Ruminations on Archery (and Related) Reads
Clare loves a good archery read ... and she likes sharing her thoughts on good books.
Some of these reviews have appeared on her Insta feed; some have not.
She posts reviews simply for the joy of sharing a good book!
The photos are linked to the book's Amazon (or other sales) page (when available).
The Biography of an Outdoorsman
Part hagiography (turning Fred Bear, the mortal bowhunter, into Fred Bear, patron saint of modern archery), part history of modern archery practice in America, and part history of the archery industry in America, Charles Kroll's 1988 biography of Fred Bear feels like a bit of a must-read for anyone interested in modern archery's roots. For hunters and non-hunters alike, it provides key background on the development of modern archery technology, the advent of the modern tournament scene, and the transformation of bowhunting from a relic to an industry worth more than half a billion dollars annually (and even that number is probably outdated and underestimated).
For a girl who called Michigan home for almost twelve years (law school in Ann Arbor and practicing in Grand Rapids and occasionally deployed to the Upper Peninsula), the book also provided nice little jaunts into the familiar forests of the outdoor paradise of the Mitten State, showing just how influential the Great Lakes State has been in the history of our sport of arrow flinging.
For those interested in fun archery facts and trivia, Bear’s story involves a tournament at which William Shatner shot; hunting with prominent astronauts; and Bear Archery consulting on the movie Deliverance.
Besides the hunting, fishing, inventing, and traveling, Bear's bio touches (softly, gently) on some human struggles, including the untimely death of a grandson (the son of Bear’s step-daughter). It also, implicitly, raises the idea of parenthood in the broader context: Bear never had children of his own, but he fathered modern archery and acted as a father figure to many.
If you pick this book up, I hope you can do so by walking down to your favorite outdoor-sports shop, as I did, walking from the Yankton, South Dakota, KOA campground to Dakota Archery in Yankton, while I was up there for NFAA Indoor Nationals. That in itself was a fun little stroll.
Think and Shoot Like a Champion
While in Yankton for the NFAA's '21 Rushmore Rumble, and for the '21 NFAA Indoor Nationals, I grabbed Terry Wunderle’s Archery: Think and Shoot Like a Champion. I’ve always admired Vic Wunderle, and boy, that family’s got it down. Great info in this book.
The chapters bring together vital information on the mental side of the sport, practical advice on training, and thoughts on all aspects of competition—from Olympic recurve to 3D.
Highly recommend. I know I’ll re-read it periodically.
America's Hunt for Ecological Balance and the Essence of Wildness
At a friend’s suggestion, in the cold, early spring months of '21, I read Al Cambronne’s Deerland, from 2013. It delves into conservation, balance, and what Cambronne calls America’s “deer-industrial complex.”
For hunters and archers, it looks at bow hunting, the archery and hunting industries, and the role bow hunting can play in restoring balance when the deer herd grows too large and starts to affect (negatively) habitat for other species. When Cambronne wrote the book, America supported over 30 million deer, a number a hundred times higher than that of a century before. (I’m not sure what the current population is.) This abundance demonstrates the herd’s resilience and adaptability, but it also indicates a certain amount of environmental degradation for other species. These deer numbers also contribute to the spread of certain diseases like Lyme disease, and they mean a significant toll on agriculture and motorists (with deer-vehicle accidents—something with which I’m a little too familiar, having lived in Michigan and known a guy who hit five deer in two years).
The book provides a pretty easy read. Cambronne interviews ecologists, people involved in agriculture, hunters, suburban “deer enthusiasts,” and even body-shop owners. An “adult-onset” hunter himself, Cambronne also takes to tree stands and blinds in search of more insights about deer in America. For anyone inclined to mingle bow hunting with books, or who just has an interest in ecology, it’s worth a look!
I grabbed Eva Shockey’s memoir Taking Aim because of Shockey’s role as a female leader in the bow-hunting world. The book merits a little book review here and provides a quick read. From a literary standpoint, Shockey’s style doesn’t quite do it for me; it’s not the conversational tone of the book or its extremely informal feel. I can appreciate the flow of literary informality. Rather, Shockey’s style just lacked substance, art, “bite”—whatever you want to call the flare that makes a book stick to your ribs.
Beyond style, though, I got a kick out of Eva’s background as a salsa-dance teacher in Vancouver. Having taught a lot of Latin, swing, and ballroom classes myself, I found it entertaining to read about another dancer-archer.
Regarding the concept of “adventure,” I wholeheartedly support her perspective that you can have great adventures in the wilds of [fill in the blank with some exotic location] OR right next door. I’ve had some pretty great times in Cuba, Guatemala, and Colombia, and in Sealy, Texas; Hutchinson, Kansas; and New Iberia, Louisiana. 🤣 If you want it, adventure lies just over the horizon, for any budget. One can grab it in a tent or RV, on a sailboat, on a cruise ship, with just a backpack, or in a beat-up car on any west-bound highway.
Dovetailing with the Fred Bear bio explored above, the book shows the evolution of modern hunting. Bear went out in the bush with a primitive recurve; Shockey, in contrast, lacks no bells and whistles. And echoing Deerland discussed above, Shockey explores the interplay of hunting and conservation.
Taking Aim doesn’t offer deep, original insight, but it does give good information for anyone interested in perceptions of archery and hunting in “pop” culture or the “mainstream” (as far as those terms go in this context), and in the modern archery industry.
A Teenage Archer's Quest for Olympic Glory
Denise Parker’s archery memoir Denise Parker: A Teenage Archer’s Quest for Olympic Gold covers the '88 team-bronze medalist’s start in the sport, journey to three Olympic Games ('88, '92, '00), and thoughts on competition and pressure. It chronicles her missing out on a spot on the '96 Olympic team, the difficulties of parental involvement in coaching, and the challenges of elite competition at a very young age.
For someone who shot JOAD in the '90s, it also brought back a different time. Parker was such a rockstar/example when I was a teenager shooting an old Sky Medalist! 😂🤣
With regard to the evolution of Olympic archery, Parker explores topics like money and sponsorship “back in the day” (the old ethic of amateur status that’s now long gone), the challenges of fundraising, the intimacy with other athletes, the media (and no social media, of course!). For parents, Parker dives into the challenges of blending family with coaching and training. (She had a falling out with her adopted dad, who’d been managing her archery career and coaching her to some extent.)
More generally, Parker’s story just provides some excellent perspective for target archers. She discusses shooting a six in the 1992 Barcelona Games to knock herself out of the running for a medal. That kind of account reminds anyone who’s had a bad end and missed their goal that it happens to the best of 'em. Overall, while the literary aspects of the book might not fling it into the ten ring, the content deserves a place in target archers’ intellectual quivers.
The Mindful Carnivore:
A Vegetarian's Hunt for Sustenance
The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance, by Tovar Cerulli, might feel a bit “touchy feely” in places, but it provides a rather balanced analysis of bow-hunting ethics (and hunting in general) from a guy who went from anti-hunter to avid hunter in search of an ethical means to eat. Parts of it will make veteran hunters groan, but I found the spirit of the author's journey, and his seemingly sincere desire to examine ethical harvesting and consumption, worthwhile.
Legends in Archery:
Adventures With Bow and Arrow
If you enjoy archery history, check out Peter O. Stecher’s Legends in Archery.
This collection of vignettes, on famous archers of old, gives readers a taste of the bow-and-arrow contributions of men like Ishi, Pope and Young, William Compton, Bill Negley, and Bob Swinehart. Howard Hill and Fred Bear, of course, appear. And Stecher, who’s Austrian, also covers Austrian toxophilitic legends and some of the development of archery in Europe from the '30s onward.
As a girl who loves *virtually* checking out the robust archery scenes in “far-off lands” (far from my own Texas 🤣) that Instagram offers, I especially enjoyed this section of Stecher’s work. While the translation to English hiccups here and there (and women shooters don’t get much attention, a deficit Stecher recognizes with grace and for which he offers some reasoning), the book lets readers romp through the “golden age” of archery, from Michigan to Mozambique, and even into the Alps!
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
A little swashbuckling, a little nostalgia for childhood bedtime stories, a lot of archery fun . . . who can resist a nineteenth-century retelling of the epic adventures of Robin Hood? Howard Pyle's classic version of the Robin Hood cycle gives readers all the Sherwood Forest scenery, medieval archery, chivalrous pageantry, and thrilling outlaw-ery anyone could want.
Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior
Since my teen years, Phil Jackson's Sacred Hoops has been my go-to sports-psychology source. As a kid watching the '90s Bulls soar to glory over and over again, I thought Jackson was one of the greatest coaches ever . . . and every time I re-read this classic, I have that impression reaffirmed.
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Roger Lancelyn Green’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, adds another telling to the Robin Hood legends, one that reflects Green's literary background as a member of the Inklings, a bookish circle that was peopled by the likes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Green (1918-1987) may not have had "the touch" with prose that his peers Lewis and Tolkien enjoyed, but he still did a solid job of presenting the old myths and legends. His Robin Hood springs from the original ballads while also evolving and adding new turns. Green’s ending may deviate a bit from some of the traditions, but it does so in a powerful, love-story, tear-jerker way that offers a bit of new depth.
For Sir Walter Scott fans, Ivanhoe makes a nice cameo appearance, and for anyone who wants a Maid Marian with a sword in her hand, Green gives her to readers. While often marketed as a children’s book, these stories should bring a grin to the countenance of any fan of Ren faires, myths of Merrie Olde Englande, and retellings of jolly outlaws and swashbucklers.
J.C. Holt’s treatise on Robin Hood (and on the origins and backgrounds of related old ballads) gives archery-legend aficionados a scholarly and specialized treatment of the greenwood legends. For archery girls, Holt also offers multiple little reminders of women’s place and history in the sport and their long-standing role as accomplished, competitive shooters. Long before Katniss Everdeen and Brave’s Merida drew their bows, ladies shot archery . . . and shot it well and competitively.