Who was Carmen Spinelli?

I’ll never know for certain; but a month ago M bought me her/his old longbow as a birthday gift.

The argument for a hunter being able to bowhunt competently is obvious.  In a world where being able to hunt many of the great western landscapes hinges upon tag drawings, which in extreme cases can take a lifetime, bowhunting and the statistically more accessible opportunities it presents is an easy choice.  Traditional archery is a less obvious selection.  To be blunt; compound bows are remarkably ugly and inelegant instruments of death.  I hunted with a compound as a youth, and brought that bow home a few years ago, but have only shot it twice.  The weight and fiddling aiming process provides all the bowsides of a rifle with none of the benefits.


A longbow, by contrast, is a light an exceptionally elegant thing.  The 60″ long Yukon model of which I am now the owner weighs perhaps 1.5 pounds all strung up, and the hand lettering and hand laminated layers of wood wear their aesthetics on their sleeves.  A thing which has wide-ranging appeal both to the eye and as a tool is the apotheosis of material culture.

And it is in that where I got lucky.  This bow, custom made and in externally immaculate shape, was a screaming deal even without the perfectly-tuned cedar arrows which came along with it, but all of that will be worthless if it doesn’t shoot well for me.  I didn’t even buy a target for a few weeks, as drawing 58 pounds (measured at 28 inches, and my draw length is 29.5) was a lot to be pulling straight off the bat.  Thankfully, those arrows went more or less where I sent them from the very first.


Elk-vital sized groups at 15 yards are not so good for hunting, but very acceptable for being within the first hundred arrows I’ve shot from this bow.  By September things should be quite a bit better.  Good enough for a shot on an animal?  Another question entirely.  But based on the first weeks shooting, it should be a fun process.



7 responses to “Who was Carmen Spinelli?”

  1. Ah, the romance of wooden bows — careful of you’ll soon be quitting making backpacks and start looking for osage orange staves. Having said that I really don’t know how I feel about compounds and wooden bows. On one hand, if ‘making meat’ is the goal (it used to be the goal of some ancestors of mine I’m told), the most efficient weapon is ‘the weapon’. Chad Love once quipped that he took up is compound after months or years of not using it, and still could get a decently tight group, whereas with his longbow and the same amount of inactivity half the arrows would fly on the neighbour’s roof. So I can see a hard skin clad hunter gatherer ditching his longbow for a compound without any hesitation (truth to be told, the impossibility to service a compound in the field might have dampened the enthusiasm quite a bit), and ditching a bow altogether for a rifle. On the other hand, the beauty and simplicity, the immediacy of a wooden bow make it a joy to use.

    I do also get that, for the non hunter gatherers are we are, the pull and the romance of wooden bows is clear, understandable and welcome. Being forced to learn how to get closer to game, having much greater woodmanship, all these are so obvious positives that the lower success rate is probably a reasonable trade-off for most people. The net negative is accuracy. As hunters the last thing we want is to lose an animal, for so many reasons, but in this case I really mean, because it is atrocious PR. Bowhunting, in all its forms, really needs careful PR management to avoid the accusation of animal cruelty. As a biologist I do NOT find it especially cruel, but I do cast one vote…

    Despite all the mumblings above, this is a long and rambling way of saying, well done, and congratulations to M for the thoughtful present. I will keep my fingers crossed for you comes September.

  2. Cool! From your arrow-length it kind of sounds like you might be standing with your feet pointing 90 degs away from target but lined-up to it. If so, I’d stand with your feet arrayed a bit more toward your target — 45 degs. Punch your hand to the target and draw to your mouth. You won’t ever slap your arm and you’ll draw more like 27″ and you can dial in a tight 15-yd group. Then just don’t try shooting farther than that. : ) It’s a thought anyway. …

    So, your bow is your bow and you’re done there, but what has really given me shivers a couple times while testing various bows out over the years is coming across a snaky osage selfbow that shot like a top recurve and had hand shock that was like strumming a guitar. Then there was the “Howard Gamemaster Jet” recurve that gave compound-class speed. Both thrilling to shoot. Didn’t dampen the fun of shooting my own bows, though.

    I made an osage selfbow myself once that wasn’t high performance but was also a joy and I could shoot it well w/in my modest but “just right for what I needed” limits. Downstate Michigan hunting is really friendly to the 10-15 with occasional 20 yd shot. Then it broke due to a rookie mistake. But if you ever try to make one and have good help they don’t break very often. Osage is so darn pretty! And fun to chase around with a drawknife.

    Best wishes!

    1. My form definitely needs work. Arm slap is becoming less frequent and everything seems to be coming along nicely.

      Making a bow is probably a bridge too far, but I won’t discount that down the road.

  3. […] sun rose, bow in hand, hoping I could get within 20 yards or closer.  I’ve been practicing since spring, and while I was hoping my effective range would be further, the longbow learning curve has had […]

  4. Just curious what your hunting setup is aside from the bow. I recently exploded my compound (scary) and I’m done shooting complicated bows. Bought my first recurve; 62″, pulling a hair under 50#s at 29″. 500 spine Gold Tip traditional arrows, 100 grain, shooting off the shelf. I love it. It brings a zen quality to time at the range that was simply lacking with the compound, which always seemed to have too much to fiddle with and completely lacked elegance. Surprisingly, I’m shooting pretty tight right off the bat, though still tuning. Interestingly, I’m finding cock feather in gives me absolutely no feather contact and better flight; so much for “conventional” wisdom- you just have to experiment. Curious about your arrow and broadhead combo, trying to pick as many brains as I can about setups.

    1. 2317 spine Easton aluminums at 28 3/4″ with Muzzy MX3 broadheads (125 grain). One of the first combos I tried and worked well so I didn’t look further.

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