Mankind has hunted with bows and arrows for thousands of years, and today it’s still a popular activity. While bow hunting technology and gear have greatly advanced, much of the practice is the same as it has always been.
Many regard bow hunting as more difficult than hunting with a gun. It takes considerable skill to kill an animal with a bow, and for many hunters, the challenge is the reason they head out every season with their bow in hand.
Getting started bow hunting requires some equipment, a lot of practice, plenty of patience, and perseverance. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Get A Bow
In most states, you can hunt deer with any bow that has a draw weight of 40 pounds or more, though specific minimum draw weight regulations do vary. Be sure to check the laws in your area.
The type of bow doesn’t matter from a legal standpoint in most states for most game. That means longbows and recurve bows are allowed for hunting.
Ask any bow hunter what you should get, though, and they’ll tell you to put down longbows and recurves and pick up a compound bow.
Compound bows are more advanced, more powerful, easier to shoot, and endlessly customizable. For this reason, they’re the most popular bow among hunters. They’re recommended as the best way to ethically kill an animal with a bow.
Compound bows have cams on either end of them (or sometimes just on one end) that are designed to make it easier to hold a bowstring at full draw. There’s a break-over or let-off point with the bow where the archer only has to hold a small portion of the weight.
Basically, you pull the bowstring back on a compound, and at a certain point, you feel a significant portion of the weight let off. The bow still holds all the energy that it’s rated at for its draw weight, but the archer doesn’t have to hold every bit of the weight himself.
That feature of a compound bow is what sets them apart. It allows for more accurate shooting and the ability for larger numbers of hunters to fire very powerful bows.
Compound Bow Accessories
There’s also a lot of accessories you can get for your bow including, sights, arrow releases, arrow rests, bow stabilizers, quivers, and more.
While you can hunt without most of these accessories, it’s highly recommended that you use them to help give you an advantage. Accessories for your bow will help make you a better shooter and reduce the risk of you missing or injuring an animal.
There are thousands of products available to bow hunters, and each one has its pros and cons. When getting started, you don’t need everything, but most hunters will recommend a good sight, arrow holder, and release at the very minimum.
Get Some Arrows
If the image that comes to mind when you think arrows is a wooden projectile with a stone tip, then your head is stuck in the dark ages. Modern arrow technology and construction are downright scientific.
Nowadays arrows are made of modern materials like carbon fiber, aluminum, fiberglass, and graphite. There are different weights, lengths, and constructions. While you can really get into arrow science, when just starting out, focus on getting something that fits your draw length, is designed for your bow’s draw weight, and inexpensive.
You want something inexpensive because you’re going to lose arrows, especially as a beginner. Talk with an someone who works in the archery section of Gander Outdoors to have them help you find inexpensive arrows for your bow.
If you want to buy arrows online, you need to know some basics. You need to buy an arrow that’s half an inch to one full inch longer than your draw length. For weight, arrows are measured in grains. Most archers recommend arrows to measure five to six grains per pound of draw weight.
So, for example, if you have a 28-inch draw length and a 45-pound draw weight, you need arrows that measure 28 1/2 inches to 29 inches in length and have a weight of 225 grains to 270 grains.
You can shoot heavier arrows, but never shoot arrows lighter than five grains per pound of draw weight because you can damage your bow and have accuracy issues.
Learn to Shoot and Practice
To learn to shoot, you can join an archery club, get some instruction from another bow hunter, pay an instructor for professional training, or simply buy a good bow and target and get practicing. There are plenty of different ways to learn how to shoot.
Having a little bit of training can go a long way. However, what’s really going to set apart one person from another is practice. A good target, a place to shoot, and your bow and arrows are all you need to get practice in. While some people own property that’s perfect for practicing, many have to go to a club.
Archery clubs can provide you with a good place to shoot and a group of people who can mentor you and give you tips along the way. USA Archery can help find a club near you and Easton Foundations also has a good list of organizations and clubs to check out.
Learn Skills from Other Bow Hunters
Archery clubs are great places to pick up skills, but many focus solely on the act of firing the arrow. There’s a lot more to bow hunting than just shooting. That’s when you need to turn to other bow hunters.
See if you can shadow a bow hunter as he or she goes on a hunt. They can explain things to you as they go, and you can learn the basics. From there, it’s all about honing those skills by actually hunting.
If you’ve hunted with firearms, then much of the information you learn about bow hunting will be familiar, but bow hunting definitely isn’t the same. You’ll have to be closer to make your shot, and this usually requires more skill, patience, and perseverance.
Buy All the Gear You Need
In addition to your bow, arrows, and bow accessories, you’ll need good hunting clothes, a stand or blind, and any other hunting equipment you plan to use, like game calls, scent covers, etc.
Hunting with a bow requires all of the other gear that a hunter has, so make sure you’re equipped for the task. Just because your hunting with what is often thought of as a more primitive weapon doesn’t mean you’re stuck without the conveniences of other modern gear.
Get yourself GPS systems, game cameras, tree stands, and anything else you’d like to use and become proficient with your gear before heading out on your hunt.
Do you have anything you’d suggest for a new bow hunter? Leave a comment below.