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Discussion Starter #1
Hello dear archers!
This might seem a bit out of ordinary here, but I'm doing a research on traditional archery for a story set in ancient times and I got into a dillema that I can't find sufficient information on as it refers to quite specific scenario, so I figured, what best way to find answers than ask someone who actually has an experience with archery?

So my question is, how hard would it be for an archer/ hunter, to take a precise shot, "snipe" a target in a forest, take it an animal or a person? What sort of distance, and forest density makes it challenging? Specifically, what sort of factors might make it too problematic to overcome, to take such a shot without giving up archer's position? I'm specifically looking for a valid reason not to take such shot and not to make it seem as a cheap excuse.

I'd very much appreciate some insight.
Thank you and best regards
 

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Distance, wind, thick brush or trees, shot angle (no good shot at vital organs), area behind the intended target (kids or something you’d not be willing to shoot in case of pass through or one of the For mentioned things causing the arrow to miss the intended target)

Example:

Taking a shot from behind a bush and the arrow upon firing glances off a twig, causing you to miss and give up your position due to the movement of the bush that you’re hiding behind
 

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In the movies, try to think of an archery scene where the archer actually missed. Unless it was a plot point, it never happens. Obviously, ancient and medieval archers were perfect, they always hit their target at any range.

Sure.

Truth is, we don’t have much actual historic record of how accurate archers in the ancient time truly were. Military archers, exemplified by the English bowmen of the middle ages, were not interested in close range shooting - they shot their arrows by the hundreds or thousands from long ranges, more like artillery rather than “sniping”.

For individuals in hunting situations, the best we can come up with is relatively recent historical or current observation of indigenous peoples. In most cases, the observation was that the archer was REALLY close to his target before taking the shot. Plains Indian horseback archers, for example, would ride into a herd of bison and shoot an animal right next to them.

Some modern day “horsebow” or thumbring shooters seem to make more effort to try to shoot as many arrows as possible in the shortest time, with little regard for accuracy.

What era and region of the world is this story of yours set in? Maybe we can give you better information if we know that.
 

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Interesting… the most prevalent factor, in the situation you describe, would be brush or other ground obstructions. You have to remember ancient forest do not resemble forest we see today. A lot of the forests we see are many generations removed from old growth forest and have much less ground cover or obstructions than in old forest.
 

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Interesting… the most prevalent factor, in the situation you describe, would be brush or other ground obstructions. You have to remember ancient forest do not resemble forest we see today. A lot of the forests we see are many generations removed from old growth forest and have much less ground cover or obstructions than in old forest.
I think old growth has less undergrowth than new growth forests, (like the European estate forests of today). Drop some big tree and let some light hit the ground and all sorts of things start growing and fast. I could be wrong though (it's happened before...:) )
 

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But to the OP, obstruction would be me guess, needing to clear yourself of it to get a shot, which would expose the shooter. Same problems we have when hunting.
 

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Another thing to consider is that in ancient times, bow hunting was something that was taught from childhood and drilled constantly. In those times, hunting was a full time gig. Joining a hunting party was a right of passage into manhood
 

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Another thing to consider is that in ancient times, bow hunting was something that was taught from childhood and drilled constantly. In those times, hunting was a full time gig. Joining a hunting party was a right of passage into manhood
Maybe. Depending on one's region of the world and social status. For example, as much as English peasants were drilled to be competent archers from boyhood, they were also forbidden to hunt and kill the animals on their lords' estates. So they may be able to shoot relatively well but might not have enough experience to hunt effectively. Of course, if we're talking about a different society than Europe, then those factors change quicky.

I think this is relevant to the OP's question, as we need more info to make a more accurate (see what I did there!?) suggestion. In other words, shooting conditions are critical factors in taking a shot, but to some extent we might also consider the societal influences.

For example, would the shot be considered murder in the eyes of the law at the time and place? If so, how much is the shooter considering getting away clean? A revenge act might have a very different set of calculations in terms of what risks are worth taking than a professional assassin in a given story. Obviously, I'm WAY overthinking this, but it's fun and could be relevant to writing a compelling work of fiction.

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You are right Horseman. It does depend on certain societal factors. Such as, what is considered "ancient?"

For example, I would consider pre-Roman European culture to be ancient. After the Romans, then we get into the dark and middle ages and scenario you describe about not being allowed to hunt on the lord's land.

Certain Greek city states before the common era taught their young to hunt, fight and kill at an early age, even though they were considered to be "civilized." Central/Southern African cultures, pre-Columbian north American cultures and Japanese culture before European contact might be considered to be ancient. And some of those were still in their stone age.

So yes. The stage must be set!

All this makes for great conversation!
 

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You are right Horseman. It does depend on certain societal factors. Such as, what is considered "ancient?"

For example, I would consider pre-Roman European culture to be ancient. After the Romans, then we get into the dark and middle ages and scenario you describe about not being allowed to hunt on the lord's land.

Certain Greek city states before the common era taught their young to hunt, fight and kill at an early age, even though they were considered to be "civilized." Central/Southern African cultures, pre-Columbian north American cultures and Japanese culture before European contact might be considered to be ancient. And some of those were still in their stone age.

So yes. The stage must be set!

All this makes for great conversation!
Great additional societal examples. I love these kind of discussions. So.much fun to get my archery nerd going.

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Discussion Starter #13
WoW! Thank you everyone for such deep and thorough insight.

Reading your responses is very informative and inspiring. I was specifically thinking of natural factors and environmental conditions and obstacles.

Hence directing this question at someone who actually has experience with just physically handling a bow and arrow, no matter technological differences. It's still more valuable than me theorising while never having a real bow of any kind in my hands.

But the societal approach is very interesting as well, and might come in handy later on as well, so thank you for pointing that out too.

And yes, in movies and fiction in general the hit is dictated by the plot. In this case I need something opposite, but at the same time I don't want to end up with bunch of Stormtroopers, as many of you pointed out, people trained with bow and arrow from early childhood.

Thank you very much again for all your replies and sharing your experience and observations.
 

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Will respond more precisely re:accuracy when I can find the reference I'm thinking of.

It's important to remember though that archery, for some cultures (i.e. England) wasn't just a niche hobby like it is today. As far as I recall archery was a main pastime in the middle ages and men training to be archers would have shot hours per week since they were old enough to hold a bow. Practicing at least weekly was mandated by law for males between 8 and 55 (or thereabouts).
There are some reports that contests would regularly be held and that numerous archers could hit the "bullseye" from 100 paces with a full quiver, after which the bull would be reduced to declare a winner. No idea how big that bull actually was. Wartime mostly meant launching as many arrows downrange as possible with heavy bows (150lb+), but I doubt that meant accuracy was never employed.

We have advantages in terms of equipment and a knowledge base readily available to most, but I think it's unwise to assume that because they were the people of the past that they didn't figure out how to precisely spine arrows if they needed to. What they have as an advantage over us is time: they didn't have phones, TV, 9-5's (well some of them had 6-22's in all likelihood), or other such distractions. It's true that most didn't have time for hobbies as life was exponentially more difficult, but I would imagine those training to be archers put an awful lot of arrows downrange.
 

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Historical “reports” of English archer prowess are likely variations of the Robin Hood tournament scene in the movies. Massively exaggerated

Consider the environment.

“Practising at least weekly” was indeed mandated by law, but what this consisted of specifically, and what the results of this practise were is not recorded. A likely scenario would have been a gathering of many (certainly not all or even most) males in an area in a specific area. Bows made by bowyers and sheaves of arrows made by fletchers would be handed out and everyone would fling arrows in some sort of unorganized manner for a while until everyone had to go home to milk the cows or pick vegetables.

Things to consider:

Who organized these gatherings, and how did the word get out? Probably done on a Sunday after church. But did everyone go to church? I mean, we’re looking at a 20 or 30 mile round trip on foot for some.
Who certified the coaches? :)
How did they ensure that everyone participated and got regular practise, and did they keep scores to see how everyone was improving?
The bows all pretty much looked the same. Nit likely everyone could afford their own equipment. How would any one archer get the same or similar bow each time to learn consistency?
The arrows all pretty much looked the same and were impossible to sort by weight or spine. How could anyone know how any one particular arrow would perform? How could the arrows all be sorted back into matched sets after they were all collected?

I mean, people on this forum freak out over a nock-left arrow flight or an FOC that’s a bit too low. Imagine being given a random wood longbow bow and random unmatched wooden arrows, and maybe one practise session a week. Now, go shoot a deer. Or harder, shoot an armed enemy soldier coming at you.

No, the English archers were NOT generally capable of pinpoint accuracy. They shot en masse at a large target area at very long ranges. The success came from thousands of arrows shot fairly quickly all at one time into one general area.
 

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If you need those shots to make the plot then write in magic or a crossbow.
 

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Another thing to consider is that in ancient times, bow hunting was something that was taught from childhood and drilled constantly. In those times, hunting was a full time gig. Joining a hunting party was a right of passage into manhood
I also dont think natives cared about ethical hunting. As much as i am for ethical hunting its a luxury, and it goes out the window once putting food on the table matters.
 
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