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Allen Foster





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PostPosted: Sat 09 May, 2009 7:28 pm    Post subject: Medieval Bows of the Hunt         Reply with quote

Much has been written on the characteristics of the English Long Bow and/or War Bow as far as length; draw weight and how it was employed.

I am curious about the hunting bows? Were they generally shorter and lighter weight? How were they employed? A hunt of horseback would definitely require a shorter bow. Are there any examples or renderings?

The biggest mammal in Europe was the bear an animal I would consider inedible due to its very greasy and tough meat. Then there's the boar which is good to eat. Of course the very tender deer and the small game too. Was there a hunting bow designed for the likely targets of the day?

Thanks for answers in advance.

"Rise up, O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face."
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Bartek Strojek




Location: Poland
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PostPosted: Sun 10 May, 2009 3:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Actually, elk and wisent are both usually heavier and bigger than brown bears. And auroch which became extinct in 1627, is believed to be even heavier, about 2000 pounds on average. It seems that aurochs were being hunted, which possibly led to their extinction.

And as far as I know in later medieval crossbow generally became more popular hunting device than bow.


Last edited by Bartek Strojek on Sun 10 May, 2009 3:28 am; edited 1 time in total
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Glennan Carnie




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PostPosted: Sun 10 May, 2009 3:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One would have to assume hunting bows were less powerful than their military cousins. You don't need to penetrate armour, nor to you need to launch a heavy projectile over a long distance. Accuracy at close range is the key. Using a warbow is rather like using an M60 to peel bananas.

For images, one of the most famous is the Hunting book of Gaston Phoebus, dated to the late 14th century. That shows both bows and crossbows being used for hunting.
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Martin Erben




Location: Germany, Düsseldorf
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PostPosted: Thu 12 Aug, 2010 12:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

During some research about the draw weight of hunting crossbows/bows, I've found this topic and thought that it might be worthy of continuing. I'd really like to see some pictures of medieval/renaissance hunting bows and to know appropriate draw weights for hunting crossbows (I didn't find this info using the search function....).
Is anyone able and willing to give me some information?
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 12 Aug, 2010 1:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

IIRC, The Great War Bow has extensive discussion of this and the related subject of the of the Welsh "short bow". Essential reading on the subject....
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Nicholas Hall





Joined: 07 Nov 2009

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PostPosted: Thu 12 Aug, 2010 3:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bear isn't as greasy as people claim, not if it's prepared properly away. Of course I've never eaten brown bear, only black.

As far as hunting is concerned, people in the middle ages use a wide variety of implements from bows and spears to dogs and falcons. In fact, falconry was one of the most popular sports of the time, among the nobles that is (common people couldn’t afford falcons).

Most likely the hunting bows of the time had similar draw weights to today’s bows, around 60 to 80lbs. However, not everyone could have afforded specialized equipment, and poachers (anyone not a noble in most places) would have used what ever was available.
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Sam Gordon Campbell




Location: Australia.
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PostPosted: Thu 12 Aug, 2010 5:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I myself would like a hunting bow and quiver of arrows like the one Chaucer describes Big Grin
Maybe when unstrung its length is from navel to ankle, and made of a dark, 'knobly/knotty' wood.
Now I really want one!

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Joel Minturn





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PostPosted: Thu 12 Aug, 2010 5:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would put most hunting bows around 50 lb. Modern high poundage compound bows are MUCH easier to draw than a comparable traditional bow. I believe according to the Bowyers Bible most hunting bow found are around 50 lbs give or take and maybe less. Basically it was only societies that used the bow for war that had higher poundage bows and even then they would use lighter bows for hunting.

Basically I think there are several reasons why lower poundage bows would be used for hunting:
-In war you want to our range your opponents but when hunting you can always just get closer.
-I believe that lighter bows can be made to shoot more quietly. The deer is less likely to jump the shot if it can't hear it.
-Heavy bows require proper body mechanics, light bows can be more easily shot from weird positions like ducking under a tree branch with the bow flat to get the perfect shot.
-A light bow can be held longer. The bow might need to be drawn when the animal is looking away but being blocked by a tree and the shot needs to be held till it saunters into the firing lane.
-There are more wood choices both in type and quality when making a lighter bow as it stress the limbs less

As for other hunting methods. I recently picked up a copy of Sir Ralph Payne-Gallways book on crossbows and was surprised to see so many plates of stone bows (crossbows that fire stone or metal bullets) for hunting small game. In other areas the sling was the weapon of choice for small game hunting and flock protection. Dogs and spears were popular for hunting boar and still are.
I would guess that the hunting weapon of choice would depend on what was used regionally.

I'm not sure a hunt on horseback would require a shorter bow. I have seen people shoot long bows from horses so it can be done, if hunting with longbow was done is a different question which I don't have an answer too.
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Nicholas Hall





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PostPosted: Thu 12 Aug, 2010 7:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joel's right, most long/recurve bows today are around 50lbs, though some go as high as 65lbs. On the low end they can be as light as 40lbs (or less for target shooting). I think he's probably right that 50lbs or less was the average in the medieval period as well.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Aug, 2010 3:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joel Minturn wrote:
I'm not sure a hunt on horseback would require a shorter bow. I have seen people shoot long bows from horses so it can be done, if hunting with longbow was done is a different question which I don't have an answer too.


Hunters in medieval European Christendom--as far as we could tell from the information we have, which is almost exclusively from the later centuries, and especially from the 14th century onwards--didn't seem to have hunted with bows on horseback, whether long or short. They did carry bows on horseback and dismount to shoot, though. Crossbows also appear to have been used by mounted hunters with some frequency.

BTW, if I remember correctly, George Agar Hansard's book 19th-century book on archery (damned if I remember the story) mentions a passage from a medieval French hunting text that stated bows of the hunt had to be lighter than bows of war since overly-heavy bows might send their arrows all the way through the poor beast and injure something or someone on the other side. I haven't had the time to re-check with him or his sources, though.
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