“Why this cult of wilderness?... because we like the taste of freedom; because we like the smell of danger.”
Bows, 'hawks, atlatls, throwing sticks, blow guns, bolas - only at Night Eagle! Boys, by nature, like to be active and to challenge themselves. Target sports offer them the opportunity to do both. In addition, boys get to design and carve their own atlatls, bows, arrows, throwing sticks, blowguns, and bolas. They get to experiment with various types of woods to see which ones are easiest to carve and to test different lengths and weights of wood to see which ones work best. Boys spend hours testing and fine tuning their creations. When all is said and done, they have a wonderful implement, but more important, they have developed other skills and learned the value of hard work and persistence!
When Night Eagle opened twenty-two years ago, one of the first activities we introduced (and still one of the most popular) was hawk throwing. Since then, hawks have been filling the air and leaving targets in pieces. At Night Eagle campers begin learning how to safely and accurately throw a 'hawk' on the day they arrive. Tomahawk throwing has become a staple in camp and a great way for boys to practice concentration and tenacity, and to build confidence in themselves - all while having a great time with new friends!
Boys also have the opportunity to participate in a variety of bow and arrow activities, which are led by competent instructors. Campers can use one of camp's bows, bring their personal bow to camp, or do what many campers do and make their own. If they choose the latter, first they will have to slip into the woods and find the ash, maple, or serviceberry sapling or branch that they will use for their bows. When they return, the real work begins.
Using a spokeshave bench, a drawknife, and their own knives, campers begin shaping their bows, being careful not to carve it too thin. When they are satisfied their bow is the way they want it, they may test it using camp arrows. If they want to make their own arrows, that means another trip into the forest to find some cedar, fir, pine, maple, or ash. After debarking and straightening the shafts of their arrows, campers are then ready to split and tie a turkey feather onto the arrow. If campers are really ambitious, they can spend some time learning to knap a stone point to attach to the arrow. Then, look out grizzly bear!
The atlatl is a primitive hunting tool that has been in use for nearly 30,000 years. With an atlatl a boy can easily throw darts over 75 yards at speeds of up to 90 miles per hour. The atlatl, which is little more than a stick fourteen to twenty-eight inches long, developed simultaneously on two continents. Among the groups known to have used the atlatl were the Aborigines of Australia, Eskimos, American Indians, and Aztecs. This simple weapon is a remarkably powerful and surprisingly accurate tool and is credited as one of the major forces in the extinction of Ice Age mammals such as the woolly mammoth! A simple tool, yet over the years campers have created a variety of wonderfully designed examples.