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Byron Dray: Local Ambassador of Archery

January 20, 2010
By Doc Roberts, OVO Pro Staff
As I pulled into the driveway I could see him in his backyard in a bowhunter’s shooting stance, his Howard Hill long bow being drawn back more like a machine than human. As he released the arrow his bow made a slight whffft and another cedar shaft found its way into a five inch target.

By the time I got my gear together and approached him, he was already knocking his last arrow and concentrating on the mark. He completed his draw and released in one fluid motion and his last arrow found its place among the previous four — all within the circle. He then turned and gave me that mischievous grin. Through that smile Byron Dray was not only showing his pride, but offering a challenge for me to try to do better.

Dray, at 84 years young, is a dedicated disciple of traditional archery and hunting the hard way — just like Howard Hill did it.

In the world of outdoor sports particularly hunting and fishing there are those who rise to the top, possibly due to their natural ability, determination and a willingness to make personal sacrifices to achieve their goals. We all have dreams of catching a world record fish, hunting an animal that would surpass anything in the record book or winning a world class shooting event. It is normal to have those dreams but what is the driving force that motivates some of us to succeed to that level while others fail. Then there are those that have the determination and drive but are seldom heard of or recognized even though they have made lasting contributions through their dedication and active participation. These are the unsung heroes that we all know that give of their time and resources to insure that the legacy of their chosen sport continues to endure. There are a million untold stories out there and this is one of them.

I first met Bryon Dray about six years ago in Wal-Mart. We were both in the magazine section looking for the latest issue of the Traditional Archer. He casually remarked about the magazine having a lot of the articles were very informative to the instinctive archer. He then introduced himself and asked me if I shot a bow and specifically if I shot traditional. I replied that I have shot a few arrows in my time. A broad smile lit up his face and we spent hours talking about traditional archery. He was doing most of the talking, I was doing the listening.

Our wives, who were waiting patiently, almost had to drag us apart. That’s a switch because we are usually dragging them out of the store. Age differences present no boundaries when it comes to archery. That chance meeting started a friendship that’s growing stronger year after year.

Byron grew up in the East End of East Liverpool, OH, spending more time in the woods and reading novels by James Fennimore Cooper than he did in school. His heroes were guys who shot archery when it was just archery, not what we call traditional archery today. He tailored his shooting style and hunting philosophy after Howard Hill, probably the greatest archer and bowhunter who ever lived.

He started shooting a bow as a youngster and recalls his first bow was a York longbow. After a stint in the Navy during World War II, he started hunting with a bow in 1949. His other passion was varmint hunting with rifles, particularly a 220 Swift with a Mauser action, which he built with the help of his father-in-law, who was a well known gunsmith. Byron also hand-loaded his own ammunition, spending endless hours experimenting to find the perfect load.

At that time Bryon didn’t have the time to join a sportsmen’s club due to raising a family and working at Crucible Steel in Midland, PA. as an electrician. Any free time that he had was spent in the woods hunting or in his workshop tinkering with his rifles. He also takes great pride in making his own arrows and cresting them.

When it comes to promoting traditional archery Byron has no equal when it comes to his dedication. His knowledge of the sport, particularly the history and shooting feats of Howard Hill, is endless. After his retirement Byron has devoted his time teaching the basics of archery and is a certified basic archery instructor with the National Field Archery Association (NFAA).

As far as equipment, he doesn’t care if you prefer a compound bow or a recurve because the basics of learning to shoot consistently are the same as shooting traditional. Although he has never owned or shot a compound bow, his personal feelings are that he wouldn’t shoot anything that has "training wheels".

Bryon is active member of the Columbiana County Archers, an archery club that is devoted to perpetuating the sport of by maintaining a place to practice and having qualified instructors to assist those beginning in the sport. The club bestowed him their Lifetime Membership Award for his contribution of countless hours of volunteer work making improvements to the club and working with children and adults, teaching them the basics of archery.

Byron and his wife of 60 years, Jackie, reside on Bell School Road in East Liverpool and has no plans of retiring to a rocking chair anytime soon.

Article Photos

Byron Dray lines up a target with his Howard Hill long bow. Photo by Doc Roberts

 
 

 

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