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Hunter meticulously crafts his bows and arrows

Posted: Wednesday, March 07, 2001

SODA SPRINGS, Idaho (AP) -- What if hunters had to build their own bows, manufacture and fletch their arrows, make the broadheads from raw metal, tie them on with sinew and weave a string before going hunting?

For Doug Foss of Soda Springs, it is one of the highlights of the sport, especially this year after he harvested an antelope in Wyoming with his homemade gear.

''It was kind of neat for me to do the whole thing,'' Foss said. ''It was all my own doing and I wasn't relying on someone else's equipment, and that's satisfying.''

Foss has been archery hunting for 25 years. In that time he shot over 18 different bows including recurves (bows on which the limbs curve away from the archer at the tips), compounds (bows that use eccentric wheels on the limbs to improve mechanical efficiency) and traditional.

''I have always been a gadget kind of guy,'' Foss said. ''I like trying something new, whether it's changing to a different bow, different type of arrows or trying new broadheads. So I guess I'm trying to make it tougher by going back to a long bow.''

Foss has taken 27 animals with his bows. Since he started hunting with his homemade equipment in 1996, Foss has shot four different traditional bows, three of which were homemade. The seven animals Foss harvested with traditional equipment are a bear, elk, whitetail, two mule deer and two antelope.

''I'm not a trophy hunter,'' Foss said. ''I like the archery hunting because you can see a whole bunch of animals earlier in the season. With a bow you can see the animals and sometimes be within feet of them and still not get a chance for a shot, but it's more fun for me.

''Since I started making my own equipment, archery hunting has become even more rewarding,'' he said.

Foss started making his own bows after seeing an ad in a magazine, and ordered the blueprints and materials.

''One thing I like about making my own bow is I customize it the way I want it,'' Foss said. ''I have a lump on my thumb here, so on all my bows I cut a notch out for it. I also get to pick the materials.''

Foss estimates it takes him about 25 hours over a two-week span to build one of his custom bows.

The steps include:

- Building the riser, the center of the bow including the handle.

- Attaching and laminating the limbs and curing them.

- Shaping the arrow rest, sight window, grip and limbs.

- When he's nearly finished, he places antler tips at the end of the bow limbs to add strength and for appearance.

- Then he adds his handmade string.

Arrows:

- He uses premade shaft blanks.

- They are dipped in a lacquer to waterproof them and painted to his design.

- He puts helical fletching -- the feathers on the end that stabilize the arrow in flight -- on the shafts to give the arrow more rotation. He uses precut fletchings or burns feathers into the shape he wishes.

- Nocks, the slotted arrow ends where the string rests, are mostly glued on, but he has cut and used several self-nocks by cutting into the arrow shaft.

Broadheads:

- He and a friend began building arrow points last year. The points are cut from a knife grade metal, shaped, sharpened, then heat-treated.

- The shaft of the arrow is split at the end and the shank of the point is glued and bound into the arrow by fishing line or sinew and hide glue.

Most of the methods that Foss uses were learned from other archers, from books and magazine articles or trial and error.

''The whole thing about traditional archery, you can do as much as you want to do,'' Foss said. ''It's not quite like the Indians did it. I still use a lot of commercial materials. I didn't go out and find a tree and make a self-bow, but I might someday.''



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