By the mid-1830s, the bow and arrow were gradually being phased out among the Northern Plains tribes. Catlin reproduced ten pictographic drawings from a Plains buffalo robe showing the war exploits of various warriors. Half of them show Indian men using rifles rather than bows and arrows. (Catlin, II, 240 — 241) Miller most frequently chose to depict Indians employing bow and arrows. And he was amazed at the accuracy and skill with which most men use these instruments for war and the hunt.
The bows that Miller saw and described were small elk-horn models. They were, when used by a skilled archer, accurate on a calm day “at a distance of 30 to 40 yards” to “strike within the circumference of a quarter of a dollar.” (Ross, 60) Catlin had written that, equipped with bows of ash wood and mountain sheep horn, the Crow and Blackfeet could “throw fifteen or twenty arrows in a minute” with pinpoint accuracy. (Catlin, I, 33) Such power did the Snake’s elk-horn bows exert, Miller noted, that often the arrows shot at close range at a buffalo would completely penetrate the animal. (Ross, 60)
Peter H. Hassrick