Get the Most Out of Bowhunting

Bow hunting has been practiced for food, battle and sport for thousands of years. Today, hunters enjoy using the bow for a number of reasons. Bow hunting requires more physical skill, more stamina and more acuity than rifle hunting. Some hunters describe hunting with a bow as a much more personal experience, and some enjoy feeling connected to history. Whatever your reason for taking up bow hunting, there are tips of the trade that can help you master this challenging, yet rewarding sport.

YOUR BOW

Type: Many of today's hunters prefer a compound bow. Compound bows are strung across pulleys for additional shooting force. Either one or both of the pulleys can be manipulated to adjust the tension. making the arrow easier to hold in firing position, and easier to aim.

Size: It's common to assume that a larger, heavier bow applies more force, and is therefore a better choice. In reality, a lighter bow will actually improve accuracy, and give you a more consistent draw. A quality compound bow in the 50-pound range is generally sufficient for most recreational hunters. The most important thing to consider when choosing a bow is how it fits you specifically, and how comfortable you feel using it. A heavy bow does you no good if you have to struggle to make it work for you.

What to Buy: When purchasing your bow, prepare to make an investment. Purchasing a quality bow in a reputable shop will stretch your dollar further than buying an inexpensive, low-end bow. Remember that quality and fit are more important than brand name. Also, investing in an extra bowstring is always a good idea.

PRACTICE

Importance: The value of practice and preparation in bowhunting cannot be overstated. Animals are moving targets, and getting a good kill shot requires dexterity, finesse, timing and intense familiarity with your equipment. A combination of two types of practice are recommended for improving their skills: spot shooting and 3D targets.

Spot Shooting: Spot shooting involves shooting at targets placed at predetermined distances. Repetitive spot shooting gives the archer familiarity with the weight of the bow, the force he must use for the draw, how to adjust the pulleys and the correct way to hold the bow. The idea is to develop muscle memory, so that drawing and positioning the bow becomes second nature.

3D Targets: 3D target practice uses lifelike, life-size foam targets of different animals, which are placed at distances unknown to the archer. This gives him practice judging distance, trajectory and size, all of which are very hard to determine in the field.

Clothing: Hunters should always practice with the clothing they will wear while hunting. Different clothing can change the feel of the bow against your body, affect your draw, and throw your shot off balance.

HUNTING

Camouflage: Bowhunters shoot at close range (50 yards or less), so it's imperative that they are well camouflaged. Dark clothing that blends in with the environment is recommended. Because deer are very sensitive to odors, hunters should bathe with unscented soap and avoid using cologne, smoking or chewing gum. Deer don't have great vision, but they can sense movement instantly. A treestand is a good way to keep yourself above the view of the deer.

Preparing your Bow: Ideally, your bow should be set up so that your performance is the only variable. In other words, a good shot shouldn't go bad because of a misaligned or poorly-adjusted bow. Your bow should be tested and adjusted for performance and safety before every use. Aids like wrist straps, bow sights and arrow rests can help you perfect your aim, steady your bow and make consistent, clean shots.

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