Shannon Primitives

About Shannon Fire Dancer Bows

Fire Dancer bows are the first bows of their kind to be made and offered in modern history. I say modern history because my good friends Thad Beckum of Beckum Outdoors and Billy Berger of Primitive Pathways along with myself are certain, after considerable research, that the Eastern Indians were keenly aware of the many benefits and methods used to make my bows and that they also employed similar methods in one form or another to most of their tools including their bows. The method used to make Fire Dancer Bows is by a very unique fire hardening method that was developed over several years of extensive testing, research, bow building and field testing. The Shannon Fire Hardened Method transforms what many consider a second-rate wood into a wood that is second to none and into what we think is perhaps the finest and best bow wood there is with exceptional properties for making powerful, high performance, and accurate bows that have absolutely none of the normal whitewood moisture problems.

These bows are extremely durable, fast, accurate, stable and a pleasure to shoot. The greatest difference in my bows and all other whitewood bows is that mine do not have the usual moisture problems. Regular whitewood bows are known and are notorious for weak compression and taking on excess moisture that causes excess set and leads to loss of power. These raw wood bows are very difficult to use in humid environments and if you do it will become a pitiful excuse of what a great bow is. After fire hardening the wood, it essentially becomes a totally different wood and should be thought of as such. The wood becomes extremely dense, is very strong in compression, elastic, holds its shape extremely well and becomes permanently resistant to high humidity. My fire hardened wood in no way resembles raw whitewood and my bows in no way resembles any other whitewood bow made in modern history. Whitewood bows do not have to be weak and plagued with moisture problems. The Southeastern Indians would have had major problems trying to use raw whitewood in the humid environments they had to live in. But the reality is that they were extremely knowledgeable about using fire to moisture proof wood.

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.

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

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 I wore a Bug Tamer and after several hunts had absolutely NO BITES. This, to me, is just short of a miracle. format_quote
- David Crawford, Elkins, WV