The Boom in Bow Hunting
Bowhunting has definitely grown in popularity over the last 10 years or so; I remember as a child not even knowing another archery hunter. It’s hard to imagine when compared to the present day.
Nowadays, more and more folks are transitioning to the bow and arrow, whether they are new to hunting or not. Maybe they are being influenced by big names in the hunting industry or maybe a family member/friend is peaking their interest. Regardless, there is no doubt more folks are on the archery range before hunting season.
Hunting with a bow will take you places, both physically and mentally, you’ve never been.
I’m right along with them and loving every second of it. No matter how much I love it though, it’s safe to say bowhunting is romanticized a fair bit. The thrill of the chase via bow and arrow isn’t as glamorous as some might think. Let’s look at the nitty gritty truth that comes along with the passion-filled endeavor that is bowhunting.
Not a Walk in the Park
A while back, I was at a gas station well before the sun came up, on my way up for a scouting trip. There was a gentleman there that informed me of an upcoming archery elk tag that he drew not far from there. A new bowhunter in the making. After expressing my congratulations to him, he started to gently pry for some intel. He followed that pitch up with “I’m just looking to fill the freezer.”
This struck me as odd. It came across as if just filling the freezer would be the easy route or something. Like it wasn’t a big deal to do so. Bowhunting is certainly not as easy as some media outlets make it seem. To put an arrow through the vitals of ANY animal is a feat in itself, and deserves a pat on the back. The path to that point is not a walk in the park by any means. It requires constant dedication and commitment to shooting.
Constant Dedication and Commitment to Shooting
When I say constant dedication, I’m not only referring to the art of shooting a bow, but to the art of bowhunting. The process that comes with doing so is equally, if not more challenging than shooting.
What makes it so difficult is bowhunters only get so many opportunities to test their skills. Each stalk or encounter is filled with lessons, whether an arrow flies or not. Learning to always pay attention to these little things during the process will elevate your bowhunting to another level.
In a lot of ways, bow season never ends for the shooter who wants to be confident in their abilities when it comes time to draw on live game.
I remember one time I was stalking a hefty mule deer buck during the heat of the day. The sun was high, and the deer were bedded. As I inched my way closer with the wind in my face, I noticed my broadhead glinting in the sunlight. “Surely, they won’t see that,” I thought to myself. It was the only part of my stalk that I was slightly worried about. My hopes were crushed when I watched them bust out of that country like someone slapped them on the butt. Lesson learned. The little things matter.
There is a reason why me and other archery hunters practice shooting all year round. Yes, one reason is it’s super fun, but another is muscle memory. In the heat of the moment, all knowledge has a way of going out the window. You start operating off instinct and muscle memory. This is where all that dedication to shooting comes in. I’m not saying archery encounters render every hunter senseless, but it dang sure does it to a good amount. Unfortunately, this is where bad judgment calls are often made, which can sometimes result in poor shots.
A Short Note on Gear
Gear is another thing I want to briefly touch on. While I don’t think gear is everything, it’s definitely something and deserves your attention. Quality gear is like a tool. Having dependable tools is going to help complete the job at hand. So, while your shooting ability is incredibly important, if you’ve got a bow that won’t stay in tune or a rest that isn’t functioning right, it’s gonna hurt you in the long run.
Invest in your gear to invest in your future. This stuff isn’t cheap, which is another challenge, but it’s well worth it.
Bow, release, arrows, broadheads … For a bow hunter, gear is a major investment. Check out this video to see my setup for 2020.
Can Be Emotionally Crippling
Nothing quite like it out there compares to being at full draw on a live animal and “sending it.” These are the moments that will be etched in our minds and memories, that will be shared back and forth like a ping pong ball. So much work goes into these opportunities. Whether that is sitting for days on end in a treestand or stalking animals day after day to no avail. (You can stack the deck in your favor: Check out this video on effective glassing.) When it all comes together, that feeling of accomplishment is nothing to shake your head at.
At the same time though, things don’t always go right out there, as we’ve stated. When success is so close that you feel like it can be touched and then it falls apart? That is a great way to break someone down emotionally. I’ve seen and fallen victim to it myself, and have seen others quitting after such things. Of course, I’ve also regretted quitting every time. Overcoming these emotionally crippling times is key to staying in the game.
How to Overcome these Difficulties?
Reading this might make one wonder if it’s even worth it to carry a bow. I assure you that it is, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. (If you want to read why I prefer bow hunting to rifle hunting, check out this blog.) One of the biggest things here is expectations. Setting realistic expectations before a hunt can really set the scene for someone. Be honest with yourself and your abilities. If you’ve never stalked an animal before, maybe that’s a small goal to set. Stalk your first animal, even if that means sneaking up on a rabbit, small game can still hone stalking skills. Whether the tag is filled or not, that is a win. Recognizing these small victories will help propel you in the right direction.
“The prize” isn’t always going to be filling a tag. Remembering to set achievable goals is important, especially when you’re just starting to learn the craft of bowhunting.
Archery hunting is fun. Let’s not forget that. Tough hunts have a way of squashing that type of thinking, but it’s vital to remember. Don’t ever forget why you’re out there in the first place. The fact of the matter is, the odds are in the favor of the animals every step of the way, especially with bowhunting. Judging by most success rates, you have a 90% chance of failing out there. Those are steep odds. When looking at it like this, getting mad or disappointed seems rather silly doesn’t it? With that being said, with experience will come higher success rates. For example, I went from filling zero tags a year with a bow, to now filling about 2-3 in my home state of Arizona each year. It’s humbling to look back on.
While bowhunting might not be as glamorous as it looks sometimes, I think this is all about perspective. It’s about what makes you tick and drives your passion. If that thing is bowhunting, then I say feed it. My first ever archery harvest changed my life. How much work that went into that and the feeling of it all finally coming together is a feeling that I now crave. The intimate encounters provided by way of the bow is another thirst I have. Bowhunting is a potent experience filled with life lessons along the way. It’s not about just filling the freezer, it’s really a way of life. And a life that I love to live so dear.
Be sure to check out Josh’s book, Becoming a Backpack Hunter: A Beginner’s Guide to Hunting the Backcountry, and read more from Josh at dialedinhunter.com
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