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Martin FuryBowhunter Basics

by Alex Cote

The deer moved ever so slowly feeding his way along the log road. The distance between he and I was ever so slowly closing. For the last ten minutes I had watched him, knowing full well that I would be undetected in my tree stand some 18 feet above. 40, 35, 30 yards, and then all of a sudden the buck was gone, vanished. Did he smell me? Did he hear me? He disappeared into the lush green forest below me. I saw brief glimpses of him after that but never saw enough to make a positive ID of a kill zone.

Sound exiting? It is. Welcome to the world of bow hunting. Your hunting season can be expanded by joining the ranks of archery enthusiasts nationwide. Right here in New Hampshire, bowhunters have increased in numbers 10 fold during the last decade alone. The New Hampshire increase (slightly greater than the national average) is due to various reasons:

  • An increase of nearly two months additional time to hunt deer
  • A separate license allowing an additional deer
  • And now a bonus archery tag allowing two archery deer
  • As well as the simple serenity of archery hunting itself

Where to begin?

Go to a magazine store, pick up a few archery only magazines and read, read, read. For first time equipment buyers, ignore discount ads. Go to a respectable archery shop. Look and listen, ask questions. However, remember they want to sell you their goods. If you have an idea on which brand you want to purchase, go to a dealer that sells that brand. Personally, I shoot a PSE bow. I prefer the feel and the fit of that bow over other brands. My wife however currently shoots a Hoyt. But, that will soon change as she too prefers the feel of the PSE.

Anyway, for a bow to function properly and be an effective hunting tool, it must be fitted and properly set up to the individual archer. You do not get that service from a discount catalog or the local shopping mall. Sure you may save some $20 or $30, but wait until you take the bow to the local archery shop because it doesn't shoot right. There goes your savings, Plus! Buying your first bow from those who know the equipment is definately the proper way to proceed. This will ensure that your bow is set up and tuned properly to fit you. The archery shop will also select the proper arrow weight and proper length. This has a large impact on your bow's performance.

All of the major bow manufacturers offer adult entry level bows in the $200 price range. PSE offers the Nova Series and Hoyt offers the Mystic Series. Different cam set ups impact pricing. Spend time reading and talking with archery shop owners about the pros and cons of different cam set ups.

Besides the bow, you obviously will need arrows (another $40 per dozen), a sight (I prefer the RS Glo Sight-around $50), arrow rests ($25), an arrow quiver ($40), and a "release" if you choose to use one ($30). In selecting your new bow be sure to tell the sales person what your plan is, with or without release and also if you plan to hunt or just target shoot.  There are countless different choices for bow accessories, made by both bow manufacturers as well as other companies that specialize only in accessories. This link will start you on your way to locating accessories for your bow - accessories (or you can simply visit the bow manufacturer links listed in the right column).

Most archery shops have shooting areas available to aid in setting up your new bow. When the set up is done (usually takes a good hour) your bow should be set to hit your target at 20 yards.

It is now up to you. Practice, practice, practice.

I shoot no less than 3 times per week from July to September. Once hunting season rolls around I usually shoot at least once a week. Be sure you know what is behind your target and beyond. Modern archery equipment is extremely deadly! I personally have set up a frame with a large carpet behind by 3-d target that stops any stray arrows.

Begin your practice slow at first, maybe 12-15 arrows a session. Then work up to 21-24 arrows and so on. I shoot groups of three arrows before picking them up at the target. The better you get with a bow, you'll understand why. 5 or 6 arrows can be costly when you start hitting your other arrows. It doesn't take a huge impact to ruin an arrow.


T & T

As well as 3-d life like animal targets, there are a number of 2 foot by 2 foot by 2inch foam block targets available for back yard shooting. Above all, backyard practice helps to correct any bad habits such as pinching the string, not following through after the shot and putting a death grip on the riser. The most important aspect of shooting is consistency. It's a mind thing that requires all your concentration shot after shot after shot.

OK, you're sick of shooting just a bullseye on a foam target. Blow up a bunch of ballons and thumb tack them to your foam. This is especially good on a day when there is a slight breeze. Or, take a paper plate and a magic marker and make a bullseye the size of a quarter set out at 20 yards and another the size of a half dollar at 30 yards.

3-d shoots are another great practice tool. There are targets set out at unknown yardages. You shoot one arrow and need to guess the yardage to make the shot. Most of the shots are set up for actual hunting situations, except for the yardages. Personally, I would not shoot at a live animal at more than 30 yards. Some of the targets are set at greater ranges than 30 yards.

A quick note on taking shots at live animals. 30 yards is my personally set limit. Any more of a distance simply increases the risk of a misplaced shot. I would also never shoot at a running deer. Walking is also chancey. A walking or trotting deer can 97 times out of 100 be stopped with a soft grunt or whistle.

Warren & Sweat Tree StandLastly, how do I know my target distances when in the woods. It comes from a lot of practice in the backyard and a little technique in the woods. Within my backyard my targets are all measured out. Repetitive shooting at these measured targets improves your ability to judge distance. In the field I measure out from my stand 30 yards in every direction and usually use orange flagging tape tied to a branch. A very small piece is more than adequate. It needs only to be just visible. When hunting from a tree stand, always use a safety belt.

If you're interested in bow hunting, most states require a separate hunter safety course and many of these courses are just coming up in the months of August and September. Check with your local Fish & Game(Wildlife) department.

Additional Reading
International Bowhunting Organization

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