Dan Quillian: Master Of The Longbow

Mark Stonecipher | August 18, 1988

The archery business is enjoying an unparalleled boom across Georgia and the nation. The lion’s share of this growth revolves around compound bows and their related equipment, But, there is a growing company of bowmen who have tried the wheeled bows and are reverting back toward traditional longbows. Perhaps the best known longbowman in the country is a Georgia boy, Dan Quillian, of Athens.

Dan has been a lover of archery for more than 30 years. He got started back in the 1950s when he purchased an old Bear bow for $5 to teach himself how to shoot before he set up an archery program for the Athens Recreation Department. He killed his first deer with a bow on Blackbeard Island in 1956, and since then has taken deer with recurves, compounds and the longbow. Today he hunts exclusively with the longbow.

As a native Georgian, Dan was instrumental in working on some of the first deer stockings in the Piedmont area of the state. He was also one of the founding fathers of bowhunting in Georgia, helping to get our first archery season in 1965. In fact, his father D.D. Quillian was the first president of the Georgia Wildlife Federation back in 1936, so Dan has been involved in Georgia’s outdoors almost his entire life. His reputation in Georgia and throughout the nation as a leader in the field of bowhunting is well known and is a result of his experience and love of the sport.

Dan feels that the longbow allows one to experience what bowhunting is all about. He feels that the longbow takes one back to the primitive aspect of the sprt. According to Dan, archery used to be a game or contest of skills held between people. He feels that archery has become too technical and is no longer a test between people and their skills but a test of equipment: between who has the most expensive and most technical gadgetry available to help them hit their target. Dan compares shooting a compound to shooting a rifle on bench rest. He explained that shooting a longbow was like throwing a baseball.

“A pitcher concentrates on his target, the catcher’s glove,” Dan says. “He winds up , releases the ball, and then follows through. During his wind up, release and followthrough the pitcher is watching the catcher’s glove. It’s the same with shooting a longbow. You pick the spot on your target that you want to hit, and concentrate on that spot. You the pull the bow string back. This is your wind up. At the point you have drawn the string back to its maximum, you anchor, and then release the string, or throw the ball. The next step is following through. If done properly, the sighting, draw, release and follow through are one quick and smooth action.”

Dan says that the advantage of this form of shooting is in the technique. The arrow is released quicker and can be at the target faster than if shot from a compound of the same weight. This is due to the fact that the draw, anchor, sighting and release all become instinctive, and are basically done in one continuous motion.

Another advantage that the longbow has, according to Dan, is that the heavier the arrow, the more efficient the bow becomes. The compound bow allows an archer to shoot a lighter arrow at a heavier draw weight to achieve greater arrow speed. But the compound with a heavier arrow tends to lose arrow speed. The longbow with a heavier arrow, transfers the energy of the bow to the arrow quicker, and affects a greater impact at the target because more energy can be stored and transferred in a heavier arrow than in a light arrow. Plus, the longbow delivers it quickly. According to Dan, if a longbow shooter and a compound shooter both begin to draw their bowstrings back at the same time, the longbow shooter’s arrow would hit the target before the compound shooter’s arrow was released.

One of the disadvantages attributed to the longbow is its heavy hold weight. A longbow requires you to hold whatever weight you are shooting. Most compounds, on the other hand, have 50 to 65 percent let-offs. In other words if you are shooting a 60-lb. bow, you will only hold around 30 pounds with a compound, but with the longbow you will be holding all 60 pounds. The advantage of the compound bow is that you can draw and then hold at a full draw. The longbow must be drawn and released quickly. Dan, however, does not feel that this is a disadvantage. In fact, he believes that if hunters would go back to bows which do not have a light hold weight, their success ratio would go up. The reason being that with the heavier hold, the longbow hunter must draw and release quickly, taking advantage of his natural, instinctive ability to shoot accurately. In other words, said Dan, the compound tends to take away a hunters natural abilities, making him rely instead on the bow and its mechanical accessories, rather than his natural skill.

So, if you’re like Dan, a lover of archery and hunting, and feel that you’d like to return to the purist of our American hunting traditions, you might consider going back to the traditional longbow, and learning how to shoot instinctively.

Four years ago Dan started “Archery Traditions,” a company that sells only traditional archery equipment.

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