A recent interview with American Survival Co.
Dave Mead is the founder of Mead Longbows, a renowned bowyer, author and illustrator. We love Dave’s high-performance, beautiful bows and it’s the bows we make in all of our 1-day and 2-day bow workshops. In addition to being insanely talented, Dave is a great person. Hopefully you can get to know a little bit about him and if you attend our upcoming class in NW Arkansas – you can even make a bow with him!
How did you become a renowned bowyer?
I started in Archery and played with bow making as a child..I trained in Martial Arts and Natural Archery was an easy transition for me..then later in life wanting to live a self sufficient life and be prepared for whatever may happen I decided to try my hand at making my own hunting/survival equipment, and I started with bows. I never looked back, and quickly honed in on the efficiency of a simple designed bow that had excellent performance.
Why did you choose this path and what do you enjoy most about it?
I am on the journey to make the perfect bow. What I enjoy most about it is being able to be innovative, creative and challenge myself with each new endeavor. I never enjoyed trying to replicate/copy what others have already done. It is more fun to be unique.
Have you ever made a custom bow that you just didn’t want to part with? Explain
Actually no. If they are too “pretty” I find it easier to let them go..I favor a bows actual performance as a useful tool over it’s looks.
Can you describe the process from receiving an order to sending out that custom bow?
I try my best to make the bow an extension of the person. The more in tune they are with instinctive archery and a primitive bow the better their experience will be. I then choose the raw materials needed to craft the custom bow, and the process begins. There are many stages to a composite bow. I will usually handle/shape/train a given bow dozens of times over a course of several weeks as it makes it’s way through the creation process.
What would you tell someone who is considering learning archery but has no experience?
Start with the most simple tackle you can and soak up all the rewards we as humans contain when functioning in tune with a primitive tool made from nature. Don’t go out and get the latest greatest modern bow with all the gizmos to make the job of sending an arrow down range easier. All this does is remove YOU the human from the task. A machine can aim a sight, and pull a trigger. Might as well just pick up your rifle.
What is unique about your bows and/or company, that no one else offers?
A very small powerful bow that can be comfortably and accurately shot while accommodating long draw lengths made from natural materials. They are affordable, and I offer them in many different options allowing people an easier way to enter the world of primitive and traditional archery.
Aside from bows, what are your other great passions?
My family, and supporting my children’s passions. I enjoy building a sustainable homestead tucked away in nature where we as a family will be prepared for whatever life throws at us. I enjoy Martial Arts, and engineering/tinkering.
What or who inspires you?
My kids, nature.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep moving forward with your passion/gift.
Bowyer/Author/Illustrator: Dave Mead
I have been a craftsman and artist since childhood. Bow making began as a young child and with my martial arts background archery was a big part of my life. My Native American roots have always kept me close to nature. I have always felt a tight relationship with the forest and everything it has to offer. When I decided to hunt to provide food for my quickly growing family, I wanted to do it as spiritually respectful as possible. Since I have been a woodworker and mechanically trained for many years, I decided to try my hand at bow making; now as an adult with the knowledge of wood and with nature at my disposal. My first attempt was a success and I was hooked! I felt an immediate connection with my roots and what I was meant to do. I was so entranced with bow making, I made nearly 30 of them in the first month alone! Using locally harvested river cane and bamboo, I made my own arrows and arrowheads from stone and steel. I find it very rewarding to be able to use all that nature provides.
I like a challenge and learning as I go where others have not. I developed my bamboo bows through years of trial and error and experimentation. I quickly realized I had fixated on a bow's overall performance and efficiency. With a mechanics mind set, I always like to know how things work and approach things from a very analytical perspective. Even as a child, I was always taking things apart and experimenting with them to see how they functioned. The journey to the perfect bow began. I designed it based around what I wanted in a bow. Maybe it will work for you too...
I make high performance, unique primitive composite bows at an affordable price. They are highly efficient, fast, powerful, and comfortable to shoot. Stable, accurate, and smooth to draw. Very compact with no stack, finger pinch, or hand shock. I build each and every bow as if it were my own personal hunting weapon. I spend a great amount of time on them and they are all tested in the field by myself before shipped out. I will make available any bow I can reproduce in multiples and feel has great efficiency. Part of the challenge to myself was to build a lightweight bow (around 40lbs) that could do the job of a 60+ pound bow...and do it better! Although they may appear very similar, they are all individual creations made from nature's living materials. Unlike a bow made from modern materials, every primitive bow is unique, has a soul and a story to share...are you ready to listen?
I practice a form of archery that I like to refer to as natural archery. It is very reminiscent of some of history's greatest archers, hunters, and warriors. Also, very similar to how our ancestors would have shot a bow and arrow. This style is of more use to a hunter or combat soldier. I never learned "modern style" archery and have no desire or need to. I grew up shooting a stick and string and honed in on my human natural ability to hit what I wanted much like when I was a pitcher in baseball, or throwing a football, boomerang, slingshot, knife, tomahawk, casting a line 30 yds away right into the sweet spot where the fish are hiding or even when I used to use my bullwhip to snatch items from my brother's grasp. The point is, there were no sights, no long extended "aiming", there was no aiming. You just simply do it. Modern conveniences are slowly taking away your ability to be a human. Might want to relearn before you are totally dependent on the latest and greatest gadgets. I designed my bows based around what I wanted in a bow and how I shoot/use one. The type of archery I practice, and the type of bow I make are connected. If you are totally new to composite primitive bows but willing to learn then you are in the right place. Let's figure out what bow suits you best. Contact me if you need help with this, I am happy to help you on your journey! If you are new to primitive bows and archery my advice to you is to use the gifts we are given. We as humans are problem solvers. Train your hand/eye coordination to learn how to shoot naturally. You are interested in a primitive bow and it's ancestral connection, don't bring a modern form of shooting into the journey. If you are not willing to learn and expect to treat this like one of the bows you already own then this may not be the bow for you. These bows offer a world of benefits over other styles but not everyone can drive/care for a formula one race car.
I want to make you a bow that will last the rest of your life. I personally hand pick/harvest/prepare your materials and craft each and every bow to order. I am one man, even though I do this full-time due to the uniqueness of my bow and high demand, I cannot keep stock of them. I begin and complete each bow as if it were to be my own. This process cannot be rushed. You will find that any individual bowyer who produces a bow in demand will require a good amount of time. The bow does not leave me until I am completely satisfied. Please remember my bows are not made from a lumber yard board, or mass produced for costume props. My bows are a hybrid style of composite. They require adequate time to cure, be properly shot in and trained before I can hand them off to their new owner. Please also keep in mind there are other orders before yours. Trust that you commissioned the right person to create you a unique, lifetime tool made from nature. If you can respect my craft and give me the time needed, I promise to deliver the best quality bow I can make, and do my best to maintain fair prices...that is guaranteed. A bamboo bow is very different and is not to be thought of as a self bow or a wooden bow. They have no laminations and are not made/pressed in a form. My hands and tools touch every inch, my sweat and sometimes blood goes into every bow. Time frame depends on wait list of current order volume, pre-scheduled workshops, etc. If you want a unique high performance tool, then you have come to the right place. As soon as you place your order, you will be added to the wait list and your spot will be locked in. I appreciate the support and patience.
To learn more about me and my experience, connect with me on LinkedIn.
I have illustrated and co-authored several survival guides. I have also worked with survival expert Creek Stewart with Willow Haven Outdoor on his Apocabox. My original hinging bamboo horse bow design was featured in April 2016 issue of Primitive Archer Magazine.
To see some of my bows in action, visit my YouTube Channel - Mead Longbows.
Some of my hand crafted bows have been hand made for:
Nicholas Tomihama, Backyard Bowyer -
Nick is an avid archer and bowyer - a leader in the archery world. Pretty much a master craftsman of whatever he lays his hands on. He is a great teacher as well. If you are interested in learning more about archery or tool making, I strongly suggest visiting his YouTube Channel and checking out some of his well put together books.
Hendrie Javier -
Hendrie Javier owner at Kashtuk Bowcraft makes some awesome longbows, arrows and muzzleloaders. You need to check out his beautiful work. If you want to see the review he did on the bow I made him, click here.
Creek Stewart -
Tony Kinton -
An amazing author, public speaker and seasoned hunter. To see his work, visit tonykinton.com and primitivearcher.com. To follow Tony and other expert hunters on some amazing hunts visit Sofala Safaris on Facebook - the first step to your African hunting and touring experience. The bow I made for him is shown in the April 2016 Primitive Archer magazine.
Hank Gevedon -
John Halverson -
Master bowyer and co-founder of non-profit organization Black Hills Raptor Center where they provide conservation education featuring live birds of prey. Go check them out and make a donation!
Joel Graves -
Survival and bushcraft professional. Featured on Discovery Channel's Buschcraft Build-Off TV show. Joel is the co-owner of American Survival Company - bushcraft and tactical survival. He is also a Mead Longbows's authorized instructor.
Justin Graves -
Survival and bushcraft professional. Featured on Discovery Channel's Buschcraft Build-Off TV show. Justin is also a Mead Longbows's authorized instructor.
Matt Tate -
Survival and bushcraft professional. Featured on Discovery Channel's Buschcraft Build-Off TV show. Owner of Integrated Survival Systems in Lowell, Arkansas and co-owner of American Survival Company - bushcraft and tactical survival.
Larry Burton -
Master flint knapper and bowyer. Innovator, inventor and entrepreneur. Founder of Bear Wallow Farm Nancy KY
Nick Di Francesco (BlackWater Bushcraft) -
Steve Smith -
Survival and bushcraft professional. He has worked with Creek Stewart at Escape The Woods. Steve is also a Mead Longbows' authorized instructor.
Zack, AKA Shawnee Woodsman -
Free spirited, wilderness dweller. A primitive woodsman from the Shawnee National Forest of Southern Illinois in USA. Practicing the ancient cultures that once walked these same lands in hopes to better connect with nature. Check out his social media for incredible footage of the great outdoors. Check out his Instagram Channel and his YouTube Channel.
James Jean - Owner of Groundbreaking Multimedia A highly skilled professional videographer & producer, and in my opinion one of the world's most amazing archers.
He films amazing hunts all over the world and of course his trick shot videos. Go follow him to see some of the best instinctive archery action out there. Facebook @jamesjeantrickshots Instagram james_jean_outdoor YouTube James Jean
"Perhaps the Way of Heaven may be likened to the stretching of a composite bow! The upper part is depressed, while the lower is raised. If the bow-string is too long, it is cut short:if too short, it is added to.
The Way of Heaven diminishes the more-than-enough to supply the less-than-enough. The way of man is different: it takes from the less-than-enough to swell the more-than-enough. Who except a man of the Tao can put his superabundant riches to the service of the world?
Therefore, the Sage does his work without setting any store by it, accomplishes his task without dwelling upon it. He does not want his merits to be seen."
- Tao Teh Ching - Lao Tzu, translation by John C.H. Wu
"One of the most significant features we notice in the practice of archery, and in fact of all the arts as they are studied in Japan and probably also in other Far Eastern countries, is that they are not intended for utilitarian purposes only or for purely aesthetic enjoyments, but are meant to train the mind; indeed, to bring it into contact with the ultimate reality. Archery is, therefore, not practiced solely for hitting the target; the swordsman does not wield the sword just for the sake of outdoing his opponent; the dancer does not dance just to perform certain rhythmical movements of the body. The mind has first to be attuned to the Unconscious. If one really wishes to be master of an art, technical knowledge of it is not enough. One has to transcend technique so that the art becomes an "artless art" growing out of the Unconscious. In the case of archery, the hitter and the hit are no longer two opposing objects, but are one reality. The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull's-eye which confronts him. This state of unconsciousness is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill, though there is in it something of a quite different order which cannot be attained by any progressive study of the art. "
- (this is part of the introduction by D.T. Suzuki in Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel
"The way of the bow is to manifest your self Buddha nature and arrive at the ultimate."
-Awa Kenzo Zen Bow, Zen Arrow