Bowhunting 101 For Beginners
It’s early in morning. While the world is waking up and the animals are beginning to stir, you wait in the forest for the perfect moment to strike. You set your eyes on your target and with only a light whoosh of air, your arrow is sent flying and the target is dead. This is the thrill so many hunters long for and is the main reason that they decided to get into bow hunting in the first place.
From picking the bow to your first day hunting, there are many things to learn to become a skilled bow hunter, but throughout the entire process you will enjoy learning how to hunt and will enjoy your time spent behind the bow. It may seem like an intimidating experience, but learning the basics of bowhunting isn’t much harder than learning to ride a bike.
By discussing the steps for you to take to get into bowhunting, talking about the gear you will need to start hunting, and some of the most commonly asked questions, this post will give you a comprehensive understanding of everything it takes to go from the store to the forest as soon as possible
Steps to becoming a Bowhunter
Whether you are looking to go from rifle hunting to bowhunting or have never touched either before, knowing some fundamental steps to follow will give you have a firm understanding of your new sport and ensure safety and fulfilment in the field.
Step 1. Get a Bow
While this may seem obvious, the first step to getting into bowhunting is actually going out and getting a bow. If this is your first time around bows and hunting, it would be incredibly beneficial for you to go to a professional hunting store so that the experts can help size you for a bow. Depending on your size and age, the type of bow that will be best suited for your body will vary drastically. While we will discuss the types of bows you should be looking at later, finding one that fits both your body and your budget will ensure you feel comfortable with your bow and that you will be able to use it for years to come.
Step 2. Take some Lessons
Now that you have a bow or have found a few styles that you think suit you, it is time to go and take some basic bow lessons. Many dedicated bow stores will offer lessons in house, but there are many options for new learners in most areas. From helping you figure out the proper way to stand to showing you how to aim, the professionals who work at bow training facilities want to make sure you are shooting correctly and in a safe manner. While nobody is an expert on their first day at the range, the staff at beginner training facilities will make sure you are set up with the fundamentals to get you on your way.
Step 3. Take a Hunter Education Class
While you may now feel as if you have the basic knowledge to move onto the field, there are so many minute details you could never learn without the help of a hunter education class. In many states, taking an in-person hunting class is a mandatory requirement, while in other states it only requires an online course and exam. In this course you will learn the fundamentals of shooting, the laws you will have to follow, ethical hunting practices, weapon safety and much more. Even if it is not a requirement in your state, taking the time to go and learn from the professionals about the ins and outs of hunting will provide you with critical information that you will be using in the field for years.
Step 4. Get your License
Once passing your hunter education course in person or online, you must move on to the legal field to get a hunting license. Every state has different laws and requirements for picking up a hunting license, but the general rule is that hunting without a license is illegal and has harsh consequences. By applying for and obtaining a hunting license, you are agreeing to the hunting rules and regulations set by your state, as well as acknowledging the hunting seasons and regions that you are allowed access to. By checking with your local game and wildlife services, they will be able to point you in the right direction and provide you with the information to get registered.
Step 5. Find Local Hunting Grounds
With a license, bow and training taken care of, you can now go out into your local area to find some public hunting grounds. Thanks to the power of the internet, you can easily look up local grounds and see what game they have and when their hunting seasons operate. Going to these areas prior to beginning your hunting journey will allow you to survey the land and maybe meet up with some experienced hunters to get some additional advice and tips. Make sure the land is public and recorded hunting ground, so you don’t have to deal with any messy laws or regulations down the line. Another option is private hunting grounds, which you need permission to hunt on, but can offer excellent hunting opportunities.
Step 6. Get your Gear
With the perfect forest located and the season in full swing, equipping yourself with the right gear to have a successful hunt will make a whole world of difference. With an entire section further in the article dedicated to the essential gear, you will be able to see what you should consider picking up to improve your experience and have better results. There is no need to spend thousands on your first hunt, but having the proper essentials will allow you to remain in the field for hours and make sure you are hunting efficiently and ethically. The gear you need can vary drastically, depending on the type of hunting you plan on doing so look into the specific styles you are interested in for a better idea.
Step 7. Fine Tune your Form
Even after the training and hunting course, you may not yet be totally comfortable with your form and technique, which is completely normal. It takes hunters years to master their form, so taking some time to set up some targets in your yard or at the range will allow you to improve your shot for better hunting. Working on your accuracy and form will ensure that you only need to take one, accurate shot so that the animal you are hunting can die as humanely as possible.
Step 8. Start Hunting
One of the most exciting times for new hunters is their first hunt, which can often be a life-changing experience. Having your gear and the skills to take down your first animal is satisfying and will fill you with a rush of emotion and adrenaline. However, hunting real animals is nothing like shooting a stationary target at the range. Making sure you efficiently and ethically kill your target and properly process the harvest will ensure the best experience for both you and the animal. Even if you don’t happen to find any animal on your first hunt, the experience alone can be thrilling and will only leave you wanting to go back as soon as possible.
Step 9. Learn and Keep Going
No matter how successful or unsuccessful your first hunt went, understanding that hunting is a life-long learning process will allow you to analyze what went right and wrong, in order to learn for next time. Taking the time after a hunt to write down and review what worked and what didn’t will give you a better picture of what to work on before your next hunt. Making sure to keep on learning and growing as a hunter will ensure your continued success and enjoyment as well as set a good image for the hunters of the future who will follow in your fresh footsteps.
Now that you have an understanding of the steps and journey you will undergo to enter the hunting scene, you can go and put the steps into action and get hunting!
Bowhunting Gear Checklist
Even for the most experienced and professional bowhunters, going on a hunt without gear would be a complete waste of their time. While hunting is primarily a skill-based sport, having the correct equipment with you on a hunt will ensure that you are set up for the most successful hunt possible. Taking a look at some of the gear mentioned bellow and deciding what seems like it will improve your hunting experience will give you some insight as to what gear will fit your style.
Arguably the most important archery accessory, the arrows and arrowheads you buy will have various effects on your hunting experience. For the arrowheads, you can choose from a wide range of different styles and materials that will vary depending on what you are trying to hunt. For example, some arrow heads like broadheads are used to hunt big game while bullet arrows are used primarily for smaller animals. They type of head you put on your arrow can affect speed, flight characteristics, and much more. The arrow’s body is also an important consideration, as it can affect weight and flying attributes. Investing in some carbon arrow bodies will ensure excellent performance in a lightweight package.
Hunting Sight/Range finder
When considering some of the ranges you will be hitting targets at, having a balanced sight and range finder will allow you to make sure you are applying the right amount of force and adjustment to hit your target. A traditional bow sight will have one or several lines that you can use for aiming at different distances. These sights are generally more affordable and provide an authentic experience for new hunter. However, if you want a more modern sight, there are some available that use a scope or holographic sight for extreme accuracy. Alongside your sight, having a rangefinder can give you the ability to know exactly how far away a target is, so you don’t have to do any guess work and miss a perfect shot.
When trying to make sure you are lining up consistent shots as a beginner, making sure your arrow is stable even before you shoot can add a new level of accuracy to your shots. What an arrow rest does is it supports your arrow once you pullback and prepare to fire the bow so that it does not misalign and fire off inaccurately. The two primary types of arrow rests are known as drop down and whisker biscuit. They both do the same thing, with the latter having a tendency to slightly slow arrows down upon release, due to the nature of its design. However, it still offers many benefits.
When trying to draw the string back on a heavy bow, it can be incredibly difficult for anyone to hold onto the tension from the string and keep it back. Through the creation of the release aid, a hunter can pull back the string and then displace the weight of the string off of the fingers and onto the rest of the arm, so it is not as tiring. Once ready to fire, the shooter can release the arrow from a trigger mechanism similar to a gun. With many variations and styles, finding a release aid that you like and feels comfortable with your bow, will allow for many smooth releases without tiring you out.
When travelling from your home to the range or the hunting grounds, it is not only illegal to carry your bow around without a case, but it can also cause immense damage to the delicate parts of the bow. Using a case to carry your bow will allow you carry around your bow and accessories with ease and ensure that your belongings are secured from the outside world. Cases come in all shapes and sizes and can come in a hard-shell or softshell style. The hard-shell cases are much more protective, but also come at the cost of higher price tags and generally heavier weight. One thing to remember is to make sure that your bow will fit in whatever case you buy, so that it is properly protected and secured in place.
Clothes and Packs
When sitting in the forest for hours on end in weather that can change instantly, having clothes and supplies that can keep you safe and comfortable will be a lifesaver. Buying a set or two of camouflaged pants and a jacket will help you blend into your local fauna and also have designs especially made for keeping the wearer comfortable. One thing to make sure of is to buy clothes that match your local forests and will help you blend in. Buying a matching bag or backpack will also allow you to carry extra gear, food, maps, and anything else you may need on you hunt. Try to buy one without and loud zippers or straps so you’re not wandering through the woods making excessive noise.
Cameras and Motion Sensors
With modern technology playing a role in hunting more than ever, the advances in animal tracking and monitoring can make getting into hunting easier than ever before. If you buy a specialized camera or motion sensor to hide in your hunting area, you can see what animals are active in the area so you can go back and hunt there in the future. Some modern cameras can even stream to your phone in real time so you can have a live feed of a certain location. The motion sensors that activate once an animal walks by are also a helpful tool and can send you messages wirelessly if an animal has set them off.
A tool you never realize you need until you don’t have it is often a knife. Knives come in all shapes and sizes with various features, but having any knife at all will equip you for multiple situations. Many hunters like to use multi-tool knives so that they can perform multiple actions with one tool from tightening a bolt on their bow to cutting away some brush in your way. Having a knife that can cut through sticks and meat alike will allow you to be prepared for whatever challenges get in your way. Having a knife made out of strong materials like steel and ceramics will ensure that you knife will last through many seasons and stay sharp.
Navigation and First Aid
Getting lost in the woods is scary in fairytales, and in the real-life wilderness it can be even worse. Whether you’re in a large hunting ground or forest, getting lost or off the trails is dangerous and scary. But having and knowing how to use a compass and map can save your life and get you back to safety. With GPS and phone satellites getting better every day, you are easily able to navigate the forests on record before resorting to the old-fashioned map and compass. If you want to be extra safe, a first aid kit can save lives if help is far away, or even if you just get a minor cut and need a band-aid.
Common Bowhunting Questions
With the gear and steps out of the way, some additional questions that newcomers have will be answered below to help get some loose ends tied up.
For many reasons, bows and guns reign supreme in the hunting world with each having benefits and drawbacks. The primary advantage to hunting with a bow instead of a gun is the lack of sound. When trying to hit a target, the bang of a gun can send animals running and cause you to miss the shot. A bow solves this problem by being virtually silent and keeping you invisible to your target. Rifles have much better range and can operate more reliably, but at closer ranges bow are king.
Depending on your budget and hunting style, the type of bow you buy can vary drastically. For hunting bigger game with consistency, the compound bow has been the go-to bow for almost all modern hunters. With superior power and technology, compound bows are better for killing targets ethically and at greater distances. Recurve bows are viable for smaller game and have a much simpler design, but the lack of power and speed makes them less equipped for dealing with large targets.
Read our article about best compound bow for hunting.
Like any skill, bowhunting can be difficult at first as you try to understand the form and style of the weapon. It takes time, but with practice and training, anyone can become skilled with a bow and see results after just a little bit of practice and fine tuning their bow.
While bows of the old days were little more than string on a stick, the compound bows used for hunting today pack a punch and shoot arrows at blistering speed. For shooting targets that are still or slow, a bow equipped with the right arrow fired at the right place will take down most animals. While it requires more skill to use a bow than a gun, the effectiveness is very similar and, in some cases, better depending on the range.
Go get started!
From the first shot to the first kills, learning to hunt with a bow can be one of the greatest entries into the hunting world available. Bowhunting can get you into nature and into the hunting world more affordably than other methods and is something that hunters of all ages can start getting into. With the right gear, bow and attitude, you can be on your way to hunting in no time.