How to Get Started With Bow Hunting

Most people’s first introduction to hunting is likely with a gun. For some, as they build on their skills, and discover the enjoyment of the hunt, they look for other ways to recapture the early excitement. A great way to challenge yourself is to learn how to bow hunt. Hunting with a bow is greatly different than hunting with a gun, and a fairly high learning curve exists. However, the rewards are well worth it. Many hunters find the thrill again with the experience of being close enough to your prey to hunt with a bow, along with using a silent weapon.

If you’d like to try bow hunting, here’s some tips to help you get started the right way.

Access to a longer season

Bow hunting seasons typically run longer than rifle seasons. Typically, the fall season starts in late August and runs until the start of December. As well as giving you more time to enjoy the great outdoors, there may also be a greater range of species available for you to hunt. Some that are restricted by special licenses when hunting with a rifle are open to bow hunters with general licenses. Remember to check your local laws, as each state will have their own regulations.

Choosing a bow

As with any new hobby, your first question may be about the cost of getting started. Just like other sports and hobbies, there are options with bow hunting. The first major decision is what bow will you use. There are three main types of bows used in bow hunting; compound, recurve, and longbows.

Compound bows are the most popular, and also the most modern. They are usually made from man-made materials (such as fiberglass and metallic/carbon composites), and have a distinctive pulley (known as a cam) and cable system. This reduces the amount of force needed by the hunter to hold the bow at full draw. This gives the hunter a significant advantage, both in combining accuracy of shot with force, and also how long they can steadily hold the bow at full draw. Adjustable sight pins that can be set for different distances also allow the hunter to quickly line up a target across different ranges. Compound bows can also be adjusted and set for different draw weights, allowing for versatility.

Longbows (also known as straight bows) are the oldest known bow, believed to be first used by humans over 25,000 years ago. They have a simple one piece design, and are likely what most people picture in their head when thinking of a bow and arrow. Both limbs curve backwards gently, but they usually do not have many of the additions that a compound bow has (though some modern ones may have an arrow rest). Bow hunters up for a challenge may be interested in trying a longbow. However, beginners particularly can find them very difficult to shoot. Unlike a compound bow, you need to ‘feel’ the draw and aim. They are also harder to draw back, as they do not have the cam and cable system.

A recurve bow is similar in appearance to a longbow, the difference being at the ends, which curve forward slightly. First introduced approximately 3,500 years ago, the forward curve gives a recurve bow more power than a longbow of the same length. Most recurve bows come in three parts, and are usually made of fiberglass-wood laminates. Like the longbow, they are quieter to shoot, and also less prone to any mechanical failure than a compound bow. However, as with the longbow you cannot adjust the draw weight.

The decision as to which bow to use will depend on your personal preference, as well as how many hours you’re willing to devote to learning how to shoot. You may struggle to find enough time to get out in the field as it is, and thus have less time to learn how to use your equipment. For a beginner, a compound bow will give you the best results quickly. Becoming skilled with a longbow or recurve bow simply comes down to the amount of time you can invest in practice. With these bows, form and accuracy comes from repetitious practice.

A good quality longbow or recurve bow will cost you anywhere between $200 to $800, depending on which make and design you chose. When you add on the accessories, you’ll be out for around another $100. For a compound bow, you’re looking at anything from around $300 (including the bow, quiver, sights and arrow), up to and above $1000.

Second hand equipment may be an option, but it’s definitely a buyer beware market. You have no way of telling if the equipment has been properly maintained and treated carefully, and if there are any fractures or breaks in the bow. For the cost difference, you’re likely better to go new and know that you’re making a quality purchase.

When choosing a bow, arguably the most important factor is draw length. If you can’t pull the bow at full draw, then it’s useless for you. Your draw length may also vary depending on whether you are using your fingers or a release.

Also important is the draw weight. It’s true that when you increase the draw weight you increase the arrow’s speed, but it’s not worth doing this at the sacrifice of accuracy. It’s a good idea to check your local regulations, as most have a minimum poundage on draw weight for hunting.

Time to Accessorize

Now you’ve chosen your bow, what else do you need? There are so many accessories available that knowing what you really need to get started can be difficult. My advice is to start simple. For a beginner, all you really need is a basic sight, a quiver, and stabilizer. A kisser button can also help with your consistency, but are not mandatory.

You’ll also need to choose your arrows. Make sure that you select ones with the correct size shafts for your bow. To ensure a proper release, arrows are graded on thickness of their wall, and also the diameter of the shaft. From there, you’ll have arrows made of different materials, and then different fletchings, to choose from. Carbon arrows are the most popular, but many still prefer the traditional cedar shafts.

Learn to Shoot

When observed, archery may seem more simple than firing a rifle. However, many hours of practice goes into make it look so easy. At the heart of every good bow hunter is good form and technique. Like many other sports, how you position your body can have a huge impact on how successful you will be. Start right and you’ll be on your way to success. When you start, practice, practice, and then practice some more. Only by repeating the drawing and aiming motions over and over again will you dial in your precision. As you get ready to go out into the field, remember to practice as you will be on the range. This includes practicing with broadhead arrows. It’s most likely that your sight will require some adjustments shooting with broadheads than field points. As well as target practice, some companies manufacture 3D animal targets. This allows you to practice where to aim on the animal, and also helps improve your accuracy.

As you gain more practice and experience, you may want to invest in other equipment, including tree stands, clothing, scent camouflages, and different arrows. As you practice and learn your own preferences and skills, you’ll figure out what suit you best and you’ll be on your way.