Tradition is the illusion of permanence. - Woody Allen
Many modern day bow hunters can’t even say the word “traditional.”
For some inexplicable reason they want to shorten the old sounding word, as if it was just too long or cumbersome, to the simple, “Trad.”
Traditional, when used as a prefix for the word “bow” implies something slightly more significant than the word used for all other manner of random old stuff.
That random old stuff is more commonly referred to as “antique.”
“Trad," in my way of looking at things, doesn’t do quite the necessary justice to the act of traditional bow hunting.
Modern bow hunters that have attempted to go “Trad” will tell you pretty quickly just how difficult the old style bows really are. “Humbling” is a very frequent word used by the best bow hunters that have taken up the “Trad” initiative. There is sense of reverence associated with hunting “Trad.”
“Older” hunters tell you stories about traditional bow hunting before there was anything to compare it with. In the days when the modern fiberglass recurve bow replaced the wooden long bow, nobody called the longbow “Trad.”
Most hunters of the “pre-trad” era, that actually were able to harvest their prey with wooden arrows and single blade arrow points, usually had many more stories of missed shots than they had of 35 Millimeter color prints of their trophy.
That brings up an interesting word usage question. Do photographers that still take photos with 35 mm film refer to their cameras as “Trad” cameras?
Maybe you are of the age to remember the era when the recurve or longbow in your closet started to become “Trad.” It was the bow building-hunting media that started the end of a tradition phenomenon.
When most bow hunters began to see bows with wheels in outdoor magazines, we were all pretty much gobsmacked.
Not only did the new fangled bows with wheels look just plain stupid and downright ugly, but most of us were too stupid to figure out how the math and physics of a basic wheel on the end of a bow could have even worked. The word “Cam” was definitely the genesis of the word that morphed into the future use of the word “Trad”.
Most early bow hunters had grown up on a steady diet of hero worship for the “Dean of Bow Hunting” tradition, Mr. Fred Bear.
We watched Fred do it all with his old bows and arrows over multiple continents in those days. We rightly figured that if we bought enough of his company’s gear, and if we practiced really hard, put in the time; then we too could be successful at the art and science of bow hunting.
Fred made it all appear and sound pretty simple, and besides there didn’t seem to be many crowds to contend with. State agencies were more than happy to let a squad of neophytes loose early in the hunting season with bows and arrows. Wildlife mangers knew full well there was minimal potential damage to wildlife being actually inflicted.
It didn’t take too awfully long for the up-coming youth of bow hunting to experience a plethora of “used” bows for sale at affordable prices. Apparently pawn shops and bait and tackle stores had become trade central for Mr. Fred Bears’ acolytes that had experienced some serious amount of bow hunting back sliding and quit the painful experience all together.
It was relatively cheap to outfit yourself with a lightly scratched bow and a few mismatched arrows for mere pennies on the dollar.
To say that hunting with these early era bows was difficult is a gross understatement. “Trad” bows in use today are just as difficult to be successful with as they always were.
Without beating to death the complexities of bow hunting the old way, some sharp pencil decided that adding a wheel to the end of bows made things a whole lot easier. And “By Gawd," that genius was dead on the money.
The first time you actually pulled back and shot one of these monstrosities, it was damn near instantaneous, old wood bow bye-bye, baby bye-bye!
Most folks couldn’t believe what they were holding, shooting, experiencing or feeling. Seemingly overnight, arrow shooters everywhere recognized the implications of this new and strange technology. Pawn shops quickly became overstocked with “Trad” bows.
It would be more than interesting to hear old Fred’s reaction to his first experience with a modern bow.
But, it didn’t take long to the vast majority of new and old bow hunters to jump on the space rocket that has become “modern bow hunting.”
Faster is better. More let-off is better. Shorter is better. The list of reasons to buy new and “better” bows, year after year, goes on and on. There are now generations of bow hunters that have never heard of Pope and Young, or why they even came into existence.
Like so much of lost history, or a generation’s apparent lack of caring about the past, there is still some glimmer of hope that not all is lost.
Some hunters have turned to the old school. I guess that some hunters still hunt with flintlocks and or, spears. Maybe even some have gone back to the “David’s Best” model of rock and sling.
And this attempt at technological regression in hunting brings us to the big question; “Why?”
Why do modern hunters return to traditional hunting techniques at all? Why don’t we all abandon the old ways? And why don’t we adopt the most lethal method known to mankind at this given moment in time, to achieve our goals?
Doesn’t technology dictate that modern hunters should be building things like “hunt drones“ that make hunting “better” from the comfort of our environmentally safe, battery powered truck? Why not hunt with drones that are hi-tech, ethical, highly efficient and easy on the hunters’ body?
Does the use of an older, more primitive technology result in some vague feeling of simple respect, or maybe, some kind of weird empathy for our quarry?
I can imagine an old timer’s feelings when facing down a wounded, two ton, woolly mammoth with a flint tipped arrow or two. My guess is all he really had in his mind at that time was little more than he had just stuck something that included a month’s worth of t’bones for the family back in the old cave.
Respect and empathy for wooly anything, be damned, when these old timers hunted for survival.
But, here we are. There are those that strive to return to the old ways. The old days, from a time that stretches back millenniums; The old ways, back to pre-Columbian America and post Columbian America, when natives using “trad” bows tried to exterminate any one that wasn’t native.
It is interesting that few other passions include retrograde technologies.
Imagine the “fish for money boys” with a BASS tournament where row boats were the only boat you could fish in. Imagine an old-timers football game where players used helmets without face masks. Imagine driving to your hunt in a Model T Ford. Imagine asking your wife to wash your underwear with a wash board and a bucket of creek water.
Why do we shave points in favor of our quarry? Why do we strive to make things harder than they really need to be? Why do we not use everything at our disposal to make sure that we prevail over our quarry?
Have some hunters come to the point in hunting where they have decided that as hunters, we may have somehow unbalanced the playing field somewhere between slaughter and survival?
Have we allowed technology to morph us into something other than hunter gatherers?
Is it as simple as taking pride in accomplishing what we set out to do?
Is it a matter of being respectful of our quarry?
Is it as simple as proving that we are dominant or superior irrespective of the technology used in our pursuit?
Is it finding that no matter how we take a life, the taking of that life makes us feel like we may have done it in what we consider the “right” manner?
Is “Trad” hunting respect, vanity, pride, ego or simple delusion?
Why don’t we just go all the way back hunting in tanned hides and chucking “TRAD” spears?