Friday, June 6, 2014

The Poison Dart and Her New Arrows

The Poison Dart and my first set of cedar arrows
There is an odd bond that is formed between my hunting equipment and myself.  The old pair of hiking boots that adorn the steps of my garage are just like the hunting partner who has endured many hours of strenuous climbs up rocky slopes or through muddy river bottoms.  My rifles and bows are tools, yes, but also inanimate friends that have been with me through moments of great success and failure.  I have found this bond especially close when it comes to my bows.  I believe it is the constant daily practice I spend with them.  It was a sad day as such when I had to come to the realization that successfully and accurately shooting my Fred Bear Montana Longbow was out of the question.  Since my venture to Rocky Mountain Specialty Gear (RMSG) last month (see the post entitled "Lessons from an Economy Bow" for details), I had been practicing a new shooting form.  This new form was not only more accurate, but also increased my draw length to 30.5 inches.  This increased the draw weight on the Montana from 55 pounds at 28 inches of draw to over 60 pounds at my new full draw.  To put it simply, it was too much bow for me to shoot effectively.  It was time to let the old girl go and pick up a new longbow.

I had always known the Montana was my starter longbow.  For the price, it was decently smooth and shot well for a mass production bow.  I did notice some hand shock at release, but just like a teenager with their first car it was the best thing I had known; all of that changed this past Wednesday when I met the Poison Dart. The Poison Dart is a custom Longbow built by Buddy Gould in Aurora, Colorado.  Buddy Gould recently started building these bows and they are sold exclusively through RMSG.   Logan at RMSG had specifically recommended this bow for me several weeks prior, and had asked Buddy to build the next bow around the 45 pound mark, as this was the target draw weight I was seeking. When Logan called me last week to let me know the bow was in stock, I could not wait to make the trek down to RMSG to shoot the bow.  Thankfully, Logan agreed to hold the bow for a few days for me.

Manufacture name and bow information
When they handed me the Poison Dart I was amazed at its beauty and lightness. The bow had a very classic longbow look and came equipped with fast flight tips.  The draw of the bow was incredibly smooth and there was no stacking of the limbs at my long draw length. What amazed me more was when I shot the bow.  There was no hand shock to the bow at all.  It was so smooth and fast that my left hand barely knew when I had released the arrow. Furthermore, I was amazed at how fast the bow was, and at the noise level the bow produced; it was a whisper compared to my Montana.  This bow was everything I was looking for.  If you asked me to described the perfect longbow, I would only need two words: Poison Dart.  I was further shocked when I looked at the lower limb for the price tag.  I expected to find a crazy sum, deserving for this fine elegant piece of wood.  I was pleasantly surprised to find it was marked at $425.  I suspect a bow of this caliber will only go up in price in the future.

The Poison Dart
Just to be sure I was ready for the commitment to my new hunting bow/partner, Logan put two other custom longbows in my hand for a test shooting.  It only took one arrow through each of the bows to confirm what I already knew- the Poison Dart was it.  The difference was astounding.  The Posion Dart felt like driving a Mercedes Benz, while the others in the same price range where economy Sedans. Even with the Poison Dart in my hands, it was hard to make the decision to put the Montana up for sale on consignment with RMSG.  In my heart I knew it was time to let the bow go.  I had killed an elk with this bow, but it was of no use to anyone sitting on my bow rack gathering dust. Perhaps the bow will end up with some beginner archer who will enjoy the bow as much as I did.

Cedar Arrow Building

Once I had settled on the Poison Dart it was time for me to start my next adventure; building my own wooden arrows.   Logan helped my find the correct shaft that had the proper spine and flight for my draw length.  It was a bit of a challenge to find the correct shaft, but I ended up leaving RMSG with 18 raw cedar shafts that were spined at 79 pounds and plus or minus 20 grains in weight, a dozen of them were actually plus or minus 15 grains of weight, as RMSG guarantees.  Along with the raw shafts, I bought some feathers, glue, a gasket sealer, dip tube, nocks, points, and a short lesson in arrow building. I felt ready for the challenge.  Despite several arrow building lesson from another traditional archer, I had yet to lay my hands on a wooden arrow that I could call my own.  Now had come the time.

Setup and kit to build cedar arrows
Raw components of the arrow.  Shaft, fletches, nock, and field point
I decided to build three arrows first, to learn the process of making them.  I knew there would be a learning curve to creating good arrows and I did not want to waste all of my shafts and supplies in the first attempt.  The beginning step is straightening the shafts.  A flat surface, keen eye, and steady hand is needed for this part.  As you roll the arrow across a flat surface you can hear the shaft wobble on the high points or roll smooth if it is straight.  Next I located the high points in the bend of the shaft and used the back end of a butter knife to work the bend out by using pressure and running the butter knife end over the bends.  This can be a tedious process, and I admit probably the part of the process I was most concerned about learning.

Arrows tapered and the tapering device.
Next I tapered the ends of the shaft to accept the point and the nock.  I used the straightest end of the shaft for the nock end.

Shafts after stained and sealed.
After tapering the arrows they needed to be stained and sealed.  I used a water based stain as I was using a gasket sealer method and was told that regular stain could bleed through.  If simply using a semi-gloss poly-urethane, then you can use a regular stain.  After sealing the shafts I used a steel wool to dull the shiny sealer.

Nocks installed

Once the shafts were dry, I installed the nocks.  I was told it is important to find the strength of the arrow and make sure it will be the side against the bow self.  I did this by looking at the wood grain and finding the tightly packed wood grain verses the more open striations.  After I  located the proper position for the nocks, I installed them using a thin bead of glue. Once the nocks were on it was time for the fletching.

Index fletch being installed.
There are several styles of fletching systems available.  I used a Jo-Jan fletcher that can accommodate six arrows at once. I found it very important to take my time, put every fletch on dry, and check alignment before using the glue.

Last Fletch being installed

After I fletched the arrows, I let let the glue dry.  I was recommend thirty minutes for the Delco Cement I used, but I gave the arrows a solid hour before letting them take their first test flight.  As I planned to shoot 125 field points I added them to the shaft using heat melted Bohing ferrel glue.

Once I was done with my first set of three arrows, it was time to test them out.  This post could not be complete without at least one short video clip. I guess it was only fitting to put it back into dangerous duty.  The group is from 10 yards away. The arrows flew well and seemed to be better than the archer behind them.

I learned a lot from building my first set of arrows, and the next set is already in production.  I have found that a large part of my outdoor life is learning new things.  Whether it is about how the animals live, or a new skill such as building arrows, learning is part of me and what I enjoy.  The quote this time belongs to Mahatma Gandhi, "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if were to live forever."  - Mahatma Gandhi


  1. What an amazing post on bows and arrows, especially arrows. I particularly like the cedar wood arrows. I have learnt a lot from your post. Check out more bow making skills here:

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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