Figuring out how to get into bow-hunting
by: Chris Woodburn
So, you want to learn how to hunt with a bow. Maybe you already have a bow, but maybe you’ve been inspired by a friend, a movie, or some burning desire to challenge yourself to hunt, for your food with a stick and string. This article assumes you don’t have a clue what you’re about to embark on and you need to start from the ground up.
First things first, what do you want to hunt? Maybe whitetail deer, elk, moose, rabbit, elephant or even grouse? I’m going to assume you want to hunt elk, because that’s what I love to do and you can use that as a reference point to start this adventure.
Here’s what you need to know have ready before you start…what’s your budget? Do you have 200, 400, 800, or over a 1000 dollars to start your adventure into archery hunting. If you’re not sure of your budget, do you care if you use an older model pre-used bow, or do you need something new? I know when I started out bow hunting I borrowed a bow…and I didn’t really care about some of the features as I was flat broke…
Ok, now that you have a budget, let’s figure out what type of archery hunting you plan to do. Are you a traditional style person? No, not “traditional” like old fashioned, but do you want to hunt with a recurve or longbow, and not a compound bow? A recurve or longbow doesn’t have pulleys, and all that fancy stuff like those compound bows do. The main difference there is that when you pull the string back you’re pulling back the full weight of the designed tension of the bow and there’s no let-off… If you have a 45 lb bow, that means when you pull the bow to draw you’re pulling back 45 lbs…easy. Wait…wait wait wait… There’s another bow I almost forgot to mention; a cross bow… Those look like a rifle with a small bow turned up on it’s side. We can break that down in another article, as there are 26 states in the union that allows you to hunt deer during archery season with a cross bow, but I think there’re only 2 for elk… If I’m wrong… let me know. We’ll get to that in a minute.
For more information on Traditional bows: 3 Rivers Archery
For more information on Crossbows: Ten Point Crossbows Technology
So, now that we know you want to hunt with a modern bow, such as a compound we need to figure out a few things. The first thing at this point is to understand your draw length. A compound bow has a mechanical stop, which is the max draw length for the bow. Some bows are built to allow you to adjust the draw length, and others are built to specific lengths. This means we need to figure your your draw length. Let’s do it.
Figure out your draw length:
- spread your arms out, like you’re going to flap them to fly..straight a across at from tip of your fingers. It helps to stand with your back against a wall, touching the perpendicular wall with your left hand, back against the wall and having someone mark your other finger tip as you spread your arms out… See the figure 1.
After marking the out stretched, widest point of your arm span you need to measure that length and then divide by 2.5. This is a great starting point for your draw length. For example, my arm span is 72 inches and then dividing that by 2.5 puts me at a 28.8 draw length…so, I round up and shoot a 29 inch draw. I could drop down to 28 and a lot of guys drop down to help improve their shooting accuracy. I would suggest setting up a couple different draw lengths and determine what feels best to you.
Now that you have your budget, type of bow you want to use, and your draw length we can go shopping. This is how I did it…I opened up a phone book, you know those big paper things that used to exist with business phone numbers in the yellow pages, looked up an archery store and drove down to the shop. I know, phone books are so old…so, just Google it making sure you pay attention to the ratings and location. There are some stores I refuse to take my bow to for tech work, as I’ve been impacted by poor technicians…cost me a big bull…
Go down to the store and look around. Pick up some bows, in your budget. There are many options you want to add to your bow, such as sights, d-loop, quiver, stabilizer, peep sights, and much more. So, when you see a bow that you think is in your price range, check to see what components it comes with and what you’ll want to add.
- Peep Sight: This is a little metal or plastic circle piece that has a hole in the middle. It’s put in your string so that you can literally see through your string when you pull the bow back to full draw.
- D-loop: A D-loop is not mandatory but is becoming more and more common. It is basically a small piece of string attached to your bow string making the shape of a “D” where your knock point exists, and is used to attach a shooting release too, so that you can draw your bow back using the D-loop. It helps to reduce wear and tear on your bow string, and should give you a more consistent release of the arrow when shooting. See Figure 3.
- Sights: Sights are not required to use on your bow to hunt, just as the previous two components aren’t required. However, using them can significantly improve your chances of success. Sights can be added to your bow to help your aim your bow in conjunction with your peep sight. Again, you can use both, one or the other or neither…it’s simply a choice for you to be more accurate and more consistent with your shooting. There are many options to the type of sights to add to your bow: fixed pin, multi-pin slide, single pin slide, or even a pendulum sight. My preference is a multi-pin slide and here’s why. I use a sight that has 3 pins in it and I can adjust it using the center pin as a central point. Example; I set my pins to shoot at 30, 40 and 50 yards, but I practice at 90. When I practice I can easily adjust my 40 yard pin by turning a knob on the sight to move the entire pin housing, so that my middle pin (40) adjust to any shooting distance. I do know guys that use a single pin that they can adjust, I just don’t think being in the heat of the moment at 20, 30 or 40 yards from a huge bull elk moving in and then need to adjust my sight pins… Too risky for me… Take a look at Figure 4, which shows you the sights I use on my bow.
Ok, ok, so now you’ve figured out you want a compound bow with some features to help improve your success…let’s get on with the bow selection!
Bows; there are many flavors, makes and models… Don’t get overwhelmed by all the selections. Let’s discuss a new bow. Like I said there are many different makes and models. Just like trucks some people out there won’t drive a Ford, and some wont drive a Chevy, and some guys won’t shoot a Hoyt bow, but it’s really up to what you like and what fits your budget.
For me, when I started I watched a shooting competition and then noticed the guy shooting was using a Matthews, so that’s what I set out to buy when I bought my first new bow. Then, after hunting for many years and morphed into back-pack hunting I decided I needed to look for a bow that was forgiving and light. Forgiving is a complex topic for another article. When shopping for a bow I went to a very reputable shop, The Bow Rack, had them set up 6 different manufacturers’ bows and shot each one 6 times. If you’re counting that’s 36 rounds. Oh, I forgot to mention. When shooting a compound you can generally look for bows in a specific draw weight set-up, but you should forget about choosing cable stop or limb stop bows.
The choice of a limb stop vs cable stop depends on how you want the bow to feel a full draw. With cable stop your basically hitting a point on your cam against the bows cable… This may make your wall a little softer and for some more forgiving. The limb stop, as you would think, stops against a very solid wall; your bows limbs. Now that’s a point we can discuss in another blog. Look for it or ask me questions and I’ll respond.
More on choosing your bow… I shoot a 70 lb bow, and that’s why I shot 6 rounds from each bow. In between bows I would take a decent break to rest my arms, which allowed me to get the feel of each bow without fatigue.
Narrow the bow selection down to the 3 that feels the best to you. Rest…take your time. You’re making a huge investment. Also, only listen to the salesperson marginally…They often shot for a specific manufacturer and will steer people towards their preferred make of bows. Now for the final result! Select a bow that fits you, is forgiving, and just feels easy to shoot and hit the 10 ring!
Next…you’ll need to outfit your bow with some basics:
- sight set-up
- peep sight
- D loop
- arrows w/points
Watch for the list of tools of the trade!