Tips for bowhunting beginners— part two

Photo credit: Luke Dusenbury

In part 1 of this article, I went over finding a mentor, getting a bow, release and arrows that work for you and becoming an archer. Now, it is time to go over the next steps of transforming you from an archer to a bowhunter. These steps involve getting your bow properly set up, practicing, knowing your effective range and taking ethical shots at animals. After we finish going through these steps together, you will be ready to hit the woods or mountains, searching for an animal you can harvest with a bow and arrow. 

The setup

After you have your bow, rest, site, release and arrows, you are ready to set up your bow. The basic summary of setting up your bow is that you are to attach your sites, rest, nocking points, d-loop and more in a way that everything aligns and it aligns to you. Some YouTube videos on tuning your bow are good for a first-timer; however, a bow shop is the best way to go. A bow shop will assess your bow’s timing, making sure your cams are aligned. They will check your arrow’s flight and make appropriate adjustments to your nocking point or rest and even give you some pointers on your form. Ultimately, you want to give yourself the best opportunity to be accurate so setting up your bow correctly is necessary. I would always suggest a professional bow shop help with this. After all, you wouldn’t buy a tuxedo for your wedding and then try to tailor it yourself. Let the professionals help you, so it’s perfect before you start to practice.

Photo credit: Chris Neville

Sighting in your bow

Now that you have a mentor, some gear and your bow setup, it is time to get out there and practice. I would 100% suggest working around 10 to 20 yards at first. You need to get your first pin sighted in. To do this, you need to adjust your sight. The typical way to modify your site is to chase your arrow. If you are shooting too high, then you loosen the pin and move your pin up. Suppose you are shooting to the right. If so, you move all your pins to the right and so on.  Eventually, you will get your first pin sighted in and, from there, you should only have to adjust your second pin up and down since your left and right are already aligned. Sighting your second, third and fourth pin in 10 yard increments takes time and can wear you out. Do not rush the process. Plan on sighting in your bow over weeks or months or you will end up losing some arrows or getting frustrated with your shot. If you want a detailed look at this process, check out the article here.


Now that your pins are sighted in, your next goal is to practice until you can shoot close distance and consistently hit the same spot again and again. To practice, you need to make sure your shooting form, grip and release are consistent and everything you do is repetitious. If you can regularly group your arrows within an inch or two, you are ready to move back and start shooting from your next pin. After that grouping is tight, move and shoot the next pin and so on. Though it may take some more time, I highly suggest only sighting in one pin at a time so you end up practicing and sighting in your bow over a month or two. Eventually, after a few months, you should have all your pins sighted in. At the same time, your body has also been developing some muscle memory. At this point, you are ready to determine your effective range for hunting. If you want some practice drills for beginners, check out this YouTube video

Determining effective range

An effective shooting range is critical to understand and it takes a humble person to be honest with themselves about their skill level. You may be able to hit a target at 70 yards, but to be genuinely effective at that distance in a hunting situation, you need to be hitting within inches of where you are aiming every time. If you can consistently group all of your arrows in a 2” to 3” circle, you may be able to consider that your effective range. If you cannot do this, then move into a shorter range and try there. My first years of bowhunting had my effective range of fewer than 30 yards. Now, I would consider myself lethal out to 60 or 70 yards; however, I rarely take a shot at an animal from that far.  There are a lot of factors that determine your effective hunting range and you need to consider what is an ethical shot on an animal.

Ethical shots

The effective range brings us right into the ethical shot range and placement while hunting. No matter what animals you pursue, you should understand your effective range and lethal shot placement on animals. In my opinion, your effective hunting range should be at least 10 to 20 yards less than your effective target range. There are a lot of factors that affect your shot in a hunting situation. Some of these are adrenaline, wind, animal movement and other unforeseen issues. Any one of these can make a lethal hunter non-lethal so shorten your range and you will be happier with your shot placement. Understand that a bow and arrow is a primitive weapon. Respecting the animal and giving them a clean and quick death is our number one goal. To do this, you should only take broadside shots during your first years as an archery hunter. They give you the best opportunity to miss the shoulder blade and other bones and hit the animal in the heart or lungs, killing it quickly. After you hunt for years and get through the “buck fever,” you may be able to tackle quartering shots or frontals, but they are typically too risky for a newer hunter and even a lot of experienced ones. I would rather pass on an animal that gives me a poor shot than put a bad shot on the animal and not recover it. Remember to be patient and your time will come. 

Starting as a beginner archer and working yourself into a successful archery hunter is no small task and should not be taken lightly. It will require an investment of some of your finances; however, most of the investment is in your time. Anyone can become good at shooting a bow  with some time and practice. Once you have the confidence to aim and shoot well, you can take it to the next level and hunt with a bow. Archery is one of the most rewarding and therapeutic sports out there. Each time you shoot, you get a sense of accomplishment and for the most part, it doesn’t cost you any money after your initial purchases. If you are a beginner looking to get into archery, find a mentor, get a quality bow, set it up and then practice, practice, practice. Before you know it, you will be shooting like a pro.


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