Hunters have many reasons for why they hunt. For some, it is to provide food for their family. For others, it is because they enjoy the challenge.
As hunters mature, they are looking for more challenging hunting experiences or perhaps a longer hunting season. This inevitably leads them to bowhunting.
In today’s post we are going to share our top 10 bowhunting tips for beginners that will help you get started and move you towards a successful bowhunting season.
1. Choosing A Bow
The first step in preparing to bowhunt is to choose the type of bow that you will hunt with. It used to be that hunters would start with a recurve bow to learn to shoot and then graduate to a compound bow.
Today, there are so many top quality, entry level compound bows, that most hunters go right for one of the highly adjustable bows on the market.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using a compound bow for bowhunting.
Compound Bow Pros
- Compound bows have what is called let-off. This allows you to hold a fraction of the draw weight at full draw, which can be very important when waiting for an animal to position itself correctly for the shot.
- Compound bows are very lightweight, which you will appreciate when walking long distances or hauling your bow up into a tree stand.
- Beginner compound bows are relatively inexpensive and perfect for getting started in the sport.
Compound Bow Cons
- When bowhunting big game animals like deer, it is very difficult to draw your bow when an animal is in range, without being detected.
- Compound bows require a lot of practice in order to develop good shooting form and consistent accuracy.
That leads us to the next weapon of choice, which solves the problems associated with compound bows, but presents challenges as well.
The last 10 years have seen a huge increase in the number of states that allow the use of crossbows during bow season and that has led to a large percentage of new bowhunters using these weapons, due to the very short learning curve and the extreme accuracy that you can develop with a crossbow in very little time.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using a crossbow for bowhunting.
- Crossbows are very easy to shoot and a hunter can become very accurate in just an afternoon of sighting in and shooting.
- Crossbows fire bolts very fast, up to 500 feet per second, which leads to much less arrow drop than a compound bow, and therefore, they are much more accurate.
- Crossbows are drawn and loaded before your target animal arrives, so there is very little movement once the animal is in range.
- Crossbows are heavy and awkward. They are much more difficult to carry in the woods, and much harder to haul up into a tree stand.
- Crossbows are expensive. Some of the top models can run into thousands of dollars.
Crossbows are by far the easiest weapon to use in order to get started bowhunting, but a compound bow is much more satisfying for those hunters looking for a challenge.
2. Hunt Big Game
As a beginner bow hunter, you should choose to hunt big game first and develop your hunting and shooting skills.
It is much more difficult to hunt squirrels and make a killing shot with archery equipment than it is to shoot a deer.
3. Choosing The Right Shot
Unlike firearms hunting, which kill largely by shock, bowhunting kills by blood loss. This means that you must put an arrow through vital organs to achieve a quick and humane kill.
In large game, like deer, this requires the animal to be broadside or slightly quartering away in order for the arrow to reach vital organs without being stopped by bone.
Do yourself a favor and do not try to make marginal shots on game animals. There is no worse feeling in the world than wounding an animal that you cannot find.
4. Hunt From A Tree Stand Or Ground Blind
Bowhunting requires you to get within 40 yards of the game that you are hunting, preferably even closer. This is extremely difficult without some type of cover or an elevated position.
A tree stand will put you above the game’s line of sight which will allow for some movement without being detected.
A ground blind will also allow you to get away with some movement, but ground blinds should be set up well before the hunting season so that the game becomes used to them being there.
5. Wear A Safety Harness
This should go without saying, but every year hunters are killed or seriously injured in fall from treestands.
Anytime your feet leave the ground, connect yourself to the tree with a rope and safety harness. It takes only a few seconds and it could save your life and insure that you come home to your family.
6. Use The Wind To Your Favor
Whether you like it or not, you stink!
Another one of the challenges of getting incredibly close to game animals is to not let them smell you.
You can take precautions to reduce your human scent, but you can never eliminate 100% of it, so your best option is to hunt the wind.
Always make sure that the wind is taking your scent away from the direction that you expect the game to come from.
If you are hunting in hilly country, be aware of the thermals. Thermals are wind currents that rise in the morning with rising temperatures and fall in the afternoons with the falling temperatures.
You can use these to your advantage when hunting hilly terrain.
7. Be Prepared For The Moment Of Truth
Most new bowhunters experience a rush of adrenaline when they get up close and personal with a big game animal. This is referred to as buck fever and it tends to get better with experience, but it never really goes away.
The best thing that you can do is to be prepared and accept that it is going to happen. Practice controlling your breathing and trying to stay calm.
Here’s a great video of Luke Bryan catching a major case of buck fever when he kills a huge whitetail bow hunting in Illinois.
8. Hunt The Rut
The rut is the whitetail deer mating season and it is the single best time to hunt mature whitetail bucks. In most states, the whitetail rut happens during the bow season and it is your best chance at killing a big buck.
Plan to stay all day when you are hunting during the rut. Bucks will be on their feet all day long looking for a doe in heat.
9. Manage Expectations
Expectations for hunters are usually that you will kill the game that you are after, bring them home and process them for consumption.
Expectations for bow hunters are a little different. You are going to be unsuccessful way more than you are going to be successful. Accept that fact and learn to appreciate your time hunting more than you do the act of killing.
10. Bow Hunt With A friend
Bowhunting is really a loner sport. That is most of us prefer to hunt alone, but having a friend that also enjoys the sport allows you to share experiences and help each other when needed.
It is always nice to have someone to help you blood trail and recover game as well as practice shooting in the summertime, hang tree stands and set up ground blinds.
Wrapping It Up
Bowhunting is a sport that will get inside your soul. It will play on your ancient primal need to get into the woods and provide for your family, but it will also provide you with hours of enjoyment viewing wildlife as a spectator in their environment.
Follow our 10 bow hunting tips for beginners and you will be well on your way to joining this elite club of stewards of the environment.