Many hunters enjoy bow hunting because it offers a bigger challenge than hunting with a rifle. To be successful, the hunter must be much closer to the game, usually somewhere between 15 and 25 yards. Hunters may choose to use a longbow, recurve bow, compound bow or crossbow. Success with a compound or traditional bow requires more skill but many states prohibit or limit the use of a crossbow.
Choosing a Bow
Choosing a bow for hunting is a matter of personal preference. The best type for hunting is whatever feels most comfortable and results in the highest level of accuracy.
A longbow is shaped like a half-moon and has a straight grip. The width is thinner than a recurve bow but the depth is thicker, making it necessary to use the proper form to pull back the string.
A recurve bow is shaped like the number three with the limbs bending into a half-moon and then bending back outward at either end. A recurve bow provides more power to the arrow and because it is shorter in length than a traditional longbow, it is usually favored for hunting in dense brush and in tighter spaces.
Compound bows utilize modern materials and technology. The body is usually made of carbon or aluminum and features a complex system of several pulleys and strings attached to the limbs. Because the strings are longer, the user can generate more power by pulling back farther. It is relatively easy for most hunters to draw the string and hold it back while waiting for a clear shot.
A crossbow features a bow attached horizontally on a stock. The user fires it from the shoulder, similar to firing a rifle. Beginners can usually fire a crossbow with a high level of accuracy. The crossbow has a mechanism that holds the string in the ready position until the user fires it. This minimizes fatigue because the hunter does not have to hold the string back.
Selecting a Hunting Ground on Public Land
Scouting is more complicated when hunting on public land than it is when hunting on privately owned land. Hunters who want to be successful must move far away from parking areas, ATV trails and roads making it necessary to walk deeper into the hunting area. In addition to getting farther away from civilization, it is important to scout out places away from other hunters. This is even more difficult when attempting to hunt on high-activity days, including opening morning and weekends.
Unlike a regular map, an aerial photo allows the hunter to see all geographical features of the area. Hunters should begin scouting no less than 100 yards away from ATV trails, roads and parking areas. It is best to hunt near potential bedding areas early in the morning and near potential feeding areas later in the evening. Hunting near a water source is a good idea but the more remote the better to avoid other hunters.
Using a Ground Blind
While some hunters prefer setting up in a tree stand, hunting from eye level has numerous advantages. Portable blinds are easy to transport and provide excellent concealment. The user can set it up quickly and quietly, unlike a tree stand, which is heavier and more complicated to prepare. Hunters in a blind enjoy greater comfort because the blind will block any rain and wind. This allows the hunter to stay out longer and increases the odds of enjoying a successful hunt.
Ground blinds are available in a wide variety of designs and configurations. Duck blinds are made specifically for use in or around water. Some are even large enough to conceal a boat. A tripod blind offers a 360-degree view and is popular with deer hunters.
A hub blind has an internal frame system that pulls the fabric tight. This eliminates any unwanted movement and prevents the material from flapping in the wind. The hubs curve outward offering more interior space. This type of blind is available with multiple window configurations and some allow the hunter to customize the configuration to accommodate any scenario.
When hunting big game, it is important to set up the blind downwind of a travel route. The hunter should attempt to set the blind up within existing ground cover and avoid setting up on a ridge or hilltop to avoid skylining for better concealment.
If possible, hunters should set up the blind a couple of weeks in advance of the opening of hunting season, especially when hunting deer. Deer will notice anything that is foreign to the environment. Setting up ahead of time will allow deer time to become familiar with the blind and they are less likely to be spooked by it.
After setting up the blind, the hunter should take various steps to prepare it for the hunt. This includes clearing away all debris from the ground inside the blind. Crunchy snow, leaves and small sticks should be taken out so the hunter can move around inside the blind without making noise that will alert the game. Some blinds come equipped with brush straps. These allow hunters to tie on branches and pieces of brush to create natural 3-D concealment. It is necessary to spray the interior and exterior with a spray that neutralizes odors to cover the scent of the hunter and the blind. Gear should be organized and arranged in a way that everything is within reach but does not hamper movement when it comes time to take a shot.
Hunters should avoid opening all windows while waiting for their prey. The more windows that are open the more likely the light will silhouette the hunter inside. It is better to open only the windows the hunter intends to shoot through. Keeping the others closed will cloak the user in shadows for better concealment. Dressing in black and wearing black gloves and a black ski mask will allow the hunter to disappear in the dark and makes it easier to get away with movement inside the blind.
Hunters using a ground blind will have to practice shooting from a kneeling or seated position. It is necessary to practice shooting while inside the blind to become proficient at shooting through a small opening.
Slow movement is just as important when blind hunting as it is with any other type of hunting. Big game will spot even the slightest movement and just because the hunter cannot see the prey, does not mean the prey cannot see the hunter. Whether putting the binoculars up to the eyes or taking aim with the bow, it is critical to keep movement slow, smooth and deliberate.
Gathering the Proper Gear
The first thing every hunter needs is a sturdy waterproof backpack. Choose a lightweight pack made of camouflage material with numerous pockets and pouches to carry gear. Many backpacks are designed to attach a bow making it easy to transport everything the hunter needs while out in the field.
Because hunting on public land requires hiking long distances away from the road, hunters should always carry a compass. A high-tech GPS is also helpful but in the event it loses power or gets dropped and broken, a compass is essential. Even the most seasoned veterans can find themselves disoriented in the wilderness, especially after dark. Choose a compass filled with liquid. If the compass is not filled with liquid, the magnet may stick to the case if it picks up a static electric charge. This will render the compass useless.
A rangefinder takes the guesswork out of determining the distance between hunters and their prey. This device is essential for beginners because it can take several years to develop this skill. Getting the range correct can mean the difference between a humane kill and simply wounding the animal. Rangefinders are available with a variety of features, so hunters can choose something that fits their needs and budget.
Every hunter should carry a well-equipped first aid kit. Accidents can and do happen when hunting. There is always a chance of injury whether hunting during the day or at night.
Carrying the appropriate game calls provides an effective way to blend into the environment. They serve the additional purpose of luring game into the hunter’s area. A veteran hunter realizes that the environment becomes silent after moving into a new area. It can take several minutes before the animals in the area resume normal activity. Using a crow call or something similar can help the wildlife accept the hunter’s presence sooner.
Hunters should carry plenty of water to stay hydrated during a hunt. Power bars and MREs can provide suitable sustenance without disturbing the environment with unnecessary noise or odors. These are just a few of the essential items every hunter should carry. Additional items to consider include heavy rope, a field dressing kit, a sharp hunting knife and a flash light. Assembling the proper gear ensures that the hunter is comfortable in the field. This can make the difference between a successful hunting adventure and a frustrating waste of time.