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LAPOVO, Serbia (AP) — Zeljko Ilicic says his love of archery dates back to the times when he played in the forest as a small boy imagining he was Robin Hood.
The 36-year-old has since turned his childhood fantasy into an engaging hobby and a business. Ilicic has become a bowyer — a rare one in the Balkans — who makes wooden bows and arrows.
Ilicic has set up his workshop in Lapovo, a village in central Serbia, where he also provides shelter for endangered horses and other animals. He uses only local wood and hand tools.
The wooden hut is filled with staves drying on the shelves or placed gently against the wall. Its floor and old furniture are covered in sawdust.
Ilicic picks all his wood from a nearby forest, choosing different kinds of wood for various bows. It takes 25-40 hours to make a bow — work that must be done slowly and carefully so no mistakes are made.
He spends several hours just looking at the wood before he starts working. When it's finished, Ilicic waxes the bow for protection.
Ilicic's own bow is made of acacia, firm yet elastic wood, its surface dotted with knots. He insists there is no better bow than a wooden one, granting a ten-year guarantee for each bow he makes.
Ilicic says his craft is a rarity nowadays amid abundance of high-tech gear used by many professional archers and those practicing archery for relaxation or fun. He has established links with British and U.S. bowyers who are also using wood.
A nature lover, Ilicic doesn't just take from nature. He regularly plants new trees to replace those he cuts for bows.