Have you ever wanted to learn how to bow hunt? Now is a perfect time to start.
Let me start off by saying that I didn’t grow up bow hunting. I’m by no means a pro at bow hunting or archery. I didn’t even handle a bow until I was in my early twenties. And I suspect that is how it happens with a lot of current bow-hunters. Traditionally, bowhunting has been passed down from father to child as sort of rite of passage when they are old enough to draw a bow of sufficient draw-weight to bring down game animals with. My father doesn’t hunt. As far as I know, his father didn’t hunt either.
Bowhunting, they say, is a dying sport.
It’s a lot easier to buy a rifle and shoot a deer from 300 yards from a pick-up truck than to get out in the woods and get up-close and personal with your game. Had I not gotten married I may have been relegated to “hunting” like that, too. Fortunately, I did get married.
And, luckily, my wife’s grandfather owned a bow which he hunted deer with. He was generous enough to let me shoot his bow to try it out. I was hooked from the first THWACK of the bowstring sending the arrow 25 yards down-range and slamming into a straw archery target he had set up near the barn.
I already owned rifles and shotguns. I’d already been hunting with them. But this was something different. I’m not sure how to describe it other than that it felt primal.
The bow was a fancy compound bow, and it had some pretty neat features like sights, and I even had a trigger release — but the mechanics and the hunting methods are still the same that hunters thousands of years ago had been using to feed their families. And that’s pretty cool if you ask me.
So how do you get started bow hunting?
The first thing you need, and the most expensive part of the whole sport, is the bow itself. The good thing about bowhunting, compared to other methods of hunting, is that even the cheap bows are pretty darned good. Sure, you can go out and spend $2,000 to get a top-of-the-line bows with all the fancy stabilizers and sights and even a scope. But you honestly don’t need any of that.
PSE Stinger Bow
The bow that I use is called the PSE Stinger. This is a cheap bow. So cheap, that I probably get laughed at by people who shoot Martin Archery bows — but it sure does bring down a lot of deer. In fact, I’d put this little bow against any super-expensive bow they’re shooting any day
The truth of the matter is that in bow-hunting, no matter which bow you choose, the skill of the hunter matters far more than any piece of equipment. And I think that’s probably how bow-hunting has always been.
The main thing to keep in mind when buying a bow for hunting is that some states regulate draw-weight for bowhunting. What this means is that you must purchase a bow greater than (usually) 40lbs (40#) of draw weight to hunt deers with. This is ethical hunting. It means that the arrow will penetrate the deer sufficiently at an appropriate distance to cause enough damage and quick death.
Should you hunt with a 20-30# draw weight, the deer might just be severely injured and run 2 miles away to die in a few days. You will never find it and this should never be done.
Okay. We’re good on the bow. What about arrows?
Arrows are my favorite part of the sport. No joke.
Native Americans used a variety of woods for arrows, ranging from cedar, to rosewood to, strangely enough, arrowweed.
Native American arrows were typically fletched with feathers. The arrow shaft was nocked on both ends — one for the bowstring and the other where the arrowhead would be tied on.
Today, that’s all changed. Arrows are made out of super-lightweight carbon. Plastic veins are glued on in lieu of feathers. Removable nocks are inserted into the carbon shaft and the arrowheads screw into inserts so that they can be replaced on the fly.
There are a lot of brands of arrows to choose from. Arrows, unless otherwise specified, come pre-veined and pre-nocked, but may need to be trimmed to fit your draw length (the distance between your arms in a full draw position).
Carbon Express Arrows
The arrows that I use are called Carbon Express Maxima. These are a little more expensive than your standard arrows, but that’s fine with me. Carbon Express verifies every single arrow for trueness with a laser before it leaves their shop. With some manufacturers you may sometimes get arrows that end up striking a foot or two from where you aimed because they aren’t true. Carbon Express arrows takes the arrows out of the equation when trying to figure out why your shot is off. The arrows are that good. They also come pre-veined and pre-nocked for your convenience.
The really nice thing about arrows, as opposed to bullets, is that unless you miss and shatter one you can reuse them indefinitely.
I’m still using arrows that I bought over 3 years ago.
So we have the bow and arrows, what about the arrowheads?
I’m glad you asked. There are two types of arrowheads that you can use for archery. The first that I’ll talk about is what is called a field point. It is illegal to hunt deer with field points in every state that I know of. Field points are used to practice with and are used in archery competitions.
The reason I bring up field points at all is that when you are practicing, you want to use these instead of broadheads. Broadheads are much more expensive than field points.
If you miss the target with a field point, you may be out a couple cents for a field point instead of a few dollars for a broadhead. You want to use broadheads for hunting only.
But won’t my arrows shoot differently if I practice with field points and then switch to broadheads for hunting?
Not usually. The neat thing about arrowheads is they are measured by weight. They will say on the box something like “100gr.” or “100g.” This means that each arrowhead weighs 100 grains.
What does “grain” mean exactly?
Nobody is entirely sure. I’ve read, and it makes sense, that when they originally started weighing arrowheads they used a balance scale. They put the arrowhead on one side of the scale, and started stacking grains of rice on the other. A 100 grain arrowhead weighs the same as 100 grains of rice.
Going from a 100 grain field point to a 100 grain broadhead means that for the most part, your arrow’s trajectory will be the same. There will be no massive velocity or distance change going from a field point for practice to a broadhead for hunting.
The broadheads that I use are G5 Montecs. These arrowheads are my workhorses. Hunting Big Game? Big deal. These will penetrate big game. What if you hit bone? No problem. They’ll take a beating.
For field points I go with Trophy Ridge field points. I think I’m on the same pack of 12 that I bought with my bow. I’ve dug them out of the ground (I used to miss sometimes). I’ve dug them out of trees (Okay. A little more than “sometimes”). They still shoot great.
Bows, Arrows, and Arrowheads. Is there anything else I need?
As with anything else, there are other accessories you can buy, for sure. But with what you have here you can go out and have a successful bowhunt — I have. I do hope to be able to cover some more advanced aspects of bowhunting in future posts, so hopefully you all enjoyed reading this.
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