I’ve been an archer for around 14 years. I learned to shoot with a recurve when I was in college and I immediately fell in love. After that class ended, I ran to the nearest bow shop and picked up a compound bow. It was a Browning and it was beautiful. I shot a lot, but I never took it seriously and my accuracy was always way off, but I didn’t care as I was doing it for fun.
I moved to a new state and the movers lost my bow. I was so devastated, I loved that bow, I had had it for years and now it was suddenly gone. I didn’t pick archery back up for many years after that. It’s unfortunate that Browning doesn’t make bows anymore. A friend of mine was generous enough to gift me a Browning Recurve which I love and use as often as I can.
I digress; I love archery. Everything about it is so soothing. I am totally zen when I’m shooting my bow. The whole world just disappears and all that’s left is the target in front of me.
I love my compound, but I know in a true survival scenario that a compound may not be the best option for long term.
Here’s what we should consider about archery before choosing it as one of our main sources to hunt or for defense or whatever else.
Types of bows:
–Compound: The compound bow has a lot of moving parts that we must maintain to keep it running smoothly. Even if you keep extra pieces on hand, it would be difficult to maintain if you’re not at home with the necessary tools.
On that same note, it’s impossible to change the string of a compound bow without a press. So if you must change out the string (which you will have to do at some point, no matter how well you maintain your string), you need a bow press in order to get it off and get a new one back one. So even if you keep an extra string on hand, you’ll still need some way to get the new string on.
Some compounds are kind of heavy and bulky as well. Mine is lightweight and doesn’t feel bulky, but it could be a hindrance to some.
The arrows are another concern. Unless you have a lot of arrows, they could get lost or break and you’d quickly run out of arrows. You can’t just make new arrows for a compound because of the sheer force that it would put on the wooden arrow, the arrow would simply shatter.
Lastly, you need a release to properly operate; if your release breaks, it’s gonna be difficult to macgyver a new release or to fix whatever happened to your existing release.
For the short term, as long as you wax your string and don’t dry fire it, it should last quite a while. But it wouldn’t be a super long-term solution. I haven’t changed my strings out in 2 years and they’re still perfectly fine, but they are getting to the point where it wouldn’t hurt to change them out.
–Crossbow: They have full-size crossbows and more ‘handheld’ crossbows. I’m personally not a fan of crossbows in general because they are heavy, bulky and it takes a lot of time to re-nock an arrow (bolt). Not only that, but it can be quite difficult to even nock a bolt depending on your strength. They do have crossbow assists that will help you nock your bolt, but even so, it can be difficult.
Many people may still choose this option because they’re kind of like a rifle, they come with a scope, you aim and pull a trigger and it’s a lot quieter than a rifle. So if you’re looking for something that it quiet but still want that point and shoot, a crossbow may be a good option.
However, just like with a compound, you have a lot of moving parts that you’ll need to maintain and/or fix.
Not only that, but it may not be possible to make bolts out of wood for your crossbow. The crossbow has so much power behind it that simply trying to make some wooden arrows for it probably wouldn’t work out too well.
Short term, a crossbow may be a good option, just make sure you have the appropriate tools and plenty of bolts. Those bolts have a habit of disappearing!
–Recurve/Longbow: I’m putting these into the same category because while they are difficult, they’re also kinda basically the same.
Whether it’s a takedown bow or all one piece, the recurve/longbow have very little downsides. They’re wood and string, that’s about it! It’s easy enough to make arrows out of wood and use them with basically any recurve or longbow, depending on the weight.
Make sure you can string and unstring the bow yourself. Also make sure that you can properly pull back the string, that it’s not too heavy. Unlike a compound, with a recurve/longbow you’re holding back all of the weight. If it’s a 35-pound bow, you’re pulling and holding back 35 pounds.
It’s also fairly easy to make a recurve/longbow and the arrows out in the field out of wood. I would highly suggest making a few before SHTF just so you know what you’re doing. There are a lot of tutorials online.
The recurve/longbow are definitely great options for short term and long term.
–Survival bow: I’ve heard mixed reviews about the foldable survival bows. Some people rave about them and others think they’re garbage.
In theory, a foldable, lightweight bow is ideal. In some cases, even the arrows fold.
Just be sure to do your research on this type of bow. I wouldn’t recommend getting this as your first bow, but more as a bow that you get after you’ve practiced a lot and feel confident in your archery abilities.
Even if you feel confident, if this bow is going to be your SHTF bow, you’ll need to practice with it regularly.
Archery is a perishable skill. Don’t believe anyone who says that they can stop shooting for 13 years then suddenly pick it back up and still be able to shoot a dime 50 yards away. I’m sorry, that’s not how it works. It is a perishable skill and needs to be treated as such by practicing as often as you can.
Whether you plan to be using archery for just SHTF purposes or whether you want to get into bowhunting, bowfishing or 3D shoots; you need to practice. As I mentioned, I practice at least once a week, but you can choose to do more or less depending on your time. Just make the time. It takes only 10 or so minutes to sling a few arrows down range.
Learn how to properly shoot a bow. Take a lesson or two and gain the proper knowledge. A YouTube video is ok, but you’ll gain a lot more insight if you take a class in person.
Being good at archery isn’t just about accuracy. Of course, we all want to be amazing and hit the bullseye every time, but practicing will also help you get to know your bow; how to troubleshoot problems, what works, what doesn’t, your strengths and weaknesses, etc.
Archery also teaches you patience. Nobody is an expert right off the bat, so it’s going to require dedication and focus to be able to hit the target exactly where you were aiming.
This is especially true for recurve/longbow. They are a lot harder to master than a compound or crossbow. With a compound and crossbow, you have sights that you can adjust in order to make the right shots. You don’t have those devices on a recurve/longbow. All you have is practice and your intuition!
It’s not necessarily hard to learn how to shoot with a recurve/longbow, it just takes a bit more time and effort.
Learn how to maintain your bow and then properly maintain it. The better maintained it is, the longer it’ll last.
Never dry fire your bow. Dry firing means to pull back the string and let it go without an arrow. Without an arrow, instead of the energy pushing the arrow, all of the energy transfers to the bow and could damage your bow.
Make sure you wax your strings before and after each time you shoot.
Be sure to check the limbs for any cracks regularly, even if you don’t dry fire it, your bow could still become damaged over time.
Be sure to check your arrows for any cracks or damage. A damaged arrow can break before it’s even released and cause a lot of harm.
Make sure that you find a bow with the appropriate pull weight. You don’t want it to be too heavy or too light.
Relax and have fun! Even if you miss your intended spot, it’s ok! Not the end of the world. Just keep practicing and have fun. You’ll get better in time.
Aim small, miss small. As you get better with your archery, try to aim at smaller objects. It’s a fun challenge and the smaller the objects that you can hit from various distances, the better off you’ll be when you’re trying to hit your intended target. If you’re hunting rabbits, for instance, they are small and quick and require a lot of practice to accurately hit in an appropriate spot.
And it’s worth repeating: practice, practice, practice! Practicing consistently will help you to better use your bow in stressful situations, especially while hunting. Consider a mantra to help you relax and focus. My mantra is:
Aim – Focus on the target and where you want the arrow to go.
Breathe – Take a deep breath and as you’re letting it out…
Pull-Pull the trigger/release, this helps you to relax your shoulders and everything else.
Follow Through – Don’t yank the bow down so you can see your shot; let it drop naturally and hang there for a second. Then pull your bow down and look at your shot.
Dedication will be required if you choose archery for hunting, or survival purposes. But try not to take it too seriously, archery is a ton of fun and there are a lot of great archery events to participate in all across the country.