The past few years I’ve seen many more rifle hunters switching from the rifle to the bow for hunting. Most of these hunters are looking to add an extra challenge to their hunting for a variety of reasons. However, like anything if you don’t start with the right gear and instruction then you are setting yourself up for failure. Hopefully in this article I can provide you with some basic tips and tricks to get you on the right path from the beginning.
SELECTING THE RIGHT BOW
Selecting the right bow is the first thing you need to do if you are going to get into bowhunting. Making sure you have a bow that is the right draw length and poundage for you is critical. Draw length is simply a measurement, in inches, that the bow is drawn. I always suggest to people getting into bowhunting that they choose a bow that has some adjustment in the draw length. This will give you an ability to change the draw length slightly to get the perfect fit for you. You can look online for ways to measure your draw length that will give you a rough idea but to get the most accurate measurement is to visit an archery shop or archery coach.
The poundage of the bow refers to the weight, in pounds, that bow stores in its limbs when drawn. The higher poundage the bow the faster it can fire an arrow. However the higher the poundage the bow the harder it is to draw. When beginning your bowhunting journey it is always best to start with a lower poundage bow so that you are able to learn and practice more easily. A good way to determine the right draw length is to sit down on the ground with your legs out in front of you and draw the bow. If you are unable to do it then the poundage is too much. Luckily all bows are adjustable in poundage by around 10 pounds.
When you purchase a bow you will need to fit it out with accessories such as an arrow rest, sight, stabilizer, arrows and quiver. Unless you are lucky enough to pick up a secondhand bow that has these accessories already fitted you will sometimes spend as much money on these accessories as the bow itself. As with all things in life quality lasts. I suggest to buy the best you can afford in each category. One of the interesting things about bowhunting and archery is the fact that people frequently upgrade their bows. Bow manufacturers bring out new bows every year and there is always the temptation to step up to the latest bow. Normally when you do this you swap the accessories over from the old bow to the new one. So your accessories can be swapped and used for years (I have a sight that is about 15 years old and has been on about 30 different bows over that time). For sights I recommend Black Gold, Spot Hogg, Axcel. As for rests, either Hamskea or Trophy Taker. When looking at Quivers I suggest the Option Archery Quivalizer or the Tight Spot.
A release aid is exactly what it sounds like. It is a tool that is used to release the string. We use them as they provide a much more consistent release of the strings than your fingers and as such much better groups. There are different types of release aid Index finger activated, Thumb activated, Hinge or pressure activated. The choice is an individual one but you will always benefit from some instruction to learn to use them properly. I like the pressure activated releases especially to learn with as I feel they teach you how to shot a bow correctly right from the start. Stan, Scott, and Carter are companies that make great releases.
The arrows you use for bowhunting need to be strong, consistent and heavy enough to penetrate your target species. There are many different arrows to choose from but all arrow shafts have a spine rating. It is most important to get the right spine for your particular bow set up. The spine of the arrow is a measurement of the stiffness of the shaft. To get correct arrow flight and penetration you need to have an arrow that has the right stiffness. Each arrow manufacturer have a spine chart or arrow selection calculator on their website. You simple put in your arrow length, Broadhead weight and bow poundage and they will tell you the best spine for your individual setup. Easton, Goldtip, Black Eagle, Carbon Express all make good hunting arrows and are based in the USA. If you are looking to support Australian companies then Native Heatseekers are my go to.
Now we get to the business end of the whole set up, the broadhead. The broadhead is the part of the system that actually does the damage. Therefore the broadhead is probably the most important part of bowhunting but often times the one that is overlooked. There are different types of broadheads (2, 3 or 4 blade/solid or replaceable blade/fixed or expandable) but the most important thing is that they are strong enough to penetrate and razor sharp. The choice of which type of broadhead you use can vary with the game and even terrain you are hunting. For example a 2-blade broadhead will penetrate better than a 3 or 4 blade (due to lees surface area to push through tissue) so when targeting pigs or big-bodied animals or if you are shooting a lower poundage bow that maybe what you need. If you are targeting thinner-skinned or smaller animals in thick country a 3or 4 blade head can give you a better blood trail to follow. It is worth mentioning that an arrow/broadhead kills by hemorrhage so often the animal doesn’t drop in sight. That is where a good blood trail makes it much easier to find the animal if its moves out of sight. It is also why a razor sharp head is extremely important. A sharp edge cuts more and is also less painful. I’m sure you have experienced that if you have ever cut yourself with a knife. A sharp knife leaves a cut that bleeds more and also is less painful. There are so many different types of broadhead on the market these days but if you always look to quality heads that are made with good steel, are sharp and able to be resharpened you can’t go wrong. I like and recommend Kayuga Broadheads for these reasons.
If you are considering getting into bowhunting I highly recommend it. While it can be a challenge and seem tough at times the rewards that come with a successful stalk and harvest are amazing. There are plenty of good archery shops in Australia to get you started with all the gear you will need. The bowhunting community is made up of people that are only too willing to help and are generally very supportive of other bowhunters new or old.