History of Bow Hunting

Recently, I was on vacation and Andy and I were talking with some new acquaintances about our hobbies, including our passion for bow hunting.  Our acquaintances asked, “Bow hunting??? Using bows and arrows like Native Americans???”.  After a little chuckle, I responded “Not exactly like our Native American friends of the past, archery technology has come a long way”.  However, this made me think about the history of bow hunting and where did it all begin?  Flashbacks of every western or medieval movie that I had ever seen came to mind.  Flashbacks of all my lectures as a history major came back to me…Grecian and Roman legions, medieval lords and armies, indigenous tribes of the jungle; Native Americans in the Americas….all of them used archery in some form or another.


After a little research, I found some great background and history on the sport that we all love and I thought it would be interesting to share.  In fact, bow hunting started during the Paleolithic period of history meaning during the pre-historic period.  No, this does not mean that cave men were trying to shoot dinosaurs with arrows.  Rather, during the early pre-historic period, our cavemen-like ancestors were inventing bows and arrows made from wood and flint to hunt for dinner and protect their property.  It seems as if the oldest arrowheads were found in Africa dating back to as early as 50,000 B.C.  However, I do not like using this as a hard date to confirm the existence of bow hunting.  In fact, historians suggest that arrowheads were first used on the ends of spears or projected from earlier devices than the bow.  Therefore, the first known evidence of bow hunting is found in Germany during the Mesolithic period.

The oldest known bow artifacts were found in the swampy, bogs of Germany.  These early bows are known as the Holmegaard bows because of the area in which they were found; they were composed of elm wood.  In fact, some form of archery has been documented on almost every continent.  Classical civilizations of the Egyptians, Assyrians, Persians, Parthians, Indians, Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, Turks, and tribes in the Americas all used archery.  Further adaptations of using the bow on horseback and the invention of the English longbow allowed for continental warfare.

Archery declined due to advances in weaponry, but has reemerged for recreational use.  There are two different types of modern archers: those that practice archery for competitions and those that use archery as a means to participate in the sport of bow hunting.  Today, traditional forms of bows come in the form of the English-Longbow and the modern spin on tradition in the form of the Recurve bow.  Today, many of use the newest form of bow…The Compound Bow.

I hope that this at least answered a few of your questions about the origin of bow hunting.  There are many, many more details about archery in each country or tribe throughout the centuries and what I provided you was just a brief overview.  If you have any other questions about bow hunting history, you can comment below or email me at amber@bowhuntingmaryland.com.  I hope that now you might have a little better answer than I had when confronted with the history of your sport!!

If you are looking for a more in-depth timeline regarding bow hunting history, check out “A Shot in Time” by Graeme Jeffery of the Centenary Archers Club or “The History of Archery” by Tom Brissee of StrictlyBowhunting.com.

3 Responses

  1. John Z
    Very interesting. Thanks for doing the research.
  2. Shane Pearson
    Could you please let me know who wrote this article? I really need it for a research paper I'm currently writing.
    • admin
      Shane, Amber @ Bow Hunting Maryland wrote this post.. Hope that helps

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