Bowhunting Basics For Beginner Hunters

Bow hunting isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s on of the most challenging hunting skills to master.  It might take your round scouting and practice to master the gun season, but that isn’t going to transfer to your bow hunting skills.  Bow hunters need to practice longer and become one with their equipment.

Beginner Bowhunting Basics

Figuring Out Your Bows Draw Weight

Before you can get out into the field and bag your first buck you’ll have to make a few choices.  Bow hunters across the country love bragging about their draw weight.  All these “macho men” carrying their ridiculously heavy bows are in for a big surprise come hunting season.

For some reason every new bow hunter overestimates their ability to draw heavy bows.  They choose a bow that’s far too heavy for their own strength.  Maybe you’ve been practicing all summer without any trouble, but get out in the cold and it starts to get difficult.

When you’re out in the cold you aren’t going to be able to draw the same amount of weight.  Your muscles start to feel stiff and you’ll be shaking. You need to be able to hold your chosen weight steady without shaking.  Nobody knows how long it will take until a shot presents itself.  If you’re shaking you might as well stay home, because you won’t be able to hit the broad side of a barn.

Beginners Should Go With Lighter Weights

Before you go out into the field you’re going to need a good draw weight scale.  Personally I love the digital Last Chance Bow Scale, but it’s on the expensive side.  You can save a few bucks with this manual Weston Bow Scale that’s a little harder to use and just as accurate.

Just because your bow can be dialed up to 80+ lb draw weights doesn’t mean that’s optimal.  I would much rather pull 60lbs with good form than 80lbs shaky.  When that trophy buck presents itself you’re only as good as your equipment.  With a compound bow most men should stick to 50-60lbs and women should choose 40-50lbs.  Stronger people can increase the draw weight a bit.

You can kill just about anything in North America with 60lbs. 40-50lbs is going to take down any whitetail. If you can pull 80lbs comfortably than more power to you, but the added weight is entirely unnecessary.

Work Out In The Offseason

Don’t go into the hunting season without any functional strength.  Too many bowhunters wait until a week or two before the season to bring out their bow.  That’s definitely not the right way to do things.

Pulling back a bow uses muscles that most people don’t frequently use.  Even guys that spend 5 days in the gym still need to practice pulling their bow.

Don’t wait until hunting season and expect to go out and bring in a nice whitetail.  You really need to start practicing right now.  Focusing on two things, your overall accuracy and getting used to the bows draw weight.

Purchase Your Equipment From an Archery Pro Shop

If you’re an absolute beginner you should avoiding buying most of your equipment online.  Instead you’re going to want to hit up your nearest archery pro shop.  There’s a lot that goes into setting up and tuning your first bow.  Initial setup isn’t easy and it should be left to experienced archers.

Avoid buying equipment from the beginner chain stores.  The nearest Dicks Sporting Goods or Cabelas might have a special going on, but they don’t train their staff properly.  Your average store employee simply doesn’t have the skills required to properly fit you with a bow.

Instead you should look out for the local ma and pop stores that have employees that actually hunt.  Yes you may pay a bit more that one of the big chain stores, but you can be sure you will get a proper fit.  Buying your bow from a chain store is like trying to pick out food for your vegan girlfriend.  Chances are you have no idea what you need and nobodies going to be their to help you.

Leave Bow Setup to The Pros

A good archery pro should be able to set you up with the proper draw length and fine tune the bow for your specific needs.  It really isn’t all that difficult when you know what your doing, but it’s a fairly delicate procedure to get right.

It really is worth doing things right the first time. Believe me, you will save money in the long run if the store employee is actually an archer himself.  Hunters love to brag about their latest conquest and sharing all of their favorite pieces of gear.

Practice Shooting Your Bow at Targets

Ok so now you have your bow and all your gear.  How do you get started?  Every beginner needs to start off shooting at targets.

A well made target like this cheap Black Hole Archery Target is the way to start off.  It’s going to be your new best friend, able to withstand 5-10k shots before needing to be replaced.  Just make sure you don’t accidentally get a youth model that can’t handle heavier draw weights.

At some point you’ll probably want to switch to a good 3d target to further improve your accuracy.  Target shooting is great for honing in your skills, but 3D shooting helps you master those angles.  Field Logic’s GlenDel Buck is the perfect 3d target to practice on.

Continue Practicing Throughout The Season

In most states the bowhunting season lasts a very long time.  It’s important to remember to continue practicing throughout the season. Quit practicing for a few weeks and you’ll be surprised just how much strength you lose in your arms.  Your peak accuracy will drop and things will start to get shaky.

Practice From a Tree Stand

You need to practice from different angles to perfect your kill shot.  Remember that you need to be just as accurate from a tree stand as you are from the ground.

Looking down on a buck from a above is completely different than hunting from the ground.  Get up into your tree stand before the season actually starts to practice.  Try to master those weird angles behind you before you actually face a deer.

Practice From Different Ranges

So you always practice from 10 yards and you’re an excellent shot.  Move the target out to 20 yards and your arrows are sure to spread.  You need to practice from different ranges so you get a good idea of the distance you’re shooting from.

When I talking about ranges it’s not just to improve your shooting ability.  You should also make a point to practice judging different distances so you know your effective range.  Most hunters find that 30 yards is going to be close to their effective killing range.  If you’re an absolute beginner it might be even closer.

Know Your Effective Bow Hunting Range

Try not to overestimate your effective shooting range.  Even though I can effectively shoot out to 30 yards I probably won’t take that shot.  I prefer keeping my shots at 20 yards or less.

Could I kill a deer at 30-40 feet? Yes I almost definitely could, but bow hunting shouldn’t be about chance.  You shoot only when you know you’ll get a kill.  That trophy buck deserves the best shot you can give him, not a long drawn out death.

What if You Can’t Recover a Deer?

It doesn’t matter how much you practice, we all eventually make a mistake.  Hunt long enough and you’ll eventually stick a buck that you can’t recover.  It will make you sick to your stomach thinking about what you could have done differently.

Make sure you’re very picky about your shots and do everything you can to track a wounded deer.  Do yourself a favor and buy a blood tracking light like the Primos Bloodhunter.  Blood tracking lights make finding a blood trail so much easier.

Scout Before and During The Season

Scouting throughout the summer and early fall is crucial to your hunting success.  Prepare just like you would during the regular hunting season.  Get out all your camo and wash it like you would during the regular hunting season.

Spray on some Scent Killer and get ready for the regular hunting season.  Check out my post on Homemade Deer Lures and Cover Scents.

If you’re not into the whole diy route(cutting out tarsal glands isn’t for everybody) you can also try out a commercial cover scent.  In the past I’ve had a lot of success using Tink’s Bandit Coon Power Cover.  Raccoons go just about everywhere so a coon cover is a pretty safe bet.  Just put on a dab or two will do wonders.

Practice Makes Perfect

No matter what you do practice makes perfect, and scouting is no different.  Practice, practice and more practice along with preseason scouting.  Practice setting up your blind or tree stand and get everything ready.  After a while it should feel like second nature.

Don’t get frustrated if you don’t connect on your first outing.  Bow season is normally very long so it’s no surprise that most hunters go home empty handed. If hunting was easy it wouldn’t be worth doing. Practice the basics and you’ll eventually get that buck of a lifetime.

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