Hunting with a bow and arrow is a practice dating back thousands of years and requires different preparation and skill sets than hunting with a rifle. Since hunting with a bow doesn't have the shocking power of a firearm, you'll need to be exceptionally prepared and patient before you shoot. From set-up to losing your arrow, to cleanup and after, we've assembled some of the most basic concepts in responsible bowhunting here.
Responsible Bowhunting Equipment Selection
As a beginner, there are two traps people tend to fall into: they either buy the most expensive bow they can find, which is unnecessary, or they buy the cheapest bow they can find, which can be dangerous. You don't need a significantly expensive bow because it will have qualities that are only apparent to a seasoned bow hunter. Likewise, buying a bow second-hand means you don't know if it's in good shape, and the person selling it isn't going to probably want to talk you through how to use it. Your best bet is to talk with a professional archery salesman, and bum around hunting forums to learn. Archery Country has experts on staff to help you choose the perfect bow and they will help you to get set up and shooting at targets before you leave the store.
You'll want to ensure that you're geared for the worst possible weather, so bring a poncho, coat, hat - whatever you might think the sky might dump on you, be prepared. There is a wealth of high quality hunting clothes to choose from, from early season to late season you can remain warm and dry.
Load up on batteries, make sure your phone is charged, bring a flashlight and general survival equipment. You're out in nature and could fall, sprain your ankle or get stuck, so best to be ready for anything. A hunting backpack is essential to hold all of your bowhunting gear. Many have loops to hook things on to so you can have the important pieces right within quick reach.
Responsible Bowhunting Conduct Before and During a Hunt
Shooting a bow is not as simple as pointing and aiming a rifle. You need to be in good physical condition and strong enough to hold the weight of the draw while aiming. Most areas have a minimum draw weight you need to pull to hunt with your bow. Practice at an archery range with people you know who have bow-hunted before you go out on your first hunt. Avoid dry firing - that means drawing and releasing the string without an arrow, as this can ruin your bow.
Ensure you've alerted your friends and family to where you'll be hunting, in case of accidents. One preventable cause of injury during bow hunts is improperly stored broadheads. You need a quiver that is sturdy enough to protect both the arrows and your body, and to make sure that your arrows are secured while moving. This is particularly true if you're crossing difficult terrain, like hills or streams where you could slip.
When shooting, make sure you declare the animal you're shooting at if you're with people. This avoids confusion and potential for dangerous error. Beyond this, make sure you're only taking ethical shots; this means broadside shots at the front of the animal, just behind its shoulders. The goal is to cause a mortal wound without causing the animal to suffer or worse, being grievously wounded but able to escape reasonably far, which only prolongs its suffering.
Essentially, never shoot unless you have a clean shot, declare where you're shooting and always pursue and make the best effort to find any animal you actually hit. Finally, never shoot an animal on a high point where you cannot see the other side. An upward shot like this, if you miss, could injure or kill someone who is on the other side. It's also going to make retrieving your broadhead a pain since you'll have no idea where it could have gone. Just be patient and responsible to ensure the safety of yourself and others.
After the hunt
If you were successful, be proud of your accomplishment. Make sure you get your animal; never leave a dead or wounded animal to simply lay where it fell. Find your arrows, clean them and store them safely in your quiver.
Follow the 4 Cs of hunting - be careful and considerate, capable and courteous. Don't hunt when you're not prepared, never take shots you're not sure of, call your shots and don't leave messes or injured animals behind to be someone else's problem. Bowhunting is an enjoyable hobby, but again, it takes practice and skill beyond simply pointing and shooting. A little preparation and mindfulness will go a long way in making you into a great bowhunter.
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