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Shorter Bows Vs Longer Bows

Q

Two Very Similar Questions

"I have a question. I'm 19 and started off when I was 2 years old shooting traditional. As I got older I started shooting compound. I have a bear kodiak super magnum and I am really wanting to be able to harvest my first deer with traditional equipment this year but my shooting is all over the place. Earlier I went in the garage and got out a bear grizzly the my dad doesn't use anymore. Now the grizzly is significantly longer than the kodiak magnum. I started shooting it and was shooting way better than with the magnum. Could the size difference of the bow be the reason I was shooting worse/better?

Dylan G."


"[A] question that I have is in regards to the length of bows in general. What would be the biggest difference I would feel if I used a 62" bow compared to the 66" bow that we have been using. Would it still work well with the 28" draw length or would I just be overdrawing the bow all the time?

Thanks again for all of your help,

Eric K."


A

The short answer:

Longer bows are more forgiving. You can make a mistake and often still hit the target.
Shorter bows are unforgiving. You make a mistake and miss completely.

The long answer... it is complicated. It comes down to the physics and the design of the bow, the canting of the bow, the angle of the bowstring to tip of the bow, lateral physics, whether the bow is more bottom heavy and other factors. But yes, generally speaking, longer bows are usually more forgiving than shorter bows.

This is also true of compound bows too, which are measured from axle to axle.

Axle-to-Axle, or more commonly called by the acronym ATA, is the distance measured between each axle of a compound bow. Each cam operates on an axle and taking the length between those two axles is going to be your ATA measurement. There are compound bows with a long ATA, short ATA and some with a middle of the road ATA.

The longer ATA compound bows are always more forgiving of mistakes. However many hunters favour shorter ATA compound bows because they want a bow that weighs less, allows them to maneuver easier around branches when shooting from a tree stand, etc.

With competitive compound shooters however they don't need to worry about weight and maneuvrability. They just want as much accuracy as they can get. Thus competitive compounds are often quite long from axle to axle.


The same goes with Olympic recurve archers.

When it comes to Olympic recurves they are usually 66, 68 or 70 inches long. The extra bit of length gives the bow a bit more accuracy and Olympic archers want all the accuracy they can get. Thus it would be rare to see an Olympic recurve which is 64 inches or less. Most manufacturers that make such bows don't even make limbs and riser combos that go that short.


WHAT MAKES A GREAT ARCHER?

Now you may have also heard previously that when it comes to feats of accuracy and skill the three best archers of the last century all shot longbows: Awa Kenzo, Howard Hill, Byron Ferguson - sometimes listed in that order.

And that is true. They all shot longbows.

Awa Kenzo shot a Japanese yumi longbow. Yumi longbows are typically 7 to 9 feet long.

Howard Hill shot a traditional English longbow which had a modified handle he designed himself.

Byron Ferguson is still alive and shoots a "radical reflex-deflex longbow". Rather a complicated longbow design, but there it is.

So why did they shoot a longer bow even though these archers were already great at what they do?

Because even great archers still make mistakes. And when you know mistakes still happen you want to get the extra consistency that a longer bow affords you.

So what made these three longbow men so great?

Well, Awa Kenzo was known for his trick shooting. He could shoot a bullseye in the dark and then repeat the shot with such accuracy that he Robin Hooded the first arrow.

Howard Hill was renown for his hunting skills. One of my favourite stories about him is shooting an eagle at 150 yards, roughly twice the distance that Olympic archers shoot at (70 meters).

And Byron Ferguson does a combination of both trick shooting and long distance shooting. He can shoot a tiny moving target, like an aspirin in the air at 30 feet.

So then you might wonder, wait, so if Olympic recurves are so great, why aren't there any really famous Olympic archers?

Because they come and go. The average length of a competitive archer's career is less than 10 years. Even the most successful Olympic archers only ever compete in 1 or 2 Olympic Games and spend most of their time competing in local competitions, and there is very little money in it.

Plus the Koreans keep winning 75% of all the big competitions.

This comes down to money. In Korea Olympic archers often get big sponsors like Hyundai and Samsung supporting their careers. There is far more money in the sport in South Korea.

In contrast guess how much a Canadian Olympic archer earns in a year from sponsors?

Usually zero.

So eventually as Olympic archers get older they need to stop competing in order to pay for bills. They get married, have a few kids, the usual deal.

Even great archers like Awa Kenzo, Howard Hill, and Byron Ferguson had/have their sources of income. Awa Kenzo taught archery and martial arts, opening his own dojo. Howard Hill was in a lot of films between the 1930s and 1960s, promoting archery via film. Byron Ferguson writes books about archery.

So what made them great wasn't just their skill, but also their ability to keep doing archery because they made it part of their livelihood. Teaching, promoting, writing.

Olympic archers after they retire from competitions rarely go into archery as a business. A tiny few will end up coaching, while most of them will get an university degree or a college diploma and pursue a different passion.

Can you name an Olympic archer who was active during the 1980s or 1990s who is still famous, still competing and shooting amazingly today?

Nope. Neither can I.

Below is two photos of three Olympic archers shooting inside the Eaton's Centre while it was being built in May 1976. The photographs were taken by reporter/photographer Tibor Kelly. The archers in the photo are Wayne Pullen, Ron Lippert and Sheila Brown.


I had never heard of any of those three archers until a few months ago. And oddly enough, despite all their medals and accolades, these photographs might be the most historically important thing they ever did as archers. No doubt they contributed personally to the sport, encouraging others, teaching a bit, being supportive. Tiny ripples of influence in the river of history.

The three of them collectively probably had boxes of medals and trophies. So many they didn't know what to do with. But once an archer's competitive archery career is over, then what?
 
Some might shoot recreationally.
 
A rare few might get into bowhunting.
 
A tiny few might get into coaching, if they have the necessary skills to teach it properly.
 
Extremely few will write a How To Book, as that implies they first got into coaching and also had the necessary skills required to write a book about it.

So what makes a great archer?

In my opinion it is more than merely competing for 10 years (or less) of your life. Great archers shoot for decades and they leave a lasting contribution to the sport.

Awa Kenzo didn't just found an archery school. He founded a whole branch of Japanese archery, breaking from the ritualized kyudo to focus more on zen and Buddhist principles, a branch of Japanese archery that is still practiced today as his disciples passed on his teachings.

Howard Hill performed some amazing feats of archery. But in North America he also caused an archery fad that lasted from the late 1930s to early 1970s. An archery fad that lasted decades and effected the sport on the global level. (In contrast The Hunger Games fad only lasted a few years.) If it wasn't for Howard Hill there wouldn't even by "Olympic archery". They brought the sport back to the Olympics in 1972 after a 52 year hiatus.

And Byron Ferguson continues to teach, write and amaze. His contributions to the sport are not yet tallied.

For example lets talk about E. T. Seton.

E. T. Seton was an author of children's books. Yes, he did archery, but he wasn't particularly great at it. But he did manage to leave a lasting impression on Toronto's Archery community by donating in his will the land that became E. T. Seton Park and now contains the Toronto Archery Range.

Thus his biggest contribution to archery was land. A place for archers to practice.

Was E. T. Seton a great archer? Probably not. But we could say that he was a good person and a good archer. Certainly a generous archer.

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