If you want to take up bow hunting, it’s normal to have a lot of questions about where to start. Many people are interested in bow hunting, but they don’t know anyone who does it. An excellent way to start is by going to an archery shop and asking for information.
Three Main Questions for Beginners
People who are new to bow hunting tend to have a lot of questions. If you have never hunted before, you are probably wondering where you can hunt or what type of bow you should buy.
With so many questions and things to know, it’s helpful to start with three basic questions. These questions can help you learn about bow hunting and understand what you need to get started.
1. What type of animal do you plan on hunting?
2. What region are you hunting in?
3. What is your preferred style of hunting?
Choosing Your First Bow
Bow hunting for beginners doesn’t have to be complicated, and you may be hunting sooner than you expect. When you visit an archery shop, you’ll find different types of bows. Most archery shops are customer-friendly and will allow you to test the bows to make sure you’re comfortable using them. Try to take a few shots with each to make sure the bow is a good fit.
What Animals Do You Want to Hunt?
Depending on the type of animal you want to hunt, you need different bows and arrows.
Essentially, there’s big game and small game bow hunting. Big game includes white-tailed deer, elk, moose, bear, wild boar, and caribou. These types of large animals tend to have thick or tough hides. To penetrate the skin, you need a bow that launches arrows with a large amount of power. These bows generally weigh around 60 lbs. and use arrows with large heads that are incredibly sharp.
Short game hunting can be trickier than long game hunting. Some small animals like rabbits or doves are fast and require good precision and timing, making them excellent to help you improve your skills. However, short game hunting is usually the best style of bow hunting for beginners.
In general, short game animals include ring-tailed cats, skunks, pheasants, porcupines, doves, rabbits, turkeys, raccoons, and squirrels. You need a shorter bow for these types of animals that allows better maneuvering.
What Region Are You Hunting in?
There are many terrains in the US, and the terrain influences the type of bow you need. The landscapes can vary from state to state, but generally speaking, the hunting distances are shorter in eastern states compared to western states. A lot of eastern hunting is done from treestands in forests, with distances around 20-30 yards.
Out west, hunting is done from the ground, and the distances tend to be more significant. Shooting from 50, 60, or even 70 yards is a lot more common. With longer distances, you generally need a larger bow that provides good stability.
What is Your Preferred Style of Hunting?
There are different styles of bow hunting, and you can stick with one or practice them all simultaneously. However, each type requires a slightly different kind of bow. Essentially, you can bow hunt by using treestands and ground blinds, or you can practice a spot and stalk or still-hunting style.
Treestand hunting is the most common way of hunting white-tailed deer. This style involves placing a treestand in a tree, allowing you to hide above a deer’s standard line of sight. Ground blinds are another widespread way to bow hunt. They enable you to camouflage and shoot from a small opening.
Still-hunting involves moving slowly and trying to shoot a prey before it sees you. The difference between still-hunting and using treestands or ground blinds is that you actively move and look for game.
Spot and stalk hunting is one of the most advanced styles. It involves spotting animals from far away and slowly approaching until you are within bow range. It’s a style for large open landscapes, so using binoculars and a spotting scope are a must.
Take a Hunter’s Education Course
State wildlife agencies require people to pass a hunter’s education course before being able to bow hunt. This education is an introductory course where you learn about safety, hunting ethics, and conservation values. They also teach you about hunting, but you’ll need to dive in deeper with a mentor or more specific bow hunting program.
Find a Mentor or Hunting Program
For those who are born in non-hunting families, learning how to hunt can seem very difficult. In addition to acquiring technical gear, you need to learn skills such as tracking animals and knowing what to do with them after a kill.
One of the traditional ways of learning how to hunt is finding a mentor. Everyone starts with a teacher or someone who can introduce them to the hunting world. If you can’t find a mentor, the Field-to-Fork program by the National Deer Association is a great resource.
With this program, you’ll be taught the essentials of hunting by experienced hunters, and the program is especially geared toward people that don’t come from hunting families or backgrounds. Even though it’s not specifically a bow hunting program, it can be a great place to start.
How to Start Practicing
Joining a class or workshop at an archery shop is one of the best ways of learning how to shoot. It’s best to start with a lower draw weight, even if you feel you could pull more weight. Shooting a lower poundage bow can help you focus on your form in the beginning and develop your skills.
If you can safely set a target in your backyard, go ahead and start practicing with one. You can join local competitions or tournaments to track your progress and meet fellow bowhunters who are also learning.
Find a Place to Hunt
If you have access to private land, you can start there. If not, you’ll have to ask someone for permission to hunt on their property or find public land open to hunting. State forests, national forests, and National Wildlife Refuges are places where you can hunt, but you’ll need to look up the specific regulations for each one.
Start Your Bow Hunting Journey
Bowhunting is a sport that's been on the rise in recent years. While many people are intimidated because they do not know anyone who participates, it has become easier to find out more information thanks to social media and websites. Don’t be intimidated if you have never hunted before. Head to an archery shop or speak to professionals online to make sure you are fully prepared to start your bowhunting journey.