How to start bowhunting and become successful at it
If you want to start bowhunting, you need to follow a few steps to be successful. Remember though, that bow hunting is not a child’s play.
You will need a lot of study and practice before you can take down the game. Most of all, every bowhunter has to be responsible.
It is a dangerous weapon that can cause disasters if not appropriately handled.
So, without any further ado, here is how to start bowhunting…
Robert Gate is a co-founder of Archery Topic – a bow and deer hunting site. He’s featured on a lot of big news and magazines, such as Washington Post, Lifehack, USA Today and more.
Step 1: Preparation
You need to be well-prepared if you wish to become a successful bowhunter. As a part of that preparation you should:
Contact your state fish and wildlife agency
You should make sure you are well aware of all the standing regulations regarding bowhunting in your state.
These regulations are there to protect people, resources, and wildlife populations as well as ensure equal opportunity.
Educate yourself by taking a safety course
Even though some states do not oblige you to take a safety course in order to obtain a hunting license, it is always a good idea to complete one.
You will learn how to become a more responsible and successful bowhunter, some bow hunting techniques, bow and tree stand safety, and hunter ethics.
Check out your local archery clubs
Ask around and visit your local archery clubs. Choose a reputable one and join it.
You’ll meet a lot of people that share your passion and probably learn a lot of new tips and tricks from more experienced members.
Step 2: Gear up
Before you can start bowhunting, you need to get yourself the right equipment.
First and foremost, you have to select a proper bow that fits you and your needs.
A. Bow Selection
It is crucial to find a bow that fits you perfectly, and that is not necessarily the highest price out there. So, how can you tell if the bow you plan to buy is right for you?
If you are a newbie, you should best turn to a professional for advice.
Ask for pro advice
Your local archery shop should have some employees that can help you and explain everything you need.
They’ll tell you about bow fit and you need to adequately test a few before making a decision.
Be honest and hungry to learn
Of course, bear in mind that they want to sell you a bow. Be clear that you want to get measured and shop around.
Here is what they should do to provide excellent service:
- Measure your draw length
- Let you pull a few bows to assess your draw weight
- Let you try a few bows that fit you so that you can see what fits and feels best
Don’t act macho; be realistic, and go for a bow that does not give you a hernia.
Still, you must be aware that you will build up muscles as soon as you start practicing, so it would be best to choose a bow that is not “maxed out” for you.
Try as many brands as you can
Do not feel obliged to buy a bow until you are 100% sure that it’s the right fit for you!
Try as many brands as you can and then make your final decision.
B. Choosing the Accessories
I am sure that you will be offered quite a few accessories when you shop for your first bow.
The truth is that you really need only a few of them.
These are the accessories you must have:
- Field points
- Arrow rest
- Mechanical release aid
- Bow sight
- Peep sight
The list of optional accessories includes:
- Practice target
- Wrist sling
- Additional sound-absorbing devices
- Arm guard
- Safety harness
- Laser rangefinder
You should ask for professional advice when choosing the arrows too. It is imperative that you get the arrows with the correct spine weight (stiffness) for your draw weight and length.
Every arrow flexes somewhat when it flies, but it is not good if it over-flexes. I recommend buying carbon-fiber arrows.
If you are a beginner, you do not need to spend a fortune on the very best and straightest arrows.
An average user will do just fine with almost any modern arrows made by a reputable company.
You should get the three-inch vanes (fletching) rather than smaller target vanes.
The later are highly popular right now but do not feel tempted, as the three-inch ones will help your broadheads fly truer.
I recommend you choose the full-capture rest rather than drop away-style rest. It is more simple to use, accurate, and durable.
If you are learning to bow hunt, you should avoid the target style (back-tension) release aids even though they are very popular. You should best opt for a caliber-style wrist strap release.
A bow sight is an essential part of the equipment, but that does not mean you have to spend a small fortune on a top-of-the-line target sight.
There are many bow sights styles, but I would go for a five-pin hunting-style sight with “micro-adjustments.”
The micro-adjustments add to the price but are worth it as you will save a lot of time when zeroing your sight.
A peep sight is a must as it secures accuracy. It is something like the rear sight of a gun. You should best buy a ¼-inch hunting peep sight.
There is a plethora of broadheads available on the market.
I think you should best use a razor-sharp 125-grain broadhead, but you can also research to find the best broadheads for the game you plan to hunt. Do not be thrifty!
A quiver will protect your arrows, so it would be best to get one and practice how to shoot with it on and off of your bow.
Step 3: Practice
You’ll not become an expert bowhunter overnight. You’ll need years of practice and repetition.
Still, with proper training, you will be able to shoot a bow reasonably after only a couple of trips to the range.
I’ll assume that you followed my previous tips and that you have bought the right equipment.
I also hope that your bow has been set up correctly at the archery shop. If so, all that remains is that you learn a few critical things before you start using it.
Never dry-fire a bow!
You must never draw and release a bow without an arrow “nocked” on the string, or you risk destroying it.
Take the proper stance
You should stand with your feet width apart. Face the target at a 90-degrees angle while pointing the shoulder of the arm holding the bow towards it.
Grip the bow loosely
Do not support the bow with your palm or fingers but instead use the web of your hand.
Grip the bow loosely and make sure that your fingers are relaxed at full draw.
You can do that by wiggling your fingers a bit or letting them dangle.
Do not squeeze the grip! The rearward force of the draw weight will hold the bow in your hand. If you relax your hand and wrist, you won’t cause “bow torque” nor ruin accuracy.
The ultimate goal is to have as little contact with the bow as possible and still be able to hold it up steady enough to aim.
Draw the bow correctly
You should push your bow arm (grip hand) toward the target with your elbow slightly bent.
Use the release hand to pull the string back across your chest while pointing the elbow back and up toward the sky.
Do not rely only on the strength of your shoulders but rather use your back muscles when drawing the bow too.
Find a consistent anchor point to secure accuracy
Find a consistent anchor point on your face. Most people choose either the corner of their mouth or the end of the jaw.
You should be able to duplicate that spot each time you draw the bow, but it should also feel comfortable.
Aim, squeeze, and follow through!
Keep your eyes open while placing the ring of your bow sight into the circle formed by the peep sight. When you see the desired target in the distance, start focusing on the sight pin.
Aim at the very center of the bullseye. If you target an animal, focus on some small details such as a ruffled piece of fur rather than an entire shoulder area.
When you pick the spot, you are ready to shoot – squeeze & follow through.
Surprise yourself with the release. If you are anticipating the shot, you might flinch and miss the target. Take a deep breath in, and as soon as you start breathing out, squeeze the trigger slowly and release the string. Keep your eyes on your target at all times!.
What is the proper follow-through in archery?
It is doing nothing at all for about one second after the shot. Do not lower the bow until the arrow hits the desired target!
Pro tips and tricks
Figure everything out before the hunt
Before you go on your first bow hunting adventure, do a dress rehearsal at home.
That means that you should put on all your hunting clothes and gear from your jacket to the safety harness or your gloves.
Some pieces of clothes or equipment might have a significant influence on your performance, and you should know that ahead of time.
Practice with one of your broadheads
Broadheads have a significant impact on your accuracy.
Even the mechanical broadheads that should fly identically as field points do not always perform the same.
It is, therefore, best to adjust the sights for your broadheads before you go out hunting.
Practice shooting from different field positions.
Try shooting from various positions, even at awkward angles.
If you want to make a kill, you often have to kneel down or use a treestand – be prepared!
Study animal anatomy
If you can afford a 3D animal target, use it – it is highly beneficial.
Do not think in two dimensions! Know exactly where an animal’s heart and lungs are and aim for that spot.
Avoid full-frontal shots
If you are a beginner, avoid full-frontal shots or shooting at extreme angles.
You should better wait for the animal to present a fully broadside as that will increase your odds of delivering a clean shot and killing the animal.
Follow my advice & practice diligently! In time, you will be rewarded with the trophy kill and be able to congratulate yourself on becoming a bonafide bowhunter!