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Victor Kuhn: Bow Carver

Barents Pro Trouser

“My new favorite are the Barents Pro Trousers. I have long legs and I like to climb over big rocks in great big steps, and those pants fit very good. I like really durable pants with the double [reinforced] knee and seat. I buy them one size bigger to accommodate my long legs, and then take advantage of the in-store alterations to tailor the waist to make the perfect pant for me.”

Victor Kuhn, now based in Boulder, Colorado, grew up in Eastern Europe but was fascinated from childhood by books about Native American Indians and African hunters, and by the prehistoric cave art depicting ancient hunters in the Moravian limestone caves around Brno, the town he grew up in. 

“I’m originally from the Czech Republic, technically born and raised in Communist Czechoslovakia, but for some reason my friends and I were reading these books about primitive hunting, then trying to make our own bows and arrows. I realized right away that to make a good bow and arrow is not as easy as it looks!”

After the fall of Communism, in the 1990s, Kuhn and his friends were finally able to access some of the caves near Brno, in areas which had previously been forbidden to them.

“Where I grew up, anywhere you go you’re stepping on the remains of some stone age, iron age, or bronze age village. Just south of my town was one of the oldest permanent settlements of mammoth hunters – I’m talking about a place where humans have lived for 60,000-some years. When we were finally able to get into some of these caves of the ancestors, you can imagine what it did to my senses, sleeping in the same caves my ancestors slept in. It gave me goosebumps just to think of it.”

He got the same goosebumps when he first came to visit the great expanse of the American west, envisioning the Indians from those books he read as a kid, and says it revived his childhood fascination with archery.

Victor Kuhn: Bow Carver

“It’s very exciting to me that archery and a lot of other ancestral skills are being revived and honored now,” he says. “Our ancestors were able to figure out how to devise all kinds of gadgets that made their lives easier and the survival of the species more certain. I’ve always been interested in these ancestral technologies: how did people do it back in the day?”

Kuhn’s carved bows, arrows, and other weapons are all based on his research of ancient designs from cultures around the world, and he considers himself a traditional bow maker and “primitive archery” enthusiast. He also works as an archery instructor.

Kuhn takes pride in using all-natural materials and processes that would have been accessible to those ancestors. His bows are made from a single piece of wood, and he believes in embracing imperfections in the wood. He stains the wood with homemade mushroom stains, uses unbleached organic linen for his bow strings, and makes his own hide glue.

"Bowmaking is such a complicated craft, and then when you want to start making arrows it’s a whole craft of its own,” Kuhn says. “Before you know it you’re getting into fletching and arrowsmithing, and then of course archery itself. For me they go hand in hand, though they’re really three separate crafts: bowmaking, arrowmaking, and archery.”

Victor Kuhn: Bow Carver

He harvests the materials for those crafts himself, from locations all across the world – osage orange, black locust, and mulberry trees are some of his preferred woods for bowmaking – and says picking the right pants for those harvesting missions is critical.

“My new favorite are the Barents Pro Trousers,” Kuhn says. “I have long legs and I like to climb over big rocks in great big steps, and those pants fit very good. I like really durable pants with the double knee and double seat. I buy them one size bigger to accommodate my long legs, and then take advantage of the in-store alterations to tailor the waist to make the perfect pant for me.”

 

Instagram: @vikesbowsandarrows Boulder, CO

Website: https://www.vikies.org/vitezslav-kuhn

Written by Colin Bane