By Cassie Gasaway
Bowhunting is fun, challenging, and great for conservation. If you’re leaning toward becoming a bowhunter, consider these 10 reasons to get started, and then determine opening day in your state, mark your calendar, and maximize the weeks and months ahead to prepare for it. Here’s how:
Take a hunter-education course. This is an excellent way to learn about safety, animals, conservation, and hunting ethics and regulations from knowledgeable instructors. Most states require new hunters to pass this course to buy a hunting license. Some states also require bowhunters to pass a bowhunting-education course to buy an archery license. Find your state wildlife agency’s website here to determine its hunter-education requirements.
Learn about deer and deer hunting by exploring resources like Bowhunting 360 for tips and tactics. Also learn about deer, their diet, habits, anatomy, habitat preferences, and seasonal behaviors; and then learn which hunting tactics increase your chances. Use Bowhunting 360’s search to find what you should learn.
Take archery lessons from a certified coach or instructor to learn proper form and avoid bad habits. You can take individual or group lessons. Both deliver great information in a fun, relaxed setting. One-on-one lessons, however, provide more individual feedback and faster, more impressive results. Visit an archery shop to sign up. If they don’t offer lessons, ask a staff member to refer you to an instructor.
Find a bowhunting mentor. Teaching yourself how to bowhunt is challenging. Books, articles and how-to videos can help, but nothing beats hands-on instruction from longtime hunters. Hunting mentors provide helpful, practical advice that eases the transition from nonhunter to bowhunter. Click here to read three tips for finding a hunting mentor.
You’ll need a bow, arrows, boots, camouflage clothes, and a blind or treestand. Should you buy, borrow or rent archery gear and hunting equipment? Some archery shops rent gear, or your mentor or other bowhunters might lend you equipment. Otherwise, shop for what you want and need. Set a budget. You don’t need every flashy or well-advertised item to succeed. Bowhunting 360’s “Buyer’s Guide to Compound Bows” helps you find a bow that fits your size, strength and budget. Then get arrows, camouflage clothes, and a blind or treestand. Visit the pros at an archery pro shop for help and advice.
Research and identify places to hunt. Do you want to hunt private property or public land? To hunt private lands other than your own, you must seek permission from the owner. Follow these four steps to boost your chances. You can also lease hunting land or join a hunting club. To hunt public lands, look online for state, county and national forests; or wildlife management areas, national wildlife refuges, and Bureau of Land Management properties. Some public areas have site-specific regulations, but most offer abundant hunting opportunities.
Also ask about special hunts through wildlife agencies, military bases and conservation trusts. These areas often hold unique quota hunts, lottery hunts, and cull hunts; or special hunts restricted to youths, military veterans or people with disabilities. Click here to learn more, and then check out other possibilities on your wildlife agency’s website. Make sure you know whether you’ll bowhunt rural or urban areas because your strategy must change accordingly.
Practice shooting. To become confident, consistent and comfortable with your equipment, you must practice often. Remember what you learned in your archery lessons to master your shooting form. Take practice seriously, and shoot regularly to improve your skills and build muscle memory. Also, practice judging shooting distances and identifying ethical shots. Bowhunting 360’s “Summer Practice Guide” is a good place to start.
Scout potential hunting areas. Prehunt scouting is essential because it helps position bowhunters to intercept deer. Scout potential areas to learn how deer use the landscape, and use trail cameras to identify or confirm their movement patterns. Check your cameras sparingly to avoid pressuring deer.
Make practice a priority. Bowhunters owe it to the sport and their prey to shoot accurately. If you find it difficult to practice regularly, read Bowhunting 360’s article “Practice Routines for Busy People.” It offers practice tips, and links to an article with fun, creative shooting ideas.
Choose your hunting spots. Evaluate June’s scouting sessions to determine where you want to hunt. Pinpoint areas with lots of deer sign and activity. Deer need food and shelter, so set up where you can intercept them as travel between those necessities. Select several hotspots so you can let stands “rest” to avoid being patterned by deer.
Complete your fieldwork. Once you select your hunting spots, create an ideal bowhunting setup. Hang treestands, set up ground blinds, trim shooting lanes, and conceal your stand or blind. Do this work as early as possible so deer have time to accept the changes. Completing your fieldwork in spring or early summer ensures deer feel safe and secure in fall because the area has been quiet for weeks.
Practice like you’re bowhunting. Keep shooting, but practice as you would hunt. If you hunt from treestands, practice shooting from treestands while wearing your bowhunting clothes. If you hunt from ground blinds or you spot-and-stalk game, you must practice drawing and shooting while seated or kneeling. When preparing to hunt in cold weather, practice in heavier, bulkier clothing. Realistic practice sessions help you prepare for most situations.
Study your state’s bowhunting regulations and season dates. It’s your responsibility to know, follow and understand local, state and federal hunting regulations. Visit the wildlife agency’s website to learn the laws and regulations. Breaking a hunting regulation can trigger fines, license suspensions or even prison. Be a smart, responsible hunter.
Buy your bowhunting license from the state wildlife agency’s website. It’s illegal to arrow deer without a hunting license. Click here to learn how to buy one. If you’re uncertain which license you need, call the agency and ask. Explain your situation and goals, and they’ll help you determine which license to buy.
Confirm the bowhunting regulations. Doublecheck your state’s bag limits, season dates, shooting hours, equipment requirements, and other vital regulations. Call the agency’s help line if you have questions.
Organize and pack your bowhunting gear. Lay out your hunting gear and ensure everything is in order. Tighten broadheads, check flashlight batteries, and ensure your clothes were washed in scent-free detergent and stored properly. Pack your must-have items, including your license, bow, arrows, boots, water, snacks, map, knife, compass, flashlight, release aid, safety harness, toilet paper, bug repellent, camo clothes, and a first-aid kit. Also consider optional items like calls, decoy, optics, pruner, camera, cooler, flagging, rainwear, bear spray, pain medication, game bags, and emergency locator beacon.
Get out there! It’s time to test your skills and knowledge. Be still, quiet and patient. Embrace nature, befriend other bowhunters, and wait for the right shot. It will happen. Good luck!
Feel free to drag and drop the timeline image at the top of this article to your desktop. Then, print it so you have a quick-reference guide to follow. You can also right-click on the image and select the download option.