Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.
Wood shavings pile up as the fella peels layers from the hickory stave with his draw knife.
In no time at all, the roughed out shape of a longbow emerges from the quartered log as he carefully chases the growth rings with each pass of the knife’s blade.
In another corner of the garage, cane arrows are being spun and hand checked for straightness while the crafter uses thin thread to lace and secure the split turkey feathers on the end of the shafts.
All the while, stories are being bantered about ranging on topics from politics to hunting to the proper way to fix beans in a dutch oven. The conversations are mixed in with laughter and comments from the men sitting around my buddy’s garage as the bow making and sharing of camaraderie continues.
The folks involved in the impromptu get together are die-hard bowhunters and are infatuated with traditional gear and ways. But, this group takes traditional archery even a further step back into the world of primitive gear such as selfbows, cane arrows and stone points.
Listening to the conversations around the group, it didn’t take long to realize that these guys are passionate about their niche and by looking at their handiwork, they obviously knew what they were talking about.
This small group of men, representing Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky all had a common interest. Not just an interest in hunting or archery, but an interest in history and keeping our distant past alive. An interest in making things themselves, in handcrafting their hunting items, their tools of the trade. In doing so, it connects them even deeper and further to the hunt and the game they chase.
These men were masters at re-purposing items. The kind of guys that see a problem and come up with a solution.
Thinkers that are able to use their hands…
I sat there watching my buddy and his friends as they went about their business and we chatted more about hunting and such and while I watched one of the guys filing string nocks into the limbs of his wooden bow, it struck me how this scene could have been playing out thousands of years ago. A group of men, a shared interest in hunting and making meat, sitting around a fire with good company, all working on their hunting gear. Making bows, arrows and sharpening knives in anticipation for an upcoming hunt.
I wondered to myself how many of us have lost that hunting spirit that was such an important part of our distant ancestors’ way of life.
As I drove away from my friend’s house and left the little crew of bow makers, I thought again about how many of us have lost that connection to the natural world and primitive side of things and I surmised that most of us have extinguished that spark years ago. But, I’m glad there are still people like my pal and his friends that keep that fire burning. Self sufficient, can do anything type of fellas.
In today’s world of modern hunting with machined equipment and the constant push for the newest models of this and that, it’s refreshing to see some folks keeping primitive traditions alive and passing on their knowledge so we can keep that spark going.
– David Hewitt