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Ask me about archery, longbows especially.

Discussion in 'Research' started by John McDonell, Jun 5, 2012.

  1. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    I can help Malik on this topic. I come from a long line of very serious hunters who make all their own archery equipment.

    They employ a rather primitive hunting style for deer and only use firearms for Turkey.

    Growing up in this family, I have a good bit of experience to share on hunting & woodcraft. I'd agree with Malik too that 90% of literary depictions are off the mark. They make it too simple and easy. Hunting is hard & animals who fight for survival every day are not easy game to take.
     
  2. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    I would be interested in a hunting thread too.
    I've read a few hunting stories. One was a real-life account from the 1950s about a guy hunting a huge elephant in Angola. Another was a short by H. Rider Haggard about his character Allan Quartermain, which featured encounters with lions and a buffalo. These particular stories definitely did not give me the impression that hunting was a simple and easy undertaking even if they benefited from firearms instead of bows and arrows.

    If anything, it sounds like an arduous process with a lot of tracking and waiting. I would expect a writer to condense all that and hurry to the thrilling parts.
     
  3. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    I haven't read those stories. Also, let me be clear, my experiences lie in archery hunting, firearm hunting, & North American game: whitetail deer primarily, turkey, small game, and fishing.

    I agree that many writers would wish to be brief with depictions of hunting if the hunt isn't really a part of the story and its inclusion is more backdrop than anything else. However, in stories where the character's very nature is grown from the hunt (like Quartermain I assume) or where hunting is a primary element of plot, then those details may become important.

    I can think of many situations where wood lore & bushcraft skills might come into play for a fictional character...some very basic ones. Often, those primitive skills are very misunderstood and usually it's because they're depicted as easy or commonplace....anyone can do it.

    Let me ask a few questions in example.... How many people reading this thread think they can start a fire with no modern equipment? How many think they could do so with some primitive equipment like a knife and flint? How many have actually tried anything like that?..... Starting a fire is not easy without modern conveniences. There are many techniques and there is most certainly skill & experience involved. It's difficult in the best conditions. In worse weather conditions, the knowledge and skill requirements increase rapidly.

    Are details like these necessary for every story? No, certainly not. But, I can understand why a writer would like to know such things. Having a basic knowledge of a topic, even if it is not used it the story proper, can bleed some realism into the tale.
     
  4. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Firestarting if you have a flint, some metal and dry tinder / moss is easy enough. Even I can do it. But all those guys rubbing sticks together and twirling arrows etc I have to doubt. It's just way too much effort. And of course a lot of firestarting is about finding dry tinder which people seem to ignore.

    However the one hunting trope that constantly gets used and which I seriously don't believe, is the tracker sitting there staring at a broken twig and telling you five hunters and a blind mule went this way forty two minutes ago. As far as I can see its a very hit and miss sort of skill and what a tracker can generally tell you - especially if they don't have footprints in soft mud - is quite limited.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  5. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    Well, like you said, it requires a flint and some metal. A bow drill is significantly less resource intensive and while it might be a lot of effort, having a fire allows you to cook food, keep warm, could be used to signal rescuers, keep wild animals away, and if you're smart about it, it can be easily maintained once you get it going so lighting a fire is often worth the effort. As for finding tinder, as much as it's important for survival, it's not really that interesting so most writers just gloss over it.

    Vice versa, near mystical tracking is pretty interesting even if the readers don't care about the actual mechanics and the writer glosses over them. Five hunters and a blind mule would be pretty easy to track. I mean, just the blind mule itself is going to be breaking twigs, leaving footprints, pooping, and so on. The five hunters would also be five times as easy to track than a lone hunter especially if they aren't making an effort to be stealthy, for instance if they are on their way towards their hunting ground and don't care about possibly disturbing the animals on the trip there. You're looking at previous campsites, five sets of feet walking through the forest breaking twigs, markings on trees so that the hunters can find their way back, maybe arrows sticking out of trees from mucking about; think the ye olde' days equivalent of following the hunter's trail of empty beer cans.

    A good tracker doesn't rely solely on just information from in the field. If they know that they're looking for five hunters and a blind mule then adding up the clues to five hunters and a blind mule would be a lot easier. Otherwise the tracker might get the blind mule, I don't know how different mule poop is from horse or donkey or if the strangeness in the mule's path would add up to being blind or would just be labeled strange. Otherwise he'd probably just say some large animal, most likely a pack animal 'considering there wouldn't be much other reason for a large animal to travel with a pack of hunters, but that there was something strange with it. For the hunters, the trail they left would be larger than what one person could leave by themselves, but smaller than if there was a band of twenty or so. He could reasonably estimate their numbers as over three but under five. He could reasonably enough deduce that they're people who spend significant time in the wilds. The way they move through the wilderness, find their way around tricky stretches, make up camp, etc and so on, would speak of the experience they would have as hunters. Now, if the tracker finds a previous camp site of theirs, well it would help confirm what he already deduced and might shed new clues, who knows?
     
  6. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    But in the middle ages carrying around a tinderbox (basically a box with a flint, a steel and some tinder) was relatively common for those travelling. In fact archaeologists are digging up more of them all the time and are now starting to realise that some of the things they had previously found and assumed were something else or else were rubbish, are actually tinderboxes. It was the simplest way to make fire and as you say fire was valuable.

    As for the trackers trope, it's not that they can't work out a lot, it's the ludicrous amount of detail that's given in the works from something like a broken twig that annoys me. For a long time during the Victorian era when explorers were all the rage and their stories - real and fake - were serialised etc, the mystique of the great Indian etc tracker was immense. They became almost a mythical being. And some of that still continues in a lot of work today.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  7. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    One thing about the "telltale twig": tracking would be much more a process like Queshire said, and it's also a process of noting one sign after another and slowly building a more accurate picture of what you're most likely following. This tends to get condensed in careless stories because they don't take time to show those earlier signs and the narrowing of "maybe, maybe"s, they just show one twig and imply that it gave the whole picture.

    --Then again, if the tracker wanted to show off, that might be just how he'd act. :)

    Or, the process might be cut this short if the characters were in a hurried chase. "There's a broken twig, come ON!" (Which can lead to a lot of wrong turns.)
     
  8. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

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    And from what I was told by a South African tracker [and ex-soldier] about things like the Tell-tale twig, was that most trackers are somewhat limited in their range. They will know the land and conditions they grow up in or train on but may be far less useful 50-500 miles away. Everything he knew he said he got through repetition and practice...
    When on walks with him he would often take long loops back across our path to see how our footprints to see how they were changing after half an hour, an hour, three hours etc. He'd also muddy pools to watch how the water cleared [or didn't].
     
  9. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    Here's one that's been bugging me a while:

    What happens if someone with plenty of all-around strength tries to learn to use a high-powered bow? It's been said that bows involve pulling with the arms' and fingers' small muscles, so are there any examples of a weightlifter still not being able to manage the bigger bows? Or is it even worse, that at some power level you almost have to train young to handle it, when the muscles are still forming, rather than just training a lot?

    I'm talking about bending the bow, not the extra practice it would take to aim with it-- unless the problem is that what carries over least is the strength to hold it steady and control it. (Would even a seasoned archer, if he'd never used a bow that really tested his strength before, be near to Square One with the big one?)
     
  10. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    I am not a very good archer. I'm certainly not the sort of physique you're talking about. I drew a 150 pound bow to my chest and my string made it to my left bicep...same as the big boys. I'm 5'3" and 120 lbs. (or 8 stone 8 for some of you :) ).

    Now the thing about those war bows and say, the English bowmen at Agincourt, is that they could draw that bow for a long time and retain accuracy with it (along with 3000 of their friends) and put up a staggering number of arrows every few seconds.

    Can a strong person draw the big bow? Sure, why not? I did as well as my brawny friends. But won't all his friends laugh when he can't properly nock the arrow and it falls on the ground because he doesn't know how to spin the string into the self-nock? Or, when the string bites him? Oh, I'm sure his friends will have a laugh at that bruise tomorrow.

    There is so much more to archery than being able to draw the string. Seriously, I watched a first-time brawny guy out on the field a few months ago and it took him like 20 seconds just to get the arrow to stay on the string. With a shelf! So yeah, it might look easy, like shooting a gun is sort of point and click, but really, most people wouldn't hit the paper target with a rifle on their first go either, and with that, there isn't the same kind of little challenges. When you draw a bow, you push out from your body with your bow hand and pull back with your string hand (or at least I try. Just pulling, you tire much quicker). When you release, your bow hand wants to jerk to the side, throwing off your aim at the last second. You have to train yourself to maintain that posture after releasing. That sounds easy but is harder in practice. Also, primitive bows didn't have a shelf. You have to get the arrow to stay nestled against the bow, on your hand. It doesn't want to be there though, it wants to follow gravity and fall on the ground. Then, the string itself is another problem for inexperienced archers. When using self-nocking arrows (not plastic nocks that snap onto the string) you spin the string so the arrow stays in there a little tighter. I don't, but I always use the same arrows and I cut the nocks tight-ish and anyways, I'm used to how they feel. But my friends do. I'm just so distracted by other things, I tend to skip steps that my better archery companions swear by. But I'd assume if you're using army arrows, because no one would go hunting with this kind of bow, it's simply used for warfare, you're using pretty resilient arrows. Who knows what the nocks would look like.

    The thing is, when talking about hunting and war bows, the two didn't mix. No one took a war bow hunting. In fact, know plenty of people who swear they hunt with a 45# bow. I dunno, I guess with a broad head on it, it might cut the mustard, but I'd assume hunters needed a little more oomph. Guess not.

    The thing about prey is that you aren't running through the woods, chasing prey. Anything that humans eat can outrun us. You become an ambush hunter and use your bow from a hiding place. I guess a 45# bow could work in that case. I mean, 50 yards is pretty long and you can shoot a target from that distance with even my little training.

    Either way, I think the most confusing things about archery in (I'm not even going to say literature/ movies) people's minds, is segregating archery for war and everyday archery. The thing is, if you're writing a ranger/ woodsman/ hunter-type character, he isn't toting around a war bow. That's like the equivalent of him carrying a sniper rifle, yes, very cool, certainly has a use and is a terrific weapon, but not great in all situations. He'll want him a nice hunting rifle, maybe a shotgun. Or as I like to think of the archery equivalent, a 50# bow he can shoot all day if he needs to, but can make new arrows for everywhere he goes and gets the job done with minimal fuss/ unnecessary tiring.

    The bigger the bow, the bigger the ammunition. Where are you going to find shafts for a 150# bow? Not in any village you pass. But you could find shafts for a hunting bow anywhere...oh and look, geese. I'll have some of those feathers, too. Voila, tonight, he's sitting at the fire, fletching a few arrows to replace the ones he broke when he missed his last deer and shattered them on trees. Luckily, he found the points, so no need to pay for those again.

    On hunting...my neighbors hunt turkey, antelope, deer, and elk. They sit out for a whole weekend in the fields and scrub of the southwest, for some of the best turkey meat you'll ever eat, but it takes four solid days of waiting, to bag two birds. Of course, if your world is less populated with people, you may have game running all over. That would be fortunate. I made game scarce in my land where soldiers were marching through the woods, scaring animals away.

    Oh well, just as a closing thought, I've broken loads of arrows, I've seen a bow break while someone drew it. I've seen speed-shooting (and try to employ all the techniques I learned but they're not easy), I sometimes shoot two arrows at once (also looks easier than it is. Who knew that much about physics?), have drawn a war bow (and couldn't pull a 150# crossbow, BTW), and learned how to aim two years into my archery journey. I love it, I'm totally excited to get new equipment and make my quivers and arrows. But writing it like real life can be a touch boring. I'm not advocating going the Hollywood route, just being creative might add a little flavor to the story. A couple details will lend authenticity.
     
  11. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Starting a fire with no modern equipment...been there, tried that...repeatedly...back when I was young. Sparking flints? (striking them together) Yes, you get sparks...but it be a big step from 'spark' to 'fire' even with good quality tinder. And if it be raining or there be a bit of a breeze...well forget it, unless your a pro. Tried the bow drill thing as well. Much the same. Getting that tinder to light and STAY lit is *hard*.

    As to hunting...some bowhunters around here, but mostly firearms. Just finding game is a major pain. At work, I get to see the harvest reports for bear, moose, and the like the local hunters send to Fish & Game (little postcard sized thing). Lots of them go hunting. Not many (report) catching anything.

    I used to walk all through the woods hereabouts, going out a mile or more on paths and tracks. I see moose - they're common around here. I also see spruce chickens. But other critters? Last time I saw a live porcupine was five years ago - and they are also supposed to be common. (I do see road killed porcupines a few times a year, though). Bear? Maybe three times a year. Caribou? About as often as bear, and that's because they hang out on dried up lake beds.
     
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  12. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    I wanted to post this video about hunting. I hope watching a kill helps people get a better understanding of how primitive bowhunting happened. Warning: a deer dies. But this guy made his equipment and takes it all seriously, so even if you love animals, he has deep respect for history and life and death.

    I think this video gives a better perspective of what hunting is really like. Rather than walking through the forest, picking off game when you're hungry, it takes planning. I don't use flint arrowheads, but medieval bodkins. But the principal is the same. You use what you need to hunt with, not what a soldier carries into war.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VCYlg9w7dE
     
  13. Valentinator

    Valentinator Minstrel

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    Let's say that a waterbender creates a waterwall in front of him 3 feet/1 meter thick. What will happen to the arrow going through this obstacle?
     
  14. Bortasz

    Bortasz Troubadour

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    Does this is standing water or there are currents?
    How far is archer?
    How strong is his bow?
     
  15. Valentinator

    Valentinator Minstrel

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    Let's imagine 2 cases:

    1. Still water, 100 ft, 'average' medieval longbow.
    2. Current like in 10ft high waterfall, 100 ft, 'average' medieval longbow.
     
  16. Bortasz

    Bortasz Troubadour

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    1. Arrow hit the water. Lose all momentum and fall slowly on the ground.

    2. The water pull arrow to the ground.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duC26qlgIkU
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxLbdtqkmPA

    Density - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Water is almost 1000 more denser than air. So it is like going through 1000 meters of air.
     
  17. Valentinator

    Valentinator Minstrel

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    Thanks for the response. I think first video doesn't suit me since the bow is immersed in water and the arrow doesn't have the chance to accelerate but the second one seems OK. Still, the second video shows that the arrow travels the distance of like 2 meters before stopping. Are you sure that the mathematical relationship between density and distance is linear? Than it kind of implies that the arrow travelled through 2000 meters of air, doesn't it?
     
  18. Bortasz

    Bortasz Troubadour

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    Not sure. Maybe somebody can give you better equation for that.

    I know just that Water is almost 1000 more denser than air. With give quite bigger friction and stoping power.
     
  19. Mr. Steve

    Mr. Steve Scribe

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    A quick question regarding recurve bows:

    I seem to remember reading somewhere that a recurve bow design allows for more power with a lighter pull. I'm almost certainly remembering it incorrectly, unless I'm not; would someone let me know one way or the other?
     
  20. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    The recurve design doesn't help with pull weight (like the pulleys on a modern compound bow lighten the hold weight) but it does increase power. In that sense, a recurve generates more arrow speed with a smaller bow & lighter draw weight than a long bow.
     
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