Most experienced bow hunters already have a library of one-shot kill spots in their head for every animal they enjoy hunting. One-shot kills aren't just impressive, they're also far more humane for the animal by offering it a quick and relatively painless death and save you time on tracking an injured elk or deer. Even if you've never been bowfishing, the same basic concepts about proper positioning of your shot apply. Yet with fish, the stakes are even higher because there's very little chance you can track and catch a fish that's been injured by a glancing shot. Find out where to aim, how to adjust your shot for retraction from the water, and what happens if you miss when bowfishing.
What's the Ideal Place to Hit a Fish with an Arrow?
If you drop a deer in the field, you can ramble over it to at your leisure. When you snag a fish on the end of your arrow instead, you've got to reel it in quickly with the line attached to the arrow. A proper hit does more than just kill or stun the fish. It also sets the arrow deep into the thickest part of the fish's body to ensure it doesn't wriggle loose underwater or as you're reeling it in. A glancing shot only sets the arrow through a little flesh and some skin, which on fish is easily torn to release your catch as you lift it through the air.
Aim for the front half of the fish, with a focus on the spot right behind the head and gills. This area is usually the thickest part of a fish's body, depending on species, and it's usually easy to identify even in deep or murky water. If you can't get a good aim at the area that would be the neck of the fish, try for the head itself. A shot through the eyes is a reliable option as long as you fishing for species with low set eyes on the sides of their heads. Fish with eyes on the top of their heads aren't great candidates for that kind of shot. When dealing with an unusually shaped species or a sea creature like a ray, try to put your arrow through the thickest part of the body you can reliably hit.
Bowfishing arrows are specially designed for bowfishing. Archery Country sells several different models for you to choose from depending on your own personal preferences. Bowfishing points and tips are also essential tools for your bowfishing tackle box.
How to Prevent Refraction from Messing Up Your Bowfishing Shots
Dip a yardstick or other brightly colored object into water and watch it appear to bend as it goes deeper. This is refraction, which refers to light bending as it passes through the denser water. This makes fish appear higher in the water than they actually are, depending on the depth. Even when you're only bowfishing in the shallows under four feet deep, a fish at three feet in depth can be a foot and a half deeper than it appears. The rule to aim about six inches lower than expected for every foot of depth. This isn't based on the total depth of the water, but rather the location of the fish. If you're shooting from a distance, lower your shot another four inches for every 10 feet of distance between you and the fish. It takes a little calculating, but this adjustment becomes second nature after a few trips on the lake or bay. Using a fish-finder that tells you the estimated depth of a fish, if you can located equipment that is accurate in shallow water, is the best way to determine exactly how much to adjust your shot.
Aside from damaging a fish you're unlikely to catch, missing your shot can also leave your arrow embedded in a piece of wood or the mud at the bottom of the lake. Since bowfishing arrows aren't cheap, having to cut one loose and leave it behind is less than ideal. The hook-like protrusions on these arrows also make them harder to remove than other arrows if they're embedded somewhere. Practice your shots and work on adjusting for refraction in a controlled environment like a backyard tub before heading out to a lake or pond full of the fish you're ready to shoot.
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