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Viktor Kuhn, paramedic, adventurer and eager traditional archer writes about his experiences when he recently visited family in the Czech Republic where he met local traditional archers who equally shares his enthusiasm for the stickbow.
> Members of the local club.
On a recent trip to the Czech Republic my wife and I were invited by a local traditional archery club to join them for a shoot. We could not take our bows along to Europe but we were assured all is in order and that they will supply us each with a bow. They just wanted to meet archers from South Africa, and more importantly, they wanted to know as much as possible about hunting in South Africa. We often forget what a privilege it is to live in a country with very few hunting restrictions. We love to gripe about hunting venues, prices and facilities, but we really have nothing to complain about. This became clear to me again after meeting archers who are not allowed to hunt at all! The closest they ever get to hunting is be shooting at 3D targets.
< Cocking a 200-pound crossbow!!!
We were picked up early on Friday morning to meet the club members. We were equipped only with photos of South African game, venues and hunting destinations. We first went to a local bowyer's workshop to see his wares and with typical Eastern European hospitality there was a festive atmosphere with a lot of food and drinks at the ready.
We soon made our way to their clubhouse, which is a rustic pub outside the town of Ceske Budejovice. There we were fortified against the sub-zero temperatures with Goulash and a stiff shot of Fernet Stock – a drink that goes down like Castor oil and makes Jägermeister taste like Cool Aid.
> Different types of targets.
We unpacked the 3D targets and they were not really what we are used to, since it included bear, ferrets, turkey and even an eagle. Soon as the shooting started and we had no more need of an interpreter – as stick and string was all that then mattered. No real language skills are needed when looking for "flyer" arrows in the bushes or trying to cut a prized footed shaft from the trunk of a tree. The 20-knot freezing crosswind did not do much for our aim, but there was great camaraderie as we went digging through snowdrifts and frozen bogs looking for windblown arrows. Another trip to the clubhouse and another stiff belt of Fernet Stock and the cold was forgotten. It worked well to combat the cold… and it seemed to improve my aim.
< Marlize shooting a Tomas Hanus longbow.
A local bowyer, Tomas Hanus, was there and gave us some of his bows to shoot. Again I was impressed by the difference between his handmade bows, which is made by a master at his craft, versus a mass produced factory product. Tomas produces a fine line of bows which can be seen on his website. He also produced a custom made medieval crossbow with a draw weight of 200 pounds. It actually needed a fulcrum device bigger than the bow to cock it! Unfortunately we had no bolts for the crossbow since they would be all so deeply imbedded in the targets that you would destroy the target completely trying to remove it. It is accurate up to 50 m! We had lunch at the clubhouse fireplace to escape the cold, a generous helping of Goulash and the best of Czech beers and we were ready for another shoot.
> Lunch at the club house.
A doctor from the club joined us later the day after closing his practice early and driving 500 km to meet us. He had all his internet research regarding South Africa with him as he desperately wanted to come over and hunt with traditional as well as compound bow. He was a bit wary regarding the political situation, crime and whatever the media spews forth. My only retort was that we live in the most beautiful country in the world, with the greatest people, and he should come and experience it for himself. I handed him a copy of Adrian de Villiers' book, Whatever it takes. It contains all the stories and contact details he can possibly dream of, especially those who prefer walk-and- stalk hunting.
Again, I was impressed by the traditional archery fraternity – where worldwide there is only hospitality, warmth and camaraderie that easily transcend language and cultural barriers. It was a pleasure to meet like-minded strangers who went out of their way to make us feel welcome. Our short visit turned into a 12 hour Duzi, which would have lasted much longer if we did not have to catch a flight back home the next morning.
It did not take much convincing to get them to start planning a trip to our shores for next year's Sterkrivier Traditional Shoot, and I'm sure where they will be shown the best of our beautiful land, and of course our biltong, boerewors and braaivleis.