KEVIN TATE: On the slinging of arrows and archery’s outrageous fortune

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

I can’t think of a better way to get involved in an outdoor pursuit that will last a lifetime than the one described in this week’s feature.
Coaches Joe Waller and Matt Lindsey, along with the school professionals and the community of North Pontotoc who’ve supported them, have a truly great thing going with their archery program. Together they’ve introduced scores of youngsters who had surely never used a bow and arrow before to the joy of that science and art. While the two young men in this week’s photo and others on the team are bowhunters, Lindsey said more than 200 students tried out for the most recent edition of the team. There’s bound to be some new blood in that group.
When I was their age, all inquiries I made into bowhunting were discouraging at best. The first person my age I knew who could shoot a bow was a guy I knew in Boy Scouts. Let’s call him Robin Hood. He brought his recurve to Camp Yocona one summer to work on an archery merit badge. His was a nice bow made of laminated wood, coated with a high gloss finish. Its draw weight would have been something in the neighborhood of 50 or 60 pounds.
We all laughed and snickered at him until we saw him shoot. He was a proficient shot, and he made the most of rubbing this fact in. As part of his work on the merit badge, he was required to craft his own arrow, if not to a shooting quality, at least sufficient to demonstrate the skills native Americans had to possess to survive. He found a straight oak sapling in the woods, picked up some blue jay feathers around camp, whittled the business end of the shaft down to a respectable field point. Then he carved a notch in the opposite end for nocking purposes, added some rawhide serving to support the wood at the back, tied the feather fletchings on with who-knows-what and proudly showed us his results, making sure to remind us we’d told him he didn’t know what he was doing when he brought his bow to camp.
The arrow passed from hand to hand among us, the suitably chastized and amazed scouts of Troop 80. As it was making its way through the crowd, one of the guys who least appreciated being called out for his prior joking picked up Robin Hood’s bow and held it down by his side. When the arrow reached him, instead of ducking his head and saying yes, Robin, you’re quite the archer and survivalist, he quickly nocked the arrow, said, “Let’s see how it shoots,” hauled the bow to full draw and let fly. The bits of rawhide meant to support the nock sang in all directions like hummingbirds while the bow string cleaved the arrow neatly in half, longitudinally. Since Robin weighed 75 pounds more than the next heaviest scout in camp, the erstwhile shooter took flight and ran laps until Robin’s rage subsided. He got over it eventually, I guess, and he did learn the chief trait of a skilled archer: humility.

Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.

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