Whether you’re narrowing the gap between food and your table, connecting more deeply to nature through conservation, or extending your hunting seasons with archery gear, you’ll never run short of great reasons to try bowhunting.
Gearing up to bowhunt is exciting, and it’s much simpler than most people realize. To help you better understand what you need for your first bowhunt, let’s review 10 basic bowhunting tools.
1. Compound Bow
Obviously, a bow of some sort is your most basic need. You have three bow types to choose from, starting with the compound bow. These bows are nearly standard issue for bowhunting today. They’re easier to shoot than traditional recurves or longbows, but require more practice than crossbows to become proficient. Modern compound bows are efficient and don’t require extraordinary strength to draw and shoot.
When selecting a bow, it’s best to seek help from an expert at an archery shop. Hunting bows are not “one size fits all.” Make sure you choose a bow that matches your fit and bowhunting needs. You must become as accurate as possible to enjoy shooting and be lethal in the woods.
2. Traditional Bow
Traditional recurves or longbows are bowhunting’s simplest weapons. These bows have been used thousands of years, and are more effective today than when our ancestors carried them for hunting and self-protection. Shooting and harvesting game animals with these basic bows is also challenging and rewarding.
Drawing a traditional bow that’s powerful enough to take animals like deer, elk or bears requires more strength than drawing a compound bow. However, their simplicity makes them the most affordable option for prospective bowhunters with tight budgets.
Until recently crossbow hunting was mostly reserved for senior citizens, or people with injuries or disabilities. Today, most states and Canadian providences allow crossbows during part or all of the regular archery season. Crossbows reduce the learning curve needed to shoot arrows proficiently. Most crossbow archers prefer aiming with a scope like those used on hunting rifles. This makes crossbows fairly easy to shoot accurately, even for those with little or no experience. Crossbow prices vary, but they’re similar to prices for compound bows.
Once you’ve selected a hunting bow, it’s time to pick your arrows. Arrows must be matched to your bow’s draw weight and draw length. To ensure you make the right choice, consult experts at the nearest archery store.
For most target practice, archers shoot arrows tipped with practice points. When it’s time to prepare for bowhunting season, swap your field points for broadheads. Broadheads wield razor-sharp blades that cut through a game animal’s hide, flesh and organs to cause quick, ethical harvesting. Broadheads come in nearly infinite options, but some might be better suited than others for the quarry you hunt and the bow you shoot. Again, ask an expert for advice to ensure your broadhead matches your setup.
6. Bow Accessories
This is a broad category. The accessories you need depend on your bow and your budget. Those shooting a compound, crossbow or traditional bow must have a hooded quiver to carry their broadhead-tipped arrows. Most hunting quivers attach to the bow or crossbow, but some bowhunters prefer quivers they carry over a shoulder or attach to a pack. Next, arrow-rests hold the arrow in place while drawing and shooting. The options are many, and the styles vary by bow and personal preference. Release-aids attach the bowhunter to the bowstring, and feature a trigger that releases the arrow. Release-aids are standard gear for shooting a compound bow. Those shooting traditional bows use a shooting glove or finger tab, which protects the shooter’s fingers when drawing the bowstring and releasing the shot.
A bow-sight is a reference point for aiming, and typically has one to six pins the shooter adjusts individually to precise distances. You’ll find plenty of options for bow-sights, and the archery store’s pros can help you find your best option. Even so, a sight is not absolutely necessary for some bowhunters, especially those shooting traditional gear. However, they’re a great training aid when learning archery, and deliver consistent accuracy.
Bowhunters who use crossbows require fewer accessories than those using vertical bows. Crossbows are commonly sold in kits with everything needed to start shooting, but many options exist if you dislike what’s included. Scopes, for example, come in various magnifications, and at highly varying price points. Be sure to consult an archery pro to determine which scope meets your hunting needs. Crossbow hunters also require a cocking device, which helps them draw the bow and lock its string into the fire-ready position. A simple string-cocker uses a rope and pulleys for this task, but some crossbows feature a hand crank that makes the job nearly effortless.
Bowhunting and camouflage go hand in hand. Camo helps bowhunters remain unseen so unsuspecting game approaches within range. Matching camo to your hunting area can feel overwhelming, but experts at an archery or sporting-goods store can help. No matter what you choose, be sure to dress in layers. Bowhunting can require bouts of vigorous, sweat-pumping activity followed by long stretches of wet, chilly waiting in harsh elements. Layering helps you stay comfortable by adding or removing layers to match the situation.
You’ll need a hunting pack to carry your gear, water, snacks, licenses and hunting gear. If you plan to hunt where you’ll often hike long distances, consider a pack that can carry your bow. And if you hunt areas accessible only by foot, choose a pack that’s substantial enough to help pack out your animal.
Veteran bowhunters put good boots at or near the top of their gear list. Whether you’re sitting, still-hunting or spot-and-stalk hunting, boots are vital to consistent success. If you regularly hike a mile or more to reach hunting sites, your boots must offer comfort and support. Stand-hunters, meanwhile, usually place priority on boots that keep their feet warm all day.
10. Ground Blind/Treestand
Stand-hunters hide out and wait in treestands or ground blinds for animals to come into bow range. Ground blinds are essentially small, portable camouflage tents that set up where you hunt. Treestands conceal bowhunters by elevating them above the animal’s normal view. Both are excellent options. If you bowhunt from a treestand – the most common method for bowhunting deer – never leave the ground without wearing a full-body safety harness to prevent a fall.
No matter your hunting style, also carry binoculars and a rangefinder. Binoculars help you search the landscape for game and identify it. And rangefinders quickly pinpoint the distance to your quarry.
Did you get all that? No matter which bow you choose or the style of bowhunting you try, expect an adrenaline rush like you’ve never experienced when that deer, bear, elk or turkey walks into range. And to ensure you’re ready for that big moment, start scouting now to find a nearby bowhunting shop to help guide you along.