TO KEEP NEW ARCHERS INTERESTED, START SLOWLY AND LET THEM SET THE PACE.
I started to carefully stalk up behind the buck. Everything was going great just as it had several times before. Instead of trying to shoot it with a rifle at 100 yards, though, my bow would do the deed from 25. Suddenly, when I was about 50 yards from the buck, he winded me and bolted. I headed back to camp disgusted and swore I would go back after the 11-point buck with my rifle. Later that morning, when my father walked into camp, I recalled the events to him. He laughed and promised that we would hunt together the next day and see if we could outsmart an old whitetail buck. Hunting with Dad always seemed easier, even if his hunting logic didn’t make sense to me at the time.
Looking back at this episode, I realize that I wouldn’t be bowhunting today if my father and some other very special people hadn’t taken the time to get me headed in the right direction and teach me the difference between hunting with a gun and bowhunting. Bowhunting is different in that it requires different equipment and tactics that may seem foreign to even experienced gun hunters. That’s one of the reasons many would-be bowhunters shy away from getting started. If you are looking to start bowhunting or want to introduce a friend or family member to the sport, here are a few points to consider.
I learned to shoot with a .22-caliber single-shot rifle that my father bought for me. It was a scaled down rifle and fit my young frame perfectly, which allowed me to shoot comfortably. A properly fitted rifle is important for new shooters, and the same is true for bowhunters. The bow must fit the individual. It must be of proper draw length and poundage. An ill-fitted bow is difficult to shoot accurately, and you want to set up the new archer for success right off the bat.
There are two main factors to consider when fitting someone for a bow. First, determine how much draw weight he can hold and shoot comfortably by having him draw a bow of known modest weight. If he can comfortably hold it for 20 to 30 seconds, you’re on the right track. If not, seek a bow with lighter draw weight. Most bows are adjustable, allowing a new bowhunter to start off at a lower weight and then increase poundage as skill and muscles develop.
Second, you must determine proper draw length. When the archer draws back the bow, his bow arm (that which holds the bow) should be fully extended, and the drawn back string should be even with the corner of his mouth. If the string is more or less than about a half-inch from the corner of the mouth, the bow’s draw length should be adjusted accordingly.
If you do not have the equipment to check the new bowhunter’s draw weight and length, a visit to the local archery shop is in order. The staff there will be able to fit a new archer with a bow and suggest the proper arrow size. Bowhunting accessories, from stabilizers to camouflage clothing, must also be appropriate to the new bowhunter’s skill level and stature. Several companies are making bows, clothes, boots, mechanical releases and all sorts of bowhunting accessories designed specifically for women and children. The staff at your local archer shop will also be able to help you with these issues.
When introducing someone to bowhunting, do everything possible to ensure success, especially when they’re learning to shoot. Start off slow and easy. By making it easier for them in the beginning, they will enjoy it more and will be more likely to become interested in the future. Place your new archer about 10 yards from a rather large target. After a few shots and a slap on the back, hitting the large target will seem easy, and the new shooter will soon want to try something a little more challenging. As time goes on, slowly increase the challenge with smaller targets at longer distances.
Be careful nor to quash your new archer’s enthusiasm and eagerness by showing off your own skills. In addition to giving him the impression that he doesn’t have any “natural talent,” his confidence may become shaken and so will his enthusiasm.
Although your intentions may be good, if you find that you do not have the time or patience to teach a new archer how to improve, don’t try. Back off and get him involved in regularly scheduled classes with instructors who are certified and can teach him good technique. Instructors teaching from a set curriculum will ensure that a new bowhunter gets the strongest possible foundation from the beginning. Then, as his personal skill level improves, he can take what they’ve learned and modify it to his own needs.
Archery lessons also offer a new shooter the chance to meet others with similar interest and varying degrees of skill level. You may even consider taking lessons with your new bowhunting friend so as to brush up on your shooting skills.
Another great idea is to enroll new archers in a bowhunter education class (which, in some states, is a mandatory requirement before obtaining an archery hunting license) and attend it with them whether or not you have already been through it. Bowhunter education courses are similar to general hunter education courses, but they are archery-specific. The lessons learned in a general safety course are important, bowhunting involves some special safety and concerns that are not normally covered in a general hunter safety class.
Bowhunting classes are taught by experienced bowhunters who answer questions about broadhead penetration, traditional versus compound tackle and state-specific laws concerning bowhunting, such as broadhead cutting diameters and draw-weight requirements. These topics are often overlooked during general hunter safety courses.
Bowhunting is one of the few shooting sports that is growing. If you haven’t tried bowhunting, consider extending your hunting this year by bending back a bow when you square off against your favorite game animal. For those who are already hooked on bowhunting, try taking along a new friend this season, and see to it that he has what he needs to enjoy a successful experience.