After COVID had ruined a number of vacation plans that my girlfriend and I had, we were desperate to get out and do something fun. While perusing the "For Sale: Sporting Goods" section on the Bend Craigslist, I stumbled upon an ad for a bow building class in Chiloquin, OR. Having an interest in Native American culture and history of the High Desert tribes, I halfway jokingly mentioned it to Cheryl. To my surprise, she was interested and we decided to consider the bow building retreat despite neither of us having ever shot a bow.
As we got closer to the date of the retreat, I decided to call Dave Cheney, Owner of the Painted Bow Ranch (PBR) in Chiloquin, to get more information. His passion about bow building was contagious and the video below got me excited enough to sign up for the class. The course is Thursday-Sunday (4 days) and is held at Dave's beautiful property about 2 hours South of Bend.
We arrived at PBR on Wednesday night with just enough daylight left to set up our tent. Dave greeted us with his pup Tizzy and told us to be ready to go at 8am the following morning. We finished setting up camp and dug in for the night.
Billy Berger (@bigbad93) is a film maker, writer, archaeologist & primitive survivalist. He also starred in an episode of Naked & Afraid. Billy is good friends with Dave and he flew in from Georgia for our class. He is a primitive hunter and expert bow and arrow maker and flint knapper. Flint knapping is the making of flaked or chipped stone tools. With Billy's help, I was able to leave the course with 3 Obsidian arrowheads. We used copper tipped flakers and "boppers". I was surprised how much strategy, precision and planning it took to shape organic glass into a point. Essentially, you remove flakes to build ledges. The ledges allow placement of your tool so that you can use pressure to remove larger amounts of material. You flip your glass over often, building ledges on one side and then removing them from the other side. I got several cuts because the flaked Obsidian is so sharp.
With the bow and arrow now complete, I was ready to make my first shot. This would be my first shot ever with any bow let alone a hand built primitive Juniper long bow. The guys give me some pointers so I'd know what to expect. I pull back on a Rinehart 3D Pronghorn Antelope target and let it fly. A gut shot albeit but I was so proud to hit the target. My work was done except for shooting Dave's 3D target course a few times, swimming in the river nearby, making homemade sourdough pizza in the brick oven and breaking down my camp. Dave and Billy were great hosts and have opened my eyes to a more simple, or dare I say primitive, way of life and a newfound respect for those who lived and hunted these lands before us.
Bow Building Class 2021?
Leave a comment or contact me on social media if you'd be interested in attending a bow building class in 2021. We have the option to do it in Central Oregon on evenings and weekends or travel down to Chiloquin as a group to Dave's property. Cost would be $300-400 depending on what we choose to do. I will post updates as we get closer!