A few years back when ammunition prices started to go through the roof, I decided that it was time to look into bowhunting as an opportunity to target shoot and hunt without the expense of ammo. Like many people, I assumed I could just pick up a bow, grab some arrows, and start shooting, which is exactly what happened until I started getting frustrated and tired. The bow I bought was put up in the rafters in the garage and basically forgotten for about a year.

Then, in the middle of a totally unrelated conversation with a friend of a friend, (we were talking about horse trailers), the topic of bowhunting came up. It turned out that the fella I was talking to is an accomplished bowhunter who regularly guides bowhunt trips. He encouraged me to get the bow out again, head to a local archery shop, and start over from the beginning. It was solid advice that I am glad I followed, since it gave me the confidence to keep shooting.

The Different Types of Bows

One of the most important choices you’ll make before starting your quest is what type of bow you want to use. There are three types we will discuss today: traditional longbows, recurve bows, and compound bows. Each bow offers potential for success but carries a few drawbacks that are important to understand.

Different Types of Bows

Traditional longbows are most commonly used for competition archery, but will also be found in big game hunting where range and power are important. Recurve bows are more commonly found on bowhunts. These bows offer high draw weights, compact size, and high-performance that makes them ideal for everything from bowfishing to big game. At the high end of the bow price range are compound bows that use pulleys to amplify the available power of the bow and have a cam system that relieves the weight of the string. Compound bows are excellent for hunting and target practice.

Draw Weight, Draw Length, and How To Find The Right One

A few terms that are used a lot in archery are draw weight and draw length. Understanding these terms and what they mean for shooting is vital to having any success as a new bowhunter. Draw weight refers to the amount of weight required to pull the bowstring to its maximum distance, expressed in pounds. A 20 lb draw weight is easier to draw but doesn’t give the arrow as much initial energy, while a 75 lb draw weight will provide optimal penetration power but will require quite a bit of strength to pull back the string. Typically, lower draw weights are best for target practice, while hunting regulations typically establish a minimum draw weight that is usually around 45 lbs.

Bow Holding Weight At Full Draw

Draw length refers to the distance the bowstring is pulled back when shooting. This metric is controlled by either the strength of the shooter or the length the bow has available. New bowhunters will need to find a bow that offers enough draw length that they are not over-extending the draw, but also one that matches the length of their arms to prevent improper shooting motion. There are some ways you can get an idea at home of what the proper length and weight are for you, but taking a little time to head to a local archery shop will ensure that you get the correct setup the first time.

Working On Your Shooting Stance

One of the more important things that an archery shop can share with you is how to find the correct stance for shooting a bow. Just like shooting a firearm or tossing a bowling ball, the mechanics of how you stand and shoot play a major role in whether you hit the target. The most expensive bow in the world won’t make you a better hunter, but spending the time to practice your foot placement, hip alignment, shoulder alignment, and where to hold the drawn string while aiming will make you a better hunter even with a cheap bow.

Working on your shooting stance is one of the most vital parts of accurately shooting a bow. You will want to be able to draw and target quickly with your body in the proper position as close to automatically as you can get. Don’t forget that a bow should never be dry-fired because it can cause damage to the bow. There are a number of exercises you can do at home that will improve your form and speed up the time it takes to advance from low-draw weight bows to a weight that is appropriate for hunting.

Practice, Practice, Practice

In the beginning, you might get discouraged with your accuracy and the strength in your upper body that archery requires. You will need to practice regularly to build up muscle strength and muscle memory proficiently before ever going hunting, and getting past the discouraging part is key.

Once you can hit the bullseye regularly from a variety of distances with a hunting-weight draw, it’s time to think about taking to the field. Don’t forget to check with your state wildlife agency for hunter safety training requirements, regulations, and permit or license information before hunting.

Do Archery Accessories Really Help?

Regardless of the type of bow you choose, there are a number of key accessories you’ll need. The best way for new hunters to figure out what equipment is essential to get started shooting is to ask the pros at the archery shop. They can help figure out the proper forearm bracer, string release mechanism, arrow nock, bow sight, and other key parts that will vary slightly based on the type and brand of the bow you choose.

My Final Thoughts On Bowhunting For Beginners

Getting into bowhunting is so much more than just an opportunity to hit early-season hunts or a lower-cost option to high ammunition prices, it is a way of hunting that is primal. There is no feeling quite like the one you get from a day of bowhunting, stalking a deer, or sitting in a stand waiting on a wild tom, even the days when you don’t take a shot. It’s also a great way to get some exercise in the offseason and continue to work on shooting skills.

Additionally, if you have a crossbow, we have a great article summarizing the Best Crossbow Targets!