Tough, springy, and durable, bois d’arc wood has become to be known worldwide as one of the best materials nature has produced for the primitive bow. The wood also has the special quality of transforming over time the surface color of its heartwood from bright yellow or orange to deep brown.
Bois d’arc is thought to have possibly been a major trade item for Caddoan mound builder inhabitants. Early explorers stated that other Indian tribes would travel to the Caddo’s area to trade for bois d’arc wood and for Caddo made bows because of the exceptionally good quality of these items for archery.
At the Caddo Conference in March, 2008 at Natchitoches, Louisiana I presented a paper on the Caddo bois d'arc bow in ancient times compared to modern Caddo traditional bows, the English longbow, and other traditional bows, in which I included some scientific principles in the analsys. View the paper here. Paper Caddo Bows for 2008 Caddo conference.doc
A Few of My Caddo Bois d'arc Bows
A few of the hundreds of bows I made over the years are in the picture here. Notice the irregularities in the limbs, which comes from following the grain of the stave. The bows from top to bottom:
1. This chocolate colored bow is one I made many years ago from a fencepost that had been in the ground on our family's Caddo allotment near Colony, OK. It is 48 inches long and has a draw weight of around 40 lbs at 25 inches. It has some worm holes in it that had to be included in the finished bow because of the limitations of the size of the stave. It is flat, about 3/8ths inches thick, and around 1-1/4 inches wide at the grip. It shoots as good as when I first made it many years ago.
2. This bow is made from a pattern carved on many gorgets found in the Spiro Mounds at Spiro, OkIahoma. It is 60 inches long and has deflexed tips and a reflexed handle. This bow is very strong--over 70 lbs draw weight.
3. This bow is 62 inches long and has a draw weight of 50 lbs.
4. A very smooth shooting bow, it is 63 inches long and has a draw weight of 55 lbs.
5. The bow is 60 inches long and has a draw weight of 55 lbs. I have hunted with this bow for several years and harvested much game with it.
These bows are of the traditional Caddo style of wide and relatively thin flat limbs, rectangular cross-section, and slight taper of the thickness from the mid-section to the tip, and tapering in profile from mid-section to tip.
Photograph of my hunting bow strung (braced). This is the No. 5 bow above.
Our Traditional Bow Shoots
Below is a picture of shooters that compete in our traditional bow shoots. These contests are of the old "grocery" style shoots where the winner of each round is awarded the groceries that were put up for the round by the sponsor or by the shooters themselves. We have categories of adult, youth, and ladies for recurve and primitive bows without sights. Several of our shooters are champions in recurve categories in statewide contests.