Patrick Meitin has degrees in journalism and range and wildlife management. He’s been an outdoor writer, specializing in bowhunting, for more than 20 years. An expert with both traditional and modern archery equipment, Meitin lives in northern Idaho with his wife, Gwyn, and their two Labrador retrievers.
In the first installment of Bowhunting Basics, I discussed choosing a bow. With that part of the journey behind you, you’ll obviously need additional gear to make your bowhunting ambitions more streamlined and successful.
Buy Quality Arrows: One of the best pieces of advice I can offer is to buy the best arrows you can possibly afford. Arrows are the vehicles that deliver killing broadheads to the target. Cheap arrows come at the price of overall accuracy. The best are straighter, more closely matched in both spine and weight, and more consistently spined on a 360-degree axis. Expect to pay upward of $100 a dozen for top-grade arrows. Carbon shafts are more durable than ever, so unless lost, investing in a new dozen shafts should provide years of service. And always consult a spine, or deflection, chart or ask for assistance from a pro-shop employee in selecting the right arrow. Spine indicates how much an arrow flexes as energy is applied after releasing the string, and an arrow that is too stiff or not stiff enough will not provide top-drawer accuracy.
How to Choose a Broadhead: Broadhead selection can prove a more confusing choice for the beginner. The best advice is to defer to a pro-shop expert, relating what type of game you wish to pursue and the draw weight and draw length you wield. The two basic categories are fixed-blade and mechanical designs. In general terms, fixed-blade heads can prove more difficult to tune (coax into straight flight closely mirroring bladeless practice/field tips), while mechanical designs, which fly toward targets with blades closed, opening only on impact, can sacrifice some degree of penetration, especially at lower draw weights. Mechanical designs are becoming more efficient all of the time (though are not legal in every state, so this has a bearing in choice), though many modern fixed-blade heads now offer similar accuracy. A good rule of thumb is the bigger the game, the more you should lean toward an efficient fixed-blade (or cutting-tip) head.
Fingers or Release Aid: To shoot you must also choose how you will release the string – using fingers or a release aid. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with shooting with just your fingers, though it has fallen out of favor and you’ll usually need a longer overall bow to make it work – short bows result in finger pinch and prove difficult to shoot well with fingers. Most bowhunters today use a release, a caliper or spur, clipped directly to the string serving under the arrow, or hooked to a string or D-loop with its head connected to a wrist strap via an extension shank. An index trigger, much like a firearm trigger, is depressed to cut the shot away. Use what’s most comfortable to you.
Some archers find they’ll also need an arm guard, a rectangle of leather or other stiff material, strapped to the forearm holding the bow, and used to eliminate painful string slap and string-serving wear. Many archers find this step unnecessary.
In Part III, I’ll discuss modern archery accessories and how they make your start into the bowhunting voyage easier.
Have you never been bowhunting? Getting started is easier than you think.
Plenty of hunters out there consider learning how to bowhunt, but have convinced themselves it’s too complicated or time consuming. Decades past this might have been true, but modern archery equipment has made bowhunting more accessible than ever. These next few blog installments will demonstrate why. Enjoying archery success now requires only months instead of years of preparation to gain proficiency. Bowhunting opens doors to increased hunting opportunity, longer seasons, and in many cases, hunting where and/or when firearms hunters cannot. Start now and you could easily be bowhunting this fall!
Start at the Pro Shop: Getting good equipment is as easy as scanning the internet or making a drive to the nearest pro shop. I recommend the latter approach. Having access to hands-on knowledge speeds the learning curve and also helps eliminate start-up technical issues. If you’ve never shot a bow, or have been away from it a long time, a visit to a local bow shop is highly recommended, if for no other reason than to get properly fitted in regards to draw length and weight. If budget restraints mean buying used gear via on-line auctions, it’s still a good move to haul your new gear to a local pro shop for assistance in getting started on the right path.
Don’t Sweat the Speed: There really are no lemons in archery today (something not true only 10 years ago); all the major bow manufactures make compounds that are trouble-free, deadly quiet and sweet shooting (with the exception of a few of the fastest, performance-driven models created for “experts” in the latter case). This is something to keep in mind when buying your first bow. Don’t worry about raw arrow speed and accompanying advertising hype – or buying the most expensive model. The slowest and most affordable bows offered today often shoot 50 fps faster than models that served well only 10 years ago. Buy something you shoot well, focusing on forgiveness (pure shootability), a smooth draw cycle and good balance. Too, select a draw weight you can handle easily, or a bow that can be backed off in draw weight to begin with. Slowly add more weight as you become stronger. The modern compound’s much more efficient than old-style traditional bows. A lot of big game is now cleanly killed with 45- to 50-pound bows.
If bowhunting is something you have long wanted to try, the time to start is now. It’s not as tough as you might think, and many huge rewards lay ahead. Stay tuned; in Part II I’ll discuss additional tools you need to get started.
Are you just getting into bowhunting, or helping someone who is? Share any questions or tips you have below.
I’ve been in the outdoor-writing dodge a while, selling my first magazine articles to mainstream archery publications in 1988. Ironically enough, my first published article was a technical piece, detailing a simplified method of aiming a bow and arrow using a single pin. It’s ironic only because I wasn’t what you’d have called a tech-head back then, preferring recurve bows for the most part, or shooting compound bows without benefit of sights, directing my shots through pure instinct. Bow sights were for target heads; “disco freaks” we called them.
I was initially stubborn in adopting technology as part of my archery. At heart I’m an unabashed technophobe. But this had as much to do with the fact I was killing my share of trophies with bow and arrow and saw little reason to burden myself with more “stuff.” That eventually changed, of course, until I became as afflicted with gear lust as any modern bowhunter. I’ve tried it all, even the questionable stuff, my journalistic training (Texas Tech, 1993) lending a belief that if I hadn’t actually tried it I had no business objectively reporting on it. But at heart I remain a traditionalist. To this day, every few years I drop the compound gear completely and venture forth with little but my beloved recurve bows, and occasionally a primitive bow I made myself from self-cut timber. Generally, this lasts a couple years (the last real stint lasting a solid four years) until frustration, prodding from editors (there aren’t enough advertising dollars involved in trad gear) and a flood of inspired new products (in that order) coaxes me back into a compound bent.
I’ve remained a hard-core finger shooter, though the state of modern archery means I’m well acquainted with shooting release aids. The market is now awash in ultra-short bows which require a release for actual shootability. Interestingly – to many, but not me – I find no accuracy advantage when using mechanical releases. For me it only adds a couple more steps to the shot cycle, but no significant accuracy improvements. But that’s just me. So, I guess I’m one of the few guys in the industry who’s equally comfortable shooting a traditional bow, finger compound or standard-issue release bow. I’m also ambidextrous while shooting, something resulting from a construction injury temporarily rendering my right fingers off limits. I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying I’ve made myself into a highly versatile archer; something I like to think offers added insight into shooting the bow and arrow.
I guess, also, I’ve never really established my niche in the industry – you know, set myself up as a whitetail guru like Bill Winke, or expert on trophy elk like Randy Ulmer (though I did write a book, “Bowhunting Modern Elk”), or the go-to technical guy like Larry Wise (though I wrote “The Bowhunter’s Guide To Better Shooting”).I’m pretty scattered when it comes down to it. I get just as big a kick out of bowfishing carp and bullfrogs as hunting big game. I’ve killed some behemoth whitetails, more than my share of monster elk (I lived and guided in some of the best elk country of the Southwest for 25 years, after all), have tagged some impressive pronghorn, black bear, mule deer (desert and mountain), Coues whitetail, Columbia and Sitka blacktail. I’ve invested in the exotic stuff, too, moose and caribou, muskoxen and brown bear and mountain goat, for instance. For a time Africa was everything to me, resulting in nine separate trips to several southern-tier countries. I don’t consider myself an authority on anything, but do believe I’ve some sound advice to offer on a good many subjects.
And so a good many subjects—so long as they’re bowhunting related—is what we’ll cover in this blog. From setting up your first new bow, straight out of the box, to in-depth technical gear and hunting tips I’ve learned over the years, we’ll talk about it all. I hope you’ll join in, ask questions, and leave comments. I may not always have the immediate answer—but I bet we can figure it out.
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