By Neal Ritter
All places have times of excruciating beauty, but summer in Colorado is special, this year in particular. We have been running primitive skills summer camps in Boulder County for close to fifteen years, but this year’s camp was unique. We ran a slightly smaller camp than normal, and decided to focus on the bowmaking techniques I learned with the Hadza in Tanzania. Over the course of the week, campers learned new knife skills, worked with saplings of chokecherry, and ash, and built hunter gatherer style bows. We straightened arrows over the fire, and played games together.
One concession we made was in the draw weight of the bows. Instead of the heavy poundage I experienced with the Hadza, we made light bows, and tipped our arrows with specially crafted foam tips. Then, on our final day, we hunted, all day, though our prey was other campers, CITs (counselors in training) and instructors. It was epic!
One thing I noticed with the Hadza men was their daily and continuous relationship to archery, fueled by daily hunts. From a young age, they carry a bow constantly, and are shooting many arrows daily. Their hunting tactics are also communal, and often have a lighthearted air, with laughter and joking throughout. In a different culture and landscape, with more specific hunting regulations, it can be difficult to create a similar environment to encourage youth to immerse themselves into archery with passion. However, with this context of playing games, daily hunting would be possible.
Running and shooting while also being prey is an exhilarating process, and also deeply ingrains instinctive archery. There is no time to careful aim while running away, picking up arrows, and scanning for cover.
So far it is one of the most engaging ways to connect youth to primitive archery and hunting skills. We are excited to explore it more deeply.