The Frugal Archer
Archery and bowhunting are, for me, about enjoying myself. Iíve never found emptying my wallet all that amusing. So, from the beginning, I began to look for ways to spend less on my archery equipment, while still getting the job done. I suppose part of that comes from my German background. Probably a greater factor is being a father of three. Today weíre going to talk about ways to economize on archery gear. The title of the seminar is "The Frugal Archer". Not "The Primitive Archer", not "The Modern Archer", not even "The Do-It-Yourself Archer", although the last comes closer than the others.
First, letís talk about what you donít need. You donít need a lot of gadgets to enjoy your time in the woods. It amazes me sometimes that we bowhunters pack more gear for a four-hour trip to the woods than we berate our wives for packing for an overnight stay in a hotel. Think about it! Calls, scents, extra clothing, food, waterÖyouíd think we were heading into the bush on safari! Now, if all that stuff adds to your enjoyment, great. Donít let me or anyone else tell you how to hunt. I find that it gets in the way of mine. I try to limit myself to whatever I can carry in my pockets, or at most in a belt-style fannypack. All that extra gear costs money that I just canít ENJOY spending.
Most guys who try to save money on archery equipment begin by building their own bows and arrows. Thereís nothing wrong with that. Iíve seen some beautiful bows built by home craftsman, and arrows that were too pretty for me to take to the woods. You can certainly save yourself some money assembling your own arrows, and I encourage you to do so, if for no other reason than quality control. Building bows, however meaningful in and of itself, is not frugal. Not by a long shot! The average archer will build half a dozen selfbows before he ends up with a shooter. Iím sure the number for laminated bows is smaller, but the initial outlay for tools, parts and forms is considerably higher. Building bows ainít cheap, in terms of money or time.
And thatís not where the money goes in any case. Bows and arrow components are relatively cheap, if you know where to shop. Iíve picked up used production recurves ( they will kill most animals just as dead as any $700 dollar custom bow ) for as little as twenty dollars in flea markets, pawn shops and garage sales. Even a somewhat collectible bow in good condition isnít likely to set you back more that $200. As for arrows, components are cheap. The supplies to put together a dozen wood arrows will set you back about thirty dollars. Aluminums will cost you about fifty dollars. I use aluminum. When I shoot wood arrows, I go through five or six dozen a year, versus maybe a dozen aluminums. Thatís $150 worth of woodies compared to $50 worth of aluminums. If you do decide to go with aluminum, get the thickest-walled shaft available ( indicated by the last two digits of the shaft size ) in your spine class. Theyíll hold up to small game and stump shooting a lot longer than a thinner-walled shaft.
The money in archery is largely spent on accessories. Stands, clothing, boots, quivers and so on. This is where you can save yourself some money. The first step is to pick an individual item, such as a tree stand, and ask yourself, what is itís purpose? What does a treestand have to do to work for me in the woods? A treestand has to attach firmly and reliably to a tree, it has to be comfortable enough to spend several hours in, must give you enough room to shoot either sitting or standing, and has to allow you to move without noise. Thatís not really that big a list of criteria. But, judging from the price of commercial treestands, youíd think it was an impossible list to fill. Not so.
Build it Yourself
Get out all of your hunting gear wish books, and start looking at stands. Try to look past the camo pattern and see how the thing fits together, how it functions. Get out a pencil and paper and start making notes, drawing sketches. Nothing will save you more money in a do-it-yourself situation than a pad and pencil. Get clearly on paper what it is you need, and how you plan to achieve it. Look around for materials you already have. When you purchase materials for a project, ask yourself if they are strong enough, quiet enough and simple enough to work for you. Also, consider building such projects in batches. A sheet of Ĺ" plywood will give you enough material to make four treestands. If you try to buy a piece small enough to do one or two stands, youíll likely pay almost as much for it as a full sheet.
This process works no matter what the item in question. What do I need? What does the item do? Can I buy it cheaper? Can I build it? Can I do without it? Some items arenít worth the time it takes to build them. Bows, arrow components, boots and bow quivers are good examples. Look for bargains on these items, and be prepared to shop for a few months in order to get a good deal. Donít forget pawnshops and garage sales. Youíd be amazed how much gear ends up in these places, and the proprietor usually has no idea what he has. Another donít forget is trading. Your friends have all got gear laying around in their basements, and what you need is probably gathering dust on a hook somewhere.
Iíve brought along patterns for a few items Iíve made this year. Ken Olson has contributed a few of his as well. Feel free to take home a pattern. But, please, when you look at these items and read through the instructions, do it the same way we talked about going through the wish books. Inspect the item, ask what you need it to do in the woods, and consider using materials youíve already got laying around. Remember, archery is supposed to be enjoyable, not expensive.