Archery - History - Decline and Survival of Archery

Decline and Survival of Archery

The development of firearms rendered bows obsolete in warfare. Despite the high social status, ongoing utility, and widespread pleasure of archery in Armenia, China, Egypt, England, America, India, Japan, Korea, Turkey and elsewhere almost every culture that gained access to even early firearms used them widely, to the neglect of archery. Early firearms were vastly inferior in rate-of-fire, and were very susceptible to wet weather. However, they had longer effective range and were tactically superior in the common situation of soldiers shooting at each other from behind obstructions. They also required significantly less training to use properly, in particular penetrating steel armour without any need to develop special musculature. Armies equipped with guns could thus provide superior firepower by sheer weight of numbers, and highly-trained archers became obsolete on the battlefield. However, the bow and arrow is still an effective form of violence, and archers have seen action in the 21st century. Traditional archery remains in use for sport, and for hunting in many areas.

In the United States, competition archery and bowhunting for many years used English-style longbows. The revival of modern primitive archery may be traced to Ishi, who came out of hiding in California in 1911 Ishi was the last of the Yahi Indian tribe. His doctor, Saxton Pope, learned many of Ishi's archery skills, and passed them on. The Pope and Young Club, founded in 1961 and named in honor of Pope and his friend, Arthur Young, is one of North America's leading bowhunting and conservation organizations. Founded as a nonprofit scientific organization, the Club is patterned after the prestigious Boone and Crockett Club. The Club advocates and encourages responsible bowhunting by promoting quality, fair chase hunting, and sound conservation practices.

From the 1920s, professional engineers took an interest in archery, previously the exclusive field of traditional craft experts. They led the commercial development of new forms of bow including the modern recurve and compound bow. These modern forms are now dominant in modern Western archery; traditional bows are in a minority. In the 1980s, the skills of traditional archery were revived by American enthusiasts, and combined with the new scientific understanding. Much of this expertise is available in the Traditional Bowyer's Bibles (see Additional reading). Modern game archery owes much of its success to Fred Bear, an American bow hunter and bow manufacturer.

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