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Where to find javelin lessons in Toronto?

Q

Hello, I live in the beaches area of Toronto and was looking for a contact or someone who can do one-on-one or small group sessions on throwing the javelin.  I am an athlete in many sports but haven't had the opportunity to try the javelin.  I would like to learn or at least try to see how good I could be in this sport and was hoping to have a few lessons to see if I like it before joining a throwing club and making a big financial commitment.  When I was quite young I threw the shot put but that was many years ago.  Also throwing the discus might interest me as well.

I will be 17 next month and am presently in grade 11 and will be participating in the TDSB track and field team in spring for my school.  I usually sprint and compete in the long jump but this year I would like to see if I could participate in the javelin only if I could gain some experience and see if I am good enough through some private or a few group lessons with an experienced thrower.  I was hoping you might be able to help me.

Thank you.
David T.

A


Hello David!

I tried javelin myself in high school and rather enjoyed it. I even made my own spears and a trident, for fun, while I was a teenager. (A few years ago I was visiting my parents and my brother-in-law broke my old trident.)

However I haven't touched a javelin in over 20 years and I am certainly not qualified to teach it. If you wanted archery lessons I could help you, but you don't seem to be interested in that. Although if you are, let me know and we can arrange some archery lessons.

My recommendation would be to find someone who competed in javelin, however briefly, and ask if they would be willing to teach a few lessons.

Another possibility you might look into, just because it is similar, is spearfishing. I personally think that would be fun to try. Legally, spearfishing in Ontario is governed by the same laws as bowfishing.
You might also ask around at various Toronto high schools and see if any of them have a javelin program. There should be a few Phys Ed teachers who teach it.

You could also try contacting professional Canadian athletes or their coaches, and ask if they can recommend someone in Toronto.

I am going to do a post on my website however and maybe (hopefully) someone will contact me who knows more about teaching javelin, and then I can refer you to them.

Best of luck to you!

Sincerely,
Charles Moffat
CardioTrek.ca



Follow Up

I really appreciate all your input and information.  It's great to hear about your experiences.  Thank you very much for your advice and I'll continue to research all avenues and hopefully find someone nearby.  I'm also going to think about the archery.

David T.



The Ultimate Archery Equipment Guide for Beginners: Bows

Okay, so this is not the first time I have written an equipment guide for my archery students. It is however the first time I have endeavoured to write The Ultimate Archery Equipment Guide for Beginners!

And by that I mean it will be the most complete guide I have ever made, covering every topic in annoying excruciating detail. And because of this factor, this will actually be a series of different posts. Today we are talking about bows.

Part 1. Finding a Good Starter Bow

Getting a decent starter recurve bow isn't that hard honestly, you just need to find a 3-piece recurve bow that is between $120 to $200 CDN, and there are plenty of recurve bows to choose from. They are very common style of bow.

The Samick Sage
The Samick Sage is a very common choice, and it typically sells for about $150 CDN. This is the same bow I got my wife years ago, so that tells you a bit about the fact that I trusted the brand and the model to be a good match for her.

There are other brands and models to choose from of course, so here is the rundown of a few other models worth looking at:

  • The Jandao - $120
  • The Jandao Junior - $100 (Youth Bow, meant for kids 14 or younger.)
  • The Martin Jaguar - $149
  • The Martin Sabre - $199
  • The PSE Razorback - $135
  • The Ragim Matrix - $130 (No warranty.)
  • The Ragim Wildcat - $130 (No warranty.)
  • The Samick Polaris - $120
  • The Samick Sage - $150

Note - Prices may change over time and prices will vary from store to store.

The real challenge of finding a good starter bow is finding one that is a good poundage (draw weight) for you to start with. Lighter is always better in this case, so most beginners really should start with a bow that is in the 18 to 25 lb range. (Children and youths should be looking at bows in the 10 to 18 lb range.)

And I cannot stress this enough, starting with a lower poundage will always be better for your form and accuracy. If you want to build muscle and have more power, then just get a 2nd pair of limbs (say 30, 35 or 40 lbs) and alternate between focusing on your form and building your strength.

Far too many beginners try to be macho about it and get a heavier bow, and then they discover over time how exhausting it is. Using a lighter bow is better for your endurance, and while strength does help, endurance matters more when it comes to building good archery form. Eventually the macho facade falls to the side and the beginner archer who picked the heavy bow ends up becoming discouraged by their poor accuracy and inability to survive what is essentially an endurance test. Then their bow ends up collecting dust in a closet and they rarely shoot.

Thus my advice to students is to always get the lighter bow when you are first starting out.

The beauty of the 3-piece recurve is that you can always go get stronger limbs later on and use them instead or alternate which set of limbs you are using.

What about 1-piece recurve bows? What about longbows or horsebows?

One piece recurve bows tend to be higher poundages. Thus they make a good bow for someone who is more intermediate or experienced, and thus have a better idea of what they are getting into.

I don't actually recommend longbows or horsebows to beginners. The issue is one of learning how to cant the longbow, which is an extra form and accuracy challenge that is harder for beginners to learn how to do. It is better for beginner archers to learn proper form and how to shoot using a recurve first, and then switch to a longbow or horsebows later on.

The other problem with longbows and horsebows is that are frequently sold in poundages that are 30 lbs or more. It can be rather difficult to find a longbow or horsebow that is only 18 to 25 lbs. Thus this is another reason why beginners should wait until they are more experienced before attempting to make the switch.

One last issue is that longbows / horsebows / 1-piece recurve bows is that they are often more expensive, typically $200 or more, which will put them out of the price range of the average beginner who needs to also buy arrows, arrowheads, arrowrest, nock bead, bowstringer, archery glove or tab, bracer/arm-guard, dampeners, quiver, and anything else they need/desire. eg. Whistling arrows is clearly a desire and not a need. Suddenly they have spent $350 to $400 on archery equipment. If you raise the price of the bow and you are trying to stay within a beginner's budget, well then you can't spend $300 to $400 on the bow and expect to stay under budget when it comes time to buy everything else you need.

Shopping Tip - If you are in Toronto and looking for longbows, I recommend Gary's shop "Basically Bows". Expect to be spending closer to $500 to $600 to get everything you need however, as like I said, longbows are typically more expensive. Again, you really should start with something like a 3-piece recurve, which is why it is a good thing Gary also sells those.

What about compound bows?

If you are thinking about going the compound route there are two compounds bows that I recommend for beginners:

  • The Bear Cruzer (shown left below)
  • The Diamond Infinite Edge (shown right below)

So the reasons why I recommend the Bear Cruzer and Diamond Infinite Edge to beginners is because of multiple factors:

  1. They are both highly adjustable, with poundages ranging from 5 lbs to 70 lbs.
  2. They also have adjustable draw lengths.
  3. They can be adjusted without any need for a bow press.
  4. Both are reasonably priced.
  5. Both offer speeds of over 310 FPS.
  6. Both are great for practicing, bowfishing and bowhunting.
  7. Both are marketed as the first and last compound bow you will ever need.
  8. Both offer great value for money.
Now I should note that both Bear and Diamond have come out with different variations of these models over the past few years, making versions with different features, are faster, have the word "Pro" in the name, but they are more or less the same bow. They are just modifying the basic design to intrigue the interest of potential customers.

Another issue here is price. Compound bows can get very expensive, so the budget for someone getting into compound archery needs to be higher than someone getting into recurves. Instead of a budget of $350 to $400 for recurve equipment, expect to be spending closer to $600 to $1000 CDN to get everything you need to practice compound archery.

Hot Tip - Don't be one of those silly people who go and spend $2000 on a fancy compound bow you don't even know how to shoot and then forget to buy a case for transporting it, arrows, arrowheads, a full set of imperial allen keys, an arrowrest, a sight, a mechanical release, bracer/arm-guard, a D-loop for the bowstring...

Are there other styles of bows not listed here?

Of course there is, but none that I would recommend for beginners. Here is a list of examples:

  • Reflex Bows
  • Deflex Bows
  • Decurve Bows
  • Olympic Recurve Bows
  • Penobscot-style Longbows
  • Yumi Bows
  • Double-limb Recurve Bows
  • Cable-backed Bows
  • Scorpion (Spring Powered) Bows 
  • Frankenbows
  • DIY Stickbows or Self Bows
  • Pyramid Bows
  • Propeller Bows
  • Prehistoric Replica Bows

Seriously, learn how to shoot a normal recurve bow before even touching one of those. Likewise, learn how to shoot a longbow before trying a Penobscot-style longbow.

To use a car analogy, you don't go and buy a Bugatti Veyron (or any other kind of hypercar) when you are 16 years old and first learning how to drive. It is too much car for a beginner. Start slowly with something easier.

The same concept applies to archery. Buy a simple bow that is affordable. Learn how to shoot that bow really well. There will be plenty of time later to get a fancier / more exotic bow.

If you really want to spend more money, spend it on getting a few archery lessons instead. $170 CDN to get 3 archery lessons with an experienced archery instructor is well worth it when you consider how much you will fast track your learning process (and save yourself from breaking/losing a lot of arrows).

Happy Shooting!

The deluge of emails for archery lessons in Toronto

Hey Toronto!

So here is what happens every year. Usually around the start of March, as the weather gets warmer, I start to get a deluge of emails from people asking for archery lessons.

This becomes a scheduling nightmare for me, as it is composed of two things:

#1. Returning students from last year who want to schedule more archery lessons. These are admittedly my priority, as returning students are awesome. I already know what their pros and cons are, and I know what we need to do chip away at their bad habits and turn them into even better archers.

Returning students also have their preferred time slots when it comes to scheduling, so I usually prefer to schedule them first so that they get the best time slots for their own schedules. This is why each year in February I contact them first so they get their time slots scheduled and I don't have to worry about scheduling conflicts when the deluge happens in March.

#2. New students are a blank slate. They don't know how the schedule works. They know so little about archery. They are so innocent and get archery jargon confused easily. They are like little puppies, so fresh and new to the world. Then you hand them a bow, some arrows and get them to shoot stuff using proper form, and within the first lesson a lot of their naivete is ripped away and their eyes are opened to the world of archery.

The problem with new students however is that they don't know how busy my schedule can be. They don't know for example that when they ask for a lesson on April XXth that I might be fully booked that day and simply not available to take on additional students.

Years ago during the height of the Hunger Games Archery Fad, I was practically turning students away. This was because I was fully booked 3 to 4 months in advance. People were contacting me in July for archery lessons and I would be saying things like "I am fully booked until the end of the year. Would you like to book for Spring or Summer for next year?"

Literally that. It was so bad I was copy/pasting my reply emails to people asking for lessons to let them all know I was fully booked. Every day. For months. Hundreds of people were told to wait until next year.

And for the prospective students this was a state of disbelief. They could not believe that I was fully booked until the end of the year.

Or alternatively, when I did have time slots available, they could not believe that I had no time slots available on a day they were personally available.

Meeting and Managing the Demand

So when I get these emails I check my schedule on my laptop for availability, and then I email the student back to recommend specific time slots that might fit the student's schedule.

Typically I will make a note in my schedule that I made the offer of those time slots to that specific student.

If however another student comes along, and they ask for those same time slots we now have a problem. Two people wanting private lessons for the same time slot, and I am still waiting to hear back from the first person - as they got the offer first.

This is why I schedule my returning students well in advance. Once they have their archery lessons scheduled I won't have this scheduling problem. Anyone asking for those time slots I can just tell them that the time slots they are hoping for are fully booked. Would you like a different time slot?

Sometimes a student might reschedule their lessons, but this is significantly more rare. But when it does I can go back to the other student and say that there is an opening.

Sometimes students want to talk to me over the phone, which is fine if they just want to ask a few questions. But if they want to schedule something, then they might be calling my phone while I am out and about and I don't have access to my schedule. So it when it comes to scheduling archery lessons, students really need to contact me via email.

Also if I am teaching an archery lesson I don't answer the phone unless it is from one of the following people:

  • My wife (which means it could be an emergency).
  • My babysitter (which means it could be an emergency).
  • My mother or sister (which means it could be an emergency).
  • An archery student who is scheduled the same day (possibly because they are running late or cannot make it, so the call should be brief).

And I maintain that principle of not answering the phone during archery lessons because I believe it interrupts the flow of the lesson. I don't want to gab on the phone with a prospective student who has 20 questions while I am supposed to be teaching. It ruins the experience for the student who is actually there.

Thus if someone wants to ask questions over the phone you cannot expect me to answer the phone unless it is the evening or one of my days off. If I am teaching a lesson, attending a funeral, in a movie theatre, sleeping, in the shower or any other activity where I am not available, your phone call will go unanswered.

So yes, email is your best option.




Teaching Methodology

I am, and remain, the most popular and successful (and most expensive) archery instructor in Toronto thanks to all the demand for archery lessons. I do not claim to be the best instructor, as there is a degree of personal style that comes with being a sports trainer. Some people prefer to have an trainer who is more like a drill sergeant, and that is not my style. I like to use stories, sayings and humour to help students remember things during the teaching process. I challenge students using tasks that get progressively harder as the student becomes increasingly better as an archer. My popularity is largely due to word of mouth because students learn so much and have an enjoyable time learning.

On the topic of instructive sayings...

Have you ever taken an oxy-acetylene welding class and heard the phrase "A before O or up you go?"

It was a saying I learned back in 1994 during welding class in high school. It stands for Oxygen before Acetylene, or else it will explode. Oxygen is explosive. You turn on the Acetylene first, to provide fuel and then you light it. Only after it is lit do you turn on the oxygen and adjust the flow of oxygen to get a good flame. If you were to turn on the Oxygen first, the space you are working in would fill with oxygen and when you do successful cause a spark, the oxygen in the area would explode.

Now that saying has always stayed stuck in my head. It rhymes. It is easy to remember.

I have a long list of archery sayings. So many I have been writing them down and plan to someday publish a book of them.

So here is one archery saying:

"Have some apple pie."

HSAP stands for:
  1. Hand
  2. Shoulder
  3. Anchor/Aim
  4. Power
And you can read my old post for more details about Have Some Apple Pie to fully understand why this is an useful archery saying when it comes to proper archery form.

HSAP is one of those archery tips I give out for free to anyone asking for an archery tip.

That one time someone asked for a discount...

Years ago someone in Toronto asked for a discount on archery lessons. I laugh now, because it is funny, but at the time the request was so ridiculous I didn't know what to say.

I was booked full at the time. To the end of the year. No time slots left available on any day. Everything was prebooked and people were booking for the following year.

So asking for archery lessons and wanting to get a discount was a pretty funny request, and remains such.

I have had people ask me for archery lessons and then they find out what my rates are and change their minds. So I get that not everyone can afford to get archery lessons from me.

But contacting me, asking for a discount, and then finding out that I am fully booked is so deeply ironic I cannot help but laugh at it.

Now I do provide some discounts.
  1. 10% Discount to Seniors over the age of 65.
  2. 10% Discount to Veterans, with proof of their military service.
  3. Discounted rates for signing up for 3, 5 or 10 lessons.
  4. Sales. Once in awhile I do have a sale price, usually because I am trying to fill unused time slots on specific days. eg. Thursdays.
But that is it. I am not giving out any extra discounts willy-nilly on random whims.

If people want to teach themselves, there are plenty of free archery tips on my website, plenty of free tips on YouTube, and plenty of archery books and even archery magazines you could read.

Examples:

"Precision Archery" is by far the best book I have come across.

"Archery Focus Magazine" is the best magazine in my opinion, as it deals solely with archery. Some of the bowhunting magazines tend to get rather off-topic with hunting stories, so I rarely read the hunting stories in those.

So there are plenty of options out there, including a page I wrote years ago in 2013 for "The Canadian Daily" which was titled "Archery Lessons in Toronto + Do-It-Yourself Approach". Sadly The Canadian Daily is no more, and thus I have moved that old article on to my own website.

So if you are looking for archery lessons in Toronto, absolutely, you should contact me. Do it now rather than waiting until later, as I can never guarantee to the people who procrastinate that they will get the time slots that best suit their schedule.

From my experience of talking to students, the biggest killer of archery aspirations is procrastination.


Happy Shooting!

Shopping for Vintage and Antique Bows

So I recently did a different post titled "Shopping for a Traditional Bow", and it occurred to me that I should also write a second post about "Shopping for a Vintage Bow" or "Shopping for an Antique Bow".

And eventually I decided, yes, I should write it, but lets just make it "Vintage and Antique" together so that people can understand the difference.

And yes, it is possible to shoot vintage and antique bows - if you buy the right one! eg. I have an older post from 2016 titled "Bullseye at 195 feet with an Antique Recurve" which proves that, yes, you can still shoot these bows, and in the hands of a skilled archer they are still very accurate.

Also I should note that the bow used in the above post was technically a vintage bow from 1975, and is not technically an antique because it is only 44 years old. So whoops. My bad.

A Few Definitions

Vintage Archery Equipment - Typically anything that is 25 to 50 years old, or possibly older counts as vintage. Thus currently any bow that is older than 1994 currently counts as vintage. The upper limit of what counts as vintage could be considered to be 1969, but in reality vintage bows can be older than that.

Antique Archery Equipment - Has a considerable difference in age. There is no hard line on this topic however. Being 100 years old or more is definitely considered to be an antique when it comes to furniture, but with archery equipment we also have to worry about whether the bow is still usable and the fact that William Folberth did not invent and patent the fibreglass recurve bow until 1933 and it would be several decades before fibreglass recurve designs were perfected by other bowyers. Thus with respect to archery equipment I think anything that is 70 years or more should be considered to be an antique. So at present that would be anything that was made in 1949 or earlier, a time period when fibreglass recurves still had some bizarre designs.

Now you notice of course that there is a gap between the two definitions. The gap between 50 and 70 years old. So we shall simply extend the definition of what counts as vintage as anything between 25 to 70 years old.

Ancient Archery Equipment - Belonging to ancient times. eg. A Roman bow would count as ancient.

Prehistoric Archery Equipment - So old it predates known history. eg. The Meare Heath bow is prehistoric.

Shopping Wise

Black Hawk Avenger
So you can't really go shopping for ancient or prehistoric bows, as such things are typically in museums. But Vintage and Antique bows can be found readily enough on eBay and similar websites, for sale for what can sometimes reach outrageous prices due to the auction bidding format.

Thus when you go shopping on eBay, you can find a wide variety of vintage bows (and to a lesser extent antique bows) that are available - but be prepared to spend a pretty penny when it comes to the price of various bows as the other people can bid just as high as you do.

Certain companies are more rare and desirable, like Black Hawk (I own two of them so far) which is desirable because their bows are so beautiful and well made. One of them, the 1972 Black Hawk Avenger, is one of my favourite bows to shoot with.

Various companies like Bear, Browning, and Ben Pearson are also desirable. (Basically if it started with a B, it is probably a bow people now collect.)

When shopping you want to be looking for defects in the bow to see what condition it is in. This means you want to see many photos of every part of the bow. Front, back, sides, tips, limbs, riser, everything. So sellers will often post 16 to 20 photos of every angle of the bow.

Hot Tip - Avoid any bow where the seller only posts a few photos and they are all blurry photos that make it difficult to see any defects in the bow. If they cannot be bothered to post quality photos then they don't deserve your money.

Bow Usability

Depending on the manufacturer's level of quality, the bow in question can even still be usable.

So for example, I have a 1949 Bear Grizzly Static, which would count as antique bow because it is now 70 years old. It is still usable too, as Fred Bear put significant effort into making bows which had the level of quality that would withstand the test of time.

I also have a Ben Pearson lemonwood bow from 1942. It is also still usable, but is significantly weaker than it used to be so it doesn't really shoot that far.

So yes, it is totally possible to get an antique or vintage bow that is still completely usable. However this isn't true for every bow. I have a 1952 Roy Rogers longbow which is not usable for my 28 inch draw length. It is in reality a vintage children's bow, and it is meant for a draw length of 20 inches or less. So my son someday may be able to shoot it, or maybe it will just be a decorative piece.

Hot Tip - Just because the owner claims the bow is usable, that doesn't mean it is. They could be lying to you just to make the sale. Use your own judgment.

Bow Maintenance and Care

#1. Oil your vintage wooden bow to protect it from water damage. Linseed oil works well, as does mineral oil. I use a mix of both.

#2. Never overdraw your vintage bow. That is a great way to break it.

#3. Never let a friend or a stranger draw your vintage bow. They might overdraw it and break it.

#4. Never take your vintage bow outside if it is too hot or too cold. Too much heat or cold could damage your bow. Avoid rain or snow too if you can. Use your best judgment.

#5. Never mishandle or misuse your vintage bow. That is just asking to break it.

#6. The older the bow the more strictly you should follow the above advice. eg. A vintage bow from 1994 might not be that big of a deal. But a vintage bow from the 1950s would be a whole different topic.

#7. Get a bow sock for storage / transportation of your bow. Keep it is cool dry place, like a wall rack.

Happy Shooting!


Shopping for a Traditional Bow

Note - So years ago I wrote this article for "The Canadian Daily", an online magazine which has since disappeared. Since it is no more I realized I should republish the article here instead. Thus while the information here may be a little redundant when compared to some of my other articles, it is not wholly redundant. There are some useful parts in here that are not mentioned elsewhere on my website. Also I have updated part of the article.





I have been doing archery since 1989 and have over 10 bows. I am not even sure exactly how many I have now. I would have to count them all.

Truth be told I am already shopping for another bow. I collect bows of all shapes and sizes, and I have a fondness for older antique bows. Thus writing this article about shopping for traditional bows just comes really naturally for me. I guess I am a true toxophilite (someone who is obsessed with archery) and enjoy passing on such information.

Whether you are jumping on the archery bandwagon or if you’ve always wanted to get into archery – or if you are a compound bowhunter who wants to try bowhunting using a traditional bow – well then this is an article you will likely enjoy immensely.

Regardless of your motivation you have lots of options available. There are longbows, shortbows, horsebows, traditional recurves, pyramid bows, hybrid longbows, hybrid pyramid bows, double limbed recurves (which is not traditional, but definitely unusual) and scorpion bows (which is just plain weird) – and many of these bows have variants that come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. eg. A yumi bow is a Japanese longbow typically used during kyudo ceremonies.

For hunters using what is known as a “bare bow” (a bow without any gadgets on it) is the ultimate challenge. Hunting with a compound bow feels like you are cheating, whereas hunting with a bare bow means that you have to be a truly skilled archer and know what you are doing. Hunting with a bare bow may seem primitive and even intimidating in comparison to modern recurves, but it is hunting in one of its most ancient forms and once you get the hang of it you wonder why you ever bothered with a compound bow.

Finding the right bow for a beginner can be a challenge. To get started you need to know which is your dominant eye for archery. Once you know whether you are right or left eye dominant then you need to figure out how much you can actually pull – and how much you can hold steady.

To put this in perspective I can tell you that many men and women out there can pull a 40 lb recurve bow – and that the vast majority of them have difficulty holding it steady. Some of them won’t even be able to pull it, let alone hold it steady. They would be better off starting off with a bow that is in the 24 to 30 lb range, learning proper archery form, how to aim, etc, and after they have learned all that and built up additional muscle then go out and buy a more powerful bow if they so wish to.

This would be important for people who wish to do bowhunting. Ontario law requires the use of a 39.7 lb or better bow for hunting deer, and a 48.5 lb or better bow for hunting elk, moose or black bear. Those of you who are already familiar with compound hunting should already know these laws, but for those of you who are new to archery this is good information to know.

Most companies list their bows’ draw weight at a draw distance of 28 inches. Pay attention to that as sometimes it will be a different number. eg. If it is 30 lbs at 30 inches then it is probably only about 28 lbs at 28 inches. This will not make much difference depending on your arm length however. If you are shorter your draw length might be only 26 inches, or if you are taller it might be 30 or 32 inches. As long as you can pull the bow and hold it steady that will be the biggest deciding factor as to whether that is a good bow for you.

Now you might wonder “Why bother with a heavier poundage bow? Can’t I just use a really light poundage?” Yes, you could. But you wouldn’t get much range or accuracy out of it. The stronger the bow is the more speed, range and accuracy the arrows will have coming out of it – but you need to be strong enough to pull that bow in the first place.

For beginners stick to a lighter bow and get really good at it before switching up to a more challenging bow. For compound bowhunters get a traditional bow that fulfills your needs so you can hunt legally with your new bow, but pay attention to the advice section further below.

TYPES OF BOWS

Traditional Recurve Bows

Recurves offer more power and speed with respect to entry level bows. Because the bow limbs curve backwards and then forwards it creates extra forward tension on the bowstring and gives more power into every shot – this results in faster arrows leaving the bow and more accuracy over longer distances. Recurve bows typically come in the range of 14 lbs to 70 lbs. It is possible to get recurve bows more powerful than that, but they are more likely to snap, break, twist.

Recurves are faster “pound for pound” compared to longbows, but as you will see below longbows can pack more punch.

Expect to pay $130 for a basic wooden recurve or $300 to $900 for a high quality traditional recurve bow.

Above on the right you will see a photo of myself out for some winter archery practice at the Toronto Public Archery Range. The bow I am using is a Bear “Grizzly” traditional recurve with black sheepskin dampeners on the bowstring (it makes the bow quieter, an useful thing for bowhunters). I like that bow so much I gave it a name – “Seahawk”.

Longbows

Longbows may seem very primitive and simple, but they are also very powerful. While each shot loses some of its power to the limbs, it benefits from no real limit on how powerful a longbow can be. English warbows (a type of longbow) often packed between 80 and 120 lbs of force. Indeed some of the centuries old warbows that were recovered from the sunken Mary Rose warship were so powerful that after being restored they packed an impressive 150 to 160 lbs of force at full draw. Lastly one of the greatest archers of the last century, Howard Hill, once took down an elephant while hunting using a 183 lb longbow. It took him 4 arrows to accomplish the feat.

At higher poundages longbows become the bow of choice for most archers. The arrows get faster and faster too, so while a recurve can shoot faster arrows at lower poundages, at a higher poundage the longbow wins because the recurve bow would snap (“catastrophic limb failure”) under the stress.

Now you might think that longbows are less accurate. This is wholly untrue. They are more difficult to learn how to shoot, because the stance is different and more difficult, but they are no less accurate than a recurve bow in the hands of an archer experienced at shooting longbows. Indeed the three greatest archers of the last century (Howard Hill, Byron Ferguson, and Awa Kenzo) all used some kind of longbow.

Most longbows don’t have an arrowrest on them, but you can also get hybrid longbows which do have an arrowrest. Personal preference, I like mine to have a proper arrowrest.

Expect to pay $150 for a basic longbow or $200 to $900 for a much nicer longbow.

Shortbows and Horsebows

They’re basically the same thing. Shortbows are designed for shooting on horseback and there are a variety of countries known for their traditional horsebows – including Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Japan, Korea, Mongolia and numerous other countries. I don’t want to leave any out, but suffice to say shortbows were found in many cultures all over the globe. In North America it only took a few generations after horses arrived for Native Americans to transition to making horsebows so that they could more easily shoot from horseback. The necessity of being able to do horseback archery drove their ingenuity to design the new horsebows.

The great thing about shortbows is their speed and versatility. They are a lot of fun to shoot and some archers have become amazingly fast with them. One such archer is modern speed shooter Lars Anderson – who can shoot 10 arrows in 4.9 seconds, and can shoot 11 arrows in the air before the first one hits the ground (long distance of course).

Expect to pay $200 for a basic shortbow or over $1,000 for a really nice traditional Korean shortbow.

In the video below you see a local Toronto archer using a horsebow to practice clout shooting (shooting extreme distances at a flag to see how close you get).



Unusual Bows

This is where you get into your pyramid bows, double limbed recurves or even the really weird scorpion bows. When it comes to these bows there are really nothing wrong with them, they’re just really unusual. I don’t recommend people buy an unusual bow for their first bow, but it would be a fun 2nd or 3rd bow if you start collecting them.

Pyramid bows are similar to longbows but the limbs taper differently and the handle is designed with inverted triangles above and below the handle. I have one myself and I have discovered they are really quiet – which is a boon if you are a hunter. For myself I have a custom made hybrid pyramid bow that has an arrowrest built into the handle. My pyramid bow was custom made by local Toronto bowyer Mike Meusel and cost me $250.

Double limbed recurves look weird, but they are more powerful. In theory a custom bowyer could make a double limbed recurve that has up to maybe 160 lbs of power at full draw. Anything more than that and I am confident it would break. However I have only ever seen photographs of double limbed recurves. I have never seen them in real life. It would be a real challenge to find someone willing to custom make one, or an even bigger challenge to try and build one yourself.

Scorpion bows are spring loaded instead of using the limb tension to fire the arrow. In this respect they are similar to a spring loaded ballista (a type of very large crossbow), but smaller and there is no locking mechanism. Instead you pull it back like you would with a normal bow and release it – the springs do the rest of the work. Like the double limbed recurves the scorpion bows are extremely rare. There is probably less than a dozen of them on the whole planet.

Where to Buy and How Much to Spend

There are a variety of places within Toronto and near Toronto where you can buy traditional bows. You can see a list of available archery equipment shops in Toronto by visiting ArcheryToronto.ca.

If you are just starting out my advice would be to get a basic wooden recurve first, but if your heart is set upon a longbow, shortbow, something more unusual or even something really expensive then my recommendation is that you shop around and KNOW what you are buying first. Ask the shop owner to string the bow for you so you can try pulling it back and holding it steady. If you cannot hold that bow steady then you need a lighter poundage.

Budget wise expect to pay about $350 for a basic wooden recurve bow, 10 arrows, finger gloves, quiver, bracer and arrowheads. If you opt for something more expensive you will need to budget within the $500 to $1,000 range. The prices go much higher (diamond encrusted composite longbows made from Italian yew and Brazilian rainforest hardwood, etc), but I don’t recommend getting ridiculous with the first bow you buy.

You could also try to buy an used bow – which is riskier as you may not get the poundage you are looking for. Or worse, if you don’t pay attention you might buy a right hand draw bow when you are left eye dominant. Using the wrong eye to shoot with will make all your arrows go off to the side. Finding an used bow will take longer and you will need to scour craigslist, kijiji or my favourite, auction websites that have estate sales. I am on the lookout for antique bows and estate auction sales are sometimes a great way to find archery equipment that is really old and in good condition.

It is possible to get some real steals if you manage to find a high quality bow and buy it off someone who doesn’t know what it is worth. Thus it is possible to get a really nice bow for $100 or even less. But don’t expect that to be the norm. Most people selling them will have an inkling of what they are worth. However if you don’t like their price you can always make them an offer for 70 or 80% of their asking price and see if they are willing to sell it anyway.

When buying an used bow always check for cracks in the wood – and then determine whether you think you can fix it. Last summer I purchased an old shortbow for $10 because I pointed out two cracks in the wood and the guy dropped his price to half his original asking price of $20. I took the shortbow home, fixed the cracks with superglue and it has shot perfectly ever since. It came with no string so I made my own string using jute and it is hanging on my wall right now as a decoration.

Making Your Own Bow

It is possible to make your own longbow or even a pyramid bow. I recommend starting with a longbow because other types of bows are very tricky to make and it would be better to start with something simple before you try something that is going to be much harder to build.

I myself made a homemade crossbow earlier this month for fun. I am already planning to make a 2nd larger crossbow and using my earlier attempt as a prototype.

If you do decide to try and make your own traditional bow I recommend buying the book “The Traditional Bowyer’s Bible”, written by Jim Hamm. It is an amazing book and a must have for anyone into bow-making or arrow-making. Another good book on this topic is “The Traditional Bowyers Encyclopedia” by Dan Bertalan, which is available to read at the Toronto Reference Library.

Advice for Compound Bowhunters

If you are making the switch from compound bows and have never really used traditional bows before the biggest thing you are going to have to get used to is the lack of let off when you pull back a traditional bow and try to hold it steady. The other thing you are not used to is shooting without gadgets. So my advice for you is as follows:

#1. Try weightlifting 30 to 45 minutes every 2 days, focus on building both strength and endurance. Eat more protein. The extra strength and endurance will help you to hold the bow steadier for longer periods of time. Don’t stop doing this after awhile, keeping weightlifting every 2 days to continue building up your strength and maintain it. Being a lazy slob and quitting after 2 weeks will cause the muscle gain you did get to disappear over time. Having extra muscles won’t hurt you.

#2. Learn to shoot faster and more accurately. This means lots of practice. Get to the point where you barely need any time to aim and hit where you were aiming.

#3. Learn to shoot at different ranges, including uphill and downhill. If you are shooting without gadgets you have to learn to gauge the distance with your eyes, aim accordingly and make a well executed shot. Again this is something that can be remedied through lots of practice on 3D ranges where you don’t know the distance you are shooting.

#4. Don’t get a bow you can barely hold steady. Find what poundage you can pull, and then get a bow 10 or 15 lbs lighter than that so you can hold it really steady while you aim. You will still want it to fulfill the minimum legal requirements, but you don’t need to get a ridiculously powerful bow if you are only hunting deer. When hunting deer most bowhunters use a 45 lb bow (13% above the legal requirement in Ontario). For hunting moose or elk most bowhunters use a 55 to 60 lb bow. For hunting black bear many bowhunters like to use a bow in the 60 to 80 lbs range. You could go higher, but it unnecessary and overkill.

Equipment Maintenance

If you are using a wooden bow try to avoid getting your equipment wet. Wrap it up, avoid mildew, clean your equipment regularly. Remember to wax the bowstring regularly – like once every time you practice, or every 2nd time you practice.

Once in awhile you should make an effort to try out new equipment and see if there is anything you want to try using. eg. Try Dacron bowstrings vs Dynaflight 97 bowstrings. See which one you like better.

Keeping your archery equipment in good shape will maintain a lot of its resale value if you ever sell it at a later date.

If you decide to sell your current equipment and get newer equipment, get the new equipment first before selling the old. That way if you don’t like the new bow as much you can always change your mind, sell the new bow and keep the old one.

Still Need More Help?

In the past some of my archery students have asked for my aid while shopping for archery equipment, having me go with them and “hold their hand” so to speak while they shop for archery equipment that is suitable for them so they get the most out of their equipment. I am always happy to help in that respect, even people who are not my students. (Although I do require you bribe me with food, because I am a busy guy. eg. One of my favourite archery stores has an all you can eat Korean buffet nearby.)

So if you absolutely need more help finding archery equipment in Toronto you can email me (cardiotrek@gmail.com). Otherwise I recommend browsing the different shops listed on ArcheryToronto.ca.

Looking to sign up for archery lessons, boxing lessons, swimming lessons, ice skating lessons or personal training sessions? Start by emailing cardiotrek@gmail.com and lets talk fitness!

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