Hunting with a traditional bow is perhaps one of the most ancient and traditional activities in human history. Even though more efficient hunting weapons and even more advanced bows are available, such as compound bows or crossbows, many bowhunters continue to use the humble recurve as their primary hunting weapon.
If you wish to become a recurve bowhunter, you must understand the weapon and the challenges of bowhunting. Follow these tips and recommendations if you want to be successful.
Assess Your Skills
Before learning about recurve bow hunting, you must first assess your skill level with a bow. Do you know how to shoot one already? How much experience do you have?
If you are entirely new to shooting bows, you must start by purchasing appropriate equipment and learn how to shoot them. Although you can practice solo, the best way to learn is to sign up for an archery class and follow the lessons you receive.
Between lessons, if you have access to private land or an archery range where you can practice, don’t hesitate to go as often as possible and train to develop and maintain your fundamentals.
If you already have experience shooting bows or have developed your fundamentals, you may be ready to take the jump and learn how to hunt with it.
Preparing to Become a Bowhunter
The first step to learning how to hunt with a bow is to take a hunter’s education class. Many hunting safety courses are designed explicitly for bowhunters, as the responsibilities and safety requirements are not quite the same as those for gun hunters.
These courses will teach you about safety rules and recommendations, your local laws and regulations, the different hunting seasons in your area, how to prevent hunting accidents, and all kinds of other useful information.
Following a hunting safety course may be a requirement to obtain a hunting license in your area. Still, even if it isn’t, these courses are strongly recommended, as they demonstrate good faith and concern for safety.
Once you’ve completed a bowhunter’s education course, you should contact your local state’s fish and wildlife agency for more information on the requirements and fees to obtain a hunting license.
Recurve Bowhunting 101
Have confidence in your skills? Completed your hunter’s ed and got your license? You’re ready to start recurve bow hunting.
Finding a place to hunt
Hunters have two main categories when looking for places to hunt: Public land and private land.
Private land is private property, which requires asking for the landowner’s permission. If you know local landowners willing to let you hunt on their property, you are ahead of the pack, as such land tends to see lower numbers of hunters, lending itself to a higher potential quantity of game to hunt.
If you know no such people or can’t get access to private land, don’t fret; there are tens of millions of acres of public land across the United States, and it is possible to hunt in all 50 states (yes, even in Rhode Island!). Research your state’s public hunting lands and find which are the ones closest to your location.
The main challenge of bowhunting is that your bow has a limited effective range compared to a rifle or even a crossbow. The average engagement distance for a bowhunter hunting whitetail is approximately 20-25 yards. Depending on the hunter’s skill and experience level, the recurve bow’s maximum hunting effective range is no higher than 30 to 40 yards.
In turn, this means you must learn the terrain as much as possible. Once you’ve picked out a place to hunt, it is your responsibility to scout, explore, survey, read local maps, and determine the best hunting spots.
You must also decide which hunting method is best suitable for you; many bowhunters employ the traditional spot-and-stalk method, relying on personal equipment and natural cover to stay hidden. Others may prefer using hunting blinds or tree stands, placing them in various locations they deem to be the best spots.
No matter your preferred method, stealth and discretion are critical. Use every advantage at your disposal; camouflaged clothing and equipment, scent control gear, and knowledge of the animal you’re hunting.
For example, did you know that deer are effectively red-green blind but perceive blues better than the human eye? This factoid tells you that they cannot distinguish orange safety vests from the natural background, but wearing blue jeans would get you spotted instantly.
Taking a shot
All of the training required to become proficient with a recurve bow comes to this moment; when you finally get an opportunity to take a shot, you must know where to aim to send an arrow into the vitals.
Using realistic training aids, such as 3D targets at typical engagement distances, is the best way to practice “real situation” shooting and learn about shot placement.
Shot placement with a bow is even more critical than with a firearm, as arrows have a much shorter effective range, do not fly as straight, and a miss can result in wounding the animal, forcing you to follow its blood trail.
You should always strive to take the best shots possible. The better your shot placement, the shorter the time and distance the animal can run, and the less tracking you have to do. Well-placed shots can cause your target to drop on the spot; these are the most humane shots because they cause the least suffering to the animal.
See Related Article: How to Aim a Bow Like a Pro
After the shot
After you’ve managed to bring the animal down with a well-placed shot, your work is not finished yet. Once you’ve tracked and located your target, you must now report your kill by tagging it, then start the process of field-dressing it. Field-dressing is not a complex task, but you must be mentally ready to skin and gut an animal.
Once field-dressed, you may now drag your kill back to your vehicle and drive home with it to put it in the freezer, ready to be butchered and processed into meat, with which you can prepare many delicious meals.
Exciting Challenges Await
Bowhunting with a recurve bow is challenging and requires strict and regular practice. Although not for the faint of heart, many bowhunters feel that the recurve bow puts them closer to nature and makes the hunt more fair and humane.
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