a





ongratulations to Simson Sieß from Germany for winning

October Self BOM with his Big elm flat bow!!!

Here is what Simson had to say about his bow:

Lying in the bed with influenza attack, cannot do any work. I have

decided to show you another bow. So, perhaps some of you are

perhaps bored – sorry for that. Here she is: Elm sapling bow, stave

was about 5" in diameter. It was harvested in late spring, so the

back shows after debarking the early grain / fibers as a wonderful

landscape like a field with a lot of humps and dumps. Yes, I know

the early wood is not the best as back, but I could not resist leaving

it on. The piece had many little branches, which I also left on and

cut off at about 1/4". The area just above the handle shows the relic

of a dead branch (hollow stump) of about 3/4" in diameter and ca.

2" depth! The belly is flat and at some sections grooved, it shows

a nice combination of the heartwood and sapwood.

The stave has a propeller twist and a problematic side profile. The

lower limb runs on the outside (back) of the grip, the upper limb

to the inside (belly), because of the stump. The result is an

unusual braced side profile, like a negative tiller. The arc of the Volume 21 Issue 1

lower limb is higher than the upper limb. Crazy! No leather

handle, no overlays – just a stick and a string. String alignment is

corrected with dry heat. The back is stained to show the nice

surface. 70" ntn, max. width is 2.25" very light heat treatment. The

bow came out with 74# @ 28", shoots very nice and fast. (I can’t

believe a flatbow so long is so fast). The hollow stump is filled with

a whisky reservoir (in case of snakebites and so on. Simson

Here is what some forum members had to say about:

“Cool! That is a real work of art! –lesken2011

“That baby is pure art Simson. I’m just grinning ear to ear looking

at that beauty imagining the dumbfounded look some hardcore

wheelie bow guy might give you if he ran into you in the woods with

that bow in hand. You could then offer him a snort of the whiskey to

bring him back to his senses. Spectacular bow, I just love it.” –Greg

“Man i just love it!! That one is just too awesome, especially with

the “stump”. Great job on a very difficult piece. Hope you get better

soon!” –K-Hat

“I missed this one the initial go around. Just linked to it through

BOM thread, and I have to say, this bow has a good shot at BOM.

Honestly, your bows are some of the best I have seen on PA. It is

very evident you take a lot of pride in your craftsmanship. Seeing

your bows always inspires me to slow down and take the extra

effort in the finer details of my own bow efforts.” –CMB

“I just have one thing to say...WOW..i didn’t know elm was so

pretty.” –john

“That is a beautiful bow with a beautiful tiller! Well done.” –Jawge

“Thats a fine bow Soy. Nicely done in execution and finish, really

pleasing to the eye. On a side note I've done half a dozen black

walnut selfbows, unbacked with sapwood left on, no problems with

walnut sapwood. Yours is excellent man, well done.” –Greg


ongratulations to Thad “Soy” from

Faribault, Minnesota, for winning

the October Backed Bow of the

Month contest! Thad has been building bows

and entering them religiously in our monthly

contest. He’s a humble and unassuming

Primitive Archer member who is not afraid to

try a new method. Thad believes that winning

is building bows and sharing his successes

and disappointments with all of us. This

month we all relish in this fine bow crafted by

Thad. The owner of that bow is one lucky


Soy’s Walnut with Sapwood

Here is what Thad had to say about his


“Sorry to bore y’all with so many pics of

one bow, but I could not find just one that

would tell the tale...So it is 66”ntn 50# @27”

black walnut from gundoc, linen backed with

a couple of sapwood rings and covered with a

pair of western diamond back rattlesnake

skins I got from Cippy and the icing on the

cake are the antler tips.... This bow is very

easy on the eyes and a pleasure to shoot. I

can’t stop with the black walnut until I’m

satisfied I know how to make a bow with it. This is the first time

I’ve used any that was not the dead standing. It was really cool

looking without the backing on it, but the new owner wanted

skins so I figured why not put the insurance policy on it. It’s too

bad because it was really fetching without it. Hope you all enjoy.

Also as always criticism welcomed as I am still trying to learn

Forum members had a lot to say about Thad’s October Backed

Bow of the Month win:

“Absolutely stunning in every way. That is as classy as it gets, and I

already know how well it shoots. The tiller is perfect and the finish

is exquisite! Well done, well done indeed!” –Josh

“Sweet soy, great bend on that one.” –Bub

“Clean tiller, nice contrast of the wood—a really fine bow! –simson

“Now that is a beauty. Sweet bow and love the finish work

also.” –Pappy Volume 21 Issue 1 51



North Georgia


Primitive Skills Festival

Knap-In B y B i l l y B e r g e r

Every spring in late April I get

excited because I know one of my

favorite gatherings will be coming

soon. When the spring sun warms your

back and the sweet aroma of honeysuckle

and privet blossoms is carried on gentle

breezes, I know where I’ll be heading: The

North Georgia Knap-In and Primitive

Skills Festival.

The North Georgia Primitive Skills

Festival is held 45 minutes north of

Atlanta in scenic Gatewood Park in

Cartersville, Georgia. It is conveniently

located within eight minutes of I-75, and

the setting is absolutely beautiful: tall oak

and pine trees surround the large grassy

field where the festival is held. A portion of

the park is bordered by Lake Allatoona,

which was created when the Etowah River

was dammed years ago. Admission is free Volume 21 Issue 1

(photo 1).

If you are there to buy finished flint

knapping art, there are the stunning works

by some of the world’s best flint knappers

including Dan Theus, Steve Behrnes,

Woody Blackwell, and Jim Hopper. These

works command high prices, and the skill

with which they were made is immediately

evident (photo 2). If you want to buy

finished work but don’t want to break the

bank, there are the works of less well

known knappers and their pieces are much

more affordable.

If primitive archery gear is more to

your liking, wooden bows of all different

types are available for purchase. My good

friend and bow maker Dan Spier is always

there with an entire rack of bows for sale.

His painting and creative skills transform

these weapons into works of art which are

Photo 1: A portion of the

numerous vendors and patrons

who attend the festival.

as beautiful as they are functional. Dan

also sells split staves of various woods if

you would like to make your own bow.

There are two large hay bales in the center

of the field where atl-atl and primitive

archery target practice can be done.

Raw stone can also be obtained. Flint

nodules fresh from the earth, sawed slabs,

and even preforms are available. And the

wide array of stone is staggering:

translucent Novaculite from Arkansas,

Sonora flint from Kentucky, colorful

Agatized coral from Florida, Flint River

jasper from Georgia, Root Beer flint and

blue-gray Georgetown flint from Texas,

rainbow colored Flint Ridge flint from

Ohio, jet black obsidian from Oregon, and

even exotic man-made materials like

iridescent fiber optic glass of every color

(photo 3).

Photo 2: Colorful Flint Ridge flint points made by master knapper, Roy Miller.

Got the stone but need the tools?

There are plenty to be found here. Large

antler billets of moose and elk for

percussion work as well as smaller tines

for pressure flaking are all available. If

“abo knapping” isn’t your thing, there

are more than enough copper boppers

and pressure flakers to round out your

modern flint knapping toolkit. This

festival is your one-stop-shop for

everything primitive. Stone carvings,

leather crafts, gourd bowls, artifact

cases, flint knapping tools, arrow

materials, t-shirts, books, and even

videos are for sale. There are plenty of

items for the Misses as well, including

beautiful necklaces, earrings, and

jewelry. A colorful set of arrowhead

earrings or an arrowhead necklace will

surely get the attention of her friends at

the office.

Photo 3: An example of the wide variety

of stone available from vendors. Volume 21 Issue 1 53

Photo 4: The parking lot is packed with cars from all over the country.

Get there early to take advantage of the best items!

Photo 5: Archaeologist Carl Ethridge (seated) demonstrates the ancient art of making arrows from local river cane.

54 Volume 21 Issue 1

I even had a booth. It was amazing

how many people recognized me from the

Discovery Channel TV show, I, Caveman.

And if they happened to miss the TV show,

they knew me from my YouTube videos.

“Hey Billy, I watch your YouTube videos all

the time” was something I heard countless

times. It was great to meet people who

watch my videos and follow me on the

internet. I find it pleasantly ironic that we

use computers and the internet to spread

ancient primitive skills to the world.

The North Georgia Primitive Skills

Festival is scheduled every spring during

the last weekend of April and brings

vendors from all over the country (photo 4).

Vendor setup is on Thursday. Friday and

Saturday are the two big days when

numerous customers and the public

wander through, but if you plan on doing

some shopping I suggest getting there on

Friday if possible because a lot of choice

items are snatched up early. Vendors

usually begin packing up and leaving

around noon on Sunday.

On Saturday there are free

demonstrations all day long on topic like

bow making, arrow making, basic flint

knapping, making fire by friction, making

cordage, and edible plants (photo 5).

If you are interested in being a vendor or

would like to receive literature and

announcements about the next festival,

contact Dave Swetmon at 770-304-8760 or

e-mail him at, or

Mike Blackston at 706-283-7143 at Or visit the

North Georgia Knap-In website at

The festival is a place to meet new people

and spend time with good friends (photo 6).

Everyone is very friendly, and they are

willing to help you out if you have questions

(photo 7). And they enjoy spreading the

amazing world of primitive skills to anyone

who’s interested. It’s a great time and I hope

to see you there next April!

Photo 7: Artist Dan Spier loves

to answer questions and spread

his knowledge to others. Here he

shows some interested patrons

the finer points of flint knapping.

Photo 6: The author (right) with his good friend Dan Spier enjoying

the beautiful weekend at the festival. Photo by Karla Berger Volume 21 Issue 1 55

MedicineMAN ®


s the sun was rising over the

eastern ridgetops, the camp of the

People was already astir. The fire

had been rekindled, and a thread of smoke

soon rose above the treetops as people

folded their sleeping skins and began to

prepare the morning meal. In the center of

camp near the fire, two great logs lay

supported off the ground by strong green

poles and forked stakes amid piles of wood

chips, bark, and charcoal. One was

smoothed, squared at each end, and was

almost hollowed out inside while the other

merely had the bark stripped off and the

ends still showed the ragged effects of

being burnt to length. At this camp, the

People had come together to make new

dugout canoes.

The rivers were the highways of the

People, and the large dugout canoes were

the main means of transport for war

parties, trading parties, and cargo. Each

canoe was constructed of the hollowed-out

log of a great tree and could carry up to

twenty or thirty men and their weapons

and gear, or a party of traders and all their

cargo. Building one was a group effort, and

the canoes belonged collectively to the

village whose people had built them. This

camp was situated near a grove of the tall,

straight-trunked trees that were preferred

for canoe making.

Felling a large tree big enough for a

war or trading canoe was a dangerous and

difficult task. The tree was selected and

then girdled and scored around the base

with stone axes. A fire was built around the

base of the tree and was kept burning until

the great bole fell to earth. The log was

then trimmed to length by the same method

of chopping and burning. After de-barking,

the ends of the log were squared, smoothed

and shaped, and then the work of

hollowing the interior began.

The People scored and chopped the top

of the log and then built a fire on top of the

flattened trunk. They used wet clay to

control the spread of the flames and coals.

After allowing the fire to burn several

inches into the log, the People removed the

56 Volume 21 Issue 1

Tulip Poplar

coals, scraped the charred wood and

chopped it out with stone adzes and shells;

then, they replaced the coals and repeated

the process over and over until the interior

of the canoe was hollowed and smoothed,

leaving only thin walls and a slightly

thicker floor. The last step of the process

involved filling the hollowed canoe with

water. The People dropped heated stones

into the water-filled canoe until the water

boiled and the wood was heated and

softened. Then, they wedged strong premeasured

green poles between the walls of

the canoe to spread and widen the center of

the hull. This process often took many days

B y S t e v e P a r k e r

of hard work, but the resulting canoe could

last for decades.

The final tedious stages of hollowing a

canoe demanded constant supervision by

the more experienced men, as one moment

of inattention could spoil days of work.

The finished canoes had hulls thinned to

less than half a finger-width: a single

uncontrolled coal or an errant chop of an

adze could breach the hull, ruining the

vessel. This morning, the Medicine Man

was one of those tasked with supervising

the final hollowing of the first canoe. He

gauged the heat of a cluster of coals near

the bow of the craft, adding a few more

handfuls of wet clay to limit the spread of

the fire in a section of the hull that he

judged to be almost thin enough. As he

concentrated on the task at hand, he was

interrupted by a tug at his sleeve. A young

boy stood nervously, waiting for his


The boy told the Medicine Man that his

mother had sent him to the healer for help.

His little sister, a toddler, was stricken with

a high fever. The Medicine Man turned

over the supervision of the canoe to

another warrior and followed the boy to

his mother’s camp. He entered the bark hut

and found the worried mother anxiously

cradling a small child. The youngster’s

forehead was burning with fever, and the

woman told the healer that the toddler was

also suffering from severe diarrhea. Being

in a temporary camp, the Medicine Man

had no access to the many healing herbs

that he had stored in his house in the

village where he lived, but he thought he

knew how to help the sick child.

The healer hurried through the camp to

the grove of canoe trees. Using a pointed

stick, he dug around the stump of one of the

felled trees until he uncovered a root and

followed it until he found a smaller feeder

root of thumb diameter. He pulled the root

from the ground and cut it off with his flint

knife. He took the root to the river and

washed it, then returned to the sick child.

He peeled the outer bark from the root,

then scraped the inner bark into a clay pot,

and macerated it with a clean stick. He

added water and set it on the fire to

simmer. Soon, a spicy fragrance filled the

bark hut. He strained some of the hot

liquid into a cup through a wad of dry

grass and allowed it to cool. He carefully

held the cup of healing tea to the ill child’s

lips and let her swallow it sip by sip. He

scraped more of the root bark into the pot

and moved it away from the fire a bit. He

instructed the mother to give the sick child

a couple more cupfuls of the healing tea

throughout the day. When he went to check

on the toddler late that evening, he found

her sweating heavily—her fever was

beginning to break. He told the mother to

continue dosing the child with the tea the

next day.

Two days later, as the first new canoe

was being carried to the river for its

maiden voyage, he saw the little girl

running through the camp, playing with Volume 21 Issue 1 57

her friends. The canoe tree had provided

the People not only with a means of

transportation but also a healing medicine

for one of their children. Perhaps one day,

the girl would travel down the river in a

huge dugout canoe, never realizing that the

same tree had saved her life years earlier

when she was a fever-wracked toddler.


The healing tree used by the

Medicine Man was the tulip poplar

(Liriodendron tulipifera.) This large tree

of the magnolia family, also known as

yellow poplar and tulip tree, grows in

mesic woodlands throughout eastern

North America from Ontario and

Vermont south to Florida, and west to

Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and eastern

Texas. The tulip poplar is one of the few

trees which is at once a pioneer species,

colonizing disturbed soil and old fields,

and a dominant woodland canopy

species. It is both extremely fast growing

and long-lived. Some of the largest oldgrowth

trees in the eastern United States

are tulip poplars. In areas such as the

Great Smoky Mountains of North

Carolina, stands of virgin tulip poplars

reach 190 feet in height and several feet

in trunk diameter. One specimen in

Virginia has a trunk that measures over

thirty feet in circumference.

The common name of tulip tree

comes from the shape of both the

flowers and leaves. The leaves are 4lobed

in a rough tulip shape and grow

alternately on the twigs. The bark is

smooth on younger trees, becoming

deeply furrowed in older specimens. The

flowers, borne in late spring, are also

suggestive of a tulip. They give way to a

cone-like seedpod in the fall. The seeds

are winged samaras. All parts of the tree

have a spicy fragrance.


The tulip polar has a long history of

medicinal usage. It has diuretic,

febrifuge, vermifuge, tonic, and

stimulant properties. Native Americans

58 Volume 21 Issue 1

and early settlers used an infusion of the

root bark to treat dysentery, fevers,

malaria, indigestion, rheumatism, infant

cholera, syphilis, toothaches, and

coughs. It was used externally as a

poultice for headaches, cuts, sores, boils,

gangrene, snakebites, and other wounds.

A strong tea was used to expel

pinworms. An ointment made from the

buds was used to heal sores,

inflammation, and burns. The bark was

also chewed as a stimulant and

aphrodisiac. One herbalist from the mid-

1800s said of tulip poplar: “There is no

root or bark, within my knowledge, that I

consider more valuable, and during a long

experience it has proved in my hands one of

the most valuable of remedies, and may be

given in every instance to restore the

general health. I have found it superior to

the Peruvian Bark (quinine.)”


The tulip poplar has limited food

usage. The flowers are a rich source of

nectar and are a bountiful source of

honey. The root bark has been used to

flavor root beer.

Other Uses:

The tulip poplar is a commercially

valuable timber tree. The wood is light,

soft, and easily worked, but strong for its

weight. The wood is used for framing,

general lumber, and furniture frames.

Tulip poplar wood was the most

common wood used in much of eastern

North America for building log cabins,

due to its tall, straight growth habit, and

lack of branches. It is also easily split.

Many old hewed, dovetailed log cabins

were manufactured by splitting tulip

poplar logs into thinner sections. The

heartwood was sometimes also split into

roofing shingles. The wood is good for

carving. Tulip poplar wood was the

traditional wood used in Appalachia for

carved dough bowls, spoons, and


Tulip poplar wood also has primitive

uses. The split heartwood makes

excellent arrow shafts and is one of the

best woods for friction firemaking. It

makes superior hearth boards for hand

drill fire kits and is good for both spindle

and hearth board for bow drill fire sets.

Tulip poplar trunks were the wood of

choice for many eastern tribes and early

European settlers for making large

dugout canoes and rafts.

The inner bark of tulip poplar

contains strong bast fibers, which have

been used for making cordage, rope, and

woven textiles. Often, fallen poplar logs

can be found in the woods which are

naturally retted to just the right stage for

extracting the bast fibers.

The outer bark of tulip poplar easily

slips from the wood during the growing

season. It can be peeled off in large

sheets and used for making lean-tos or

roofing material. Many wigwams and

longhouses of the Eastern Woodland

tribes were covered with tulip poplar

bark, as were the roofs of wattle-anddaub

houses. Appalachian settlers made

roofing shingles and siding for cabins

from the bark. The bark is also easily

made into folded berry buckets and

containers, and can be cut into narrow

strips and used for basket weaving or

lashing. A yellow dye can be made from

the inner bark.

The tulip poplar is widely used as an

ornamental and shade tree and is sold in

the nursery industry. It is fast growing,

easily transplanted, and adaptable to

many different soils.


Our ancestors lived intimately with the

land and, over time, accumulated much

knowledge of which plants to use for

different purposes. Before industrial

civilization, this knowledge was

widespread and necessary for survival.

Now, much knowledge has been lost. It is

our duty and in our best interests to

preserve useful plant knowledge and

incorporate it into our lives as well as to

preserve our environment and the wild

plants that in the future may once again

become our very means of survival.


What is a selfbow? One solid piece

of wood, carved from a tree and

finessed into an arc. The journey

to the final product is just as important to me

as the finished bow. That is obviously the

bowyer in me talking. Many people who

shoot selfbows never see the bow in stave

form or have any idea what tools were used

in its construction. I don’t consider myself a

purist by any means. I use many traditional

tools and techniques in making bows,

arrows, and points, but I don’t craft my bows

with flakes of chert or sandstone blocks.

There may be an undefined line between a

“Traditionalist” and a “Purist.” In whatever

category I may fall, one thing is for certain—

I love my hand tools!

I see many pictures of folks building

bows with band saws and other power tools.

I don’t shun or put down anyone for using a

power tool. I’m not arrogant enough to tell

someone that they are not doing it correctly.

That which is correct is that which best takes

you down the road to success. I have seen

many a fine bow cut out with a band saw and

even a few cut laser straight on a table saw.

For me, the best approach is through the use



B y R y a n G i l l

Hand Tools Volume 21 Issue 1

of a couple good hand tools, a hatchet, a

machete, and a straight handled

drawknife\scraper. Some would say, “Sure,

it’s easy to say you don’t like a band saw until

you have used one.” Agreed. I do in fact have

one and have used it a few times. There is

something about the whine of the blade and

hum of the motor that is very impersonal to

me. The wood may have taken decades to

grow, and in a few minutes I lop it off with

little effort. Perhaps it’s out of respect for the

wood that I work it by hand. I can appreciate

the wood and the grain as I sweat through

reducing a full stave into shavings and,

eventually, into a floor tillered bow.

The more bows I make, the more I realize

that following the grain is ever important.

Many bows are made with a perfect growth

ring on the back, yet suffer greatly from

excessive grain run-out. This is especially

true with Osage. A good bow can actually be

made with a fair amount of grain run-out,

but a better bow would be obtained by

following the grain as closely as possible. I

have noticed that a bow’s “expiration” comes

earlier when the grain is violated. For me,

there is no better way to follow the grain

The right hand side of the stave has been

sawn straight while the left has been hand

split. This is often the case with commercially

bought staves. The straight line cut by the saw

clearly cuts through the meandering grain

leaving many places of grain run-out and

encouraging lifted splinters or broken bows.

than with a drawknife. Wood splits off where

it wants to rather than being forced into

compliance with hundreds of sawing teeth. A

stave will tell you a lot if you take time to

watch, feel, and listen.

My favorite way to build a bow is by eye

and feel. I measure a stave and mark center

which can also easily be done with a length

of cordage and dividing it in half. I like a

center mark and that is all. The rest of the

stave won’t have any pencil marks when I

start. I begin by removing the obvious bits

and lengths that will not be in my bow. I use

a sharp machete or a hatchet if the wood is

extra tough. I take plenty of time to “eye

ball” the stave from different directions and

remove wood slowly. As the stave takes a

closer-to-finished form, I switch to the

straight handled drawknife. The slow pull of

the knife should follow the grain well.

Although a dull knife is a great

inconvenience, I have found too sharp a

drawknife will cut through the grain instead

of following it. There is a happy medium

between bluntly splitting the wood and

cutting it. Nothing but practice will tell you

where that medium is.

A fellow once asked me, “How do you know what to remove if you

don’t have it drawn out?” Every stave has a bow in it. Patience and a

good eye will reveal the bow without a single pencil mark. Finding the

bow without markings can be extremely risky and difficult with a

band saw but, with a drawknife and a little practice, it isn’t as hard as

it sounds. I am not obsessed with measurements. Aboriginal peoples

used various methods to measure bows and arrows mostly based on

the size of the shooter. Some may have used a stick with markings or

Although I don’t use a pencil when making a

bow, photographs don’t show the grain as well

as in-person viewing. Here, I used pencil marks

to highlight the natural grain patterns. These

marks are not where I decided they should be,

instead they follow the grain and dictate where

the edges of the bow should be. Volume 21 Issue 1 61

a length of cord with knots tied. None of

these methods were extremely accurate or

precise. The truth is, a selfbow doesn’t need

to be perfect in measurements. I have found

it far more important to follow the grain than

a straight pencil line. Next time you pick up

a stave, notice how the grain doesn’t follow

any measurements. It weaves in and out and

around knots and can easily expand and

contract over a half inch in just a few

inches in length. Simply put, my answer to

that fellow’s question is, “I remove all the

wood that doesn’t look like a bow.” He

didn’t seem to understand what I was

talking about. But some things just cannot

be explained, I suppose.

The approach I take to building my bows

is quite simple. I never found it necessary to

over-think or complicate an otherwise basic

or primitive weapon. Primitive archery is

named for what it is. Sometimes I see

primitive archery starting to turn into

62 Volume 21 Issue 1

modern archery when the integrity of the

bow is compromised because the lower limb

is a quarter of an inch wider than the top

limb. Neither you, the bow, or your quarry

would notice that quarter inch if it wasn’t for

the tape measure. When it comes to finish

work or non-structural work (grips and

tips), break out the power tools if you wish.

For the “building” of the bow itself, there is

nothing like a pile of shavings to shovel into

the wood stove. You may find your bowering

skills will grow by leaps and bounds if you

adopt patience with a drawknife and an eye

for grain.

All three of these photographs

show how cutting straight lines

through a stave easily violates

the grain. The correctly shaved

edges, using hand tools, follow

the grain on its natural course.

Note that I didn’t simply follow

the drawn lines but rather the

drawknife followed the grain

that I simply highlighted using a

pencil. Whether I drew lines on

the stave or not, the end result

would have been the same.



Archers are used to targets where

the highest point value is in the

center of the target as in a

concentric circle, the peg in a roundel

target, etc. With such a target, if your aim

is a bit off you still can get the next highest

point value.

The Fitz-Rauf Triangle Target, based on

a medieval Asian example, is an equilateral

triangle, with one of its points straight up,

divided into three equal width horizontal

bands, the highest point value is the top part

of the triangle. Therefore, if you are aiming

for the highest value and your aim is a bit

high, left, or right, you can miss completely

and receive no points. Those that try for the

highest value have a greater chance of





Fitz-Rauf Target B y J o h n R . E d g e r t o n Volume 21 Issue 1

making no score if they miss than those that

aim for the lower value areas. This provides

a high scoring area for the better archers and

still has a large lower scoring area for the

average archers and is an interesting change

from the standard concentric target faces.

The three parts of the triangle target

were said to represent a warrior on

horseback. The top, high scoring, triangle

was his head. The middle band was his

body. The largest band, the bottom, was

his horse. The area of the highest scoring

part, the head, is one-fifth the area of the

horse, and the warrior is one-third the area

of the horse. A logical way of scoring is:

head = five points, body = three points,

horse = one point.

My addition to this target is to make it

a bit more challenging for the highly

skilled archers by drawing one additional

horizontal line at the upper third of the top

or head triangle. This would represent a

visor slot and would be one forty-fifth the

area of the horse. However, this would

result in a point value of forty-five which

would be too high because one lucky shot

to it and five misses of the target would

give more points than hitting the head

with all six. A reasonable compromise

would be to give it a value of fifteen points.

However, slight errors in aim are even

more apt to create a complete miss and

zero points when attempting the highest

scoring area.

To fit on a 30-inch round target mat,

the triangle should have a maximum of 27inch

sides. The triangle may be made in

any size suitable to the range being shot,

the skill level of the archers, and the size of

the matt or backstop.

Bottom (horse)—black = 1 point

Middle (warrior)—red = 3 points

Top (head)—gold = 5 points

Visor—black = 15 points

Lines count as higher score

Ends may consist of any number of

arrows. In the Middle Ages, ends were

usually two arrows or sometimes three

The gold section in this photo shows

up as white. It is a 27-inch triangle on a

36-inch matt. The target was first used at a

medieval recreation event by Jon Fitz-Rauf

in Oregon in July 2012.

Above is a drawing of the target

showing the three equal width bands and

the visor area.

I hope this target will provide some

more variety to those used in current

classical archery.

PrimitiveCHEF ®


Spaghetti Squash


Serves approximately 4

with Fresh Tomato Sauce

and Breaded Chicken Volume 21 Issue 1

Hello fellow archers, it’s time to share another recipe with

you. The dish I have involves a couple of steps and a little

knife work. I used chicken in this dish, but the flavors adapt

well to other meats and seafood.

The dish emulates a pasta dish using spaghetti squash as the

pasta topped with matchstick cut vegetables, a fresh tomato sauce,

and breaded boneless chicken.


Preheat oven 350°.

Make a couple of slits in the shell of a 3- to 4-pound squash.

Place it on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to an hour until

the squash is soft to the touch. When it is cool enough to handle,

split it lengthwise, remove the seeds, and pull out the meat of the

squash. Set it aside.


3-4 Roma tomatoes cut into chunks

½ cup diced carrot

½ cup diced celery

½ cup diced onion

1 sweet red pepper diced

3 cloves garlic

½ cup olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup red wine

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ cup chopped fresh basil

salt to taste.


In a sauce pot, heat olive oil on medium heat, add vegetables,

simmer covered for 10 minutes, and then add lemon juice, red wine,

and remaining ingredients. Cook until the vegetables are soft, then

puree the mixture in a food processor or food mill.


Julienne or cut into matchstick-sized pieces:

1 zucchini

1 yellow squash

1 carrot

1 sweet red pepper

1 yellow pepper

½ red onion

6 asparagus spears slivered


1 pound boneless chicken pieces cut in strips

In breading bowl #1 combine the following: 3 cups flour, 1

tablespoon paprika, 1 tablespoon salt and a ¼ teaspoon pepper.

In breading bowl #2 combine the following: 2 cups milk and 2

beaten eggs.

In breading bowl #3 combine the

following: 3 cups coarse breadcrumbs, 2

tablespoons chopped parsley, the grated

peel of 1 lemon, and ¼ teaspoon grated


Dredge the chicken in breading bowl

#1, then #2, shake off any excess, then

roll in breading bowl #3. Set the breaded

chicken aside. Preheat oven to hold

chicken after frying. Fry the chicken in

your favorite cooking medium until

golden brown.

To assemble the dish, warm the sauce,

sauté the spaghetti squash with butter or

olive oil, a splash of water, salt and pepper

to taste until hot. Sauté the vegetables in

the same fashion. Then assemble individual

plates or serve family style. Top with

parmesean cheese and fresh chopped basil.

I hope you find time to give this batch

of recipes a try. Until next time, eat well and

shoot straight.

–Chef William E. Campbell Volume 21 Issue 1 67

continued from page 80

sure that neither will mind my greeting

the other.

Why I came here is a mystery even to

me. I just decided to climb this mountain

today and am glad that I did. Sometimes

the climb is rough, but when the summit is

underfoot all that matters is the view. My

bow and arrows have no need up here, but

down below the elk are calling. I place an

arrow in the crevasse between the ancient

rocks and say a prayer for those who have

gone before me and for those still to come.

The wanderer in me is restless as I begin

my descent to the heavy timber below.

Down there the elk are rutting hard, and I

know the meadow where they might be.

One last wave to the eagle, and a nod of

respect to the Creator of all this, and I

climb back down through the clouds of my

youth to the meadows where the pungent

smell of rutting elk bring me back to my

adult self, even while I still dream of

standing among clouds.

68 Volume 21 Issue 1

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Locations subject to change on some events, please check beforehand. Be

sure to go to and click on “Events Calendar” for

details. This service is available to all Rendezvous and Shoots, plus Special

Events by contacting:


2 Museum Monthly Knap-In, visitors welcome (Lehi, Utah)

8 ISAC at Seminole Canyon State Park (Comstock, Texas)

8–10 Annual Frozen Butt Rendezvous (Blue Rapids, Kansas)

15–17 Withlacoochee Living History Primitive Art Festival

(Dade City, Florida)

22–24 Pre-Spring Arrow Fling (McCalla, Alabama see ad pg. 17

22–24 Ochlockonee River State Park Stone Age and Primitives Arts

Festival (Sopchoppy, Florida)


1–3 Traditional Bowhunters of Florida State Championship

(Ocala Florida)* see ad pg. 62

1–3 ShootNVoo (Florence, Kansas)

2 Museum Monthly Knap-In, visitors welcome (Lehi, Utah)

1–3 Silver River Knap-In (Ocala, Florida)

1–3 Flint Stone and Bone Creations Knap-In and



Primitive Crafts Event (Tyler, Alabama)

9–11 Moundville Knap-In

9–16 After the End of the World Southwestern Regional Rendezvous

(Graham, Texas)

17–18 Iowa Mini Jamboree

30-31 Mammoth Spring State Park Knap-In

(Mammoth Spring, Arkansas)


5–7 Grouse Creek Muzzleloaders Spring Rendezvous

(Dexter, Kansas)

5–7 Twin Bridges Mountain Man Springdezvous

(West Plains, Missouri)

6 Museum Monthly Knap-In, visitors welcome (Lehi, Utah)

13–21 Hart Canyon Rendezvous (Bakersfield, California)

19–21 Beaver Creek Free-Trapper Spring Rendezvous (Sterling,


20–21 South West Louisiana Knap-In (Vinton, Lousiana)

20–21 Old Greenville Rendezvous (Greenville, Missouri)

25–28 Anasazi Free Trappers Rendezvous (St. George, Utah)

25–28 North Georgia Flint Knappers and Primitive Arts Festival

(Cartersville, Georgia)


3–5 The Tennessee Classic (Clarksville,Tennessee)

3–6 Annual Water Creek Knap-In (Yellville, Arkansas)

3–5 Spring Old Stone Fort Knap-In and Archeoskills (Manchester,


3–5 Oregon Ridge Nature Center’s Primitive Technology Weekend

(Baltimore County, Maryland)

4 Museum Monthly Knap-In, visitors welcome (Lehi, Utah)

9–12 Winterville Mounds Primitive Arts Festival and Flint Knap-In

(Greenville, Mississippi)

10–12 The Dam Rendezvous (Bagnell Dam, Missouri)

10–15 Annual Dog Valley Utah Knap-In (Nephi, Utah)

16–20 Spring Osage Knap-In (Booneville, Missouri)

25–26 18th Annual ITBS Rendezvous (Ames, Iowa) * see ad pg. 29

To order,

call 888-330-3822 or visit Volume 21 Issue 1 71

Making Bamboo Arrows

by Kay and Jaap Koppedrayer

A bamboo arrow is a thing of beauty

This booklet offers you guidance on how to work

with bamboo to craft your own arrows. It covers:

• Arrow Bamboo

• Harvesting Bamboo

• Choosing Raw Shafts

• Straightening the Shafts

• Shaving, Skinning, and

Smoothing the Shafts

Inserting Nocks

• Tying off the Fletching

• Fletching Using Natural Feathers

To order, call 888-330-3822 or visit

The price is $9.00 +S &H


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c 4.3 c 4.4 c 5.1 c 5.2 c 5.3 c 5.4 c 6.1 c 6.2 c 6.3 c 6.4 c 7.1 c 7.2 c 7.3 c 7.4

c 8.1 c 8.2 c 8.3 c 8.4 c 9.1 c 9.2 c 9.3 c 9.4 c 10.1 c 10.2 c 10.3 c 10.4 c 11.1 c 11.2

c 11.3 c 11.4 c 12.1 c 12.2 c 12.3 c 12.4 c 12.5 c 13.1 c 13.2 c 13.3 c 13.4 c 13.5 c 14.1 c 14.2

c 14.3 c 14.4 c 14.5 c 15.1 c 15.2 c 15.3 c 15.4 c 15.5 c 15.6 c 16.1 c 16.2 c 16.3 c 16.4 c 16.5

c 16.6 c 17.1 c 17.2 c 17.3 c 17.4 c 17.5 c 17.6 c 18.1 c 18.2 c 18.3 c 18.4 c 18.5 c 18.5 c 19.1

c 19.2 c 19.3 c 19.4 c 19.5 c 19.6 c 20.1 c 20.2 c 20.3 c 20.4 c 20.5

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Where Eagles



B y M i k e H u s t o n

Poet’sCORNER ®

Down Wind Danger

By Homer Luther

Death has its nose up in the wind.

Its red tongue is tasting your sweet scent

as it rides upon the breeze.

Death is coming in so quietly

while you graze and drink your fill,

while you sun and play and sleep.

Death may lose your tracks just briefly,

but it always picks them up again.

Death has its nose up and it’s coming.

It is tasting your sweet scent

as it rides upon the wind.


L Volume 21 Issue 1

arge white clouds sliding across a

blue sky on invisible wings always

take me back to my childhood. I

recall staring up at that great expanse and

imagining myself up there, floating among

the white billowing clouds as free as a

bird. Now here I am, a grown adult, high

in the Rocky Mountains, actually standing

amongst those clouds. The reality of being

here amidst them is far different than my

childhood dreaming. Wet, cold wind bites

at my skin as the fog settles around me.

Wind dances around the clouds, moving

them with ease amongst the trees and


I see brief glimpses of towering peaks,

then the white veil shrouds the landscape

again. The clouds dance around me as I

work my way higher up through these

rocky crags. My lungs beg for more air,

and my legs burn with each step I take

toward the summit. Large pieces of talus

rock slip from underfoot. Each step

becomes harder and more labored as I

climb up through this canyon toward the

top. Why is it that the last few yards of a

climb always seem closer to the eye than

they do to the body that is doing the


With the last of my strength, I reach

the summit. I stand above the clouds in a

realm few ever have the privilege of

touching. White billowing clouds collide

with one another as they race on

mountain winds to places only clouds go,

directly below my feet. One cloud

actually sails right through me, leaving

me engulfed in its wet chill. Breathtaking

vistas surround me as far as the eye can

see. Peaks thrusting up through a living

mass of white cloud, all topped off by a

bright sun lighting everything from the

top. A golden eagle slides through the

sky a thousand feet above me. I wonder

at his view and wave a greeting, not

feeling the fool in doing so because no

one will see. The only view is from above,

where eagles and gods roam, and I am

continued on page 68

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should take advantage of what PA has to offer.”

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