The Beginning Bowhunter


Safety First

Always clearly identify your target and what is beyond. An arrow can travel quite a distance if it misses the target. 

Always conduct yourself in a responsible and ethical manner at all times when using a bow. 

Never load an arrow, or draw a bow when facing someone. 


Shooting The Bow

There are seven basic steps involved in becoming a good archer. The following steps are for right-handed shooters, reverse the directions for left-handed shooters. 
 

Position Or Stance

Position your body at a 90 degree angle to the target. Spread feet conformably apart with your body weight equal on both legs. Your shoulders should line up with an imaginary line drawn from the center of the target.
Position or Stance

 

Holding The Bow

The bow should be able to move freely after an arrow is released. Proper bow grip is achieved by forming a "V" by the thumb and forefinger. To get a relaxed grip, many archers use a bow sling to prevent the bow from falling out of their hand upon release.
Holding the bow

 

Notching The Arrow

Hold the bow in the left hand with the arrow rest up, and the bowstring against the inside of the left arm. Lay the arrow shaft across the arrow rest with the "cock" feather at right angles to the bowstring. Draw the arrow toward the bowstring until the string sits firmly in the arrow notch.
Nocking the Arrow

 

Drawing The Bow

The bowstring is drawn back by the first three fingers of the right hand, with the arrow notch held lightly between the first two fingers. Draw the string back until the index fingers on the right hand is "anchored". The same anchor point is used each time you draw the bow. Using different anchor points will result in poor shooting.
Drawing the Bow

 

Aiming

Either the instinctive aim or the bow sight aim can be used. With the instinctive aim, an archer views the target with both eyes open and releases. Using a bow sight, the shooter aligns the sight on the target and releases.
Aiming

 

Release

The bow is held at full draw long enough to achieve accurate aim. After taking a deep breath and holding it, the three draw fingers are relaxed, allowing the bowstring to be released smoothly. Again, to ensure consistency, the same form of release must be used at all times. 
Release

 

Follow Through

As in any other sport, follow through is important. To become accurate, the bow hand and string hand must remain where they are until the arrows hits the target. Practice this discipline to shoot well.
Follow Through


NOTE: These methods may vary slightly depending on the equipment you shoot.


Practice

When I say Practice I don't mean practice. Not going down to the hangout and spending your time jabbering with your friends and shooting a few arrows... (although that too definitely has it's part!). I mean shooting good arrows. You have to concentrate in practice otherwise you might as well not be there. Work on something every time you shoot.

Back Tension

I believe that it is essential to have good back tension. In order to draw and hold a  bow while you make a shot it is necessary for your body to do a lot of work. Trying to do this work with arm muscles, even for the bodybuilders is nearly impossible. The back muscles are multitudinous and large so why not use them. Shooting with just your arms and you WILL collapse after the shot, maybe not always, but sometimes.

Rhythm

A good shooting Rhythm will aid accuracy. Shoot with a continuous fluid action, if you stop it will take a lot of effort to get the rhythm started again! Research has shown that the longer you try to aim the less accurate you aiming becomes. You are at your most accurate early on in your shot cycle. I believe a cycle of 5 seconds is more than enough and over 7 seconds is too long. If you cannot shoot in such a rhythm there are several possibilities:
     
  • You are over-bowed (bow too heavy)
  • You have a basic technical error (e.g. bow shoulder collapsing etc)
  • You are not pulling continuously
  • You are over-aiming (in archery your aiming does not need to be that precise!
I cannot emphasize the importance of drawing smoothly. Never stop pulling! If you stop pulling then you have to start again which will be jerky and inconsistent. If you never stop then all your actions can be smooth and refined! Watch the top archers shooting, they pull all the way through, no stopping and starting again.

Relaxed Drawing Hand

It is essential for a good release that the fingers that draw the string are as relaxed as possible. If you have a lot of tension then the string will clear them with a jerk, therefore proving inconsistent. If your fingers are more relaxed the string can just push them aside as you relax the holding tension. The key to this is IMHO a good deep hook. If you support the string on the tips of the fingers then the string is well away from the line of power, exaggerating the holding tension. Your finger tips which are in front of the string are rigid. With a good deep hook your finger tips can be far more relaxed, the only tension in your fingers is the minimal amount that will hold the string. When I say "deep hook" I mean past or near the first joint. To some extent it will depend on the shape of your hand. I prefer to be past the joint on my top and middle fingers and in the joint on my bottom finger.

WARNING: Shooting form the joints may cause joint damage and possibly increase the risk of arthritis.

Relaxed Bow Hand

The bow hand is the last place where you can influence the arrow. If you are torquing the bow-grip, then as you release the string the bow will begin to rotate or kick. To minimize this effect you must relax your bow hand, this will improve consistency from shot to shot. To maintain a relaxed bow hand follow these steps:
     
  • Rotate elbow so that joint is faces the string. 
  • Make a V shape with your bowhand (Thumb to forefinger)
  • Place hand on the base of the grip and slide up into the throat.
  • Relax thumb and forefinger.
Now you must check that your hand does not make any contact with the grip to the bow-side of your lifeline (on your palm!). If you start with your hand and fingers like this you should be able to maintain that position through the draw cycle. 

Relaxed Anchor

Assuming you do actually anchor, most archers pull into their face way too hard (me included). Keep your head up (stand tall you slob!) and draw into anchor. Keep your head and neck relaxed and allow the head to move a little when you are at the full draw position (backwards of course!). This is much easier and more comfortable than pulling the string tight onto your chin bone!

Body Alignment

You aim with your body almost as much as with the sight. It is important that you find out what works for you. Areas to be considered are:
     
  • Stance (open or closed, if open how open)
  • Shoulder (set back, pushed forward or just natural?)
  • Rear Elbow (in line with arrow tends to be best)
  • Body must be upright
  • Balance
Although there are plenty of rights and wrongs there are a lot of correct possibilities! You must experiment and decide for yourself. Never copy another archer. Everybody has a different physique so there is no definitive way! 

Tips For The Beginning Bowhunter

Only by practice will you be able to become a proficient bowhunter and increase your chance of a clean kill.  Practice on the archery field to get your bow tuned and to determine your effective shooting range.  Practice regularly and under every weather condition.  This will allow you to shoot under more realistic hunting conditions and sharpen your skills as an effective archer.

Improperly judged distances are a major factor in missed shots. Thus, proper range estimation is a must for successful bowhunting.  Range estimation can be learned through experience gained from stump shooting.  Note that after every practice shot taken the actual range should be taken as to learn and adapt.  

Scent And Wind

To help disguise your natural human scent just before the hunt, try this method taught to me by a true (old-time) woods-man. When your warming up next to the fire on that chilly morning just before daylight, before putting out your fire, lay a large portion of fresh cut GREEN pine needles on your coals. When they start up a good cloud of smoke, start jumping through the smoke several times while in your hunting clothes for the day. Be sure to close your eyes when doing this, as the sap smoke may burn your eyes a little. The pine sap and odor will coat you and your clothes with a layer of pine scented residue. The odor is pleasing, and if you have a very light sticky feeling (which shouldn't last long before drying) the sap smoke has done it's job. Be sure to coat your boots real well by holding your feet in the smoke about twice as long, as it will wear off quicker while walking to your ground blind or treestand. Even though this may be effective and help you elude the animal longer than it would usually be possible, it is not an excuse for ignoring the wind direction. 

The keys to staying undetected are keeping your movement minimal, making the least noise possible and preventing the animals from detecting your scent.  Of all these, scent is the one that will usually give you away.  This is because you have less control of your odor and no control of the wind.  It is important that you stay downwind of your pray to decrease its chances of detecting you.

Bear in mind that the wind direction can change and keeping track of such changes is a must.  There are many ways to determine the direction of even the lightest breezes.  Some hunters use butane lighters, others use a fine scentless powder that will float with the wind, while others attach a small feather onto a string of floss and attach it to their bow.  Any method will do as long as it is quite, requires little movement and releases little or no scent.  

Scouting

In order to complete a successful hunt, you must know as much about your prey as possible.  You must learn of the animal's habits, food sources and travel routes.  Scouting a good portion of the year is a trait associated with many successful bowhunters and they will tell you that the information and experience gained from this habit is invaluable.  Also note that over scouting an area can have a negative effect on the wildlife and you may end up pushing the animals out of the area or may become nocturnal, not be seen or heard from during hunting hours.  

Hunt Safely

Archery is probably the safest of all shooting sports, yet accidents do happen and it is up to you to be prepared.  Broadheads are sharp and should always be protected, do not leave the sharp edges exposed.  Treestands are notably dangerous and have even been the cause of death in some bowhunting accidents.  The use of a harness is a must if you plan to hunt from a treestand.  Always carry some emergency supplies in case you get lost or hurt, this includes your compass.  Even if you follow every single safety precaution, there is always a chance that something may go wrong.  Whenever you wander into the wilderness, be prepared for the worst.  

Do Not Over Hunt An Area

Just like over-scouting, over hunting an area can also have a negative impact.  Every time you go back and forth from your ground blind or treestand, you leave a scent behind that can alert passing game.  Too many hunters in one area will eventually scare the animals out of that area or force them to become nocturnal.

To minimize over-hunting an area, try to have more than one possible location for your treestand.  Deer can adapt, if you use the same site every day they will associate it with humans.  Once they associate a site with humans, they will avoid it and warn other deer as well.  Try to avoid areas where hunting pressure is already great. Don't forget to always keep your scent to a minimal.  So don't pass a game trail on the way to your treestand or walk parallel to existing game trails.  

Tracking Skills

Getting a shot on an animal is one of the greatest accomplishments for a beginning bowhunter. Unfortunately there is still much work to do after you release that arrow.  Finding the downed animal is one of the most important of them.  Tracking the animal can be a challenge in itself, but add that to a rainy day, falling daylight or a bloodless trail and then you could end up with a nightmare. Try to bring in an experienced hunter to help you locate the animal.  With his experience you increase the chance of a recovery and learn valuable tips while doing it.