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.
It is essential that any gear you plan to use during a hunt is working correctly, poor equipment can not only ruining your hunting trip but it can cause unnecessary harm to yourself or prolong/cause unnecessary pain to the animal you wish to kill.
We recommend you get your gear regularly tuned by a pro to enable you to be a proficient hunter an essential skill you should also hope to hone yourself. If you want to find some of the best archery gear about then take a look at our product reviews.
Visit the Hunting Ground Early
One big mistake many new bowhunters make is visiting their preferred hunting ground last minute, just before the season starts. Deer and other game can easily become spooked by a swathe of hunters suddenly entering the area en masse.
You should start early, by August you will want to be glassing the intended hunting area and setting up trail cams. Once you have found your ideal location, set your stand up, clear the lanes and reposition your trail cams.
When you visit again a couple of weeks before the season you can retrieve the cards from your camera for further examination; allowing you to fine-tune your action plan.
Identifying a Kill Shot – Ethical Shots
You’ve been waiting for hours, and finally, the moment arrives. A large buck is passing by your location, how do you know when to take the shot?
It cannot be stated enough when bowhunting you should first ensure the equipment you are using is up to the task.
Bowhunting is a whole different ballgame than hunting with a rifle and is far more unforgiving if you ruin your shot. ALWAYS use new sharp broadheads or broadheads that you have sharpened yourself.
While blunted broadheads will result in a kill, they result in a reduced blood trail and unnecessary suffering for the animal. Firstly, the distance must be considered, if you know that
you are only comfortable at ranges of 30ft, now is not the time to prove to yourself you can shoot further.
You should have already made yourself aware of landmarks close to your location, and memorized rough distances for easier range finding. Prior education on the anatomy of your intended target is crucial to your success. You need to know where the vitals are located, particularly the lungs and heart and identify where to shoot for correct penetration.
For Elk and Deer, the best shot is with the animal broadside to you, slightly quartering away. This removes the front shoulder from the shot and opens up access to the heart and both lungs. Only slight quartering will result in an efficient, ethical shot.
If the game is angled too far, the intestines will obstruct the arrow’s penetration resulting in a bad shot. Flush broadside is also a great shot to take, but you should never be too hasty to take the shot, instead wait for the opportune moment when the nearside front leg is slightly forward; giving better access to the vitals. Ethical bowhunters will never take a shot
head-on, from the rear end, or if the animal is retreating away.
Safety is paramount during bowhunting expeditions, not only for yourself but for the safety of others.
Below you will find a short list of precautions you should take before and during any hunt.
- Avoid hunting alone where possible. If anything were to happen to you and you weren’t able to signal for help, it is always best to have someone looking out for you.
- Obey standard codes of archery practice, and obey all field safety rules.
- Shoot within your own skillset, not capable of hitting a shot at 40yards? Don’t
- Keep yourself in good shape throughout the year, bowhunting can be demanding and you can be subject to injury or fatigue if you are physically
incapable of keeping up with the substantial demand.
- Let family and friends know where you will be, and how long you expect to be there.
- When you are transporting equipment, always ensure it is safely packed away to prevent damage and injury.
- Dress appropriately, preferably in layers, carrying extra kit as needed.
- Every time you embark on a hunting trip, you should bring basic survival and first aid gear in case of emergencies.
- Always bring a flashlight and extra batteries with you.
- Always meet up with any acquaintances who have accompanied you at agreed-upon times, you are there for them as much as they are there for you.
- Clearly identify any intended target before loosing an arrow.
- Do not take any shot where the background is clearly identifiable, ie: an Elk on a ridge top, a ‘skyline’ shot.
- All arrows, but particularly broadheads should be stored in a quiver that is covered when moving, to avoid loss or accidental injury.
Camouflage – Scent, and vision
It may come at no surprise to you that deer or prey animals’ senses in general, are much sharper than our own.
They have developed these finely tuned senses to avoid capture and ensure they don’t become some predators’ next meal. In walks the Bowhunter!
To make a successful kill we must do what we can to deceive our targets senses. The first sense we must deceive is smell, a deer will detect our scent long
before they ever see us so it is vital we mask our scent. There a few ways we can help do this:
- Personal Hygiene – It is a good idea to wash your body and your clothes with scent-free products, this also extends to deodorants and aftershaves.
- Base Layer – A base layer of scent control clothing is a great place to start when trying to mask your scent.
- Correct Storage – Storing your hunting clothes when traveling to your destination in scent controlled storage containers or bags is a good way to avoid scent contamination.
- Odor Elimination Sprays – Using odor elimination sprays in the field on yourself and clothes is a good way to to help eliminate your scent, don’t forget to spray your equipment as well.
- Deer Scents – Using deer scents can help trick other deers into believing a deer has recently passed through an area or is still there. Tarsal glands can also be used to this
Camouflaging is essentially blending in with the deer’s natural environment. Not being smelt by a deer is very important as it enables you to effectively track the animal without it being spooked. It is equally important to not be seen by the deer as you will have to come close enough to ensure you can kill your intended target. Here some videos that explain the principles of camouflage and have helpful demonstrations.
Paul Harrel –
Bowmar Bowhunting –
Bowhunters are subject to produce licenses and other affiliated documents at any time when requested by state officers. Because of this, you should always:
- Keep any required licensing documents with you at all times.
- Use a dedicated compartment in your backpack, or pocket so you always know where to get them.
- Store the documents in a waterproof bag or at the very least a Ziplock sandwich bag before storing them away; in an effort to reduce water damage.
Licensing rules and requirements are different in each state, and you will need to make sure that you are compliant each time you embark on a trip, as these rules can often change.
So hopefully by now, you have learned something new from our bowhunting tips article and feel much more prepared for your next hunting trip. It is always a good idea to brush up on your knowledge and learn new tips and tricks to constantly improve your performance, so check back regularly to read our updated and new blogs on all things archery.
Bowhunting like many things requires hard work, practice, and patience so for any beginners out there eager to bag their first successful kill try to incorporate some of our tips and see what works best for you.
Using the right equipment is also imperative for a successful hunt so if you are venturing out soon on your next bow hunting trip and are in need of a new/better bow why not take a look at our review for Best Compound Bows and make sure you have the right tools for the job.
At Archery Edge we like to continually review and improve our blogs and knowledge base, so if you have any tips or tricks you would like us to add to this article then please do contact us, we are always happy to receive feedback and communicate with like-minded individuals.
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