Bow Hunting for Beginners
Interested in bow hunting? Whether taught to hunt with a rifle at an early age or only now getting into the sport, bow hunting requires particular skills all of their own. For instance, archery is about more than pulling a trigger, taking lots of practice to pull off a successful hunt.
So what are some of the fundamentals of bow hunting for beginners? Here are some ways to get started, from choosing the right size bow and draw weight to studying animal anatomy.
Choosing a Bow and Other Hunting Equipment
Take time to find an appropriately sized bow. Even for beginner bow hunters who have only taken camp archery lessons way back as a teen, it’s essential to start off on the right foot with the right bow, instead of purchasing a second-hand bow you know nothing about. And the best way to do this is to head to a local archery shop to get your draw length and draw weight measured.
Draw Length – The measurement of your outstretched arms, from one middle fingertip to the other, divided by 2.5. While there are several fine-tuning and adjustments to be made, this final total will give you a starting point to finding the perfect bow fit for you.
Draw Weight – Essentially, your draw weight will help determine a poundage that you can comfortably pull back. It’s crucial to start easier without any strain, pulling back smoothly. Otherwise, it can screw with your technique and aim. Don’t push it. You’ll build muscle as you practice and be able to increase your poundage. However, keep in mind that to hunt ethically, bowhunters should aim for a draw weight of 40 pounds.
With a bow, you’ll need arrows, of course. The archery shop will direct you, helping you choose arrows with the correct spine weight (the stiffness) for your draw length and draw weight. Ideally, an arrow flexes just enough, but is not overly flexible. Carbon fiber arrows are your best bet!
Bow Case – Protect and secure your bow, arrows and other equipment and repair kits with a bow case.
Arrow Rest – Choose between the popular drop away-style rests or the more simplistic full-capture/Whisker-Biscuit-style rests.
Release Aid – Target style back-tension release aids are popular, but as a beginner bowhunter, start out with a caliber-style wrist strap release.
Bow Sight – Install a bow sight (and a peep sight!) to help your aim. However, while there are many costly versions available, stick with something like a five-pin hunting-style sight with “micro-adjustments” that help you zero in on your target.
Quiver – Choose a quiver to keep arrows protected and close. Quick tip: As you practice, learn to shoot with the quiver both on and off your bow.
Learning Archery Basics
Now that you have your bow, arrows and other necessary accessories, get yourself to a shooting range for some basic archery practice! Luckily, learning archery is fairly simple and you might even find yourself hitting targets after a few tries, especially if your bow was properly set up by the bow shop. However, before you even shoot your first arrow, you need to learn and take note of these important steps and tricks:
Never dry-fire a bow – Dry-firing a bow essentially means drawing and releasing without an arrow “nocked” on the string. This often damages – if not destroys – a bow!
Find your stance – Before pulling back a bow, ensure your feet are shoulder-width apart and face 90 degrees to the target. This makes sure the shoulder of the arm gripping the bow is pointing.
Use a proper grip – Using the web of your hand, grip the bow loosely. When at a full draw, relax your fingers, either by wiggling or dangling them, to prevent “bow torque,” twisting the bow. Without squeezing your grip, allow the rearward force of the draw weight to support the bow to your hand. Ultimately, you want minimal bow contact and barely enough to hold it for your aim.
Drawing – Without fully locking the elbow, push your bow arm toward the target. With your release hand, pull the string back across (not into!) your chest using your back and shoulder muscles. Ideally, your release hand elbow should point back and up toward the sky.
Aim – Choosing an anchor point on your face, focus on your target, placing the bow sight’s ring into the peep sight’s ring. Aim for a small point on the bullseye, not the whole target. This replicates the same way you might aim for an animal's tuft of hair to make a precise spot.
Release – Releasing a bow should be quick and stealthy, eliminating any opportunity for flinches and the like. To do so in one move, take a deep breath and, exhaling just a bit, set your sights on the target, slowly squeeze and release the string. After you release, you must “follow-through” by remaining in position a few seconds after the shot until the arrow hits the target.
Get Some Hunting Practice
Ethical hunting standards – When shooting game, be confident you can make the shot. Practice until you can hit a target at 30 yards four of five times, but ideally with each shot.
Dress rehearsal – Test out your hunting uniform – jacket, hat, gloves and all! – to determine if it will cause issues and affect your accuracy out in the field. (For example, gloves can affect a release aid’s fit.)
Practice with a broadhead – For the best practice, sacrifice one of your broadheads. Determine if they hit the target differently, adjusting your sights before your first hunt.
Shoot from various positions – Practice several field positions, such as kneeling, shooting from a treestand and other awkward angles.
Study Animal Anatomy
Shooting a game from 30 yards is one thing, but you also need to know where to shoot for an efficient kill (i.e., the heart and lungs). Where you aim can depend on many variables, like the way the animal is positioned. For a deer turned broadside of you, aim just behind the shoulder. However, if they are facing away, you’ll need to aim slightly higher and further back. As a rule of thumb, beginner bow hunters should avoid taking full-frontal shots if they want an easy, clean shot.
Ready to Follow Through?
As you learn how to get into hunting (bow hunting to be precise), practice your aim and have patience until you hit that 30-40 yard goal.
And remember: Pick a spot, squeeze, follow through.