The young people of today spend less time learning to hunt and trap wild game or catch fish than generations of the past. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a survey about outdoor recreation that showed that between 2001 and 2006, 12 percent fewer people spent time fishing, and 4 percent fewer people spent time hunting. This is good news for trout and deer, but not such great news for society. Urbanization and electronic hobbies like video games and cable television shows are slowly taking the place of rural communities and outdoor recreation. Children involved in sports and other extracurricular activities have less time to spend learning about hunting and fishing – and parents shuffling them between events have less time to teach them.
Another reason people are hunting less is because the equipment is not readily available or is too expensive. Too often, sporting goods stores cater more to team sports and outdoor activities like hiking or bicycling than they do hunting and fishing. High price tags attached to the quality products found on their shelves discourage some customers from even trying those types of sports in the first place. And some other stores only carry products related to hunting and fishing during certain times of the year, making it impossible to buy the supplies necessary for practicing those sports during the off-season.
It’s the Hunt, Not the Kill
For many hunters, including the ones in my own and my husband’s families, the sport is not about killing animals. It’s about hunting, and it’s about parents passing down the traditions they learned from their parents and grandparents. Responsive Management, an outdoor research group in Harrisonburg, Virginia, says that about 90 percent of kids who hunt do so because they grew up around adults who are hunting enthusiasts. My husband is a traditional archer, and one way that he inspired our sons to try the hobby was by helping them make their own bow hunting equipment. They recently found a YouTube video that showed how to turn a PVC pipe into an archery bow, and of course had to try it out for themselves.
You might wonder why anyone would want to turn a piece of PVC pipe into a bow. First of all, it’s very economical. Prices for archery bows for a beginner or a child can start out as much as one hundred dollars or more. Higher quality equipment for serious hunters can run well over one thousand dollars. A PVC archery bow costs less than twenty dollars to make. It is a great bow for a beginner or a child because it is lightweight and easy to handle. And because the PVC construction is waterproof, it also makes a great tool for bow fishing.
Building your own PVC archery bow will require trips to both hardware and farm supply stores for supplies. This product list and the following instructions are the ones my teenage sons followed. Instructions for a few different versions of a PVC archery bow exist online, but the ones on “The Mans Cave” website were extremely easy to follow. They even have a video that shows each step from start to finish. In addition to the instructions below, they also show how to make an arrow rest from PVC pipe. My sons had so much fun on this project that they’re now making them for friends and a few of their cousins.
- One 5′ section of schedule 40 PVC pipe, 3/4″ thick
- One 5′ section of schedule 40 PVC pipe, 1/2″ thick
- One 4′ 5″ section of fiberglass rod, 3/8″ thick
- Duct tape and electrical wrap
- Pipe insulation (for handle)
- One 55″ bowstring
- Spray paint (optional)
- Safety glasses
- Before starting any part of this project that involves cutting, filing, or sanding, please put on a pair of safety glasses. PVC shavings and dust flying about the air can easily cause damage to the eyes.
- Using a saw, cut a line down the one side of your 1/2″ thick PVC pipe. Try to keep the line as straight as possible.
- Spray the inside of both ends of your 3/4″-thick PVC pipe with WD-40.
- Spray the outside of your 1/2″-thick PVC pipe with WD-40.
- Force the 1/2″ thick PVC pipe into the 3/4″ thick section. You may have to push the pipe against the ground to force it all the way in. If you do this, please be careful because you do not want to snap your pipe in half. Keep pushing until the 1/2″-thick pipe is fully inserted into the 3/4″-thick one.
- Mark off 3/4″ from either side of the pipe.
- Using a 1/8″ drill bit, drill a hole on either side of the pipe right on the mark. Be sure the holes line up and are even on both sides at each end.
- Using a hacksaw, cut through the end of the pipe, stopping at the holes you drilled in the last step.
- Repeat this on the other end of the bow.
- Using a metal file, smooth down the inside of the cut to clean up any rough edges. You are going for a clean look during this step.
- Using rough grit sandpaper, smooth down the areas you just filed for a polished finish.
- Wipe your bow clean of any dust from the cutting and filing and use spray paint to decorate it however you want.
- Attach a piece of pipe insulation for a handle and, if you prefer to make it more permanent, duct tape it in place.
- Wrap the fiberglass rod with duct tape and then wrap it in a layer of electrical tape.
- Stick the fiberglass rod into the PVC pipes. This will help add pounds to your bow when you are shooting it.
String it as you would a normal longbow, and you are ready to begin shooting. As I said before, quite a few variations of instructions for making a PVC archery bow exist online, both for longbow and recurve types. The instructions in this article are easy to follow, especially for a beginner or someone who cannot invest a lot of money into the project.
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Some bow hunting accessories are optional, while hunters from all walks agree that others are mandatory for going out to spend a day in their favorite hunting area. What you take hunting is up to you, but here are some suggestions:
- Arm guard – A good arm guard costs less than twenty dollars, and not only do they protect your arm, but they also help you focus more on how accurate your arrow flies towards its intended target. If you’re handy with leather or just feeling brave, you can find instructions online for making your own.
- Bow socks – Made of soft cloth like fleece or flannel, a bow sock (or sometimes called a bow bag) prevents equipment from becoming scratched while in storage or being transported between your house and your favorite hunting spot. If either you or your significant other is at all handy with a sewing machine, try making one with fleece purchased at your local fabric store. Some sell fleece that is 68″ wide, which is the perfect size when making a bow sock for a 60″ PVC archery bow.
- Quiver – This is by far the best item for carrying your spare arrows. A quiver prevents accidental stabbings and helps to keep the feathers at the end of the arrow from getting ruffled. Websites like Etsy have custom-made quivers of materials like leather studded with medieval-looking steel plating, raccoon fur that harkens to the days of native America, oriental bamboo, and more. Even if you don’t plan to buy a quiver from the Internet, websites like Etsy are a great source of inspiration when looking for ideas for how to make your own items.
- Stringers – These pull the limbs of the bow evenly to allow the bowstring to loop over the tips of the bow. Using a bow stringer means the limbs are less likely to twist and thus cause damage to the bow.
- Targets – There’s nothing like practicing, whether during bow season or in the off months. You can find various types of printable bull’s-eye targets online for free. My husband and sons love sticking these on the side of a cardboard box, an old hay bale, or anything else that allows the arrow to safely enter without passing completely through.
As with any weapon, there are safety precautions to follow when using a PVC archery bow. Just because they are inexpensive and built at home does not guarantee that no one could be injured if it is misused. If you are not sure if it is legal to shoot a bow where you live, ask a member of your local Department of Natural Resources. Ours is very helpful about answering questions and has free literature on topics of hunting regulations and safety tips for readers of all levels.
If you have ever created your own archery items or have suggestions not listed here, please share your comments. We would love to read them!