Bow Hunting For Beginners: How To Choose The Best Bow For You

Types of Bow Available

Although the basic premise behind the bow has been the same for centuries, there are different types available.  It is important to understand the differences before you start looking for a bow of your own.  It is also worth noting that all modern bows are made from fiberglass or carbon fiber; you can also find many wooden bows which are exceptionally good for all levels of experience. 

The reason for this is the stronger the bow the better it will be able to handle the force being exerted on it when the string is pulled back.  The more force you have in the bow the further and faster your arrow will fly; making it a much more deadly weapon.

The Recurve Bow

This is the bow that historically was chosen by horseman; the reason for this is that the bow curves towards you but then the tips of each end curve away.  This increases the power of the bow without needing to increase the amount of strength needed to pull the string back fully. 

This makes it perfect for horse riders who are concentrating on holding onto the horse and may not be able to pull the bow back far whilst riding.  It is also an excellent choice for beginners as you do not need a huge amount of strength to pull it back; this means you can focus on the target and your stance. 

It can also be operated as a bare bow; simply the string, bow and the arrow; along with the arrow rest.  As you gain experience you can add extra bits to the bow such as a sight or stabilizer.

Modern versions of this bow are also the ones still used by the Olympic archers of today.

The Compound Bow

This type of bow was first seen in the 1960’s and is far more complex than the standard recurve bow.  The compound bow has a series of pulleys and cables built into it.  These provide assistance to any archer, reducing the strength needed to hold the bow ready for firing for a much longer period than the recurve bow.

However, these bows need more strength to complete the initial draw; this means they are not generally good bows for beginners or those who need to be muscle strength.

What is interesting is that the way these bows are made makes them more tolerant of any temperature changes or even humidity issues.  These can affect a recurve bow but have no noticeable effect on a compound bow.

The Longbow

This type of bow, as its name suggests; is much longer than the average compound bow and is incredibly simple.  They are known to have been used in battles as long ago as 1298 and are talked about many times throughout history. 

In general the bow is the same height as the archer; this is why many of them are custom made, especially if you are not a standard height.  The bow is simply a piece of curved wood; there is no sight or even an arrow rest.  In fact, this can be said to be the most difficult type of bow to master. 

For this reason beginners do not usually start with this type of bow; gaining familiarity with shooting techniques is essential before you can attempt this simplistic type of bow. 

Interestingly it does not shoot as far or as fast as a recurve or compound bow, but the increased skill level required makes it a popular choice with many experienced archers.

The Crossbow

It is likely that this type of bow started life in China and they are believed to have been a common sight of the ancient battlefields in Medieval and Roman times.  The modern crossbow resembles a cross between a sideways bow and a gun; in fact, this is a fair summary of this type of bow. 

The bow is short and sits sideways across the main trigger lever; even the arrows tend to be short.  A mechanism on the bow will draw the arrow back before you attach the string to the trigger.  The arrow is then locked into position until the trigger is depressed. 

The size of the bow and the shortness of the arrow tend to reduce the range capability of this type of bow.  However, they are simple to use and are very good on a range for target practice.

Some countries have strict regulations on this type of bow due to the power and ease of use; even a novice can use a crossbow in a matter of seconds.  However, it is a different technique to firing any of the other types of bows and it is unlikely that firing a crossbow will improve your skills as an archer.  Being more complicated means there are more things to go wrong or break which can be an issue to the inexperienced archer.

As well as understanding the types of bow it is important to know which parts are on a bow; the following parts breakdown relates to the recurve bow which is the most likely choice for a beginner to this sport:

· Upper limb – top part of bow

· Lower limb – bottom part of bow

· Handle riser – the middle part of the bow

· The Grip – Contoured area of handle riser for you to hold

· Arrow rest – for resting your arrow on whilst lining up a shot

· Sight window – the small circle with a pin in the middle of which is your sighting point.

· Bow string – as its name suggests!

· The recurve – the tips of the bow which angle away from your body.

There are additional components on a compound bow as it has a variety of pulleys and cams.  However, the basic bow concepts of limbs, grip, middle riser and string are all the same. 

Using a compound is not the same as understanding or being able to fix your compound bow.  If you choose to use this type of bow you must seek assistance when repairing it; they can be extremely dangerous.

How to Choose the Right Bow

The bow is a vital part of your archery equipment; it is simply not possible to shoot without one!  Although the feel of the bow is important there are a few other points to be considered.  Choosing the right bow is the first step in becoming a better shot.

The first thing to establish is whether you are right or left handed; a right handed archer will hold the bow with the left hand; the grip will be contoured to fit left hands.  If you are right handed you must choose a right handed bow.  If you are buying second hand and are unsure which type of bow it is simply hold it; it will become obvious immediately.

You will then need to establish the length of the bow which is most suited to you.  To do this you actually need to calculate the length of the arrows you will be firing.

To work out the best arrow length for your needs simply place your palms together and straighten your arms in front of your chest as far as you can, with your fingertips extended.

Then measure from the centre of your chest to the tips of your fingers; you will probably need an assistant to help with this!  You should then add one inch to the measurement.  This will give you the arrow length which you should be firing.

If your arrow length is 14-18 inches you will need a bow 48 inches tall.  The following guide, in inches, should help you choose the right height bow:

Arrow length                                          Bow length

18 – 20                                          54

20 – 22                                          58

22 – 24                                          62

24 – 26                                          64

26 – 28                                          66

28 – 30                                          68

30 +                                                 70

 

Finally, you will need to decide the weight of your bow.  This is generally described as the poundage you will be pulling back when the bow string is pulled back to twenty eight inches.  If you pull past twenty eight the poundage will increase and less than twenty eight it will decrease.

This can be difficult to assess if you are new to the sport.  The average man will have a twenty eight inch draw, whilst the average woman has a twenty four inch draw; you should allow two pounds per every inch of your draw. A twenty eight inch draw would mean poundage of fifty six.

Of course if your draw is shorter you may want to increase or even decrease the poundage being loaded onto your bow.  It is worth noting that even a twenty pound draw is powerful, as a beginner it is best to go less rather than more.  You will want to focus on your shooting not on struggling to pull back your bow.

There are also a series of other considerations which may affect the type of bow you choose:

The use

If you are intending on practicing at a range and simply shooting targets then you will be able to use almost any type of bow.  The recurve should be your first choice as this is the easiest and simplest form of bow to master.  Only after you have mastered this should you progress to the other types of bows.

Almost any recurve bow will effectively put an arrow through a target; it needs little force behind it, even if you are practicing at high distances.  However; if you are intending on hunting you will need to consider the weight of your bow.

As a beginner you may have chosen a lighter weight to ensure you were comfortable shooting.  However, if you are intending on actually hunting animals; and you are the certification to allow you to; then you will need a bow which has enough force behind it to put the arrow through the thick outer skin, fat, tissue and possibly even bone.

For this you will need the highest weight you can comfortably pull; this will increase the power behind the arrow and its ability to cut through anything in its path.  A general guide is thirty or thirty five pounds is sufficient weight if you are hunting small prey such as rabbits.  Larger prey, such as deer will need at least a forty pound weight.

The Take-Down

There are actually two different types of recurve; the standard bow is one piece and requires very little maintenance or preparation to fire.  However, the take-down recurve allows you to remove the top and bottom limb.

There are several reasons why you may find this beneficial:

  • Removing the limbs creates a smaller bow; this can be packed into a case and carried easily with you; unlike a complete recurve.
  • If a take-down breaks you will be able to have part of it fixed; a broken one piece is much more difficult, if not, impossible to repair.  It will certainly have to be repaired by a professional which could cost more than the bow is worth.
  • Flexibility is an important consideration and benefit of a take-down bow.  The draw weight of any bow is decided by the stiffness, angle and even the construction of the limbs.  By being able to remove the limbs you can change the draw weight of your bow quickly and easily.

This will ensure you have the right level of power for the shooting you are intending to do.  The middle riser can be used with a variety of different limbs.

Finally before you commit to a type of bow or even a specific one it is advisable to seek the opinion of more experienced members of your club, or even to look at the reviews which have been submitted on line.

You should also consider the weight of your bow; this will contribute to the tension on your arms when pulling the string back; the extra weight may not be welcome!

The best bows will be well balanced, although it is possible to add a stabilizer if required to help keep the bow steady while you take your best shot.

How to Hit the Target Every Time

Choosing a bow means that you will be able to start shooting.  It is recommended that anyone new to the sport should start by joining their local club.

This will ensure you not only have the opportunity to shoot within a controlled environment, but, you will also be able to seek the advice and assistance of other archers who have been shooting for a much longer period of time.

This can help you to improve rapidly as you start to shoot and prevent you from wasting your time and funds doing it incorrectly.

The following tips will help you to hit the target, where you want to every time; with practice you will be able to group your arrows perfectly.

Grip

One of the biggest issues that many archers face is the way they hold the bow.  Your left hand should be able to hold the grip loosely at a slight downward angle.  Your bow grip should be in contact with the heel of your palm.

You can tell if you have this correct by looking at your knuckles when the bow is drawn fully back; they should be lined up at a forty five degree angle.  This type of grip is very relaxed but very precise; allowing you complete control over the bow without any fatigue.

The Stance

To achieve a consistent result; such as hitting the target at the same spot every time; you need to stand the same way every time.  It won’t matter whether you are ten feet or one hundred feet from the target, if your stance is the same every time you arrow will always go where you want it to.

For the best results it is best to stand perpendicular to your target.  The reason for this is that this is an easy position to adopt every time.  You will then be able to focus on your form and improve your consistency.

This stance means you need to have your left foot will be in front of your shot and your right will be behind.  Your feet should be shoulder width apart and parallel to the shooting line.  You can then turn your chin to line up with the target, standing straight in the process.

Your chest and ribs need to roll in towards your stomach; puffing them out will disrupt the line of your shot.  Your shoulders should also be pushed downwards.  You should practice this stance without your bow; it will soon become second nature and allow you to focus on shooting.

Stabilizers

Most bows have small nodules which will allow you to attach a stabilizer to your bow.  The purpose of a stabilizer is to weigh the bow down; the heavy the bow the less you will move it around whilst trying to line up your shot.

Of course, there is a limit to the weight you can comfortably hold; you will shake far more if you have too much weight on the bow and are unable to hold it comfortably. It is best to add a small amount of weight and gradually increase it until you reach the maximum you are comfortable with.

You will then notice the bow shakes less and you will be more accurate on your target.  There are actually different types of stabilizers which can be used as you become more experienced and your shooting improves.

These include:

  • The poker stabilizer is a long, poker style rod which extends from the front of the bow.  This effectively moves the centre of gravity forward which results in a reduction of sideways twisting and can also neutralize much of a movement when releasing the arrow; helping you to stay on target.
  • Twin stabilizers are generally fitted on each side of the bow hand; above and below.  As well as having the same effects as the poker stabilizer this type can also help with a tendency to twist and have shots go right or left.
  • Reverse stabilizers are generally fitted as well as a poker stabilizer.  This is because they make the centre of gravity closer and counteract the effects of a long front stabilizer.  Whilst this reduces the effectiveness of the poker stabilizer it does add a reduction in the tendency for the bow to turn vertically.

The right combination of stabilizers will depend upon your shooting style and the weight you are comfortable supporting.  However, playing with a few different combinations can have a dramatic effect on the accuracy of your shot.

Practice

The most important element in any sport to provide consistent results is to practice.  The more you practice the more comfortable you will be shooting in a variety of conditions, distances and in your bow.  Having spent time choosing the right bow you will achieve the best shots by simply using it.

Practice will encourage your stance to become second nature and your approach to be relaxed and flexible.  This will allow you to focus on the target and not on the competition.  Dealing with pressure related stress first is essential to ensure you can focus on the goal.

One of the most important factors of constant practice is learning to be consistent.  If your stance, approach and equipment are the same every time then you need only consider the environmental factors which can affect your shot.

To ensure you are focusing on the process and not the result it is advisable to remove the target from your hay bale; you will then be less concerned about what you have scored and more worried about whether you are doing everything right.  If you follow the process properly and thoroughly your arrow will go exactly where you want it to.

Trust

Perhaps the most important thing to do when practicing and shooting in competitions is to trust your own judgment and intuition.  The more you have practiced the more you will be comfortable that you are right.  Trusting yourself and going with your own gut feeling will provide you with the result you want and need.

Additional Tips to Help get the Most from Your Bow

Learning to relax and knowing the right way to stand and how to shoot are very important ingredients in becoming a first class archer and consistently hitting the target.  However, there are a variety of other tips which can make a big difference to your success as an archer.

Your Elbow

The position of your elbow can actually make a huge difference to where your arrow will end up.  It is essential to keep the elbow on your bow hand straight up and down before and during your shot.

To ensure you have it positioned correctly you should practice rotating your elbow out before you even lift your bow into position.  This will ensure that when you do position your bow it is in the right spot; this means it will be the same every time and will help you to hit the same spot, every time.

Having the right elbow rotation will also help to ensure you do not damage your inner elbow and have shots veering to one side of your target.  Aligning all the parts of your body properly will ensure your shot has more power and is more accurate.

Your Fingers

Another point which you should consider carefully before you start shooting is where your finger is on the bow string.  This is one feature that many archers never consider and yet it can make a huge difference to the accuracy of your shot.

If you find that you hook your string then you are likely to give yourself blisters as the string brushes past your fingers on release, effectively burning them.

You will also interrupt the smooth flow of the release and path of the arrow; causing it to go off target.  Although your finger needs to have enough pressure not to accidently release the arrow early; it should not require excessive force.

You should have your index finger above the arrow and the other fingers below.  The string should sit on the first bend of your finger and be in the same position every time.  By spending a moment to think about your finger position before you shoot you will be surprised at how much your shooting can improve.

Your Anchor

The string on your bow can only be pulled back so far; it will eventually contact your face and you will be unable to pull it further without contorting the shot.

This point of contact is usually your chin, although it can be the corner of your mouth.  This is known as your anchor point and you should focus on hitting the same spot every time you pull back your string.

Identifying a specific spot and hitting it every time will provide you with stability.  Your drawing hand will be in the same spot for every single shot; this means that every shot you make has the potential to go in exactly the same spot as the one before; providing you adhere to the other principles and tips already provided.

There is no specific point that should be an anchor point; it is the most comfortable spot for you and being able to hit the same spot every time.

The Strength of your Shot

The more power you put into your shot the further it will go and the more accurate it will be.  However, if you are not paying attention to your shooting form then it is very easy to apply strength at the wrong moment.

One of the most common issues archers have is aiming too soon.  The focus and effort required to hold your bow in position is immense; aiming too soon means that you are already past the best time for your shot before you are allowed to shoot.

It can be equally detrimental if you focus so intently on aiming that you forget to think about your muscle movements.  Just like in any game, the release and follow through are integral parts of the process.

Learning the right muscle movements and practicing will ensure you follow through on your strength shot and create powerful, closely grouped shots.

Attitude

One of the most important aspects of any sportsman is having the right mental attitude.  You must have faith in your own abilities and trust that, if you follow the proper routine your arrows will end up exactly where you want them.  Archery is not a game of luck, it is a skill which can be learned and improved on, as well as practiced to create the ultimate archer.

Your positive attitude, no matter what the previous outcomes or how bad the weather is, will ensure that you adopt the same approach for each shot and remain focused on the task ahead.  This can make a huge difference to the success of your shots.

The Wind

Unfortunately the conditions are not always perfect.  Shooting on a windy day is more difficult but it is also possible with a little practice and some confidence.  It also helps to understand the movement of the flags which are usually placed above the targets.

Although these flags will tell you the wind direct and they cannot tell you the strength of the wind or how often it blows.  To ensure you can deal with any of these scenarios it is essential to practice on windy days.

The most commonly adopted approach to dealing with shooting on a windy day is to shoot to the left or right of the target, (depending upon the wind direction).  Deliberately aiming to the side of the target can help your arrow to find the target perfectly even in the wind.

Of course, to get the same result; assuming the wind is consistent, you will need to aim at the same spot every time; so pick something you will be able to focus on repeatedly.

There are other ways to deal with shooting into the wind, such as tilting your bow slightly.  However, the best approach is always the simplest, correct it with a manual adjustment; the exact adjustment will become increasingly obvious the more wind there is and you will be able to predict the best place to shoot.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that it is difficult to find the right bow for your needs.  There are many different types and makes of bow and it can be extremely difficult to choose the right one; especially if you opt to look for a bow second hand.

However, armed with the knowledge in this book you should be able to, understand the basic terminology and find the right bow for your needs; whether you are new to archery or have been shooting for years.

Almost anyone can pick up a bow, fit an arrow and pull back the screen.  There are not many who can grab a bow and fire it successfully and consistently.  Practice and following some simple advice will ensure that your abilities rapidly improve.

Although this is an ancient sport, it has survived the centuries and is now a fiercely competitive pass time.  To either become the best in your competitions or to simply have the satisfaction of being the best archer in a given area you will need to adopt the right attitude and practice religiously.

Even if you wish to go hunting with your bow and arrow it is essential to follow the tips in this book, choose the right bow and practice your technique.  Getting it right and shooting consistent, tight clusters of arrows can be an exceptionally rewarding experience.

It is important to start shooting with a standard recurve bow; this will ensure you establish a good technique and understanding of the basic principles regarding firing an arrow into a specific target.

However, once you have mastered this it can be good to broaden your horizons and start shooting with a compound or cross bow; for the truly dedicated you can even attempt the longbow; it is significantly more difficult than the standard recurve.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of choosing a bow and learning to shoot properly is to have the proper mindset.  If you believe you can hit the target three times in a row then you will be able to; a positive mental attitude will complement the skills you have learned and practiced; giving you the edge in any competitive shooting situation.

It is also very important to listen to experienced archers who regularly perform well.  Consistent results means that you are getting something right; if these remain off target then you will need to work out which of the practical aspects of shooting you are not completing correctly.  This self evaluation is the best way of improving your shooting skills and become the best archer you can be.

To establish whether you have really improved and the techniques you have been practicing have really sunk in; you will need to place yourself in a position of pressure.

Shooting accurately whilst being pressured is a sign that you have mastered the techniques of shooting and can do them without thinking about them.  Once you have invoked your muscle memory you will hold the position every time and you will see the improvement in your shooting abilities.

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