I came across an article on about.com by Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner discussing a Jewish perspective on hunting. In the article, Rabbi Lerner discusses his own marksmanship background:
I am a former national champion archer with two national records while in college - and I can't wait for Maccabiah Games to institute Archery as a Masters sport! I'd love nothing more than to carry the American/US flag in the parade in Israel.
Secondly, I was a [manager] of the Arizona State ROTC Rifle Team [...] and also on the side was a member of a fast-draw pistol/side-arm group.
I emailed Rabbi Lerner a little while back to ask him more about his history with guns and bows. With his permission, I republish his response:
I mentioned my experience with rifle and archery only to make my point about not hunting or the taking of a life. Except for the holding of a national inter-collegiate title back in early 60's at ASU under the coaching of Margaret Klann, may she rest in peace, who went on after my college days to formalize an NCAA standing for archery. She was a wiz of a coach, a guide in personal issues, and I for one never fully realized what we were accomplishing with her - it was just great sport.
Many years later, I returned to archery instituting archery at Camps Ramah in Berkshires,NY and then Palmer,MA. I was thrilled to re-experience teaching an Olympic style albeit mixed with a "martial arts flavor" for East Coast Jewish youth, and that included everyone in camp throughout each day from camp administrators to the pre-camper staff kids, from kitchen staff to campers. We used every bow we had and every target we could afford, from right after breakfast to right before dinner. I taught my wife to shoot and then passed on lessons to her and the kids I had learned almost 40 years earlier from Mrs. Klann in re-fletching and marking arrows, shooting line etiquette and related it to Jewish laws of respect and courtesy with regard to neighbors and others, to enjoying the woods and "roving" and "field shooting."
Since then, I opened a hands-on Jewish educational Foundation in 2000 and have been using archery as a sport relating to Jewish holidays, especially the 33rd day in the interval between Passover and Shavuot/Festival of Weeks. Tradition and legends claim that students used archery as an excuse to be out in the fields shooting, while in reality they were studying Jewish text and laws in defiance of Roman occupation and oppression which forbade Jewish education and/or practice.
Good to hear from you and anyone interested in archery, check me at out www.jewishfreeware.org for free downloads or consultations on sports and Jewish education.
Rabbi Dov Lerner