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Henk du Plessis, a well-known archer and traditional bowhunter in South Africa with some of the excellent all-wooden bows he crafted.
 

 

INTRODUCTION

Bowhunting has a long tradition in Africa and in Southern Africa. Many tribes in Africa has made use of the bow and arrow, of which the San Bushmen and the pygmies of central Africa, both using poison arrows, are probably the best known.

In Southern Africa, the San and the Ovambo have until recently hunted with bow and arrow and there are probably a few of these people who still do so. The Ovambo does not use poison arrows, though. They make short, but strong bows consisting of sapwood and heartwood.

Olympic archery has been a sport in South Africa for many years and recently bowhunting has become very popular as well. Although archers have continued using recurves, most bowhunters have taken up the modern compound bow. Traditional archery and the traditional shooting style; i.e. using no sights, still does not have a big following in the country. It is African Archer’s quest to promote traditional archery in Southern Africa and to entice traditional bowhunters from other countries to visit Southern Africa and to hunt the more than 50 available species.

I believe interest in the bow and arrow is ingrained in our genes. Well, at least in most males. Most boys sooner or later make a bow from a stick and a string and arrows from reeds or some other available material. Put a bow in a boy’s hand and see the excitement. Show a grown man a well-made bow and most of the time you get the same reaction. Women have been hunters and archers for ages as well, and many find archery just as exciting as men do. Show a man a compound and he will be impressed. Show a man a beautiful wooden bow and he will exclaim: “Now that is a real bow!” The wooden bow brings up visions of Robin Hood, American Indians or some romantic era in the past. The compound bow brings up a vision of Sylvester Stalone in a Rambo movie.

Most traditionalists are bow and arrow lovers. Their first interest is archery and the bow they hold in their hands. Most are interested in the history of archery and the romance that goes with shooting their stick, be it a longbow, a recurve or a primitive bow. Many of these traditionalists are also hunters, but I suspect hunting fulfils a secondary role.

On the other hand, I suspect that most compound bowhunters are hunters first and that the bow and arrow is a more challenging way of hunting for them. It may also be that they prefer the silence of the bow to the noise of rifle hunting or they may like the look and the feel of the weapon. Whatever their reason, I suspect most compound hunters are interested in the bow and arrow as a hunting instrument, and not in the bow and arrow per se. The history and tradition of the bow and arrow and archery are of little interest to them. They are not to be criticised for it. And their choice is not a wrong choice, neither a less commendable one. It is just a choice, and they should be respected for it.

A traditional archer takes up the challenge to acquire a skill that takes many hours of practise. He chooses to shoot and hunt in a way his ancestors have hunted for many thousands of years. When he takes up his bow he relives the past. He chooses a road less travelled. Many people may not understand why someone would want to do something the hard way, when there is an easier choice. Why run when you can ride? Why does someone run a marathon or scale a vertical rock wall? Why sleep in a tent in the bushes when you can sleep in your house? These questions have no answers. The answers would not make sense, and neither does it to ask them. Only a traditional archer will understand why another chooses to shoot his longbow or recurve.

     
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Updated: December 11, 2013