Archery Hunting 101:  Bow Hunting for Beginners

Are you interested in bow hunting but don't know where to start? Then this guide is for you! Here we will discuss the basics of bow hunting and provide information on how to get started. We'll also cover what you need to consider before your first hunt. So whether you're a seasoned outdoorsman or just getting started in the pastime of archery hunting, read on for all the information you need to get started today!

*Click on the Table of Contents above to quickly navigate through the guide.

Getting Started

If you want to be an Archery Hunter, there are a lot of things to consider before getting started that will impact how you hunt, what you hunt for, and what bow hunting gear you buy.  You have to ask yourself what is your goal?  What do I want to hunt?  Deer, elk, turkey, wild boar, moose,...?  Where am I going to hunt?  The list goes on and on.  


Most people who get into this type of hunting start with deer hunting.  If you start with deer, you can expand out and most likely hunt anything you want by simply tweaking your gear to fit that particular style of hunting and type of game.  Deer hunting with a bow is one of the most challenging and satisfying types of hunting there is.  The guide below will get you started on this course and from there you can hunt almost anything with a bow.

Mike with archery 7-Point Buck

Common Beginner Bow Hunting Mistakes

When I retired from the Army in 2010, my Dad encouraged me to "get into archery hunting" and join him and my brother that fall at the family hunting camp in the mountains of north central Pennsylvania.  I had hunted when I was a teenager and had taken the Hunter's Safety Course, but I hadn't hunted actively for many years due to my military service.  I went on Ebay and bought a Ready-to-Hunt (RTH) bow from Bear Archery and a no name brand climbing tree stand.  I bought some arrows from my local Archery Pro Shop and had them tune my bow and get it setup right.  My hunting gear consisted of old military uniforms and a pair of Muck rubber boots.  I practiced diligently with the bow and was shooting pretty good in a short time, but never shot from an elevated position.  I thought I was ready to start hunting archery.  I was wrong.


Rookie Mistake 1:  Scouting and Preparation

The first day of Archery season I was up at 4:30 am and walking to my spot by 5:30.  I realized that I couldn't find the tree in the dark I had identified a few weeks before.  Even with a headlamp leftover from the Army and a Surefire flashlight I couldn't find that same tree.  I had gone scouting with my Dad and brother and found a spot that had a lot of deer trails and deer skat.  I had identified a tree that my Dad said was good for hunting that spot and thought I was ready to go.  Wrong.


Rookie Mistake 2:  Tree Stand

When I finally found a tree that was suitable for my no name, loud, clunky climbing tree stand; I spent about 30 minutes struggling to get it leveled in the tree.  I climbed, descended, then climbed again several times until I was level up in the tree.  Once I was finally settled, the secured myself to the tree with a safety harness I had bought and sat down in the stand.  I was covered in sweat, disoriented, and didn't have any idea how high I was in the tree.  My tree stand shifted constantly and I lost trust in its safety right away.  By this time I was a nervous wreck

Rookie Mistake 3:  Know Your Enemy

Around 7:30 am I heard something coming towards me from behind.  Suddenly, I had 12 doe (some were young fawns and yearlings) all around me.  I spotted two really big doe and needed to stand up to take a shot.  I was sitting and felt paralyzed and that I couldn't move without spooking the deer.  With them all around me I realized that I was only around 11-12 feet off the ground and very exposed.  Luckily, not knowing then what I know now, the wind was in my favor and they didn't smell me and take off.  The doe stayed there feeding around me for 20 minutes.  I finally felt that I had an opening and slowly stood up.  From behind me, one of the doe snorted, and they all ran off, tails up. Busted.

Learn from My Mistakes

I learned a lot from that first day in the woods and am still learning today.  The animal or game you are hunting will always have a vote.  You can prepare, scout, have the best gear, and the best bow and still go all season without succeeding.  If you are just getting started, you might see a few of the mistakes that were made above.  In reality, in those three rookie mistakes, there are tons of other mistakes that were made.  The good news is, this guide is here to help you keep from making the same mistakes I did and get on the right track from Day 1.

How to Get Started with Bow Hunting

If you are interested in archery hunting, there is no better time to get started than now. It can be a challenging and rewarding experience, but it can also be difficult to get started if you don’t know where to begin. In this Beginner's guide, we will provide an overview of the different types of bows available, essential gear, as well as some valuable tips for getting started on your first hunt.  Let's go!

step 1

Select the Right Bow

Selecting the right bow is one of the first steps in the process of your bowhunting journey and it can be a daunting task when you are starting out.  Before you start, you need to know the type of wild game you want to hunt and have a general understanding of the hunting laws and regulations in the state you want to hunt in.  You need to know if you are generally going to be hunting in woodlands and mountains or in large open areas (like the western part of the U.S.).  All of these factors come into play as well as a few more.  


Now let's take a look at your bow options.

Compound Bow

Compound bows are the most popular type of bow for archery hunting. They are made up of a series of interconnected pulleys and cams that make them very powerful and accurate. Compound bows can be fitted with various types of sights, stabilizers, and other archery accessories to improve accuracy. The main advantage of a compound bow is its ability to be customized for the archer’s needs.  More on this below.


Bow Hunting for Beginners

Hoyt Vector Turbo Compound Bow with Arrows

Crossbow

Crossbows have been around since the middle ages, but these are not like the old time crossbows.  Modern Compound and hybrid crossbows can shoot up to 500 feet per second (FPS) and even a low end $250 crossbow can shoot upwards of 400 FPS.  


Crossbows are great for new archery hunters who are still trying to learn how to shoot a regular bow and they are perfect for disabled, injured, and/or older hunters who can't shoot a regular bow as well as they once did. If your not very good at shooting a regular bow, please use a crossbow.  The animal you are hunting deserves better.  

Parts of a Crossbow

Courtesy of Hunter-Ed.com.


Recurve Bow

Recurve bows are made up of two parts: the riser, which holds the archer’s hand; and the limbs, which archers pull back on to release an arrow. A recurve bow is less powerful than a compound bow, but it has a smooth draw and can be fitted with archery sights, stabilizers, and other archery accessories to improve accuracy.


Longbow

A longbow is a type of bow that is taller than it is wide. It has been used for archery since the medieval era. A longbow is typically made from a single piece of wood, and the archer pulls the bowstring back with their fingers. Longbows are not as common today as they were in the past, but they are still used for archery competitions and hunting. Longbows can be used to hunt deer, elk, and other large game animals. They are also effective for bird hunting.

Recommendation for Beginners

If you are just starting out we recommend a starting with a compound bow. Compound bows are the most popular type of bow today because they are accurate, powerful, and have an adjustable draw weight. This means that even beginner archers can learn to shoot accurately pretty quickly. Compound bows also have a let-off, which means they are much easier to hold at full draw for extended periods of time. 


*Most states require a bow to have a minimum of a 45 pound draw weight for hunting.  Check your state's archery hunting laws and regulations to see what they require before you start hunting.

step 2

Get the Right Archery Equipment

Archery Hunting requires more than just a bow. There are a lot of other items required to be able to hunt with a bow effectively. The archery gear required will vary based on the type of archery you are doing, but there are a few items that every archer should have, especially if you will be hunting with a compound bow or crossbow.

Bow Sight

A bow sight is an attachment for your bow that allows you to aim more accurately. There are many different types of bow sights available, including single pin and multi-pin sights. By using a bow sight, you can increase your accuracy as an archer. There are different types of bow sights on the market today, but we would recommend a fixed pin bow sight for beginners. A fixed pin bow sight has a set of pins that archers can move up and down to adjust for different distances. This makes it easy to use without having to change the settings on your bow each time you switch from short range targets to long-range deer or other large game animal targets.

Arrow Rest

An arrow rest is a small piece of archery equipment that attaches to the bow and holds the arrow in place as you draw back on the string. There are many different types of arrow rests available, including stationary and adjustable rests.

Arrows

Arrows come in many different sizes and styles to match your bow and archery style. A good rule of thumb is to purchase arrows that are one inch shorter than your draw length.

Arrows are made of wood, carbon fiber, or aluminum. Wood arrows will work for archery practice and hunting small game in close range situations but they cannot be used on larger animals as the arrow may break upon impact. Carbon fiber and aluminum arrows can handle a lot more abuse than wood arrows which is why they are the preferred choice for bowhunting larger game animals.

Elements of a Compound Bow
Arrow Rest and Quiver

There are many different types of archery arrows on the market today, but we would recommend using carbon arrows for beginners. Carbon arrows are durable, have a straight flight path, and come in a variety of weights to fit your personal preferences.  It is recommended to go to your local Archery Shop and ask for advice on what arrows are best for your specific bow and to have them measure and cut your arrows in accordance with your specific draw length.

Bolts

An arrow specially made for a crossbow is called a bolt.  Bolts are generally shorter and slighter larger in circumference than arrows shot from compound and other bows.  Other than that, they are almost identical to arrows.  Crossbow bolts need to be selected based on the type of crossbow you are shooting.  It is recommended to always see what type of bolt the manufacturer recommends before buying bolts for your crossbow.

Arrow Points and Broadheads

The tip of an arrow is what makes contact with the animal that you are hunting. There are many different types of arrow tips available, including field points, target points, and broadheads. Field points and target points are blunt tips that are used for archery practice and small game hunting. Broadheads are razor-sharp tips that are designed for bowhunting larger animals.

Arrow Nocks 

Arrow nocks come in many different styles to fit the type of bow you are using. There are three main types of arrow nocks: flat, half moon, and round. Flat nocks fit most compound bows, while half moon and round nocks are designed for traditional bows.

Stabilizer

A stabilizer is a device that attaches to the front of your bow and helps reduce vibration, noise, and provide additional balance to your bow as you shoot. Stabilizers come in a variety of sizes and weights to match your style.

Quiver

A quiver is a container that holds your arrows while you are archery hunting. There are many different types of quivers available, including shoulder bags, hip packs, and bow-mounted quivers.

Bow Release

A bow release is a bow shooting tool that allows you to hook a caliper type clip to the bow loop attached to your bow's string and then draw your bow string to shoot.  There are usually some type of trigger on the release that allows you to shoot your bow much like a gun.

Archery Equipment for Beginners: What To Buy First?

We've discussed a lot of options, here is the archery equipment that we recommend buying first:

- a Compound Bow (How to Buy a Compound Bow for Hunting (Beginner's Guide))

- a bow sight 

- a bow stabilizer

- a bow release

- arrows, target points, and hunting broadheads (ask your local Archery Shop professional for their recommendations.)

step 3

Understanding Bow Hunting Techniques and Equipment

Archery Hunting from a Tree Stand or Hunting Blind

When you start hunting with a bow you'll find that you have to approach hunting a lot differently than you would with a gun.  For one, you have to get a lot closer to the wild game you are hunting.  With this in mind, archery hunters have a lot of options of how and where to hunt from. Bow hunters often hunt from climbing or other types of mobile lock-on style tree stands. This method has many advantages over other hunting methods, including the ability to get up high and hunt above the animal's line of vision and scent funnel.  Ground blinds are other options for the multitude of hunting scenarios archers find themselves in when hunting deer and other wild game.

Tree stands are elevated off the ground and attached to a tree with either ratchet straps or bolts. They come in several different styles, including hanging ladder stands and climbing stick/ladder combo stands that you put on your back as you hike through the woods and set up as needed. Bowhunting from a tree stand gives you the advantage of being above the game while hunting.  A ground blind gives you cover when you hunt from the ground.

Here are a few of the different types of options to consider when beginning your bowhunting journey.

hawk kickback hunting image

Climbing Tree Stands

Climbing tree stands offer archery hunters a lot of flexibility when it comes to archery hunting from trees. A climbing tree stand offers archers an opportunity to get up high in the trees and hunt from an elevated position without needing any other tools to both climb and hunt.  

Fixed Position Tree Stands (Lock-on, Hang-on, or Ladder stands)

Fixed position tree stands are a great option for archers who want to stay in one spot while archery hunting. These stands are typically anchored to a tree and offer archers a comfortable, stable platform to shoot from.  Hang-on stands can be mobile and allow for freedom of movement from hunt to hunt, while larger hang-on stands tend to be more static because of their size and weight, this goes for ladder stands as well, which tend to be setup in one location for the entire hunting season due to their large size and weight.

Saddle Hunting

Saddle Hunting is a new way to hunt archery from a tree. We utilize a saddle to climb up into the tree, then we hunt archery from it. The saddle allows you to be up in the tree and close to the deer. You are able to get a better view of your surroundings, which gives you more time to make a decision on the shot.

The saddle also puts you in a much more comfortable position while hunting archery. It takes all the pressure off your back and allows you to hunt archery all day without getting tired.

Climbing Sticks for Archery Hunting

When hunting with a lock-on/hang-on stand or saddle hunting, archery hunters use climbing sticks of different sizes and weight specifications to hunt. Climbing sticks will allow you to climb almost any tree quickly without making a lot of noise. Climbing sticks can be secured to a tree with the use of strap on steps, or you can use screw-in climbing steps.

The use of climbing sticks will help you get into those hard-to-reach places for archery hunting, like overhanging limbs and branches where a climbing tree stand can't get to. When using climbing sticks, always remember to wear your safety harness and a lineman's rope, this will help keep you safe while climbing and while you are up in the tree in your stand.

Ground Blinds

If you are hunting in an area where there aren't many tree options and there is not significant cover, you may want to consider hunting from a ground blind. A ground blind is simply a camouflaged tent or box that you set up on the ground next to an animal trail or feeding area. By doing this, you can remain hidden from the game while hunting.  Most new ground blinds have a mesh screen for windows that can also be shot through with you bow.  This makes concealing yourself in a blind very effective when hunting.

Mobile Hunting Blinds

Mobile archery hunting blinds are a great archery hunting method for archers who want to stay mobile. These archery stands can be moved around the property and set up in different locations depending on where you think there will be more game activity.

Rhino ground blind for bowhunting

Spot and Stalk Hunting

In some areas of the United States, open terrain will dictate that you hunt with a bow from the ground. Some people call this spot and stalk hunting. When bowhunting this way, you will need to get within archery range of the animal. That can be anywhere from 20 yards to 50 yards (or even more), depending on the size of the animal and your personal ability as a bow hunter.

Archery Hunting Safety

All archers must practice archery hunting safety.  It is critical that when hunting from an elevated position in a tree or even a ladder stand, that you use a safety harness and/or a safety line.  If you are climbing trees, using a lineman's rope along with your safety harness, is critical to your safety. All archers should also be aware of their surroundings while archery hunting and follow all local game laws and archery hunting regulations.  Do not hunt without lookin at all your safety considerations and needs prior to the hunt.

step4

Training

When learning to shoot a bow it is important to understand the basic principles for success. These principles will give you the basic foundation that you need to start hitting your target.  Practice and continual training year round is essential to being accurate when target shooing and being accurate when hunting.  Making an ethical shot on an animal will make you feel incredible.  Making a less than lethal shot can make you feel horrible.  No one wants an animal to go through undo suffering, but it happens in hunting.  We can only do our best to minimize it and with that comes training.

Shooting a Bow

The three main principles of shooting a bow are: Stance, Grip, and Anchor Point.

Stance: Your stance is very important when archery hunting. This will help you concentrate on your target and give you proper balance when shooting your bow.

Grip: The way in which you hold your archery bow can affect the accuracy of your shot while archery hunting. Your grip should be relaxed, but firm enough to keep control of the bow. Rotating your bow in your hand can affect the accuracy of your shot and cause you to miss your target, so be sure not to rotate the bow when shooting.

Anchor Point: The anchor point is the position of your hand on the bowstring. When you have found your anchor point, you will want to keep it in the same spot every time you shoot. Maintaining a consistent anchor point is critical to consistency in accuracy.  If you stray from your normal anchor point, you can expect to see changes in where your arrows are hitting on the target.

Read:  GoHunt's Guide to Perfect Archery Form

Train with Your Bow Hunting Gear

While training with your bow of choice is a critical archery hunting task, it is just as important to train with your other bow hunting gear too.  If you go back to where we talked about my rookie mistakes when I first started hunting with a bow, you'll remember that one of my biggest mistakes was not being prepared when I walked in the woods.  This lack of preparation and training virtually destroyed my chances of getting a deer that day, but it proved a valuable lesson that I continue to value to this day.  

Hunting from the ground, a tree stand, or a saddle; you need to practice using your equipment before you use it in an actual hunting scenario.  It doesn't matter if you are a seasoned hunter or a beginner; you don't want to climb a tree or setup a new ground blind in the woods only to find out you don't know how to do something or that you forgot an essential piece of gear.  This becomes even more important when walking in to a hunting spot in the dark.  Don't be naïve and think you'll be good without practicing.  I still forget things from time to time, but my issues are minimized because I train and know my archery equipment very well.  When you train you build muscle memory and things become routine.  This makes you a better hunter and a safer hunter.

Beginner Bow Hunting Tips to Remember

  • You should always be prepared by having all of the necessary archery equipment with you, including bow and arrows, targeting device (such as a bow sight), quiver, appropriate clothing for the season and weather conditions that you are archery hunting in, archery hunting license, and archery tags (if required by the archery hunting location), and broadheads for your arrows. You should also bring food and water to stay hydrated while archery hunting if traveling large distances or hunting for a long duration of time.
  • You should always check the bowstring for wear before each shot because a worn string can cause the bow to break. Bow strings need to be treated with bow wax and crossbow strings need to be treated with bow wax and the rail needs to be treated with rail lube.
  • You should practice shooting your bow from different positions and distances, as well as in different types of terrain. This will help you become comfortable with your equipment and increase your chances for success.
  • When archery hunting always remember to be patient and wait for the right opportunity to take the shot. Don't take a shot if you are not confident that you can make a kill. If the animal is out of range, do not try to shoot it; instead, wait for it to come closer.  An ethical shot is a shot that kills the animal quickly and with minimal suffering.
  • Archery hunting is all about being patient and understanding your gear inside and out. Anyone can become adept at archery with enough practice. With the right archery hunting gear, practice, and knowledge; you too can successfully archery hunt deer, elk, or other big game animals.  Good Luck!
Bow Hunting for Beginners

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