Taking a big game animal with a bow and arrow is one of the hunting’s biggest challenges. For bow hunting, you must practice many hours before the season begins; to learn to estimate range, draw the arrow smoothly, anchor it and place each shot in a target the size of a pie plate at 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 yards (9, 18, 27, 36 and 46 m). And the bow hunter needs to refine his or her hunting skills as well as shooting skills.
Bow hunting is popular for many reasons: Hunters using a bow are generally allowed longer hunting seasons; this form of hunting is a big challenge; it is a relaxing and peaceful form of hunting. And it is fun!
There are basically three types of bows: the compound bow, the recurve bow, and the longbow. Your choice of bow type is largely a matter of personal preference, each having its advantages and disadvantages.
The most popular and best hunting bow is the compound, which uses cams and cables to give the bow let-off, a reduction in the amount of force, needed to hold the bow at full draw. This is an advantage when holding the bow back while waiting for a shot opportunity.
Select a Draw Weight
The peak draw weight, or maximum amount of weight needed to draw the bow, can be adjusted on a compound bow, whereas on a longbow or recurve, the draw weight is determined by the design of the bow. For a given draw weight a compound bow produces more energy than a recurve or longbow.
To determine draw weight, start by trying different bows. Select a bow with a draw weight that you can draw very comfortably. One of the biggest problems bow hunters have is trying to hunt with bows that have excessive draw weight.
Bows with a 60-pound (27 kg) draw weight are heavy enough for all North American game animals. In truth, it is the kinetic energy-not a bow’s poundage that matters most. Kinetic energy is a measurement based on the speed and weight of the arrow used.
The higher the kinetic energy of an arrow, the more penetrating power or killing ability the arrow will have.
Kinetic energy is also affected by your draw length. This is the distance between the bowstring and the grip when you hold a bow at full draw. Do not confuse draw length with arrow length; arrows are often shorter or longer than your draw length. For a given bow type, a longer draw length produces more energy than a short draw length.
The design of the cams or wheels on compound bows also affects the bow’s ability to produce energy. The more round the cam or cams are, the less arrow speed the bow is able to produce. However, they are easier to draw, more forgiving to shoot and are quieter. Radical cams produce faster arrow speed, flatter trajectory, and more energy, but they are also harder to shoot, noisier and more difficult to maintain.
Arrow weight also affects the amount of energy that you can deliver into a target. A heavier arrow produces more energy. However, an arrow that is too heavy for a particular bow will not perform well. Consult an arrow selection chart or archery shop to help you choose the correct shaft.
Some hunters prefer to hunt with recurve and longbows. They are lighter, quieter to shoot and less prone to mechanical failure. These more traditional bows increase the challenge and add nostalgia to the hunt.
Shooting a Bow and Arrow
In the hands of an experienced shooter, the bow and arrow can be very accurate. But the average hunter stands little chance of killing an animal with a bow unless he or she is willing to take the time to practice.
Shooting a bow and arrow accurately is more difficult than shooting a firearm. You must build up the muscles you use to shoot, use the best arrows and correct shooting mechanics and be able to concentrate. You also need to practice and develop your ability to judge distances accurately.
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The first key to good shooting is the ability to relax. Learn to let the bow shoot the arrow. If you try to force the arrow into the target you will not shoot consistently.
A good stance is critical for accurate shooting. If your upper body moves around, your sights and bow will be moving, too. It is your legs that hold it all still.
Begin by standing with your feet spread apart at shoulder width, 90 degrees to the target. Then take a half-step back with the front foot and pivot slightly toward the target for a mildly open stance. Keep your weight evenly distributed on both feet and stand straight up, with your head directly over the center of your body. Maintain this stance as you raise the bow to shoot. Don’t lean forward or backward to pull the bow and don’t cock your head to the side to line up your sights. In some cases, you will not be able to shoot standing straight up, but try to position yourself in a way that gives you good upper body stability.
Your bow hand is placed on the handle slightly differently depending on the type of bow that you
Shoot. After selecting the correct grip for your bow type, remember that your hand should stay very relaxed as you draw the bow. You must be consistent with your hand position. Even slight variations affect the arrow flight.
Your strong hand, like the bow hand, should stay relaxed throughout the drawing process. There are two basic styles that hunters use to hold and release bowstrings. The more traditional method is to use your fingers. If you release with your fingers, start by grasping the string at the first joints of your first three fingers, with the index finger above the nock, the other two fingers below the nock. As you draw, the middle finger should hold most of the weight and the other two fingers should float on the string. The other method for releasing the bow involves using a mechanical release aid. Choose one that has a rotating head, so it does not torque the string as you draw. With a wrist-strap release, you should pull only on the strap and your fingers should remain loose. With a finger-held release, your wrist should stay straight and relaxed.
When you draw a bow, hold it at arm’s length, roughly aiming at the target and begin to draw, pulling only with the muscles of your back. When you reach full draw, anchor solidly and aim at the target.
The anchor point for finger shooters is typically fairly high, with the tip of the index or middle finger planted solidly in the corner of the mouth. There is not necessarily the best way to anchor when using a release aid. With a wrist-strap release, many hunters anchor with the big knuckle of the index finger pressed behind the jaw. With a finger-held release aid, experienced shooters commonly anchor with the back of the hand pressed against the jaw.
No matter what type of equipment you use or the release method you use, the release should happen through complete relaxation. Focus your attention on pulling the bowstring with your back muscles. Release shooters pull the release trigger as their back muscles tighten up; finger shooters should let the string slip away as their hand relaxes. The shot should happen as a surprise.
Follow through a shot by holding your bow arm and release hand in the same position they were in when you released until the arrow hits the target.
Always practice from the positions in which you hunt. If you use a tree stand, practice from an elevated platform. If you sit in your stand, practice in the sitting position. Wear your hunting clothes when practicing; they may affect your shooting. Use an armed guard to prevent the string from catching on heavy clothes.
Proper Grip For Shooting Compound, Recurve, and Longbow
Low wrist position places the meaty party of the thumb on the bow handle. Maximum pressure falls about 1 inch below the big joint of the thumb. In this position, the wrist is more stable and less likely to move side to side.
Straight wrist grip is used with the re-curve bow At full draw, all pressure is between the thumb and forefinger
Low wrist grip (left) is standard form when shooting a longbow Pressures houl falls on the back edge of the heel of the hand (right). Gripping the bow with too much of the heel on the handle can cause the bow to twist during release, leading to poor arrow flight.
Bow Care Tips Before Bow Hunting
- Inspect the bowstring before shooting; frayed strings should be replaced.
- Oil axles every few days when in the field.
- Keep your bow away from heat. Laminated bow limbs can come apart after only a few hours in a hot vehicle.