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A Tale of Two Archers

Updated: May 27, 2020

When I shoot an arrow, I stand about 30 feet from the target. Otherwise, I don't have a chance at hitting it. So I was amazed to watch an archery match in Bhutan, where the archer stands more than 400 feet from the target. That's not a typo—I really meant 400 feet. An American football field is 360 feet.

I was excited to get a new target this year. It's four feet in diameter and made of special material that makes it easy to pull out arrows. A Bhutan target is 11 inches wide and made of wood. It's so difficult to pull out the arrows that the archer often unscrews the tip and uses a pliers.

My archery lessons included detailed instruction on safety. Never stand or walk on the archery field until all arrows have been shot. Then, and only then, do you walk on the field. Not in Bhutan. Each team stands next to the target while the other team shoots, from that 400-foot distance, at the target.

My upbringing stressed the importance of good sportsmanship. Archers in Bhutan are expected to taunt each other in an effort to unnerve the opposition. When someone hits the target, his team mates run in front of the target singing and dancing in mockery of the other team.

Archery is the national sport of Bhutan. Archery is so important, that despite the low per capita income ($1400 USD), people take out loans to purchase high-end compound bows that can cost as much as a year's salary.

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