Hunter finds satisfaction in using handmade bows
Lowell DeWall isn’t a big spender at archery supply stores.
He occasionally buys arrowheads. Maybe a few bow strings on another trip.
He creates the rest of his archery hunting equipment himself.
“There’s a lot of satisfaction hunting something with what I’ve made,” said the 56-year-old paint contractor, who lives in rural Forreston.
DeWall used his handcrafted longbow and arrows to kill a 10-point, 220-pound buck in Ogle County last year.
The rack had a 22-inch inside spread and a 167 gross green score.
It was the best trophy deer he has had taken with either a gun or bow.
DeWall has been trying this spring to bag a turkey with his longbow — a feat he has not accomplished in three seasons of hunting.
“I almost had one (Wednesday) morning but I blinked, they saw me and were gone,” said DeWall, who has killed 10 turkeys with a shotgun in his hunting career.
“Just drawing on a turkey is an accomplishment to me. I like to take shots 15 yards or under, or a clear open shot of maybe 20 yards.”
DeWall has hunted for 40 years with a shotgun and compound and recurve bows.
A gift changed that.
“I got a book for Christmas about making bows awhile back,” he said. “I read it and decided I couldn’t do it.”
The thought wouldn’t go away, though.
“Then I picked (the book) back up and decided the worst that could happen was I would break some wood.”
Two years later, DeWall has built 16 longbows.
To obtain his material, he hunts for Osage and other types of wood at least 66 inches long from trees in the countryside around Forreston.
“I try to find the straightest, but you can adjust it with heat later on,” he said.
Bow builders also can buy red oak boards at lumber yards, but DeWall prefers finding his material.
Using an ax, he splits it to get a usable piece of wood.
DeWall then carves it down, removing the bark and sap wood and leaving a single growth ring exposed all the way around.
“Then I get an idea in my mind what I want the bow to look like,” he said.
He then uses a band saw to rough out the sides, taper the ends and make a handle area.
The bow is put in a vice, and DeWall rasps it, taking wood off the belly.
“But you’ve got to know when to quit or you’ll come up with a real light bow,” he said.
DeWall uses wild multiflora rose stems to fashion his arrows, and turkey feather for the fletching.
DeWall still purchases his hunting arrow points but is working toward making his own.
Next month he starts teaching a bow-making class through Freeport’s Indian Trail Archers club.
“They are really smooth and really quiet,” DeWall said of his longbows. “A lot quieter than a compound, I’ve always found.
“They are slower, but there is something about watching the arrow in flight that makes it real fun, too.”
Doug Goodman can be reached at (815) 987-1386 or firstname.lastname@example.org.