Bowhunting tips, tricks, and strategies

Bowhunting Tips Tricks and Strategies

In Archery, Archery Tips, Bowhunting, Compound Bows, Longbows, Recurve Bows, Traditional Archery by Vineet Jain17 Comments

Hunting has been an activity intrinsic to human life for a very long time. Even today, it endures as a vastly popular practice that lends itself to competitions and tournaments around the world.

Whether you hunt for survival, to perhaps get fresh meat that isn’t poisoned by chemicals, or whether you hunt for sport, for the thrill of the chase and the satisfaction of a clean kill, there is no denying that hunting is a complex process.

Hunting is not merely taking up your equipment and shooting at will, it is a highly skilled process that involves having the right equipment and accessories as well as employing a number of strategies to ensure an ethical experience in addition to the pleasure of it.

As such, in this article, we will introduce you to some of the aspects of bowhunting to make your experience a better one.

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1. What Is Bowhunting?

There are several means to hunt game that are prevalent today, including rifle hunting and muzzleloader hunting. But the oldest form is undeniably bowhunting.

While bowhunting may have started out with a simple bow and arrow for equipment in the times of our ancestors, today there are intricacies to effective bowhunting that include the use of arrow rests, release aids, bow sights and rangefinders among other things.

Bowhunting can be done by using compound bows, longbows and recurve bows.

2. How Can I Be Good at Hunting?

While there are a great number of steps on the way to becoming a great hunter, the very first thing to do would be to get the basics right.

First and foremost, your tools of the trade need to be well-suited to the purpose.

Any hunter will tell you that the most important thing is to have a good bow, one that is suited for hunting and also that you are comfortable with.

The best way to get a bow that is personally perfect for you is to go to your nearest archery shop and get measured for a bow. Once that is done you need to test a good number of bows to find one that is the perfect draw weight for you and that feels right.

For hunting, it is generally advisable to have a draw weight of 40 pounds and higher.

Once you’re set with the bow, you can turn your attention to other accessories such as arrows, an arrow rest, mechanical release aids, a bow sight, a peep sight, and a quiver.

Ideally, you ought to research thoroughly on all of these to find out what works best for you and for the type of game you intend to hunt.

Before going on a hunt, you need to practice at a range, be it your own backyard or basement archery range or a formal set-up.

While practicing, you will most likely use field points, but while hunting it is imperative to use broadheads. You could also practice with a broadhead as you near the day of the hunt, to get a feel for shooting them.

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You need to be able to hit accurately at a distance of 30 yards at least four out of five times, if not five out of five, before you are ready to go on your first hunt.

While actually hunting, make sure that you do not attempt to shoot at a distance larger than what you have practiced for. Having a dress rehearsal is also a good idea to ensure that nothing goes wrong on the final day.

Finally, also do make sure that you know where to shoot at to hit the vital organs on the animal you intend to hunt.

This is important for ethical hunting so that the animal does not unnecessarily suffer. For your first hunt, if possible, you could also go with an experienced guide to make the process easier for you and ensure that you get the best possible experience. All these things will set you firmly on the road to becoming a good hunter.

And remember, it is extremely important to check the laws in your state or region regarding hunting and abide by them, as well as always to have the required license for whatever game you are hunting.

3. Different Types of Hunting

3.1 Small Game Hunting

This is a pretty popular type of hunting that deals with small animals such as rabbits, pheasants, geese or ducks.

The hunting season for this type can commonly be year-round. Small game hunting is far more active owing to the small size and greater speed of these animals.

Besides, a higher number of animals also ensures a rewarding hunting experience.

Many hunters choose to hunt small game first to practice their hunting skills before moving on to big game hunting.

Bow hunting small game

3.2 Big Game Hunting

Much as the name suggests, this refers to the hunting of larger animals including elk, deer, moose, bear or wild boar.

The danger is higher in big game hunting as the larger prey can retaliate in case you miss the shot, or only mildly injure it.

In big game hunting, the animal can be hunted for meat, or for sport, or as a trophy.

In places such as Africa, big game hunting is also a tourist attraction as well as a matter of pride as animals such as lions, leopards, rhinoceroses and elephants can be hunted provided you manage to get a license issued.

BIG GAME BOW HUNT

3.3 Mountain Hunting

Mountain hunts are physically and mentally challenging for the hunter owing to the difficult terrain in which they hunt.

The slopes and angles of mountain hunting make it challenging and often the hunter may need additional equipment that allows for angle compensation to be able to make the kill.

But this form is popular as some of the rarest game can be found in the inaccessible corners of the mountains making them valuable trophies.

EPIC Mountain Lion Bowhunt

3.4 Plains Game Hunting

This is a specific category that refers to the hunting of deer, gazelles and antelopes on the plains of Africa.

It can either happen in grasslands or wooded forests, in open plains or sandy terrain. Each terrain presents its own challenges to overcome.

It attracts a lot of visitors who are looking for a medium-sized game to hunt instead of the trophies of big game hunting.

Apart from those mentioned above, there are a multitude of hunting types classified according to the specific game that is being hunted. So you might have pigeon shooting, roebuck hunting, bird hunting, wild boar hunting, stag hunts, bear hunts etc.

Further, you could classify hunting according to whether you do it on foot or with the help of vehicles and whether or not you use dogs to help with the hunt.

Plains Game Hunting Adventure | Jason & Tom | John X Safaris

4. Different Strategies For Bowhunting

4.1 Spot and Stalk Hunting

The strategy employed here is to follow the signs of prey once spotted. The spotting generally can happen through glassing, which is the use of binoculars to find prey.

The hunter may also use fresh tracks made by the animal as it moves around to find the prey before spotting.

The hunter needs to close in on the prey with caution as the proximity of the hunter to the prey may reveal the presence of the hunter by the scent, sound or appearance. Camouflage is thus an important part of the process in stalk hunting.

As the hunter is following the prey around, this strategy is a demanding one and requires physical and mental endurance. The hunter needs to make use of all their senses to track the trail of the prey and also be on the alert for any other animals, as their presence may ruin the approach on the prey.

Stalking hunting can even go on for days depending on the type of game that is being pursued. This strategy may also be called trailing hunting.

Pros:

  1. No need to wait around for prey to appear
  2. Proximity to the quarry generally can allow for a better shot
  3. A more active form of hunting

Cons:

  1. May spook the quarry
  2. Higher level of skill required
  3. Proximity to quarry also increases the danger of retaliation
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4.2 Still Hunting

In still hunting, the hunter sneaks into the habitat where a particular species of game is generally found and attempts to spot the game before the game spots them.

This method takes a lot of time and energy as the hunter may have to wait for long periods of time before the game comes into view. The hunter may move stealthily through the habitat and stop frequently to listen and observe.

A note must be made of where the animals sleep, eat and drink, thus making the process easier. As in the stalking method, the hunter needs to be extremely aware of the surroundings as well as their own bodies and presence.

Wind direction that may give away the scent of the hunter to the quarry is another thing to be considered. Taking cover behind a bush or tree is a common practice.

On a whole, this method is pretty similar to stalking hunting but with lesser movement.

Both methods require great levels of stamina and are usually preferred by experienced hunters.

Pros:

  1. Greater chance of running into quarry as opposed to ambush hunting
  2. A more involved and active experience
  3. Better chance of finding quarry

Cons:

  1. A good deal of stamina is required
  2. Higher level of skill required
  3. Danger of retaliation is higher
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4.3 Ambush Hunting/Stand Hunting

This is probably the most popular form of hunting. In this strategy, the hunter is concealed with the help of a tree stand or a ground blind while waiting for the prey to show itself and wander into shooting range, and then the hunter ambushes the prey.

It is called stand hunting as the hunter is stationary in one place while the prey comes to them.

The cover may be a tree stand or a ground blind. A ground blind is a covering made either of synthetic materials like nylon and plastic or natural materials lying around such as logs or tree branches.

In case of a tree stand built with metal or wood, the hunter gains the advantage of being able to see over obstacles while simultaneously staying out of the prey’s line of sight.

In both cases, it is advisable to set up the blind/stand days before the hunt so as to get the animals used to it and not spook them away due to noisy human activity.

The stand or blind is placed with the wind direction in mind, and usually in food lanes or near water sources to increase the likelihood of an animal coming by.

Pros:

  1. Conceals the hunter from the prey
  2. Lesser skill required
  3. Advantage of height possible

Cons:

  1. Long waiting times
  2. No freedom of movement
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4.4 Driving Hunting

Driving hunting is the method by which the game is driven to the hunter with the help of something.

Game may either be driven into a trap or merely to a position that makes it possible for the hunter to have a good shot.

It is usually done by sending dogs or people in vehicles through the terrain making noise such that the prey is driven in the direction of the hunter.

Pros:

  1. Higher chance of success
  2. Lower level of skill required

Cons:

  1. A good level of teamwork is needed or it will not work
  2. Cannot employ this strategy during solo hunting

4.5 Other Strategies

A couple of other strategies that are used in tandem with those mentioned above are calling and baiting.

CALLING is when the hunter imitates the call of the animal they are hunting either by themselves or with the help of a machine.

This attracts the animal towards the hunter or at least can make it stop to listen. This strategy is especially useful during the mating season if done properly, or else it can scare the prey away.

The other strategy is BAITING which refers to the hunter leaving bait for the prey, mostly in the form of food, thus ensuring it comes near their hunting stand.

This method is popular as it often yields results. However, baiting is illegal in some places so it is important to check local laws before attempting baiting.

5. Bowhunting Best Practices

A few tips can go a long way in making your bowhunting trip a fulfilling and enjoyable experience.

We have compiled a short list of the best bowhunting practices that can help make your journey as a bowhunter smooth.

5.1 Practice Makes Perfect

Practice from elevated positions beforehand if you are going to be hunting from a higher angle.

One common mistake archers do is to lower their arms while aiming to compensate for the angle. However, this will most definitely cause you to miss your shot.

You need to aim as if you were shooting at ground level and then bend at the waist to make the shot. This ensures good form and your aim will not falter.

While practicing make sure to do so in the full gear and clothing that you expect to be wearing while you hunt. This way you will be comfortable with the gear and also know what to expect on the final day.

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5.2 Smell, Sight and Sound

Consider the three “S”s while deciding on your position, which are smell, sight and sound.

Most animals have a keen sense of smell, hence you need to pay most attention to this. You could try the products available on the market that claim to disguise your original odor, but the best way to mask your scent is to stay downwind. This is why wind direction is an important part of the hunting process and one that you have to constantly take into account.

For sight, you need to avoid excessive movement. Also, make sure to have something covering you at the back against which you can disappear into the surroundings. This could be a tree, a large rock, or brush. Wearing camouflage is also a usual practice among hunters.

As for sound, you need to stay as quiet as possible. One tip to help in this is to test out your positions beforehand as a full dress rehearsal so you can check for any unintended sounds as a result of your gear. As such, using your phone or video gaming while on the hunt is definitely to be avoided.

5.3 Abiding By The Law

Always ensure you know the rules and regulations regarding hunting, and bowhunting in particular, in your region.

The rules change from region to region so do take a look.

Also, make sure you have the required hunting license and all other documents in place. For safety, it might be prudent to keep them in a water-proof compartment of your bag.

5.4 Taking The Shot

Always know where to aim at an animal. This is one of the basic tenets of bowhunting.

You need to have a good idea of where the vital organs are on each animal and aim to hit exactly that spot. If you just aim for the animal as a whole you are extremely likely to miss.

Even if you do hit the animal but miss the vitals, the recovery time will take longer as the animal will take longer to bleed out, even days sometimes.

This also causes unnecessary pain to the animal while prolonging your hunt.

Make sure that you only hit the animal when it is broadside as this greatly increases your chances of hitting vital organs. And do not aim for the head, neck or rear of the animal.

Hitting the vital organs are generally considered to be ethical shots as they kill without prolonged suffering.

5.5 Target Panic

Target panic is a condition wherein archers lose their composure at the last minute and end up missing the shot. Avoid target panic by learning to yourself a surprise release.

You also should ideally make the shot while your pin floats around the target and not wait for it to be steady on the target as that often causes target panic.

A surprise release helps here, and more often than not, you will have hit where you aimed to, even if you don’t feel it’s possible.

Another basic thing to remember is to stay in form until your arrow has reached the target. Changing form too early may change the trajectory of your arrow.

Hence avoid the urge to lower your hand as soon as you have released the arrow.

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5.6 Setting Up

While setting up your stand, if you find a place with clear signs of the species you want to hunt, do not put up your stand right over it. Instead back away around 20 feet while also considering the wind direction.

This way the prey won’t immediately see you and be spooked and you have the opportunity for a great shot.

If you are looking to hunt professionally and not merely for leisure, setting up wireless trail cameras might be a great idea. These help you to scout your hunting ground without spooking a buck or deer due to your scent in person.

Hunters may even choose to have them out months in advance to get a thorough picture of prey habits.

6. Fair Chase Rules

Fair chase refers to an ethical code of conduct that hunters abide by.

The primary component is that the animal must be wild (lives in nature) and free-ranging (not bound by artificial barriers).

These rules are not particularly legal laws, although there might be some overlap between the two, but more of a “spirit of the hunt”, an informal code.

  • Firstly, under fair chase, the hunter must abide by all the laws of hunting in whichever region he is hunting.
  • The quarry must have reasonable means of escape. So the hunter cannot hunt any animal hampered by snow, or caught in vegetation, or helpless in any such manner.
  • The hunter must not use motorized vehicles to herd or chase the animal.
  • The prey must not be trapped in artificial barriers which means that commercial shooting wherein the prey is left in a pre-defined space for hunters is not allowed. It must also not be drugged.
  • The hunter must aim to make the death of the prey as quick as possible and not prolong it by any means.
  • The hunter must follow a personal code of conduct that is ethical and reasonable and stick to it.

The Fair Chase regulations are essentially a way of life that respects wildlife and nature and does not simply exploit them for mankind’s pleasure.

7. Safety

There are a lot of factors to consider when taking about bowhunting safety. Some of the most basic and most important points have been listed below.

  • Follow archery and safety rules at all points of time.
  • Keep your physical limitations in mind while undertaking a hunt.
  • If possible, go on your hunt with someone who is experienced, more so if this is your first time hunting.
  • Keep someone informed about your hunting plans and make sure they have an idea of where you can be found at all times.
  • Always carry a first aid kit with bandages, Band-Aids, disinfectant, tweezers, aspirin and other essentials and cross-check that everything is present and nothing is expired.
  • Make sure your gear is up to date and everything works properly. Double-check your equipment before leaving.
  • Dress properly and always have survival equipment with you even for short distances.
  • Always be careful while handling your arrows and make sure you have a good quality quiver with you.
  • Always be aware that it is unlikely that you are the only person hunting and take that into account at all times.
  • If you are hunting from a tree stand, make sure to always have a safety harness in place, to prevent any mishaps from occurring.
  • Do not shoot at an animal without a safe background, that is, do not make a skyline shot, you don’t know where your arrow might land and whether it may endanger someone.
  • Once you’ve hit the animal do not rush in, but give it some time and then follow the blood trail. This will be safe for you as you wouldn’t want an injured animal charging at you and endangering you.
  • Ultimately, be aware of yourself and your surroundings at all times and don’t be distracted at any point.

Conclusion

Bowhunting is perhaps more difficult a sport than other forms of hunting such as riflehunting. Yet due to that difficulty level, it proves itself to be a rewarding experience.

The adrenaline on the day you make your first kill, or land that perfect shot will make up for the months of diligent practice and the strenuous hours you have to spend to become a good bowhunter.

If you take all precautions and follow the rules and tips while trusting in yourself and your own intuition, that day may come soon, and you will find yourself experiencing the joys that still makes bowhunting so popular even today.

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