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Recreational Archery as a Sport

Part of what I have been doing while I am working on my forthcoming book on the topic of recreational archery is trying to better define what "recreational archery" is.

Often people try to define things by what they are not.

Recreational archery for example is not competitive. This does not mean that archers cannot have a friendly competition, but they're not competing for prizes, trophies, etc. At most recreational archers might compete and the loser buys dinner.

Recreational archery is also not done solely for the purpose of bowhunting or bowfishing. True, some bowhunters or bowfishers may engage in recreational archery as a form of practice, but if their primary goal is hunting or fishing then they are not really recreational archers, are they? They are primarily bowhunters or bowfishers, and they only engage in recreational activities with respect to archery as a matter of circumstance or habit in order to practice for the next time they go hunting or fishing.

Now there is nothing wrong with wanting to compete or to use your skills to put food on the table (although there is something wrong with trophy hunters who don't actually eat what they kill). Choosing to get into competitive archery or bowhunting is really a personal choice. Yes, ego plays a role, as does a certain amount of bloodthirstiness in the case of hunting, but as long as people try to remain humble and actually eat the animals they are killing I don't have a problem with it.

Recreational archery however is void of any attempt to compete for the sake of ego or to sate the need to hunt like our ancestors did. It is archery for archery's sake. The joy of the ancestral tool and weapon, part of our heritage regardless of what part of the world we come from.

The enjoyment people feel from just launching an arrow into the sky, like a rocket, and see it plummet back to earth and strike a target in the far distance is unlike anything you could achieve using firearms or pyrotechnics. Yes, you could shoot the target with a rifle, easily, but where is the challenge? The rifle does all the work. You get way more enjoyment out of achieving something that you did yourself. Your own power transformed by the bow into an arrow arcing forward and visually seeing it strike the target. Bullets go so fast you never see anything more than a flash of muzzle flare and a hole appear in the target.

"The Witchery of Archery" as it was once called in a book published in 1878 brought archery back to the public eye as a recreational pastime. Written by American author James Maurice Thompson, the book's primary goal was to promote archery as a pastime, and while it did touch on bowhunting, most of the book was dedicated to recreational use and manufacturing techniques of making archery equipment.

Thompson also wrote a 2nd book "How to Train in Archery", which dealt in both training techniques and also competitive archery in the form of the "York Round". Reading through both books you will however agree that Thompson's primary goals in writing the books was to promote recreational archery, as his manner of dealing with topics of competition and bowhunting were really aimed more at the percentage of archers who would like to get into those fields, while the vast majority of his books were aimed instead at recreational archers.

There are many books that deal with the topics of competitive archery and also bowhunting - I know because I own many of those books. However what is sorely lacking is books on the topic of recreational archery - archery for archery's sake.

And so to distill a definition of what recreational archery is, I think we have arrived at a conclusion: Archery for archery's sake is the best definition of recreational archery.

I can also argue that recreational archery is also the purest form of archery, that it is devoid of ego and bloodlust, but people would doubtlessly call me a hypocrite for saying such things because they would likely point to my past history of bragging and bowfishing. However I don't need to brag to enjoy archery, nor do I do need to bowfish. Bragging and bowfishing are not my primary goals when I do archery. Nor is bowhunting, an activity I have become increasingly fascinated with despite past affirmations that I would never take up bowhunting and had no interest in doing so. My opinion on bowhunting has softened somewhat in recent years and my curiousity to take it up is a personal choice I will likely make within the next year. So any argument from me about recreational archery being the purest form of archery is really me just being an elitist, trying to claim that recreational archery is superior to other forms of archery*.

* Which I firmly believe it is. Bowhunting serves a purpose, to survive by killing an animal and eating its flesh. But archery is just a tool in the goal of shooting a beast that is typically within point blank range so they can get an ethical shot. The goal could easily be a achieved using a spear, an ingenius trap, or firearms. Olympic competitive archery is so focused at shooting 1 distance (70 meters) using one set of equipment (Olympic recurve bow with stabilizer, sight, clicker, etc) that if you ask an Olympic archer to shoot at something between 5 meters and 150 meters away, they don't know where they should even aim. Let alone asking them to shoot a moving target, shoot a stationary target while the archer is in motion, or even shooting a moving target while the archer is in motion. A recreational archer who is experienced at what they do can shoot at any target, regardless of the distance, regardless of how big or small, regardless of whether the target is moving. Why? Because they practice doing such things for fun. For fun. And that is why recreational archery is arguably superior to other forms of archery, recreational archers will try new things, they experiment, they like a challenge. They learn to read the wind, judge distances, time their shots on moving targets, and rely on their experience to make a well-placed shot rather than any kind of gadgets. They enjoy archery for the sake of archery itself, chasing perfection at every distance for every target.

So am I an elitist for claiming recreational archery is superior? Maybe. If so, then I say so proudly. With a measure of bragging even. Does that make me a bad person? No. Not really. I am just very devoted to the sport of archery. Is that really a bad thing? I don't think so. I am a pretty good shot however, no bragging there - tis the honest truth.

If you enjoyed reading this and love recreational archery be sure to bookmark and come back when my book is done and published. Subscribe to if you want more free archery advice.

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