If you live in the West and want to start sourcing your own wild meat, you’re in luck. There, bowhunters have access to plenty of public land and diverse wildlife. And nobody knows that better than Remi Warren.
Warren is a lifelong bowhunter, host of the TV show “Solo Hunter,” editor for “The Western Hunter” magazine, a hunting guide and an outfitter. He’s arguably the best resource for learning about western bowhunting and is giving you a quick start guide for bowhunting success.
Why Go Bowhunting?
What makes bowhunters climb mountains and spend hours searching for game? Warren’s motivations include harvesting meat, spending time in nature and making memories with family and friends as well as the unique experience of bowhunting offers. “For me, it’s the experience of it,” Warren said. “Getting so close to the animals, challenging yourself as a hunter and the added challenge of learning a lot about the animals. There’s nothing that quite compares to bowhunting.”
No matter what fuels your bowhunting passion, there are several steps that are necessary before you fill your freezer with wild game.
Step 1: Take a Bowhunter Safety Course
A bowhunter safety course is part of the requirements for obtaining a bowhunting license, which is issued by your state game agency. It’s also a great place to meet other bowhunters, you’ll find both experienced hunters and new bowhunters. It’s a great place to meet people who could potentially become hunting partners and mentors.
“I think a lot of bowhunters are willing to help new people if you just ask,” Warren said.
To find a bowhunter safety course check your state game agency website for a list of upcoming classes.
Step 2: Find a Place to Hunt
The next step is figuring out where to hunt. Warren suggests selecting an area close to home that has readily available tags. You can find public hunting areas by visiting your state’s fish and wildlife department website, or stop into a field office.
“The best part about hunting the West is there’s so much public land available for bowhunters,” Warren said.
Once you find a place to hunt, you’ll need a tag. Throughout the US, wildlife is managed by state game agencies. Biologists estimate wildlife numbers and the carrying capacity for sections of the state, separated into units. Each unit makes available a specified number of tags, which is a permit that allows hunters to harvest a set number of animals to keep a healthy population.
This practice ensures healthy wildlife herds, but it can create situations where there the hunter demand for an area is greater than the number of tags available. If this is the case, states will run a lottery to determine who will receive a tag for that unit.
Usually, hunters can purchase over-the-counter tags for a unit without having to enter a lottery before the season starts. This is ideal for the new bowhunter.
“It’s the best place for a new bowhunter because there are places where you can go get a tag over the counter,” Warren said. “Bowhunting out West opens a lot of opportunities for you. For the rifle hunters, it’s harder to get a tag and the seasons aren’t the best. But for bowhunters, the seasons are the best times to be hunting, and there’s so much access.”
Step 3: Prepare for the Hunt
The third step is preparing for your hunt by practicing shooting and scouting your hunting area.
“I always suggest that new bowhunters practice shooting at home and then attend a few 3-D shoots,” Warren said. “Not only is it a good way to practice, it’s also a good way to meet people who can help you learn the ropes of bowhunting.”
For practice, 3-D archery gives you realistic hunting scenarios, such as shooting up and down hills. “The more you can practice on uphill and downhill shots the better, because there’s a lot of shooting on angles in western bowhunting,” Warren said.
The 3-D target, like a real animal, doesn’t have aiming dots so they’re great for practicing shot placement. “If you’re learning to bowhunt, remember to pick a spot on the animal and not just shoot at the whole animal,” he said.
Scouting means going to the area you plan to hunt and learning the lay of the land. The information you gather on your scouting trips will help you find animals in the fall.
“Find a place to hunt that’s close to you,” Warren said. “You’ll be able to spend more time there, and knowing the land is half the battle in hunting.”
Step 4: Go Hunting!
Now it’s time to go hunting. The most popular hunting strategy in the West is called spot and stalk. Using this hunting technique, hunters find an animal in the distance and attempt the element of surprise.
“You have to spot an animal and sneak up on it; that’s the hard part,” Warren said. “It’s something that will take some time to learn but the more you try, the more you’re going to be successful.”
Small game is excellent prey for those just getting started bowhunting.
“The best small-game bow opportunity is grouse, especially in Montana and Idaho,” Warren said. “I hunt rabbits with my bow, and generally it’s not hard to find places to hunt rabbits. Late in the season, I also hunt ducks with my bow by sneaking along creeks.”
Small-game animals provide delicious meat, plenty of shot opportunities and valuable hunting practice.
“You get a lot of practice shooting at animals and stalking. It’s probably the best practice for big game,” Warren said.
Remi’s Must-Have Gear List
Proper gear can make a hunt more enjoyable and contribute to your success. You can find everything you need from your local archery store.
Backpack – You’ll use your backpack to hold hunting gear, extra layers, food and water. You’ll also need it to carry meat out of the woods. The backpack should fit properly and have a stiff frame to support the weight of the meat.
A pair of broken-in boots – Western bowhunting involves a lot of hiking, which requires quality footwear. Take time to break-in your boots before hunting season so they are comfortable when you’re putting on the miles in the fall.
Binoculars – “Probably the most important thing out West is a pair of binoculars,” Warren said. “If you don’t have a good pair of binoculars, it’s really hard to find animals.” Warren suggests 10×42 as an all-around good binocular magnification. He also recommends using a tripod to hold your binoculars or using them from a seated position to minimize movement.
“Even when you’re hunting small game, practice using your binoculars. The more you use them, the better you’ll get at finding animals,” Warren said.
Range finder – Shooting uphill and downhill is made easier with an angle-compensating range finder. These devices calculate the actual distance to your target, so you can guess less and know more.
If you live anywhere in the West, you’re a lucky bowhunter. Delicious wild game is at your fingertips with access to some of the most breathtaking land to hunt. All you have to do is get out there and start bowhunting.