Sometime around Christmas a good friend of mine, Jay Baldino, and I started planning for an Idaho Elk hunt. One of my biggest concerns about this hunt was taking my Hoyt Satori. Though it is a great shooting bow, the idea of backpacking miles into Wilderness chasing down bull elk with an International Limb Fitting (ILF) bow had me feeling uneasy. The whitetail woods have been fine for me with an ILF bow, having only a few issues with rattling, clicks, or loose screws and bolts. Knowing that problems only get worse under harsher conditions, I had to make a quick decision in order to get myself ready for this brutal upcoming hunt.
I burned a hole in the internet looking through all of the web pages from different bowyers before bed. Like most of my research, this went on for weeks. Grip options, wood selections, lengths, and styles were a few of the many options I had to consider. This was a tough decision as there were a ton of great bow makers out there, all offering amazing longbows and recurves.
Much like getting away from the ILF style bow, I was compelled to take things back to my roots. When I was younger, I started off with a wooden recurve handed down from my grandfather. The bow now sits on a shelf, awaiting to be refinished and reintroduced to the wild. That first recurve was too light in draw weight for legal archery hunting in certain situations, at only 44 pounds with a 28 inch draw length. What’s on the riser is all the Game Warden will care about. To open the door to most North American big game, I knew I needed to have 50 pounds or more, much like my Hoyt Satori.
To me, there is something very interesting about a bow that was built by hand. Much like any biological organism, we humans both absorb and expel energy. Many of us do this through our daily activities. Archers and bowhunters do this shooting bows, while the bowyer is outputting this energy into his or her next creative masterpiece through their hands. A good bow should hold well in the hand, giving off a sense of personality and presence of a soul.
I called Chad Holm of Holm-Made Traditional Bows on early January. He was quick to answer the phone, and scheduled a time for us to have an in depth conversation about a new bow. I could tell within the first few minutes that Chad was a humble man and was patient with others. During the phone call covering specifics with Chad, he answered all of my questions about the bow building process, materials used, and customization potentials. Based upon our conversation, Chad thought it may be best for me to visit his shop in Brainerd, Minnesota to pick out the woods and go over possibilities and options. Due to good timing with a family visit in Minnesota I was able to make this work and I sure am glad I did.
After visiting my family and doing a little ice fishing in south western Minnesota, my dad, Doug Mathiowetz, and myself headed up to Brainerd, MN on a Tuesday afternoon. We met with Chad at his shop which is part of his beautiful home and rural property. When we walked in we were fortunate to find it heated, as the windchill was -13ºF that day. Chad quickly went to work, helping me pick out a bow model. I shot several bows he had made and they were all extremely balanced and shot exceedingly well. By nothing more than my grip style, I opted to go with what was most comfortable; the Shrike.
The nostalgia in Chad’s shop is amazing. I could have spent days in here checking everything out from tools and machines to custom bows and arrows.
The Shrike is a hybrid longbow that tends to have a more “D” style shape to it. the handle was closely related to that of a recurve, which was a must for me as my grip can be quiet interesting. Chad was able to customize the grip further by adding more mass to it for more “butt” on the lower end. This really helped with the balance for me and allowed me to smoothly transition between the Shrike longbow and my Satori ILF recurve.
After selecting the model and grip, we focused on wood selection. I think I was more overwhelmed with the task than I was while buying my house! Chad worked through these decisions with me though, and was able to explain what would be best for me, aligning with my focus on having a strong and durable riser while maintaining the functional art I knew he was capable of. To bring out the “stained” or “finished” look, Chad put a light application of denatured alcohol on the wood. This made everything pop, and helped me not only make my mind up, but confirm my decisions later on.
It was hard to decide on what I really wanted, but with Chad’s help, guidance, and knowledge, it wouldn’t have been possible to make a bad choice.
I ended up going with the following woods…
Talk about tough decisions… Here are the veneers that Chad had cut for me out of the board of Spalted Tamerid I liked. Notice how much they all differ, even though they were only fractions apart in their previous form. Note the slight purple hue.
After the usual tire-kicking and story swapping I’m known for, Chad let me know he would get to work on it the following week and I could expect the finished product within 3 weeks. This turn around blew my mind after he had shown me only a portion of what goes into making these bows. We talked a few times during the build, confirming small details, which I appreciated.
He followed through on his word, and 3 weeks later a 5 foot long box arrived at the door from Brainerd, MN. I don’t honestly think I’ve been so excited to get something in the mail since I was a kid ordering gadgets from the back of the Scouts magazine. Carefully opening the box, it was hard to not get overly excited and make a mistake with the knife. After opening and removing some bubble wrap and newspaper, I pulled out a fleece covered bow. Taking the cover off was like discovering a barn find muscle car under a canvas cover. It was hard to take my eyes off of the beauty of the spalted veneers and purple heart accents. The chechen showed even more colors than when we picked it out. It is truly a piece of functional art.
I’ve only put around 120 Arrows though this bow so far, but have no doubt I will continue falling in love with it’s performance and appearance. Chad is making amazing bows and I recommend him to anyone searching for a top quality bow that is handmade right here in the United States. There aren’t many people that enjoy doing things the hard way. This man is one of the dying breed, and it’s appreciated by anyone who shoots a Holm-Made bow.
A link to Holm-Made Traditional bows can be found in the “Recommended Products” of the Primitive Pursuit website. Chad is also on Instagram, so be sure to follow him; @chadholmholmmade. You can follow along with this bows story on our Instagram page, @primitivepursuit.