Sunday, November 17, 2013

Shooting a bow like Katniss Everdeen

Katniss Everdeen of "The Hunger Games" is an expert bow hunter
What's on your bucket list? Is there a skill, experience or adventure you've long dreamed about? What steps can you take toward making your dream a reality?

For many years, I'd wanted to learn to shoot a bow. I'd read The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. In the LOTR movies, Legolas made shooting a bow seem effortless.

My daughter got me hooked on reading The Hunger Games trilogy whose heroine, Katniss Everdeen, is smart, spunky, confident and an expert at shooting a bow. She's not the kind of girl waiting around for some guy to rescue her.

Before I had the opportunity to shoot a bow, I met Heather Phillips, a world-class atlatl thrower. I'd heard of this primitive hunting weapon, but I'd never seen one. Last summer at the Echoes in Time primitive skills gathering, Heather taught me to throw an atlatl. She had recently tied for second in the world during an ISAAC (International Standard Atlatl Accuracy Competition).

Heather Phillips, a world-class atlatl thrower, showing how it's done.
Heather's first-grade daughter, Ryleigh, and her freshman stepdaughter, Kachira, also gave me pointers. They've been throwing atlatl for years. I'm just a beginner. But I'm eager to learn more from Heather and the girls next year.

About a month after Heather's atlatl lesson, Kirby taught me to shoot a bow. Not only has Kirby been shooting a bow since he was eight years old, but he also makes his own bows, arrow shafts and arrowheads. He's successfully hunted deer, elk, bear and moose with a bow.

Kirby the bow hunter in his element.
Pulling the bowstring and aiming is much more difficult than it looks. And I was using the easy one that Kirby used when he was in elementary school. Here I thought I had these amazing dragon boating biceps, but pulling the bowstring used different muscles. It also took concentration. During my first lesson, I was aiming for a certain sage brush. At first, it took coordination to prevent the arrow from falling off the string before I made my shot. When Kirby and I searched for my arrows, many were nowhere near the "target" sage brush.

Unlike Katniss, I am a beginner. Here I am during my first
bow lesson last summer. Yikes! My right arm seems way too high.
By my second bow lesson with Kirby, my accuracy improved with each shot. After several attempts, I shot three of my four arrows into my target--an empty milk jug weighted with gravel. Archery is just as fun as I imagined it would be. But it's much more difficult. I have much to learn and look forward to my next lesson!

Next week, the second Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire, will be released in theaters. I'm looking forward to seeing Katniss shoot her bow. Maybe I can pick up some pointers.

If I, a middle-aged and still overweight woman, can paddle a dragon boat, belly dance, throw an atlatl and shoot a bow, imagine what new skill you could do. The first step is believing in yourself so that you're not afraid to try. Be brave. Go for it!

By my second lesson, my accuracy improved. After several attempts,
I shot three of my four arrows into my target--an empty milk jug weighted with gravel.