Bows & Arrows of the Native Americans: A Step-by-Step Guide to Wooden Bows, Sinew-backed Bows, Composite Bows, Strings, Arrows & Quivers by Jim HammSome excellent perspective on an ancient art. Were I to attempt crafting bows and arrows, Hamm is definitely a master Id want.
Some quotes that appeal :
... on how I approach the making of bows and arrows ... I looked upon the wood and stone and sinew and feathers with respect as fellow living things rather than just as raw materials ... If you choose to take this weapon and hunt with it and perhaps make a kill, you will have come full circle, back to our ancestors who passed this wonder art down to us ...
To my mind, a sinew-backed osage orange or yew wood bow is the ultimate hunting weapon. They are light, extremely fast shooting, and useful in almost any hunting situation. (One of my archery favorite memories is how quickly a quiver could be emptied of arrows. Much faster than those bolt action rifles the USAF required for annual marksmanship certification. Being left handed was not a slowing factor with a bow like it was with the rifle.)
How much sinew to put on a bow? Even a very thin layer ... will greatly enhance the durability ... For added speed and strength, I like to put on at least four courses and sometimes up to six or seven. On an average bow, 50 to 55 long, it figures out to about six elk leg tendons. (Buffalo tendons easier to work with than elk, but much harder to obtain.)
The Indian people utilized reed shafts a great deal because it made such good arrows. They were light, stiff, and easy to obtain. The light, hollow shafts will fly much faster than a heavy hardwood arrow, which makes them easier to shoot accurately since they dont drop as much in flight. I try to avoid being overly scientific, but was recently able to shoot some reed arrows through a chronograph, and the results were mildly surprising. With a 60# Osage Orange bow, I first shot a heavy dogwood arrow, with a steel point, at a very reasonable 165 feet per second. I shot a reed arrow next, with the same bow, and it clocked 198 feet per second, which is quite unreasonable. In fact, I had to repeat the performance several times because the longbow and recurve shooters standing around couldnt believe it.
Since a reed arrow is not sturdy enough to withstand the stress that an arrowhead places on it when hitting a target, a hardwood foreshaft with the point attached is fitted into the front of the arrow. The foreshaft is normally 3 to 7 long, depending on the type of arrow you are making. These foreshafts are a good way to make use of the broken or culled hardwood shafts that have already been worked down to size.
... prejudice against the horse Indians weapons was not shared by anyone from the old days who faced them in a fight ... when an early Texas Ranger head a newcomer make a disparaging remark ... he replied: I have seen a great many men in my time spitted with dogwood switches ... They can shoot their arrows faster than you can fire a revolver, and almost with the accuracy of a rifle at the distance of fifty or sixty yards, and with such force that I have frequently seen them drive a shaft through and through a full grown buffalo.
Batak Tribesman Shows How To Make A Quick Survival Bow And Arrow
Making a Minimalist Survival Bow & Sinew Bowstring
However, there are some cases when resupplying or scavenging is not an option. Obviously, having a hunting rifle and plenty of ammo is the best-case scenario. In the following minute video, YouTube historic hunter Shawn Woods makes a minimalist survival bow out of ocean spray wood. The only tool he uses is a sharp knife, namely a square-tipped stainless fixed blade called a takenata hatchet. He intentionally leaves the bark intact on the back outermost portion of the bow, and shaves down the belly carefully to allow the thinner wood to bend.