Bowhunting can be extremely rewarding as a pursuit, but it must always be carried out safely and ethically. Bowhunting must also comply with the law, so it is essentialyou learn your local archery laws.
It is never a good idea to go hunting when you aren’t fully prepared, accidents can and do happen, and, to add to that, if you haven’t brushed up on what works you can have a lousy hunting trip. So we have compiled a list of bowhunting tips to help you improve your game.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice should be done with purpose. It is not enough for bowhunters to simply hit WA targets on the range.
Bowhunters need to practice with as much simulation as possible, if you wear many layers of clothing when you hunt, you should wear the same clothes when practicing.
Do you hunt from a tree stand while wearing a safety harness? Then you will need to practice shooting from a tree stand while wearing a harness.
Your practice environment should be as realistic as possible, and many bowhunters choose to enter 3D archery competitions in the off-season to harness their skills.
Correct form is vital, only when you have mastered the basics can you adapt. When you are practicing, regardless of your end goal you should always be focused on your form.
Below is a 7-step checklist that you should mentally be ticking off as you practice until each one becomes an unconscious action.
- Stance – You should be in an open stance, facing your intended target at an approximately 45-degree angle, with your feet roughly 20 – 24 inches apart. Toes pointed towards the target, not perpendicular, a mistake made by many beginners.
- Bow grip – Your grip should be closed, but relaxed, excessive tension will result in poorer accuracy. Many top-level archers will just gingerly touch their thumb and forefinger together on the front of the grip.
- Draw – Most bowmen opt to grip the string with the index finger above the arrow nock, with the middle and ring finger gripping below. Raise your bow to your target, ensuring grip is loose, and draw the bowstring towards your face in one smooth motion. You shouldn’t need to ‘push’ the bow with your lead hand, instead, keep your arm extended and drawback with the back muscles on your dominant side. If you are not strong enough to do this without struggling, reduce the poundage of your bow until you can.
- Anchor – After you have drawn the bowstring, you should place your hand against the side of your face. This ‘anchor-point’ should be on the same side as your dominant eye. Finding the correct anchor point requires a little bit of trial and error for everybody, and you will adjust with experience.
- Aim – Nearly all bowhunters use bow sights, as the improved accuracy allows consistency when being an ethical shooter. If you don’t know-how already, you should learn how to correctly tune a bow sight.
- Release – Releasing the bowstring must be smooth, without and jarring motions or jerks. If you draw with a finger grip it can be harder to master, learning to relax three fingers at the exact same moment takes time. Mechanical release aids are becoming more and more popular, as you can loose your arrow at the squeeze of a trigger, requiring little coordination.
- Follow through – Once you have released your arrow you should keep aiming at your target until the arrow has hit its mark. By doing this you will improve your accuracy and consistency of shot.
Year on year I see greenhorn bowhunters falling over themselves at the eleventh hour trying to dial in their kit. Typically, it is because they have been practicing with field point arrowheads and tuned their gear accordingly resulting in poor flight with broadheads.
Broadheads will exaggerate any deficit, no matter how slight, in your technique. Prevention is always better than cure, and all serious bowhunters should begin test shoots with broadheads in the months leading up to opening day.
By the time the season rolls around you will have fine-tuned your kit to within an inch of its life, and be more than comfortable on the field.
Mechanical heads require the same treatment, and it is advisable to test and experiment with different types of heads to know what you like best; ruling out any problems with poor form.
A popular method of practice for bowhunters is to use 3D targets, and participate in off-season 3D target archery courses. Courses specifically are not only a relevant way to keep fit, but a great opportunity to work on range estimation and shot delivery.
The best 3D courses will have targets at varying distances, angles, and require you to shoot at both an incline and a decline. 3D archery is the perfect setting to hone your skills, and it is advisable not to transfer to a live setting until you are comfortable here.
Choosing the Best Bowhunting Bow
Most bowhunters, but especially newbies, will opt for a compound bow over a recurve bow.
For some, it is just personal preference, but as a whole, compound bows are easier to draw, easier to aim, and they pack a bigger punch than recurve bows.
If you do like the thought of a recurve bow when bowhunting you will need to be aware of the draw weight. Most states require a minimum of #40 draw weight for bowhunting.
So before you even consider a recurve bow, you will need to ensure that you are proficient with a bow of at least #40 draw weight as a minimum, to safeguard an ethical hunt.
Deer have exceptionally good hearing and can be easily spooked by any sudden or unfamiliar sounds. Once a deer has detected something it doesn’t like, they’re gone before you even know what happened.
Because of this, it is important that your bow is as quiet as possible, and manufacturers have made great progress in reducing the sound emitted from their bows.
However, no bow is completely silent, but it should never make any loud thuds or cracks; if this is the case your bow will need to be retuned. String silencers are also available, they work by absorbing some of the string vibrations leading to a lower level of sound output.
Limb dampeners also extend the life of your bow, so even if your bow is already quiet it is worth picking a pair up.
Some bowmen like a more traditional experience when hunting game, choosing to hunt without the use of a bow sight. However, using a barebow is a skill in itself that takes years to perfect.
Since most of us are eager to participate in our first season it is more practical to use a bow sight; most compound bows will come with a basic sight as standard.
If your new bow doesn’t come complete with a bow sight, or the sight is of low quality then you will need to purchase a sight with at least three pins.
Each pin should then be tuned to 20 yards, 30 yards, and 40 yards – common hunting distances. You should then spend time getting used to using the bow sight at each distance until you no longer have to think about it.