If hunting is your passion and you are looking to grow further as a sportsman, then bow hunting may be the activity you are looking for. Since the dawn of time man has hunted with a bow composed of a stick and a string. While some still use these simple tools, technology has changed and there are now many more options for bow hunters. The equipment that has flooded the market in the last 10 years is nothing short of impressive; the quality of gear has sky rocketed and made bow hunting more popular than ever.
Choosing Your First Bow
Before you get started, I would suggest visiting your local fish and game club. Most clubs have an archery group and are more than willing to help people just getting started. Once you’ve done a bit of research, pay a visit to your local archery shop.
When you walk into an archery shop stop and take it all in; you are going to be overwhelmed. Start out by finding the most experienced person in the store and let them know this is your first bow; they should help you with the process of picking out your first bow.
What kind of Bow is for Me?
Everyone out there has their personal preference on bows, and salesmen will have prefer to sell certain brands. The only way to know what bow is right for you is to try them out. As a new archer you are going to want to try and find a store where you can shoot a range of different bows. It is important to be comfortable and the only way to know is to shoot them. Shoot as many bows as possible. If you do this properly you should be picking a bow that you will be shooting for years to come.
When choosing your first bow one thing that cannot be stressed enough is avoiding any bow that is considered a ”beginners bow”. If you are planning to buy your first truck, would you head to the dealership intending to buy a “beginners truck”? There is no point in buying something that you will be upgrading within a season or two. Buy the best bow that is within your budget. As a new archer you don’t need the newest, fastest, or greatest bow on the market but at the same time you don’t want to buy the bow that’s been handed down from your grandpa’s grandpa.
Most bow companies have several bow lines ranging from beginner bows to main line bows to pro line bows. Main line bows are usually your best bet for the average hunter and pro line bows are usually made for speed and are for more advanced archers. Avoid beginners bows as they cater more towards children than adults who are just starting out.
What about Optics?
While not mandatory, optics are going to make your hunting experience much more enjoyable. Optics include range finders, binoculars and spotting scopes that will help you with all aspects of hunting, from spotting targets at long distances to ranging the target before the shot. There are a number of manufacturers out there, but I personally prefer Nikon products due to their wide range of products, quality and affordable prices.
Practice Makes Perfect
You are now set to take your new bow, arrows and optics to the range and get setup. If at all possible bring an experienced person to try and help guide you. The two most important aspects of archery are going to be your form and your setup. Form is key; reputation is a must. While you shoot you must make it a habit to do the same thing over and over. Same anchor point, same grip on the bow, and the same release every single time.
One thing I personally repeat in my head is “draw, anchor, aim, steady, release, follow through”. Just like a rifle you must gently squeeze off your trigger when you are perfectly steady on your target.
As previously discussed try and make a mental check list. Draw, anchor, aim, steady, release, and follow through. A large portion of missed shots will be missed low to the left or low to the right depend what hand you shoot with. This is called “dropping your bow arm”. Dropping your bow arm means releasing your arrow and trying to watch your arrow too quickly. As a result of focusing on your arrow, you drop your arm holding the bow before the arrow has completely passed through the bow. This causes the low left or right shot. Do your best to use the same form and the same sequence every shot. When shooting, my arm does not move until I hear my arrow hit the target, completely eliminating any potential for dropping my bow arm.
Get Comfortable in your Own Skin
The best way to make sure you are a proficient archer is to practice as much as you can. Try and practice with the gear that you will be hunting in. Having loose fitting jackets or shirts can be devastating for shooting as the string can get caught up on your clothes.
Last Minute Tips
Hopefully after a few months of practice you will find yourself comfortable with your equipment and ready to hit the hills looking for game. Like rifle hunting the way you hunt for game changes by species. Study the animal that you plan to target with your bow. Play the winds; always making sure the wind is in your face. Now that you are an archery hunter remember your longest shot is going to be 40-50 yards. Silence is your new best and will lead to many more opportunities for shots.
Walk the Walk
Walking is a great activity no matter what you are using for a weapon, but with a bow it is essential. Slowly walk heal, toe, heal, toe, heal, toe ect…. The heal tow method helps to lessen your blow to the ground making less noise. Stop and glass with your Nikon binoculars; watch for the slightest change in what you had just looked at moments before. Animals move very slowly and cautiously in the bush, constantly watching their surroundings; you should too.
Patience Makes Perfect
While hunting with your bow it is extremely important to stay positive and never give up. In the beginning, there will be more opportunities blown than successfully executed, but that’s just part of the game. Keep your head up and remember your time will come. When it does finally happen don’t let something as silly as not having a range finder in your pocket be the reason for a misjudged shot. A quick range with your Nikon range finder will tell you exactly how far the animal is and where to place your pin.
The shot placement on an animal is crucial while bow hunting, for your bow does not have the power that your rifle does. A broad side shot with a clear view of the vitals is your absolute best shot to ethically harvest your game. You must keep in mind the angle of your target and the line in which the vitals lay, for your arrow must pass through whatever is in front of the vitals. Taking a shot where your arrow must break leg bones or shoulder blades is a very poor decision. This will not likely lead to an ethical shot; it is unlikely that the arrow will have enough energy to pass into the vitals leaving you with a wounded animal you may never find.
Your First Kill
You have spotted your game and snuck into a range that you are comfortable with. The animal turns broadside; as the animal looks away you draw your bow. Draw, anchor, aim, steady, release, follow through. The arrow leaves your bow; you keep your arm up until the arrow hits its mark. The animal runs off. Success!
The last few months of reading, practicing, asking questions, and watching videos has just paid off! Give the animal at least 30 minutes to expire; you do not want to rush this part. After 30 minutes look for the point of impact and look for your arrow and blood (a well-hit animal with a bow usually provides you with a very pronounced blood trail. Follow up the trail and claim your trophy. You will have worked hard for this animal and the rush from this experience will keep you coming back for more.
Congratulations you have now become a successful archery hunter.