How to Build Your Go-To Gear Guide for This Season
Like any sport, archery hunting requires a certain level of commitment to get into – namely time, energy, and resources. And when we say resources, yeah, we mean money. It also requires knowing your comfort and experience levels with both the activity itself and the gear you are using to take part in it.
This means participants of varying experience levels will employ equipment of different types, brands, sizes, weights, and complexities while hunting, and also that those preferences are likely to change over time. The same way someone new to the sport of soccer probably won’t be wearing the latest in Europa League superstar-promoted spikes to practice or attending week-long camps staffed by international players in the off-season, someone new to the world of archery hunting probably won’t – nor would we recommend that they should – head afield their first fall season with a custom $1,000-plus setup. The experience and knowledge simply does not yet warrant something so complex and technical.
First and foremost, there are certain pieces of equipment every archery hunter needs to become efficient and comfortable with prior to their first hunt.
Bows: This can mean a lot of things and depending on where you live, your hunting background, and access to a worthy outdoor instructor, your options might be many or limited to just one or two.
Compound bows are most commonly used by archery hunters and these days can be so technologically advanced that an experienced archer has no trouble taking shots that push 100-yards. While those bows are probably a bit much for the newbies among us, it shows just how much archery hunting equipment has evolved over the years and what options are available later down the road for those who continue pursuing the stick-and-string approach to hunting.
Compound bows tend to be simpler to shoot than traditional recurves or longbows and more complex than crossbows, but require daily, repeated practice to become proficient with. When selecting a bow, it is always best to seek help from an expert at your local archery shop. It’s important to make sure you’re choosing a bow that matches your size, strength, experience level, and bow hunting needs – bows are far from “one size fits all”. If your bow is a good match when it comes to fit and feel, you’re already on your way to enjoying time and potential success in the woods.
Traditional or recurve bows – while they have been used for hundreds if not thousands of years, they are much more evolved and efficient by today’s standards. Learning to shoot these bows accurately enough to bring down a big game animal is a bit more difficult than with a compound bow, and drawing one capable of dispatching such an animal requires more strength as well. Their simplicity, however, makes them a great option for novice shooters, since they tend to be more affordable and include fewer accessories requiring tweaking, adjusting, or aligning – in fact, they include approximately zero extras.
Crossbows, in many states, are still reserved for use by hunters who have hit certain age milestones or have disabilities and/or injuries that all but eliminate their capacity to use other bows. However, in some states, crossbows can be used by any hunter with the proper certifications for all, or at least part of, the regular archery season. Others still allow crossbow use during rifle season only. When compared to traditional and compound bows, crossbows have a much flatter learning curve and are much simpler to shoot with accuracy, even if you’re new to the sport – be it archery or hunting in general. Most setups are even scoped, much like a hunting rifle is, which helps even more with the learning curve, as aiming also proves to be quite user-friendly for new shooters.
Arrows/bolts: Here’s another spot where things can get a little tricky. Often, beginner bow packages come set up with most everything you need to get started in the sport – complete with bow, a handful of arrows (traditional and compound bows) or bolts (crossbows), release, case, and wrenches for tailoring the whole deal to your size and level of strength. If you’re lucky, a target and/or sampling of broadheads might be included too, though keep in mind, every offering is different. Arrows and bolts are something every archer needs regardless of the kind of bow they prefer.
Many of the professionals opt to build their own arrows, a process that is not only time consuming but painstaking and physically trying as well. It’s an art and science that requires in-depth knowledge of your gear, preferences, and overall hunting setup, so not likely an endeavor that a newbie will choose to undertake.
The novice bow hunter likely isn’t building their own arrows, but rather purchasing those that meet their own weight specifications and handing them over to a pro shop staff member to cut and thread according to their draw length and individual preferences. Keep in mind, crossbows traditionally come with a small number of bolts designed specifically for the unit you’ve purchased and can also be bought separately so you’re set up with enough for both target practice and taking to the field as well.
Broadheads: As the one letting the arrow (or bolt) fly, you should be confident your broadheads are making the cut. They should not only fly and land accurately, but also penetrate and cut as you’d expect. This is where the right broadhead makes all the difference. When it comes to archery equipment especially, unpredictability is the ultimate enemy, which is why you should always make sure you’re shooting the ideal broadhead for your particular setup.
Recently, we recommended three deadly broadheads you should consider for this upcoming bow season, including our Super Freak, Surgeon, and Freak Nasty broadheads, a variety of fixed- and mechanical-blade options. Whether you’re shooting fixed or mechanical broadheads, large cutting diameters and deep wounds that leave easily identifiable blood trails are must-haves. When mechanical blades don’t open on impact or open prior to impact, the damage they do to the animal is drastically reduced. And if the blades open too soon, it will impact the arrow’s trajectory, causing it to wobble, stray, or be otherwise off-target.
Releases: The most common types of releases include the wrist strap index finger release, handheld thumb trigger release, handheld hinge release, and the handheld resistance/tension type release.
The wrist strap index finger style-release is the most popular release aid among bow hunters, novice bow hunters especially, as it tends to be viewed as the most user-friendly. Since most people begin hunting with a rifle, where a trigger is pulled or squeezed to activate the shot, an index finger archery release is familiar to them due to having a “trigger” that has to be pulled to actually fire the arrow. This gives hunters the ability to control the shot by putting them in command of the trigger.
Handheld thumb trigger releases (releases activated by pulling a “trigger” with your thumb rather than your index finger), have been growing in popularity. Traditionally popular with target archers, these releases are best known for delivering a simpler, as well as more comfortable and more consistently repeatable anchor point than their index finger counterparts. Due to the importance of consistent anchor points when drawing and aiming, these releases are also great options for beginner archers committed to ethical shot placement.
Hinge or back-tension releases, while intimidating to many, are essentially handheld releases without the trigger that are only activated by the slight backward rotation of the release itself – perhaps a bit more complicated and a little less intuitive than trigger-style releases. When the handle rotates, it results in the slipping of an internal mechanism, which opens the hook and allows the bow to fire. With hinge releases, executing precisely timed shots is perhaps not as easy as it would be with a thumb or index finger release, making them more widely used by hunters with many years of experience under their belts.
Tension or resistance-activated releases are similar to hinge releases but include built-in safeties that ensure you won’t accidentally fire the bow while in the process of drawing it. These releases also tend to feel more like traditional handheld thumb trigger releases and are great training tools for hunters looking to transition from a trigger to thumb release, making them ideal for the intermediate hunter.
Bow Sights: Bow sights range from single to double pin and even hybrid options that give hunters the ultimate adjustability. Single-pin sights have just one pin within the sight housing, allowing for faster target acquisition and eliminating the need for pin gapping when making mid-20-yard shots, for example. They operate on sliders, which are adjusted to the appropriate yardage prior to drawing and aiming.
Multi-pin sights come in various models, containing three, five, or seven pins, and are the most common sight type used by archery hunters. The pins within the sight housing are usually set at 10-yard increments, meaning there is no adjustment necessary – simply know your yardage, pick your pin, acquire your target, and let her fly. However, those pins can crowd and clutter your sight picture, making pin selection confusing and inaccurate at times.
Hybrid bow sights, like The Wheel, allow for micro-adjustability along a sight tape with super-simple-to-use adjustment tools. These sights provide longer-range capabilities without muddying up your sight picture and covering up your target with loads of pins.
Accessories: Again, when it comes to introductory archery packages, most beginners can count on everything they need to get started being included in a single purchase. Customizations can of course be made to any archery setup as the user sees fit, but unless you’ve spent ample time using and becoming familiar with your gear afield, this is not a necessary step in the journey to enjoying a successful hunt.
Some accessories intermediate or experienced archery hunters might consider adding to or swapping out on their bows or setups include:
As mentioned throughout, however, everything from arrows, broadheads, and targets to the bow itself can be upgraded and changed to fit every archery hunter’s changing preferences, experience levels, and experiences afield. Ultimately, it is all about finding what feels right and works best for you alone. Being comfortable with and confident in your gear and how it responds to your body and your style of hunting is first and foremost when putting your gear together.
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