By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
A smooth-as-silk draw on a string that grows progressively tighter, a practiced release toward an instinctive point of aim, the electric feel of a bow that, for a split second, comes alive in your hand, is a part of you, extends your reach across space and time through the curved flight of an arrow that gives the discipline its name, all form the background of a tradition that is more than the sum of its parts for its many devotees.
Traditional archery, that which predates bows built of space-age materials, those engineered with carbon and cables and cams to achieve maximum everything, calls more clearly for some upon a human instinct reaching back to the dawn of mankind.
For practitioners like Chad Weaver, of Tremont, the varied paths that first led to the stick and string are not as relevant as the many shared reasons that bid them stay: A community of friends of from all walks of life who pick up the simplest of tools and stand on common ground.
“I got into it by pure accident,” Weaver, now a board member of the Southern Traditional Archery Association, said. “I grew up hunting and fishing, but I didn’t shoot a bow other than homemade bows at all. I had a friend whose uncle who was big into archery, and one day the uncle came by with a couple of fiberglass longbows for us, and we started shooting them in the yard. We didn’t know what we were doing, but we knew we were having a ball doing it.
“A few years later I picked up a second-hand Bear recurve and a handful of arrows for $25 at a show in Illinois and thought I was getting ripped off. Not long after that, I saw Byron Ferguson do a demonstration at the Sportsman’s Bonanza in Tupelo. Until that point, I still didn’t know people really shot these bows for real, that they really hunted with them in a serious way. I guess I still thought longbows and recurves were something out of a Robin Hood movie – something you played with or hung on the wall but didn’t shoot seriously.
“One thing led to another, and then the internet came along. I got in deeper and deeper and learned more and more through a lot of trial and error.”
Today, Weaver has hunted in countless locales and performed well in scores of tournaments, but far more important, he says, are the people he’s met along the way.
Easy to get started
“I’ve met all of my best friends through archery,” he said. “The appeal is as much the camaraderie of the fellow shooters as it is the experience of the hunting and shooting itself.”
For anyone interested in giving traditional archery a try, the threshold for entry may be the lowest for any outdoor pursuit.
“Somebody wanting to get started in this sport, beginning with nothing, can be set up and ready to shoot for around $200, and they can be ready to hunt for another $40 or $50,” Weaver said. “Then if you don’t like it, the gear’s not hard to sell.”
Anyone interested in seeing a traditional archery shoot in person and meeting the cast of characters whose efforts encourage the discipline to continue to thrive have two opportunities coming soon.
The 2012 Jerry Pierce Memorial is set for May 19 and 20, and the 8th Annual Catch-A-Dream Charity Shoot will be June 23- 24, both at the Persimmon Hill Campground at Enid Lake.
For more information on either event, visit southern traditionalarchery.com.
For more about traditional archery gear, contact Weaver at recurves.com.