"I put dents in my mother's refrigerator when I was three," admits Mitch Pietraszek of Elmhurst. Pietraszek's passion for archery started when he was a child.
The passage of time hasn't dulled that interest. Now a retired teacher, Pietraszek has honed the ancient craft by making bows and arrows in the traditional archery style.
Pietraszek recalls his first bow, a gift from an aunt, being made of wood, measuring 24 inches long with a yellow paint job. This toy was just the beginning for him. He has been ever thankful for that gift and the world it has opened up to him.
Pietraszek's interest in archery grew over the years, as he acquired many bows including compound and modern recurve bows. However, Pietraszek's love was always focused on traditional archery.
Traditional archery is the use of handmade long bows and arrows. The bows Pietraszek makes would be recognizable 10,000 years ago, he says.
He spends time with a group called the Blackwell Traditional Archers at Blackwell Forest Preserve near Warrenville. They meet on the third Saturday of every month. Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville offers a free archery range, open year-round, for individuals off all levels.
Pietraszek and others from the club enjoy teaching the fundamentals of traditional archery, and they can even help you build your own bow from scratch.
According to Pietraszek, a typical handmade bow takes around one day to complete, but it can take weeks, depending on how ornate you wish to get. The most common wood for construction is hickory. This is due to the fact it is strong, readily available, and it retains its original shape after flexing. He purchases it from Owl Hardwood Lumber Company.
Pietraszek takes pride in his skill and his craft. He loves the bridge to the past the bows have created for him.
"People that enjoy doing things the way it used to be," is how Pietraszek describes himself and his friends.
And that's the way he wants to keep it.