Basic archery equipment you need to go hunting.
Whether your fictional hero is Hawkeye, Katniss Everdeen, or maybe the good ol’ Robin of the Hood, you probably like archery. Though it might seem like a primitive weapon, modern bows are very capable hunting weapons. Someone with the right archery equipment and enough practice can feel just as confident as someone with a firearm.
In this three-part series, I’ll discuss how to buy your first archery gear, how to shoot a bow, and then how to bow hunt. This first part will focus on what archery equipment you should get and how you can find it.
Why Archery/Bow Hunting?
But first, why are you interested in archery equipment in the first place?
- Maybe your county/zone doesn’t allow gun hunting. Most suburban or well-populated areas only allow bow hunting because it’s safer and more discrete. A bow can only shoot an arrow so far, whereas a rifle can fire a bullet a long ways.
- Maybe you like being closer to the animals and action. Most ethical bow shots take place within only 20 to 30 yards. That distance puts you right up close to the animal, which really fuels the adrenaline! But you’re also much easier to detect at this close distance.
- Maybe you just like the early season weather and scenery better than freezing in a tree stand in November. Most archery seasons are open from the beginning of September until the end of the calendar year. Most gun seasons are only open a couple weeks at most.
- Or maybe bow hunting just seems more rugged and fun to you. It is, on both counts.
Whatever reason you choose, bow hunting has a lot going for it.
Basic Archery Equipment
Alright, let’s dive into the wild game meat and potatoes of this article – namely, what bow hunting gear you will need. People often get intimidated by archery equipment for beginners, but it’s really not that bad.
Let’s start with the most important piece of archery equipment. There are two basic types of bows: recurve bows and compound bows. Besides the bow itself, you’ll also need a case to transport it safely and legally.
Recurve bows are more primitive in design and often used in traditional archery. Their limbs extend forward of the riser/grip area when the bow is unstrung, but get pulled back when strung. They are generally made of wood, carbon, or fiberglass. Recurves are harder to draw the further you draw them, as the resistance increases. There are usually no sights on a recurve bow – you just use your eyes to sight down the arrow and intuitively (through practice) know where to aim.
Compound bows are the modern version, using a system of cams and pulleys that mechanically rotate when the bow is drawn. Because of the pulley system, they are difficult to draw at first, but the tension lets off as it nears your head (called the “back wall”). They are thus easier to hold drawn for longer periods of time. Compound bows use pin sights to aim, with each pin representing a different distance.
Most recurves are drawn by gripping the string with your fingers. Compound bows are drawn by using a release aid. They are often strapped to your wrist and use a mechanical hook that attaches to the bow string, which can be released by squeezing a trigger. I use various releases from T.R.U. Ball.
Arrows are obviously another very necessary piece of archery equipment. They are mostly constructed of wood, carbon, or aluminum. Recurve shooters will often use traditional wood arrows, while compound archers use carbon or aluminum designs. Carbon arrows are stronger and lighter than aluminum arrows, making them much more common and popular today. They come in different sizes (measured in “grains) and can be cut to match your draw length (more below).
Archery Broadheads and Field Tips
At the business end of your arrow, you need some kind of tip. Field tips are used for practice and consist of a simple point. This design makes them easy to extract from targets, but you can’t hunt with them. Broadheads for hunting come in two varieties: mechanical or fixed. Mechanical broadheads are released from the bow in a closed position, but open up to a larger width when they hit an animal. Fixed broadheads do not extend in any way, and are often made of a single piece of metal. I use Montec broadheads by G5 and love how durable they are.
At the other end of your arrow, you need something that will attach to the bow string. There are two basic kinds of arrow nocks: regular nocks and lighted nocks. While regular nocks are great for practice sessions, lighted nocks are better for hunting. They have a battery and LED light that activate when you shoot an arrow. This results in a bright laser trail your eyes can more easily follow, especially near dawn or dusk. It helps you see exactly where you hit an animal and helps you find the arrow afterward. Nockturnal® and Lumenok® are both great and reliable brands.
As mentioned earlier, you usually shoot a recurve bow by sighting down the arrow and through lots of practice. For compound bows, you’ll usually use a sight system. Attached to the bow riser, you’ll find a spot for sight pins. Each pin represents a different distance. I like to use these fiber optic pins that really glow to help you aim true even when the light is poor. You’ll view these pins through a peep sight on the bow string, which is a small opening.
Of course, your collection of archery equipment wouldn’t be complete without something to shoot at. Archery targets are abundant at sporting goods stores or online. They come in flat foam targets or 3D versions. Flat foam block-style targets can take a lot of abuse and are very portable.
3D archery targets are often in the shape of the animal you want to hunt. This is very useful for envisioning a real hunt and learning the proper shot angles. It also makes practice more exciting!
How to Get Fitted for a Bow
The easiest way to get fitted for a bow or any archery equipment is to go to an archery shop. But if you’d like to do some of this yourself, here are a few methods.
Before you run to the store to buy all this archery equipment, let’s figure out your eye dominance. That essentially means the eye that will aim. You likely already know your dominant eye, but here’s a good test to find out for sure.
Hold your hands out in front of you and make a small triangle. Focus on something in the distance. Now close one eye and see if your image shifts out of sight. If the image stays true with your right eye open, you need a right-handed bow. If it’s your left eye, you’ll need a left-handed bow.
Next, you need to know how to measure draw length on a bow, which is the length of the bow string from your grip to your release hand. You can do the measurements at home very easily. Simply stretch your arms out against a wall and measure your arm span from fingertip to fingertip. Now divide that measurement by 2.5, and you’ve got your draw length. Once you have your draw length, you can look at a chart to determine the right size bow for you. Having the right draw length and bow size is critical for helping you shoot consistently and avoid injuries. Check out my video below for more information.
Draw weight is the physical force required to pull a bow string back. It’s a fine balance because it needs to be high enough to be legal and ethical to kill game. But you don’t want it so high that you struggle to draw it. Most states consider 40 pounds to be the minimum draw weight for deer hunting. Don’t try to be tough about this, or you could hurt yourself. Start with a low draw weight and practice each day until you feel comfortable increasing the poundage.
And remember that when you’re actually bow hunting, you don’t get to warm your shoulders up before shooting. Oftentimes, you’ll sit still for hours in potentially colder weather. Suddenly, it feels like your bow is twice as heavy as it was during practice, so take this into account.
Where to Buy Archery Equipment
If you’ve got the funds, feel free to buy a new bow – they’re great! But be forewarned, brand new compound bows can set you back $1,000 easily. Used bows from local archery shops or even sporting goods stores are usually a better bet for beginning archers. As long as it fits your size (per the discussion above), it will work great. Don’t be afraid to ask the technicians at the archery shop to double check your measurements. They’ll offer additional tips while you’re there and you may be able to test your bow out at an indoor archery range.
Just like with draw weight, don’t let your ego get in the way when buying a bow. You really don’t need to worry about getting the fastest bow, measured in feet per second (fps). Any modern day compound bow will shoot fast enough to ethically kill game animals. Even an older model or beginner compound bow can easily shoot 300 feet per second. Considering that is like shooting the length of a football field in one second, you don’t need much more.
If you’re looking to buy your first hunting bow, I hope this list of archery equipment will help you out. Archery hunting really is an addicting pursuit. It allows you to enjoy a much longer (and more beautiful) hunting season. It’s very exciting to get up close to animals. And it’s a quieter form of hunting that appeals to those who wish to do some reflecting in a tree stand.
In part 2, I’ll go over how to shoot a bow so you’ll be ready for hunting.