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Bill Cochran: 10 things worth knowing about sling bows

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Eight hunting seasons ago, Tony Reaves was in a tree stand with bow and arrow at ready, watching for a deer — and bored stiff.

“I just wanted a different challenge,” he said.

That’s what led him to the sling bow and a whole new way of shooting and hunting.

For the first time, sling bows will be legal for hunting deer, turkey and small game this season in Virginia — everything but bear and elk. Give Reaves, a South Boston resident, credit for introducing this novel method of hunting to the state.

Here are 10 things worth knowing about sling bows:

What is a sling bow?

That is a question many seasoned hunters are asking. It is a slingshot modified to shoot traditional arrows with lethal speed and accuracy. Reaves shoots instinctively, that is, without sights or stabilizers.

“They are no more difficult to shoot than a longbow,” he said. “A man that practices at 20 yards can hit a tennis ball every time.”

Who is selling sling bows?

Buying one can be a challenge. Most major outdoor stores aren’t in a hurry to stock them, including the two mega Bass Pro Shops in Virginia. That leaves the manufacture and sales to small businesses often confined to the Internet. Reaves sells the “Elite Sling Bow” brand by appointment in South Boston (www.twofeathersva.com, 434-572-7609). The model is designed and manufactured by “Chief A.J.” Huffer, who lives in Illinois. He is a noted hunter and marksman who has been a pioneer in sling-bow hunting. He recently moved his distribution center to South Boston under Reaves’ management .

“Right now it is word of mouth,” Reaves said. “We hope to get to the point that we will be in the box stores.”

How much does a sling bow cost?

The Elite sells for around $120. With some compound bows and crossbows going for more than $1,000, perhaps the greatest attraction of the sling bows will be the inexpensive entry to the archery seasons it provides. One website claims you can make one for $5.

How did Reaves succeed in establishing a sling-bow season in Virginia?

He ran the idea by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, which was noncommittal, then went directly to his General Assembly delegate, James Edmunds, R -Halifax. An avid outdoorsman, Edmunds drafted a bill to legalize sling-bow use, and it drew scant opposition. Edmunds isn’t certain whether he will hunt with a sling bow.

“Not unless I start practicing,” he said.

Can you shoot fish with them?

Yes. In fact, “bow fishing” is one of their most popular applications. Reels and other fishing components are available.

What are outdoorsmen saying?

Robert “Buddy” Faison said: “I can’t imagine a lot of interest by serious hunters.” Faison is host of the popular Facebook group “Virginia Hunters & Fishermen.” He is a longtime leader of the Virginia Peninsula Sportsmen’s Association, one of the state’s oldest and largest hunting organizations, and sponsor of the annual Big Game Trophy Show.

Faison said he could be wrong about sling bows.

“Back when I started hunting in the ’60s, we never thought compound bows would be accepted, then crossbows,” he said.

Do other states have a sling-bow season?

According to an internet search, about 30 do, but many limit their use to nongame species. Feral hogs are a popular target.

What other benefits do sling bows have in addition to their low cost and challenge to shoot?

“They are great for [physically disabled] hunters,” Reaves said. “You can draw, aim and shoot out of confined places.”

What type arrows are required?

The same as used in bowhunting.

What kind of future is in store for sling-bow hunting?

“I think it eventually is going to take off,” Reaves said. “It is new. Very few people know about it.”

from The Roanoke Times