A Beginners’ Guide to Bow Hunting

Bow hunting and archery are some of the greatest passions you can ever have in life. In fact, bow hunting is one of the fastest growing sections of the hunting industry. The challenge of successful bow hunts is unparalleled in the world of sports, and the reward that comes with a successful hunt is one that you’ll live to cherish forever. Bow hunting presents far more challenges than hunting with a gun, however, this means that it is so much more rewarding.

One of the advantages of bow hunting is that you get an earlier start to the season, that gets you out in the woods earlier . These are usually some of the prettiest times in one’s life, given that the weather is reasonably warm and the leaves are turning during bow hunting seasons.

Several states have opened their bow hunting seasons to crossbows, although there are usually some age restrictions. As a beginner, you may be tempted into following the easy route of hunting using a crossbow instead of learning to shoot a traditional or compound bow, given that the use of crossbows require little skill. As always you need to abide by the relevant by-laws covering bow hunting.

Bows for hunting

Using a bow as your weapon of choice when hunting, provides for much more satisfaction and enjoyment when successful in bagging your prize. This is because the skill level of the hunter needs to be so much greater than when using a gun. This is mainly because of the range of the weapons used and their accuracy over the normal distances that hunting occurs. Learning to shoot with a traditional or compound bows opens up numerous hunting possibilities, some of which are denied to those who make use of a crossbow only.

The compound bow, for instance, allows you to shoot accurately enough to hunt within a matter of some few weeks. However, the more practice you have and the more proficient with the bow you are will greatly improve your accuracy when taking that all important ‘kill shot’. The best part about modern bows is that you don’t have to train and practice for months on end in order to become sufficiently proficient in hunting with a bow, again some practice in the off season remains important to maintain your skills. This is where 3D shoots or even practice down at the range becomes very handy. As with all new skills, practice is always the key to top notch performance. And even though you may find that you are shooting quite well most of the time at the very beginning, you’ll have to make it a habit to shoot consistently well and to shoot well under pressure is all important. This provides the consistency that is necessary to harvest game more regularly and humanely.

Before making the commitment to learning bow hunting, it would be best to know what you are actually getting into. Here are some bow hunting basics you ought to know as you pursue to acquire and sharpen your skills.


Wild turkeys on display

Wild turkey toms: photo by Vicki DeLoach

Bow Hunting Basics

There are three main types of skills you’ll have to develop as a bow hunter. They bear a high degree of importance and will help you in becoming a great bow hunter. They are as described below:

Before the shot– In order to acquire the opportunity to even take a shot, you’ll have to get close enough to your target and remain undetected. You should ascertain that you’re in a position where you can get a clean, unobstructed shot. A high level of accuracy, in terms of range estimation, is required. You should make sure to train to consistently and accurately judge the range. You can opt to make use of a laser rangefinder to help you in getting accurate shots. To read more about laser rangefinders click here.

Making the shot– Developing a good technique of shooting is the key to success, regardless of the range distance. Click here for techniques and tips on how to improve your accuracy. Regular and quality practice will certainly enable you to develop an appropriate technique. One single shot executed with solid technique is worth more than a hundred bad shots. So when practicing it is important that you view each shot as if you were actually hunting. Also it is good to practice beyond your own maximum range and focus on using the correct technique at all times. Longer shots will make shorter shots seem much easier.

After the shot– This welcomes you to another new aspect known as blood trailing. Making the shot accurately does not end the experience of bow hunting. Whilst we want every shot to result in a clean kill, unfortunately that is not always the case, sometimes there is a need to be able to track the animal. This process starts with blood trailing which involves observing the blood on the arrow to enable you determine the part of anatomy you’ve hit. Different colors will mean different organs. Getting knowledge on blood trailing helps you hone your hunting skills as you broaden your hunting opportunities.

Selecting a Bow

Majority of bow hunters make use of compound bows since they offer an extensive list of benefits, making them superior to other designs. They utilize a series of pulleys to create what is known as ‘let-off’. As you draw the string way back, the weight will let off, allowing you to hold the bow a lot longer at full draw, most compound bows have a let-off of around 70%.

Bow hunting at dusk in Kansas

Bow Hunting by Kansas Tourism

The other types of bows, namely the longbows and re-curve bows, offer faster target acquisition and snap shooting. However, they don’t have let-off and may be less accurate at longer distances, requiring you to practice even more in order to master.

The most appropriate bow for you would be one that fits, having the right draw weight and draw length. If using a release aid, ensure to have it handy when testing the draw length. You should avoid getting too hung up on the many brands available and instead choose according to your preferences.

To read more on choosing your bow click here. You can also check out our reviews of various bows and equipment that we have carried out.

Tips for New Bow Hunters

Now that you’re rigged and ready, it’s important to get off with your shooting form on the right foot. Below are some tips for new bow hunters that will prove handy as you seek to sharpen your hunting skills.

Relax– you should learn to relax all muscles that are not required in holding the string back fully to ensure that your sight stands the best chance of settling on your target and isn’t jumping around.

Focus on your follow-through – Keep the bow intact in the aiming position till the arrow hits the target. You may not be able to do it entirely, but the mere effort of trying helps keep you on your target better, maintaining a more consistent follow-through.

Finding a good trail– You should keep it simple when hunting. You can find a good trail between a bedding and feeding area which is in a location you know you can get to and from without being detected.

Know your effective kill range (EKR) – This is the magical distance that you are sure to hit your target even under extreme pressure. This distance varies from individual to individual. It is thus up to you to find out what your EKR is. Once you limit yourself to this distance, you’ll be ultimately confident to always succeed.

How to Improve Your Bow Hunting Success

As a bow hunter, you’ll always feel challenged to bring your A-game. Lots of things will tend to cross your mind as you anchor and aim an arrow. Most of such things will be right. Some may be perfect. This one split-second culminates months of preparation, practice and planning. Here are some things you should take into consideration. With them, you’ll know be able to know how to improve your bow hunting success.

Accuracy is paramount– This is the aspect that matters most. Not the given bow’s accuracy, but your accuracy with a certain bow. The first trick to this is finding a bow that you can shoot accurately with, and then shooting it until you’re perfect. You should not even think of giving up accuracy for speed.

Speed– Once you’re able to shoot accurately, you’ll find that a faster bow bears several major benefits. One of them is that you’ll now enormously simplify things in the field. It also grants you the ability to shoot a heavy arrow sporting a heavy head without giving up a lot in trajectory. This guarantees more momentum and better penetration.

Accessories– It is much easier to accessorize for accuracy if need be. The right accessories will improve your shooting regardless of your skill level. The choice of accessories you get to pick depends solely on your preferences.

Proper stand placement– Every bow hunter ought to be aware of the basics involved in choosing a stand site. Placing your stand directly on trails or over scrapes is not always advisable. As you seek to select a proper stand site, make sure to check for secondary, paralleling trails.

Training to make better shots– Bow hunting requires proper planning and hard work in order to execute accurately. However, all these may be futile if your body can’t handle the ultimate test of accurately shooting your bow. You should tune your body to properly shoot a bow.

Final Note

Tradition is the biggest part of this sport. Every time you are in the field with a bow, you are taking time, money, effort and the mystique years of archery evolution has given us. On the field, you get to represent what many would consider to be the purest form of hunting. It is imperative that you take the above points into consideration, especially if you’re hoping for success in bow hunting.

If you want to learn more on either the basics of bow hunting click here, or even check out our reviews on archery and hunting equipment

I hope you have found some useful information from this beginners guide to bow hunting.

Happy hunting