By Jackie Holbrook
Do you feel trapped inside during the long winter? Do cold, dark days make you dream of having fun outdoors? Sounds like you need something new to beat your winter-time blues.
Winter is the perfect time to start bowhunting, so start today!
If you know little about archery equipment, take a lesson to learn the foundation of proper shooting form. That solid base ensures you’ll improve faster. Archery shops offer group and one-on-one lessons. You can take one lesson or several over a few weeks. Don’t worry if you don’t own a bow. Many shops can share or rent one.
When you start any new hobby or sport, you’ll need some gear to get going. By learning to bowhunt well before hunting season, you won’t have to scramble to buy everything two weeks before opening day. Visit an archery store to consult experts who know what you need. For example, your bow must fit you and offer an adequate draw weight for bowhunting.
Try before you buy. Archery shops carry many models and brands. If you’re on a tight budget, some stores carry used bows at lower prices. Once you choose a bow, a technician will set it to your proper draw length, and cut arrows to fit. Start with at least six or 12 arrows with field points for shooting targets.
You’ll also need a headlamp, broadheads, rangefinder, and hiking boots; and you might also want a backpack, binoculars, GPS unit, first-aid kit, wind indicators, camouflage clothing, and field-dressing kit. If you’re already hunting, camping, or doing other outdoor activities, you might already own most of this gear.
Bowhunter education teaches everything you should know to hunt safely. It covers the same topics as standard hunter education, but includes bowhunting-specific information. Expect to learn about ethics, gear selection, survival tips, shot placement, blood trailing and conservation.
The National Bowhunter Education Foundation is the certifying organization for bowhunter education. Courses are available in all 50 states and 27 countries, and graduates earn an NBEF certificate. Eleven states require bowhunters to be NBEF-certified: Alaska, Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Letting an arrow loose on a target differs from aiming at animals. You must be confident in your shooting skills and equipment. Practice is the only way to gain skills to harvest your quarry.
It takes time to learn to shoot accurately under pressure. Practice at varying distances so you’re prepared for many shooting opportunities. Each archer should set a maximum range and not shoot beyond it. That distance will vary by each bowhunter’s draw weight, shooting abilities, and quarry. Caution: Just because you’re confident hitting the kill zone on a target at 40 yards doesn’t mean you should shoot that far at an animal.
Practice from different shooting positions. If you plan to hunt from a treestand, practice elevated shots. If you expect to spot and stalk animals, practice shots while standing, sitting and kneeling.
Offseason homework generates success during the season, and a big part of preparation is finding good hunting spots. If you’ve hunted with a firearm you might already have a good spot, but look at it from a bowhunter’s perspective. Do you see good trees to hang treestands near game trails? Do animals use that area during archery season?
Maybe you have a neighbor, relative or coworker with land you can hunt. Don’t be afraid to ask for permission. If you need a little pep talk, read “Ask Permission to Bowhunt Private Property in 4 Easy Steps.”
Learning to bowhunt is even more fun with a friend. It’s also safer. If you know people who bowhunt, tell them you want to learn, and ask if they’d mentor you. Archery shops are another great place to find mentors.
Why wait any longer? Start your bowhunting journey today. The season will be here before you know it, and you’ll be ready to go.