Shannon Primitives

About Shannon Fire Dancer Bows

Welcome to the newest addition to the Shannon Outdoors brand, Shannon Primitives. I’m extremely excited to offer you a new type of wooden bow, a bow that will revolutionize how whitewood bows are made: The Fire Dancer Bow by Shannon Primitives. Fire Dancer Bows are the first bows of their kind to be made and offered in modern history. I say “modern history” because it’s well documented in early accounts (albeit sometimes vaguely) of the techniques used by the American Indians to make their tools and weapons. However, Native hunters in the Eastern and especially the Southeastern U.S. had to combat the ever-present humidity and moisture that would greatly affect the performance of all wooden implements, including bows. But what if there was a technique that would make whitewood bows immune to moisture? What if this technique was forgotten after archery was supplanted by the modern firearm? And what if, centuries later, this technique was rediscovered by a modern primitive archer with an innate curiosity of ancient ways? That’s what led to experimenting with fire-hardening that gave birth to Fire Dancer Bows. Fire hardening transforms plentiful but second-rate bow woods like hickory, elm, and even sweetgum into weapons of incredible speed, power, and consistent performance even in the humidity-soaked eastern U.S.

Fire Dancer Bows are made using a unique fire hardening method that greatly improves the energy output of the wooden limbs without sacrificing elasticity or durability. The performance improvements are backed by science and have been proven by my own extensive research, bow building, and torture testing in real hunting scenarios. The Shannon Fire Hardened Method unlocks the hidden potential within these whitewoods to create the finest and best wooden bows ever seen. These bows can match, and even exceed the performance of the most expensive fiberglass longbows and recurves. Fire Dancer Bows do not have the normal moisture absorption problems that plague even the finest raw whitewood bows.

Keith Shannon, owner of Shannon Outdoors, in his newly developed Bug Tamer with his first primitive bow kill in 1989.

These bows are extremely durable, fast, accurate, stable and a pleasure to shoot with almost no handshock. The greatest advantage of Fire Dancer Bows is the transformation of the cellular structure of the wood after heat treating. This makes the wood hydrophobic, meaning it resists moisture absorption even in the stifling humidity common in many regions across the U.S. Because of their affinity for moisture, regular whitewood bows are notoriously weak in compression, resulting in bows that stay bent (take a set) after unstringing. Excessive set leads to a decrease in power, responsiveness and arrow speed. Fire hardening the wood transforms it to such a degree that it essentially becomes a totally different wood and should be thought of as such. The wood becomes extremely dense and very strong in compression while maintaining high elasticity. Fire Dancer Bows hold their shape extremely well and become permanently resistant to high humidity, making them ideal hunting weapons in a variety of climates. The fire hardened wood in no way resembles the raw whitewood from which it came, nor does the bow from which it’s made resemble any other whitewood bow made in modern history.

I’m also teaming up with two well-known primitive archers, Thad Beckum of Beckum Outdoors and Billy Berger of Primitive Pathways to offer you an archery experience that will change the way you look at whitewood bows forever. If you are looking for a unique one-of-a-kind bow that has an obvious ancient back ground and is a dream to shoot, try a Shannon Fire Dancer Bow.

About Whitewood

There are many whitewoods that will make a serviceable bow. However, the most common problems with raw whitewood are the moisture absorbing properties. When the moisture in the wood is over 10%, which is at 55% humidity, the bow will develop considerable string follow resulting in poor performance. However, if the same wood is dried to 6% moisture, those bows have been known to break world flight records. But being that the wood is hydrophilic (water loving with a tendency to absorb) that very dry bow will once again absorb moisture to high, power robbing levels when introduced back to high humidity. With normal humidity between 50% and 90% in the Eastern United States, raw whitewood makes a second rate bow material at best.

About the Indians

The Eastern Indians were master bow makers and it was noted by the early explorers that "they make perhaps the finest bows and arrows of all mankind." The many tribes used numerous whitewoods to make their bows and they all had the same problem we do, which is moisture. It used to puzzle me how the Indians could make the powerful bows described and have them function properly in our humidity. From Spanish and English drawings, it is obvious the Indians used fire and heat to shape their bows. It was also noted that "they seasoned their bows over fire." They were masters at using fire for such things as wood removal and fire hardening many things such as arrow points, ax handles, darts, clay pots, and heat-treating flint. Much of their fire hardening was for the sole purpose of waterproofing. These Indians had an extreme knowledge of using fire to transform materials into something different and better and were very much aware of the waterproofing benefits. It is the totality of their knowledge of fire hardening that is the greatest evidence that they fire hardened their bows to some degree.

Shannon Fire Hardened Method

“Transforms second rate wood into wood that is second to none.”

Early in my bow making years I often wondered how the Eastern Indians had such good and powerful bows using whitewood with it’s known moisture problems in the high humidity environment in which they lived. It seemed inconceivable that those moisture plagued bows would have been of the quality that their lifestyle demanded. My thought was that they must have been doing something different than what we do. Considering the Indians applied fire hardening to practically everything and being aware that the known modern heat treating methods improve whitewood somewhat, I decided to experiment with actually fire hardening the wood. I was immediately astounded at the performance of the bows made this way. Now, many bows later, I know that if done right my fire hardening method can transform what is known as a second-rate wood into a world class bow wood that is second to none. My Shannon Fire Hardening Method thermodynamically transforms the wood into a totally different kind of wood that is very dense, maintains its profile much better, has much greater compression strength, while maintaining elasticity and most importantly makes the wood permanently hydrophobic (repels moisture) and virtually moisture proof. According to known scientific data and the many tests I have performed, fire hardened whitewood and hickory in particular, will only contain a little over one half the moisture content of raw wood in any given humidity. At 70 % humidity, the moisture content of raw wood will go to 14% while the same fire hardened wood will be about 7% to 8%. By the very act of fire hardening for the purpose of moisture proofing, several very unique things happen, the wood becomes much denser and much stronger, most times causing the bow to gain 30% to 35% more draw weight. This substantial increase in poundage requires wood to be sanded off the limbs to get the weight back down which lightens the limbs which causes the bow to shoot an arrow much harder with less hand shock. Knowing that the Indians were extremely knowledgeable about fire hardening and used it to water proof wood including fishing arrows, gigs and many other tools, it is implausible to think they didn’t apply that moisture proofing knowledge to their bows especially since it was written, “they seasoned their bows over fire.” Fire Dancer bows are the first bows of their kind to incorporate this well-known ancient knowledge in modern times.

Performance Comparison

All bows were tested with the same 520 grain river cane arrow and shot with the aid of a shooting table to eliminate the human influence. All tests were documented on video with three participants and will be part of an upcoming video about making the fire hardened bow.

56” - Take down Big Horn Recurve-fiberglass 56 lbs at 28” draw 177 fps avg.
66” - Sky Long Bow-Designed by Earl Hoyt, Jr. 60 lbs at 28” draw 178.5fps avg. Deflex Reflex Fiberglass
64” - Osage Self Bow-1.5” Reflex 57 lbs at 28” draw 174.5 fps avg.
64” - Raw Hickory Self Bow- 1.5 Deflex 59 lbs at 28” draw 162.4 fps avg.
62” - Shannon’s Lightening Bolt-1” Reflex 60 lbs at 28” draw 182 fps avg. (Self Bow)
62” - Shannon’s Smokin’ Sudbury-2” Reflex 54 lbs at 28” draw 177.6 fps avg (Self Bow)
62” - Shannon’s Sinew Lightening Bolt-3” Reflex 52 lbs at 28” draw 175 fps avg.

Even though all Fire Dancer Bows, pound per pound, clearly out perform every other bow, they were not built to be racing bows but instead designed to be somewhat short, durable, stable, smooth drawing and accurate hunting bows.

Making and Designing a Fire Dancer Bow

Every bow begins with my personal selection of each tree. It is carefully handled, split into staves and air dried. Each stave undergoes my custom proprietary fire hardening which transforms the natural raw wood into a wood that is very dense, has greater compression strength, and permanently hydrophobic rendering it free from its normal moisture problems. This makes a powerful bow that can tolerate long string times and will perform with the best of the best, even out performing many fiberglass bows for flat shooting and great penetration. Being certain that the manner in which I make my bows are in keeping with the way my native American ancestors did, I also make the styles that most resemble the Eastern Indian bows. After a tremendous amount of study, bow building, experimentation and testing, it is now obvious that there is very little, if any, performance difference in an excellent recurve and an excellent long bow. The simplicity of the long bow flat bow styles is the reason for choosing these bows. It may be surprising to many but some of the very best bow designs that were ever developed were used by our stone-aged ancestors all over the world. The designs I have come to appreciate the most are the simplistic flat bow styles used by the Eastern Indians. While I don't usually make actual replicas, I do use the general styles with slight modifications to enhance performance and feel. These designs along with my Shannon Fire Hardening Method make some of the most powerful, hardest hitting, flattest shooting bows you will put your hand on. I go to extreme measures to expertly tiller each bow for a smooth, no stack draw. These things are to be had with virtually no hand shock, are exceptionally quiet, and do not have the normal moisture problems of other whitewood bows.

format_quote One product that can help a great deal with biting insects is the Bug Tamer. format_quote
- Carolee Boyles, Outdoor Writer, SNI Magazine