Swiss Fact or Fiction?

As legend has it, in Switzerland in 1307, William Tell refused to bow to the hat of an evil bailiff. In retribution, Tell was forced to shoot an apple off his son's head with his own crossbow. Luckily, Tell made the shot -- ensuring his name would go down in history. But while 60 percent of Swiss believe in the story, historians write it off as pure fiction [source: The Independent].

History of Bow Hunting

It's easy to imagine our human ancestors as big dumb animals, but by the Late Sto­ne Age, humans were using fire and making advanced tools. At some point, the bow and arrow entered into the mix. The oldest known arrows were found in Africa and were dated to the upper Paleolithic period (Late Stone Age, 40,000 to 25,000 years ago). Between 25,000 B.C. and 18,000 B.C., humans used wooden arrowheads and then progressed to fire-hardened stone and flint with feathered shafts.

Archeologists and historians have discovered bow and arrow use in many countries:

  • Italy -- Arrows with feathers and arrowheads made of flint date back to 11,000 B.C.
  • Germany -- Arrow shafts date to 9,000 B.C.
  • Denmark -- Bows date from 8,000 to 6,000 B.C.
  • Egypt -- Drawings date from 7,500 to 5,000 B.C. showing bows used for hunting and war.
  • Italy/Austria border -- Researchers uncovered human remains dating from about 3,300 B.C. This person carried carrying advanced tools such as a framed backpack, utility belt and copper axe, as well as quivers with 14 wooden arrows with flint arrowheads and feathers [source: StrictlyBowhunting].

Some additional interesting dates show the progression of the use of bows and arrows across the globe and the U.S.:

  • 2800 B.C. -- Egyptians make composite bows from wood, animal horn and sinew and catgut.
  • 1500 to 1027 B.C. -- China claims the first crossbows are invented.
  • 1208 -- Genghis Khan and his warriors use composite bows.
  • 1879 -- The National Archery Association (NAA) is founded in Indiana.
  • 1900 -- Archery is introduced into the Olympic Games.
  • 1934 -- The first bow hunting season begins in the U.S.
  • 1939 -- Aluminum arrow shafts are being designed but aren't trademarked until 1946.
  • 1966 -- The compound bow is invented by H.W. Allen.
  • 1966 -- The International Field Archery Association (IFAA) is founded [source: StrictlyBowhunting, Habeishi and Mallory].

Most people know that Native Americans were using bows and arrows throughout their history, but it was more than their tools that made them so successful. Read on to learn how Native American skills and stealth still influence bow hunting today.