By C.R. Learner
Bow And Arrow Magazine Sept.-Oct. 1968


A gent names Neil Tarbell called and asked if I knew of any hunting country worth looking into.  That I did, so we set a weekend hunt and he promised to bring something new in the line of tackle.

Tarbell has been in archery, as archer and manufacturer, for fourteen years.  He makes the short Interceptor bow and I was curious to see what he would deliver.  When he showed up Friday night he had a grin and his partner Ken Jeffers.  He asked what I had in mind for hunting so I got out a map and showed him the territory. 

We drove to Calexico, California, just north of the Mexico border in Imperial Valley, that night.  I asked what he had for me to shoot and had been told to bring some fifty-pound spined shafts along with some under and over spine shafts.

That night, in an air-conditioned motel in Calexico, I told Tarbell and Jeffers I had my eye on the New River bottom just west of town.  It was thirty-eight feet below sea level and would be hotter than the proverbial noon.

After an early breakfast it was to the river bottom, a farming section offering plenty of cover.  The steep embankments should provide some squirrels, while jack rabbits should be lurking in the bottom.  On a side road, we stopped a half-mile from the hi-way.  Now I was to find out what Tarbell had up his short sleeved shirt.


The bow he handed me to shoot was radical.  Instead of the usual single upper and lower limbs, there was a matched pair of them, one on each side of the handle which was dead center in the bow.  The tips if the limbs were held together with a cross-piece of hardwood, top and bottom, and this caused me to wonder.  One thing desirable in bows is light tip weight.  These tips were massive, the string held by center nocks on the cross pieces.  The handle was held to the limbs in two places – above and below- with the hand Tarbell had two bows, one for me to shoot and one for himself.  This was the new Tarantula, as monicker Tarbell calls the radical bow.


He handed me the bow and the string.  I had brought along my tackle box with nocks .  I held the bow in the standard stringing position, then was stymied.  There was no limb to slide the hand up to string the bow. This could be a problem but Tarbell had an answer.  He used the new Dei stringer, the first time I had ever seen one in action, and the bow was braced with no problem.  The foot-type stringing cord would work but this Dei made the job extremely simple.

Strung, the bow resembled a conventional bow in that it had a string between working limbs.  In this case it was four limbs, but the principle was similar.  I took my Saunders bow square, marked the string, attached the nockset with the pliers and was ready.


The bow I had was forty-five pounds.  This was enough for the little varmints.  The handle fit and the arrow rest on this bow can be adjusted from dead center and down the shaft to either plus or minus spine.  By moving the rest to the right, I could shoot a thirty-five-pound spined shaft out of the bow and by moving it back to the left and a bit past center I shot a fifty-pound spine.

Most of the hunting was done with my cedars, which spine out at sixty pounds – ten over the fifty-plus bow I usually shoot.  This gave an advantage in that the rest could be adjusted to the individual’s needs and a variety of spines could be shot from the same bow; not at the same time, of course, but after a bit of adjusting for the arrow in use.


I picked up my cedar shaft, brought it along side the bow and smacked it into the left limb, I had tried to put the shaft on the bow in the conventional manner but this wasn’t a conventional bow.  I grinned and took the shaft down between the limbs and onto the rest.  Tarbell had cut a side groove in the rest so the fletch would move below the rest and pass through.  With the handle on this bow you could shoot either right or left-handed, merely adjust the arrow rest. 

I nocked the shaft, brought the Tarantula up and came to full draw.  It had no stack at my draw and held on a sidehill to see if I could hit a clod of dirt about thirty yards away.  The shaft came close; close enough for a new bow at any rate.  The tips moved slow, but the arrow moved well for a forty-plus bow.


While I shot a few practice shafts to learn whether I needed to adjust the arrow rest for my shafts, Tarbell strung up the other Tarantula.  He had this tuned for his shooting and said it was about forty pounds.  I wanted to try my shafts in the lighter bow.  They flew left and didn’t come close to the dirt clod.  I had some lighter shafts in the bag and took one at thirty-five pounds and it zipped out of the bow right on target.  Tarbell had it set to shoot his own shafts, so that would make the difference.  Jeffers set up his short hunter and we were ready for the critters.

We dropped off the side of the river bank to the wide greasewood clogged bottom and spread out.  I had the river on my left, Jeffers in the middle and Tarbell on the extreme right.  The bottom had a wide barren section down the middle.  Along the actual trickle of river and the bluff on the right were high, almost impenetrable growths of greasewood and willows.  I could hear Tarbell’s 250 pounds plowing through the brush on the right.  If there were rabbits in there they would come boiling out, but there not one creature of any type.  On the way back to the pickup, we decided to backtrack and try the other side farther up the river.  I let three shafts fly in a flight test to see how far the Tarantula would throw its web.  I paced off 157 paces and there were the three shafts in a neat row, not more than two paces separating them.  The arrows had moved out of the bow in clean flight with no wobble or wiggle.

Stump shooting on the way back, we moved back across the bridge.  I remarked that we were probably the lowest hunters in the U.S. that day, hunting thirty-eight feet below sea level as we were.  They warned me that another remark like that and I might be walking back.


The sun was really burning down now.  When we dropped over the river bank on the opposite side, there wasn’t a breath of air in the bottom land.  Hot and sticky, the day was just warming up.  The water kept the humitity high and the heat was moving the mercury up the scale.  The brush was high, while dead, fallen brushes made the footing so difficult that, should we see game, we wouldn’t be able to get a shot.  The cover was too good for bow hunting.

We decided to bull our way through the high brush to the bluffs.  There were holes in the cliff face that meant squirrels, maybe.  Tarbell held his bow over his head and just went straight ahead like a tank.  I watched him and figured, if he could do it, I could.  I made about ten feet when I hit a bush bigger than I was and down I went.  I managed a fat lip from a jagged snag but finally used my head and followed Tarbell’s path.

When we got beyond the brush, we scouted the bluffs for game.  In that heat, over a hundred, a few doves flew from the edges, but they were safe and knew it.  Even too hot for the ever present rattlers.

After two hours of travel on Hi-way 80 west, we went along the Sunrise Highway in the Laguna Mountains and passed a sigh saying it was 5000 feet elevation. 

We tramped the hills and saw one fox, some cows, one or two tree squirrels and experienced a light breeze in the pines.

We pulled up to a gate and , as I opened it, five ground squirrels scrambled for their dens.  We broke out the bows and moved together in a line, spooking six rabbits before we reached the top of the hill.  I could hear the shafts bouncing on the brush and dirt but less cries of hits.

We moved around the hill and Jeffers took off into the sage after a sneaking rabbit.  Tarbell was behind, looking for any that thought they might be safe after we had passed through.

Tarbell and Jeffers were shooting.  I had taken a few running shots but I knew the best was still ahead.  When we came over the rise toward a little draw I told them to stand by.  Rabbits came from everywhere.  They went straight up the hill toward Tarbell and he started laughing.  One had run right between his legs and he couldn’t get a line on it.

I spotted a squirrel on a rock, showing just his head and part of his shoulders.  I came to draw with the shaft I had on the Tarantula, let fly, but the squirrel was gone as the shaft zipped over the top of the rock.  I reached to my back quiver for another shaft as a spot of brown appeared on the same rock.  I brought the shaft out fast, placed it between the limbs and let fly a fast, instinctive shot, going through the back of the squirrel.  We estimated the range at fifty yards.


I saw a tuft of bunny fur under a sage clump, but I had to thread the arrow through a narrow opening in the sage. I came to draw and pinned him to the ground, without a sound.

The Tarantula had been kicking around on Tarbell’s idea board for sometime.  He makes the limbs in one section, then cuts them on special equipment.  Make up as conventional limbs, they separated before the handle and tips are added.  The twin limbs have thirty-two inches of working length on each side, are balanced in draw weight and afford a four- point balanced pressure on the drawn bow.  The handle is four  inches high and the mediators keep it in true alignment on the bow, all permanently cemented. 

The adjustable arrow rest for the plus or minus spine is a bit different.  Some conventional bows have an adjustment, but can’t afford a minus factor to the extent of the Tarantula.

Tarbell makes a reasonably fast bow for hunting to give accuracy and the Tarantula offers a full view of the game in sighting, them following the arrow to the hit.  You don’t have to move the bow or your head to follow the shaft or to see the target.  There is a bit of a stringing problem, but Tarbell is including the Dei bow stringer with each bow he sells. 

The standard length of the bow is fifty-four inches in ay weight, each custom built.  They will be made to customer specifications as to weight.

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Article From Bow & Arrow Hunting

Article From Bow & Arrow Hunting