Do you want to become a bowhunter? Do you wonder where to start? Learning new skills might sound overwhelming, but if you follow these steps you’ll be in the woods when the season starts.
Take a Lesson
Knowing how to shoot a bow is a vital bowhunting skill. If you lack archery experience, you might ask an experienced friend or family member to give you lessons. Even so, you’ll likely master your equipment more quickly by taking lessons from a certified instructor.
Archery instructors are trained to teach beginners the basics, and recognize where they can improve. A good lesson covers safety, form, equipment and shooting steps. By learning the right way at the start, you won’t spend time later correcting bad form. Most archery shops offer individual and group lessons.
Complete a Hunter-Education Course
Hunter education courses offer the best way to learn basic skills. Most states require hunters to pass the course before obtaining a license. Some states also require bowhunters to pass a bowhunting-education course before buying an archery license.
The curriculum covers ethics, safety, equipment, survival, meat care and other basics. Bowhunter education covers much of the same information taught in hunter education, but also includes bowhunting tactics and shot placement. For more information about these classes, contact your state’s wildlife agency here.
Get an Archery Setup
Archery equipment must be fitted to each individual, and archery shops are the best places to find the right setups. Most shops have indoor ranges where customers test bows before buying one. Bow technicians will make sure the bow is properly fitted, matching it to the archer’s draw length and weight. Your bowhunting setup must also include a release, quiver, sight, arrows and broadheads.
Find a Mentor
Learning to bowhunt on your own is rewarding but it’s also challenging. If you find a mentor, you’ll get hands-on instruction. Ask family, friends, coworkers and other acquaintances if they know any bowhunters. Don’t be nervous requesting help. Everyone was once a beginner. For more in-depth suggestions, read these tips for finding a mentor.
Assemble Your Gear
Bowhunting requires lots of gear. If you already hunt with a firearm, you probably have most of what you need. By assessing your inventory months before the season, you’ll have time to assess what you have, and what you need.
Besides archery gear, your basic bowhunting setup should include boots, headlamp, binoculars, backpack, rangefinder, camouflage clothing, and a field-dressing kit. Click this link to learn what many bowhunters carry in their backpack.
If you’re starting from scratch, save money by buying a bow, backpack and hunting clothes second-hand. You could also borrow expensive items like binoculars or a rangefinder.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Most bowhunts take place during fall and winter, except some spring seasons for bear and turkeys. If your bowhunting journey starts early in the year, you should be ready to go by fall. But no matter how many years you’ve bowhunted, start practicing with your bow long before the season.
Practice is particularly important for beginners. The more arrows you shoot, the more confident and comfortable you’ll fee. It takes time and repetition to master good shooting form. Drawing a bow regularly also builds muscle memory. The more time you spend shooting, judging distances, and identifying ethical shots, the more likely you’ll succeed afield. Check out this summer guide for tips on maximizing your practice.
Find Places to Hunt
Finding property where you can hunt might be the most daunting task you’ll endure, but preparation and “boots on the ground” knowledge helps you learn a lot while scouting before the season. First, find areas that allow hunting, such as public lands. In addition, don’t be afraid to ask permission to hunt private lands.
By understanding how animals use the landscape, you’ll learn to scout with Google Earth and Google Maps. E-scouting saves you time by helping you identify several potential hunting spots before visiting each property in person. Once you narrow down some areas, scout on foot while looking for sign. If you plan to hunt white-tailed deer, for example, look for scat, beds, rubs, tracks, scrapes and game trails. Hanging trail cameras can help you zero in on their movements.
Once you verify animals are using the area, craft your hunting plans. Many bowhunters use treestands and/or ground blinds to hide while hunting pinch points along narrow travel corridors. This can boost the odds of game coming into bow range. Most bowhunters monitor several potential hunting locations to accommodate changes in wind, pressure and other factors.
Sharpen Field Dressing Skills
Bowhunters know the real work begins once they fill their tags. If you’ve never field dressed an animal, ask an experienced person to help. And if that person can’t hunt with you, ask if they can stand by in case you arrow an animal. With some preparation, however, you can do it yourself. The “Beginners Guide to Butchering Deer” is a great resource, complete with videos and a list of everything needed in a field dressing kit.
Don’t wait until the night before your hunt to prepare. Print a list of everything you need, and check it off as you lay it out or stuff your backpack. Make sure your list includes your hunting license, tags or permits. Review the rules and regulations before going afield. Also, carry a fully charged cellphone or satellite communication device, and keep a GPS or map handy. If you’re going solo, tell someone where you’ll be and when you’ll return.
Bowhunting is a rewarding experience that gives you a new skill set. Filling a tag is a rewarding experience that also puts meat on your table. And it’s not just that end result that makes bowhunting worthwhile. Whether you’re learning to shoot or spending more time scouting, you’ll find bowhunting a fun adventure at every step.