Bowhunting can be a great option for the serious deer hunter. Most states schedule early bow-hunting seasons, and allow bow hunters in places where firearms cannot go, most states offer special early bow seasons, and special late bow seasons. It’s no wonder so many deer hunters have taken up bowhunting.
But a fingertip wander through our archery website may be enough to leave the would-be bowhunter more mystified than persuaded. Choice can be a wonderful thing, but too much choice can be overwhelming.
Because of the vast selection of equipment, the bow-hunting industry is often accused of promoting gadgetry and gimmickry.
We at Field-N-Water don’t believe that BS. Every item may not be needed by every hunter, but each add-on does something. Bow hunting requires tackle and gear, and likewise with the high-tech accessories available to bowhunters,these choices can be personal, too. After all, some compound shooters do not
use sights or releases. They shoot instinctively with tab or glove.
So, let us try to sort out this bow hunting thing by first asking a simple question. What do you really need to bow-hunt deer? Lets not pussyfooting around the barn here. Most bowhunters pick up a bow because of the increased opportunity to hunt deer, not be cause they want to play Robin Hood. They already shoot
firearms and feel most comfortable handling a compound bow with sights. A properly sighted-in compound allows the bowhunter to put the correct pin on target and hit that deer every time. Right ? Wrong ! Everything else on your bow must be right in order to shoot good. And there is more. The release of the bow string has to be clean, and the arrow must be matched to your bow for proper flight.
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One great advantage to a compound bow is let-off, which is simply a reduction in the amount of force needed to draw the bow and hold the string before releasing the arrow. The wheels, or cams, out at the ends of the limbs of a compound bow create this mechanical advantage. With a 70-percent let-off, for example, the shooter can hold an 80-pound bow at full draw by exerting less than 30 pounds
of pull. The archer draws until the compound bow “break over,” then he holds the bow string (at a drastically reduced draw weight) while carefully lining up the sights. This makes it much easier to aim before releasing the arrow. Some bows have a built-in positive stop. You draw the bow string until the cam
breaks over, and then the stop point lets you know that you’ve arrived at the same draw length you pulled last time. This creates shot-to-shot consistency.
With some compound bows designs, you get greater latitude in draw length and pull weight. You might get 3 full inches of draw length adjustment in one bow, which means you can set the bow to match your specific draw length, and should you ever wish to alter that draw length, you can do so with out buying a new bow.
Adjustable poundage in a bow is equally important. The bowhunter who ultimately wants to hunt big game with an 80-pound bow, but who has not yet worked up to that much poundage, can buy the 65-80 pound bow, set it at 65 pounds, and in time work up to 80 pounds.
You must change arrows to match the increasing draw weight, but that is a small price to pay for such versatility, and the key word here is versatility. The modern compound bow is more versatile than ever. One bow can be many bows in both draw length and in draw weight.
Bow length is another important consideration for bow hunters. It’s easy to see why a shorter bow works better in a tree stand, where a hunter’s space for movement is limited, and the same holds true when hunting from a ground blind. In tight quarters, an inch or two of length can make a difference. Increased
let-off, as described earlier, is an obvious boon to bowhunters—unless they’re glove or tab shooters. Then, big let offs can be a big letdown. The arrow release gets “mushy.” Instead of the string snapping out from glove or tab, it sort of rolls out of the way.
Fortunately, extreme let-off is handled neatly by a mechanical release. Should you use a mechanical release with a compound bow? Yes, unless you are an unusually steady shot. With extreme let-off, a release is definitely the way to go.
A release attaches to the string for pullback on the bow, and then does just what its name implies: it releases the arrow with trigger-like efficiency. In fact, the latest releases are forms of triggers, and just like a crisp trigger pull on a rifle, the right release on a bow “touches off” cleanly, allowing the arrow to leave the bow smoothly and accurately.
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Arrow speed, on the other hand, is an advantage that can get a little more complicated. Arrows, must be matched to the specific bow in terms of draw length and poundage. Published charts should take care of this, so we’ll not go into matching arrows to bows, except to say that the final test is actual shooting
for flight characteristics with a given arrow. Carbon arrows are light in weight, yet shoot great because they are stiff.
What about an overdraw? A shorter arrow is stiffer than a longer arrow. Overdraws shoot shorter, stiffer arrows, hence lighter ones and light arrows are “in” today because they shoot faster than heavy arrows. But will a lighter arrow penetrate the chest of a deer?
Penetration is a product of many things, one being energy. Energy is produced by both speed and weight. A 500-grain arrow traveling at 240 feet a second generates 64 foot-pounds of energy. A 300-grain arrow at 285 feet a second produces 54 foot pounds of energy. All else being equal, the heavier but slower arrow should penetrate better than the lighter but faster arrow.
Nonetheless, if a bowhunter likes the overdraw system, and can shoot it well, he should not be deterred from using it. But it does require a specific setup, including the right arrow rest. There are many different types of rests offered to match various arrows.
What about bow stabilizers? Bow stabilizers were mainly for target shooting, used to dampen bow vibration after a shot. However, consider a stabilizer good for something else that is important to bow hunting: follow-through. Their protrusion up front can help balance the bow. A stabilizer can tame a bow so that it just “sits there” after the arrow is away, and that promotes clean follow-through where the bow remains in pretty much the same stance after the shot as it was before the arrow left the string. For follow-through alone, a stabilizer can be helpful when hunting. A hunting stabilizer will effectively dampen vibration
and recoil, especially for high- speed bows equipped with overdraws. High-tech stabilizers have an inner piston, springs and hydraulic fluid chambers. There’s nothing wrong with adding a stabilizer to tame that bow a little, especially when shooting carbon arrows. A lighter arrow “absorbs” less of the bow’s effect,
which may leave the compound vibrating a bit more.
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The choice in a sight should be based on personal preference, just as it is with guns. There are laser sights, lighted sight pins, scopes, and string peeps. For the archer with a totally consistent anchor point, a peep sight is probably not a big plus. For everyone else, it sure can help. A string peep is to the compound bow what a rear sight is to a rifle. Is the standard sight pin your cup of tea? It may be old-hat now, but the sight pin remains an excellent aiming instrument. Or maybe you’d rather use a crosswire, or a grid with lines, or
a scope. Just be sure to practice shooting with the sight under the same low-light conditions you face when actually bowhunting deer.
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In spite of the arrow speeds of today’s bows, deer, with their fast reflexes, can still move in time to literally dodge an arrow if the sound of the bow reaches their ears in time. The common practice of a standing deer that hears an unfamiliar sound is to drop then scoot. The animal squats way down, then launches forward,
getting the heck out of there. A string silencer, should be part of the setup for every compound bow. Puffs and Tarantulas are two popular compound bow string silencers. There are others. Pick one you like and use it.
As a bowhunter you must also consider the arrow’s broadhead very carefully. Three types dominate, the modular head, the one- piece, two-edge broadhead, and the expanding (mechanical) broadhead. Currently, the modular head, with many options, is most popular. It comes in different weights and styles. The
one-piece, two-edge broadhead is excellent, but nowadays more associated with the recurve bow. The expanding head, starts out looking like a target point but pops its blades out on impact.
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Once again, its a matching game. Light arrows balance with lighter heads, and heavier arrows may use heavier heads. But no bowhunter should take to the field without first practice shooting the actual arrow and head he’ll be using on deer. It may cost a few replaceable blades, and perhaps even ruin a couple of
heads, but it beats missing or wounding a deer.
Bow-mounted quivers are both loved and cursed by deer hunters. Some argue that the quiver unbalances the bow. Others say that a bow-mounted quiver harms accuracy because it makes the bow vary in weight, and this cannot be denied. Bow-mounted quivers cause a bow to change in weight because each hunting arrow weighs 500 grains, and with every shot, you pull another arrow from the quiver, which reduces
the total weight of the bow and quiver by 500 grains. But in the deer woods, the first arrow fired is usually the last, so there’s little reason for concern about the bow growing lighter shot by shot. Mount a seven-arrow quiver then tune and sight the bow with six arrows in the quiver because this is how the bow will be when you take 90 percent or more of your hunting shots. If you are that worried about the changing weight, you can always get a detachable quiver that you can snap off once you are in the stand.
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Well as you can see there are several things you must consider if you are going to bowhunt this year. Getting setup might take a little time, but once you have accomplished that part, the real fun begins. And that’s shooting and hunting with a bow. Once you try bowhunting for the first time, you will be hooked for
life. Bowhunting takes skill and most of all patience. You may find it hard at first to consistently group your shots, or worse yet, put your arrow into the kill zone of a 3D archery target. That’s ok, we all have been there. Just don’t give up, practice, practice and practice. Oh and don’t forget, practice.
Good luck and good hunting !