The Straight & Arrow

The Straight & Arrow

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Kent Orms

Breaking into bow hunting. 

If archery appeals to you, bow hunting might make you downright giddy. The thrill of facing an 800-pound bull elk at 20 yards, his massive frame, piercing bugle, and pungent rut-musk flooding your senses, is one that turns normal people into wide-eyed zealots. Before you know it, the rest of your life will revolve around bow season, to the eventual peril of both marriage and financial stability. Now that you’ve been warned, let’s talk about gear.

Like most endeavors now, bow hunting has benefited greatly from technology, and modern gear is amazingly easy to use. Keep in mind, however, that no amount of high-tech gizmos will replace hours of slinging arrows into a target.

First you’ll need a bow. Aesthetes and traditionalists may opt for an elegant recurve or longbow, but most hunters find a compound bowthe best choice. It has pulleys on each end that reduce the amount of force while at full draw, allowing you to hold effortlessly while awaiting the best shot. You’ll need to identify your draw length at one of the local archery shops, and draw weight varies based on your arm strength and specific hunting applications. Expect to spend $300 on up.

Photo by Dale Spartas

Then, you’ll need sights for aiming. From metal pins to fiber-optic crosshairs and scopes, there is quite a selection nowadays. As always, I recommend simple and robust over complex. Get one with at least three pins, for 20, 30, and 40 yards. $50 on up.

Next, you’ll need arrows. Carbon is the standard choice—go with something resilient, with high-vis nock and fletching, so you can find it in the weeds when you miss the target. Along with arrows, you’ll need field points for target practice and razor-sharp broadheads for the actual hunt. Make sure they’re all the same weight for consistent shot placement. Expect to spend $100 for a full set.

A release increases accuracy by a considerable factor, as it allows a smooth separation from the bowstring, without any delays or twisting. Around $50 for a decent-quality model.

Photo by Corey Hockett

The next purchase is a target. This is often just a couple bales of hay, but dense foam targets are nice and easy to move around. Start close, and gradually move back (up to 50 yards, depending on skill and draw weight) when you get nice groupings of arrows. Don’t spend more than $30 on your first target.

Now buy a call. For elk, that means a cow call and a bugle; both come in various designs. Use a grunt tube for deer. Effective calling will take some practice, so watch videos and get tips from experienced friends. Anywhere from $5 to $50, depending on species and quality.

Finally, spray on some scent to cover your body odor. It comes in a hundred different flavors, from apple to urine. Sounds odd, but you’ll soon see that your scent scares more animals away than your physical presence.

Photo by Melissa Doar

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