Long before the days of supermarkets and vegan meat (whatever that is), when humans lived in nomadic tribes and loincloths were all the rage, hunting was humankind’s most significant lifeline. We are hunters in the most profound biological sense. Our front-facing eyes can effortlessly lock onto and track a moving object, not unlike the eyes of a cat or an eagle. Our ability to strategize and communicate allows us to make up for our athletic shortcomings like a pack of wolves.
Evolutionary theory tells us that early men and pre-men who lacked an affinity for hunting were likely left without food and mates, meaning their genetics disappeared. So, it’s no wonder you’re drawn to bow hunting, perhaps especially since most of your time is likely spent at a less-than-invigorating job. However, bow hunting can be daunting for beginners without a benevolent father figure to show you the ropes. But have no fear. This article will fill in for your daddy and give you the basic info you will need to start your long road to becoming an expert archer, hunter, and shopper at nature’s grocery store.
First thing first, you’re going to need a bow. Allow me to dissuade you from trying to bring to life any fantasies you have about killing an elk with your homemade recurve bow. Bowhunting is incredibly difficult. Rifle hunting is often challenging. A new hunter should bag a couple of kills with a rifle before moving to bowhunting to learn the basic tenants of hunting and increase his likelihood of initial success.
Any big game hunter will tell you there’s nothing more exciting or fulfilling than bringing down a big buck or bull with a bow. Still, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than spending fantastic sums of money on getting geared up and then loads of grueling time on the mountain or in a blind to come home empty-handed. That heartbreak can turn a newbie off of big game hunting forever. It can be done if your heart is set on getting into archery immediately. But, you will need the proper modern equipment until you are one of the few veritable experts that can hunt with outdated equipment. This is where it pays to trust the experts.
If you head to your local archery shop, they will have experienced bow hunters on staff who will help set you up with equipment tailored to your skill level, physical size and strength, budget, and ambitions. Most shops have ranges on site where you can test and try different bows and setups to find what will work for you. Bows are not cheap, so expect to spend a chunk of money but remember, skills are more critical than top-shelf equipment. You will be deadlier with a $300 bow and 100 hours of practice than with a $2,000 bow and a couple of half-assed target sessions.
Bow hunting is far older than recorded history, but the game has changed. Recurve bows, made of a flexible piece of wood and a string, have been replaced by compound bows made of space-age materials. These compound bows feature pulley systems that multiply the power of your draw into faster arrow velocities. A heavy draw weight recurve might shoot 200 feet per second, while a similar weight compound will shoot 300+ fps.
They are easier to hit, more reliable, more deadly, and far more practical in big game hunting than their old-fashioned counterparts. Additionally, the pulleys on compound bows are not perfectly round, and their irregular shape means a “let off” of weight on the string at the pinnacle of the draw. If your bow’s draw weight is 70 lbs, the weight you must hold at full draw will only be 10-20 lbs. This is important to consider as a hunter commonly needs to keep their bow at full draw while waiting for an animal to present a good shot.
Finally, compound bows come equipped with many valuable attachments, including sights, arrow rests, quivers, and stabilizers. I understand the romantic allure of killing an animal with a bow a native hunter may have used 500 years ago, but as a new hunter, you’d likely be biting off far more than you could chew. Allow modern tech to assist you until you get a few under your belt.
There are many different sights and brands with other functions and processes for setup, etc. Bows are most often equipped with fixtures, each of which has a plethora of attachments. The proper setup for a bow is a topic of debate and often a matter of preference. It’s best to head toward an archery shop where they can get into the nitty-gritty with an expert.
Practice is everything regarding marksmanship, but archery is significantly more complex than rifle shooting and thus requires an even more significant time commitment. Most bowhunters I know shoot daily in the months leading up to their hunt. The good news is that you can shoot your bow in a suburban backyard while you’d need a piece of land the size of Rhode Island to shoot your .300 Win Mag. You need some technical instruction and hours of practice regularly to get good. Once you’ve fired hundreds of arrows, worked extensively on your technique, developed essential skills, and your hunt is approaching, you need to determine your maximum effective range.
This is the furthest distance you’re confident you can virtually hit a deer or elk in the heart or lungs every time. Remember, taking shots you’re not satisfied with hitting is unethical, as a poorly placed shot can maim an animal without killing it. First, find your maximum effective range on the shooting range. Do this by setting up your max capacity at whatever range you think and firing three arrows with no warm-up at a paper plate-sized target. If you land all three shots on three separate occasions, you can claim to have mastered that range to a reasonable degree. It’s important to note that “buck fever,” as it’s called, is genuine, especially for new hunters.
Having a live animal in the sights causes a new hunter’s heart to race, fingers to shake, and reasoning to dull. If you think you’ll be immune to this phenomenon, allow me to shatter that notion. Shooting a paper plate at 50 yards is NOT the same as shooting a live animal at the same distance. Due to this, your maximum range in the field should be roughly 10% less than your shooting range distance, which may even be generous. Most archers shouldn’t be taking shots past 50 yards, although you may hear stories of questionable veracity about 100-yard kills around the campfire. It’s essential to be realistic about your shooting ability and adjust on the fly for things like wind, low visibility, and your current steadiness. Remember this, and If you can’t hold the pin of your sight steadily on the animal’s vitals, you’re going to miss.
Make sure to join us in the next installment of Bow hunting for Beginners, and be sure to tell a friend!