Bowhunting 101: Beginner’s Guide & Tips For New Archers
If you haven’t yet experienced the thrill of downing a trophy buck, a huge hog, or a giant gobbler a mere twenty yards from your tree stand or ground blind while you draw your bow and carefully take aim, then watch as the arrow crosses the distance between you and your quarry like a lightning bolt striking its target, then you are missing one of the greatest thrills that hunting has to offer!
While it is certainly true that rifles and even handguns have lethal ranges that far exceed that of even the fastest, modern, compound bows, the entire point of hunting with a “primitive weapon” is to experience the connection you make when facing a game animal from a range so close you can count the hairs in its coat!
Only then, when you are so close to your quarry the slightest sound or movement can cause it to spook, will you know if you are a master bowhunter or not.
Fortunately, all a hunter really needs to enter the thrilling sport of bow hunting is a traditional or compound bow, appropriate arrows and broadheads, and appropriate clothing; although, having either a tree stand and/or a ground blind is also recommended.
Then, a little knowledge combined with some experience and a lot of patience will provide you with some of the most memorable hunts you will ever have!
Choosing a Bow:
So, the first choice that you will need to make is whether to choose a Long Bow, a Recurve Bow, or a Compound bow. You can also get a little more advanced by hunting with a crossbow, but we won’t touch on that in this article since we are sticking to bows that have a manual draw.
Also, you should be aware that most states have a minimum draw weight requirement which is commonly 45 lbs. (You can check out an updated list of the state draw weight limitations for hunting here.) Therefore, if you purchase a traditional bow, it will need to be rated at or above 45 lbs. @ 28″ (depending on your state’s minimum requirements).
If you purchase a Compound Bow, then it will typically need to be set to a minimum draw weight of 45 lbs (again depending on your state’s minimum requirements).
You should be aware that although Long Bows can be easier to draw due to their longer limbs, they are also slower than Recurve Bows and, they generate more recoil (hand shock). Whereas, a Recurve Bow is faster than a Long Bow of the same draw weight and is far smoother to shoot.
In addition, Recurve Bows are available in two different types consisting of fixed limb bows and take-down bows and, while the fixed limb bows often sport gorgeous risers made from exotic, laminated, hardwoods, take-down Recurve Bows are far easier to transport because you can remove the limbs from the riser.
Plus, although both Long Bows and Recurve Bows of similar design have similar mass weights, both types of traditional bows are significantly lighter than compound bows.
On the other hand, because of the cams positioned on the end of each limb of a compound bow, this type of bow generates far greater arrow speeds than a Recurve Bow and, it also has a given percentage of “let-off” which means that once the bow is fully drawn, the archer only has to hold a small percentage of the full draw weight.
In addition, it should be noted that while bow speed is not a major issue to the Field Archer shooting at known yardages, when hunting game animals, precise shot placement is critical to a humane harvest.
Thus, to a hunter, a fast bow is the holy grail because of the arched flight path of the arrow.
For instance, when an arrow is fired from a Long Bow or Recurve Bow, it is traveling at relatively low velocities and thus, a slight misjudgment of even a few feet can cause the arrow to miss its intended point of impact but, because a compound bow has a much faster arrow speed, then it also has a flatter arrow trajectory and thus, it is less prone to miss due to slight misjudgments in distance.
Compound bows are also a great choice for hunters that hunt larger game, and equip their arrows with hunting broadheads.
But, regardless of which type of bow you choose, as long as it meets the minimum draw weight requirement and you mate it with arrows of the correct spine and appropriate broadheads, it should enable you to humanely harvest any game animal on the North American continent.
Common Bowhunting Mistakes Most New Archers Make:
1. Ignoring the wind:
This one’s a no brainer, but it is fairly common mistake among beginner archery hunters. If you position yourself in the wrong way, the wind might bring your scent to your target and alert them of the presence of a predator.
Game such as deer have very heightened sense of smell, so watch out for any changes in the wind. Make sure that the wind is in your face even when hunting from a tree stand. If you aren’t sure which way the wind is blowing, you can use non-scented wind detecting powder or a wind checking device (a bit pricier than the powder but a lot less messy).
2. Getting Too Close
Getting within spitting distance to an unsuspecting animal can cause an adrenaline rush like very few things in this life can. But many archery hunters get carried away and get too close to the animal, ruining their hunt. A too close of a distance will leave little room for mistakes: you may not have enough time to aim and shoot, the noise from your bow may give you away, your scent may get into your quarry’s nostrils, and so on.
The ideal distance between a bowhunter and his or her target should be 30 to 40 yards. If you’re planning on going closer than that make sure that your perfectly know what you are doing.
3. Running Out of Patience
We live in a fast paced, crazy world, but when bowhunting, patience is the virtue our ancestors kept talking about. When hunting with a bow, you need to move as slowly and as mindful as you can. Forget about instant gratification and things happening fast for us because we want it that way.
The beauty of bowhunting is that it trains even some of the the most rabid urban dwellers into the lost art of having patience and taking one thing at a time. In a forest, everything slows down and so should you.
One expert tip to help you slow down, is to hunt without boots. Take a pair of cozy wool socks with you, though, to damp the sound of your movements.
Getting the Right Knowledge:
In addition to purchasing the proper gear like rangefinders for archery, you will also need to acquire a certain amount of knowledge.
Thus, regardless of what game species you choose to hunt, there are two things you should be aware of.
First, game animals do not have artificial lights and thus, their day starts with the sunrise and ends with the sunset and everything they need to accomplish in a day must be done during the daylight hours (unless they are nocturnal).
Second, most animals lack the ability to gather and store food and thus, as soon as they rise in the mornings, the most prominent thought on their minds is obtaining food.
Thus, if you can locate where they are bedding and where they are feeding, then you can find a location in between and use it as an ambush point.
However, because archers are often limited to a range of fifty yards or less, choosing the location to set up your tree stand or ground blind must be done with care.
For instance, it is best if it is adjacent to a well used trail near the bedding area or near a favored food source.
Also, it is imperative that you not use the same trail as the game you are hunting when approaching your stand or blind unless you are also using a “drag rag” impregnated with an appropriate attractant scent to mask you human scent.
In addition, the use of both calls and decoys in conjunction with urine and food attractor scents is starting to gain widespread acceptance among bow hunters as a means of drawing the game in close enough for a lethal shot.
So, the real trick to learning to be a successful bow hunter is learning to “pattern” the particular game species you choose to hunt and then learning to position yourself close enough to make a clean kill.
But, once you learn to do so, there is literally no other thrill in the world like it!
Wrapping Up & Final Thoughts:
Last, it should be noted that all of the necessary gear to enable hunters to enter the sport of bow hunting is available in a wide range of prices and thus, a novice can enter the sport quite inexpensively and then, slowly upgrade their gear as funds allow.
Plus, there is a large market for used gear and thus, you can often find a bargain in your local classifieds or sell your old gear there when you are ready to upgrade.
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