I just returned from a successful caribou hunt in northern Quebec and I am concerned that the longbow I used may be on its last legs. Heck, I’ve had it for going on two seasons now and I’ve killed a couple of animals with it. How much more mojo could it have left inside? Maybe it’s time to start thinking about putting it in the closet with my other “retired” bows and getting a replacement. I saw a really cool looking riser/limb wood combination online the other day that I don’t currently have in my bow stable. Maybe I could get a new bow made that looked like that. The season just started, though, so it’s probably not the best time to be breaking in a new stick. However, my current favorite bowyer has a lead-time of 3 months. If I baby the old, worn-out thing I have now, I can probably make it through this season and have a bright, new, shiny longbow waiting for me at the end of it. It would be a reward to myself for sucking it up under such harsh circumstances. And if I don’t get my truck’s brakes fixed and skimp on Christmas presents this year, I should be able to pay for most of it without too much trouble. Now I just need to decide on what length to get and whether I want the beavertail handle wrap or just plain cowhide. Decisions, decisions…
Spalted mango veneer that will be adorning my new longbow limbs.
If you have ever had this conversation with yourself or had a similar conversation with someone else, then you too might be suffering from what I call “New Bow Syndrome”. Symptoms of this affliction include daily perusals through eBay to see what bows are for sale, having 25 bowyers on speed dial, and becoming instantly aroused when looking at an especially beautiful piece of exotic hardwood. There is no cure for this malady but some folks are able to control it better than others are. Anecdotal evidence suggests that marriage and having kids seems to put a damper on the symptoms but I think those are rather drastic measures to take to curb an otherwise harmless condition.
My own manifestation of this syndrome seems to lean towards longbows, in general, and new ones, in particular. Hand me a Black Widow PLX in great condition, at a great price, and I will act like you just handed me a bag of used cat litter. Tell me that Roger Fulton is going to custom make me that same bow and let me pick out all the woods, and my heart will skip a beat or two as I dance a little jig and sing a little tune about what a wonderful day it is. It’s something about the allure of having someone create a one-of-a-kind something JUST FOR ME that gets me every time. It makes me feel special. It makes me feel pampered. It makes me feel loved.
Here is the chunk of curly chocolate mango that my longbow riser will be made from.
Of course, I can’t be held entirely responsible for this really, really, really strong desire to get a new bow (I hate the word “addiction”). I think the bowyers and the people who sell bow-making materials should bear some of the blame. For instance, there is this guy in Idaho named Curt Noetzold who runs a website called The Wood Vault and on this site is a huge collection of the most beautiful, exotic bow limb veneers you have ever seen! It’s basically just a warehouse of porn for sick people like me and you don’t even have to give Curt a credit card number in order to see the “good stuff”. The following is an example of how these folks prey on us who have no impulse control.
So I’m sitting in caribou base camp a couple of weeks ago, waiting for our flight to Montreal to leave, and I turn on my phone after a week of being in the bush. I connect to the camp’s WiFi and am immediately inundated with a gazillion emails, phone messages, text messages and whatnot. Not wanting to deal with all that just yet, I decided to cruise the internet instead. I go to The Wood Vault just for fun to see if Curt has anything new up. Sure enough, right on the first page is some spalted mango veneer that gives me goosebumps. I drool involuntarily and my palms get a little sweaty as I zoom in on the photo to leer at the naked wood flesh before me. Then I zoom back out and let out a rather audible moan when I see the “SOLD OUT” label above the picture. Nooooo!!! This cannot be right. Those gorgeous, thin pieces of art were meant for me! I should not be punished just because I was off the grid for a week. Surely, there must be some mistake. Being in complete denial now, I immediately send Curt an email stating that I wish to purchase those veneers. Imagine my surprise, when he responds in just a little while saying that, yes, those are sold out but he thinks he has one or two more sets lying around the shop somewhere. I just need to act fast. With a flurry of fingers, I quickly ask him for pictures as proof of their existence. A day later, I receive a private email from Curt with pictures of the veneers I wanted, plus a bonus photo showing a piece of curly chocolate mango riser wood. Have I been played? Probably. Do I care? Not one bit. I practically threw my shoulder out in a hurried effort to reach my dang wallet. So now I have wood for a new bow, I just need to get somebody to put it together for me.
There is nothing quite like that new-bow smell!
And that brings me to my so-called good friend, and bowyer, Mike Dunnaway of Wild Horse Creek Bows. Mike is the person who made the longbow I’m currently nursing along and who set the hook on me for a new one almost a year ago. His craftsmanship is second to none and is only exceeded by his wily salesmanship. Last December, ole Mike called me out of the blue to tell me about a new model longbow he had come up with called the Destiny. Being that time of year, I was broke so I probably wasn’t showing much interest as he blathered on about some technological breakthrough he had made. But Mike is a canny feller and he knows just what buttons to push on his customers. He was a civil engineer by trade and knows I’m an engineer too so soon he starts speaking our language of force-draw curves, limb energy storage, and wood moduli of elasticity. Well, now I’m hanging on every word he says about this new marvel of engineering. Then Mike tells me that he’ll have some samples of the Destiny at our UBM Festival in February and he’ll make sure to have a left-handed one JUST FOR ME so I can shoot it. I tell you, February could not get here fast enough! I scampered up to his booth like a lovesick teenager. Trying to be cool, though, I nonchalantly asked, “Sooo, where’s this new bow model you told me about?”
That was seven months ago and I have been dreaming about a Destiny of my own ever since. My Quest longbow is good but I think I felt a little bit of its lifeforce leave when I shot that caribou with it. I believe it’s better to err on the side of caution and start planning to replace it now. Oh, and did I tell you that Mike, the bowyer, and Curt, the wood guy, know each other? Yeah, I just learned that too. When I called Mike to tell him that I had found some wood I was thinking about having him turn into a bow for me, he told me that he and Curt would work the whole thing out and for me not to worry my pretty little head about it. And, before you could say “conspiracy”, they had the deal wrapped up with a big, fancy bow and all I have to do is sell a kidney to pay for it.
So now it’s down to the waiting. With my new-bow itch having been scratched, I can concentrate on killing animals with this clunker I have in hand. I know the successes I will have this season will be just a little bit sweeter since I had to work extra hard for them. And Mike said he’ll have my new bow ready when we see each other at the Festival again in February so I have that to look forward to. Now I just need to convince my wife to give up some of her closet space so I can store some of my old bows there. I wouldn’t dream of selling any of them. After all, they were made just for me.