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Bringing a bow to a gunfight

firstlite bowhunting

All photo credits: Josh Kirchner

Thinking back to when I was a young kid, I looked at bowhunting as this far-fetched thing that I would probably never succeed at. I loved the thought of it and daydreamed about it actually. Making it happen, though, and being successful at it? That sounded like something from a dream world and a question arose to me. Why would someone put themselves through the struggle of trying to get an arrow into a deer when they could just pick up a rifle and be successful more often? Only the pros were that good to continuously make animals fall to an arrow. Hunting seemed hard enough and to make it harder just didn’t really make sense in my mind. Fast forward to present day and I have a very different way of thinking. An acquaintance of mine recently said on a podcast something to the effect of that the older he gets, the more it’s about how he does something rather than just the end result. That really resonated with me when I heard it. No longer am I frothing at the mouth to get something on the ground, like I was when I was younger. I’m more frothing at the mouth at the certain way in which I do it. For me, that is bowhunting, even during the general seasons when most folks are toting a rifle.

General seasons

browning vortex rifle

I don’t know about in your neck of the woods, but, here in Arizona, we have what are called general seasons. These often get labeled as rifle seasons by most hunters. This is probably due to the fact that the majority of hunters are carrying around rifles for these general season hunts. In all actuality, though, you can use a multitude of weapons legally. It clearly states in the regulations: “Any firearm, pre-charged pneumatic weapon, crossbow, or bow and arrow…..” It doesn’t just say rifle and I honestly don’t think we have a single season here dedicated solely to that one weapon. I’ve also seen this in various other western states as well where they label a certain season as a general season. I think these are great hunts because of the variety they offer. If you are a pretty strict bowhunter it doesn’t put you out of the races. It actually extends your season if you think about it. You don’t have to wait for an archery only season. You can mold quite a few of these general season hunts to your liking.

Why?

hoyt rx1 firstlite

So, we’ve established that these general season hunts are essentially just as much archery hunts as they are rifle hunts in terms of the legal method of take. Why would you want to do that, though, when you can just pick up a rifle? Sounds like a stress test to put yourself through such a thing. Well, I can’t answer that question for you particularly, but I can tell you why I will usually leave the rifle at home and carry my bow. The truth is, I have never been one that truly enjoys shooting a rifle. I’ve never been sitting on the couch thinking to myself, “Man, I really wish I was shooting my rifle right now.” A bow, though?

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Everything about it makes me tick. Shooting the bow, carrying a bow, all of the accessories, and the chess match of getting closer are all things that I truly enjoy. The experiences that I’ve had bowhunting are ones that have ultimately shaped me as a hunter and ones that I hold very close to my heart. It’s something that I am always excited for and can’t get enough of. A few of my friends are the same way. They just love all things bow, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. You might be the same or maybe you aren’t. Both are entirely fine in my book. So, why would you deny yourself something that you love?

The kickback

glassing hunting

Believe it or not, there is a bit of a kickback, if you will, when someone talks about “bringing a bow to a gunfight.” A few years ago, when I first started kicking around the idea of hunting with a bow during the general seasons, I did what most folks do when they are faced with a conundrum these days. I sought out advice on the internet from fellow hunters abroad. The response that I got was rather shocking in my opinion. Sure, there were folks that supported my decision and told me to go for it. However, there were others that responded quite adversely. They said things like, “Let the rifle guys have their time” or “You archery hunters already get so much time to hunt, stay home.” I got called “holier than thou” and “pretentious” as well. Admittedly, I was a bit insulted. In no way, shape or form was I trying to seem like I was better than everyone else. It was merely me chasing what I love to do in the way I love to do it—just like you or anyone else out there in the field. If that is wrong then I don’t want to be right.

Safety precautions

firstlite rifle hunt

Hunting with a bow when other folks are out and about with rifles does come with risk. I’d like to think that everyone out there walking around with a weapon is a responsible and level-headed gun owner/hunter, but that isn’t always the case, unfortunately. Even if they are, things can still happen here and there if you’re not careful. In the heat of the moment, stuff plays out very quickly and the intensity level of the situation can hit the roof sometimes. I don’t really like people knowing where I am when hunting, but, when it comes to these hunts, I will definitely wear an orange hat to make myself more visible to other hunters. I know, I know; it almost seems wrong for a bowhunter to be wearing orange, but it’s just the safe thing to do if you ask me. The bowhunter is the minority in this case. Rifle hunters are urged to be wearing orange, and so should you during this time. You don’t want someone to take a shot across a canyon at the same critter you are stalking and accidentally hit you in the process. We should be aware of other hunters anyways, bowhunter or not, so making your presence known is favorable.

Closing

rifle vs bow

So, if you are so inclined to “bring a bow to a gunfight” then I say do it! Life is too short and precious to not chase what you are passionate about. Hunting with a bow during a general season is just as legal as hunting with a rifle is. Both folks are out there after the same thing: adventure, good times and, with any luck, a cooler filled with game meat. We live in a pretty divided world today. Everyone wants to be a part of something that holds validity and they will label themselves to let it be known what they are. I think it’s awesome to be proud of what you are and what you’re aspiring to become. In light of the topic at hand, though, bowhunters are not better than rifle hunters and rifle hunters are not better than bowhunters. Each of us love what we do and are passionate about how we do it. The rifle hunters love geeking out about different loads and scopes just like the bowhunters like geeking out about different arrows and broadheads. We are one in the same and it pains me when either looks down on the other. Rifle, bow—it doesn’t matter. We’re all under the same general roof.

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5 Comments

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Al C. - posted 1 week ago on 10-08-2019 09:24:21 pm

Good article. I have complained the last few years about how it takes less points to get a rifle tag then a bow tag. I guess it’s time to shut up and bow hunt the tag I can get.

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Bendrix B. - posted 1 week ago on 10-06-2019 05:49:55 pm
Rochester, MA
goHUNT INSIDER

I am an archer. Launching arrows for fun and proficiency is a great joy and pastime. As a hunter I envision myself a bow hunter. I’ve hunted and taken every big game animal east of the Mississippi with a bow in any season. I view general season, or rifle season, or black powder season as just another bow hunting season, as long as its legal. Been that way for 25 years and expect to be that way till its physically impossible.

Nice bit of writing. It’s good to see you loving archery so much that it occurs to use the bow as much as possible. I’ve never regretted it, and you won’t either.

Jacob T. - posted 2 weeks ago on 10-04-2019 08:15:57 am
goHUNT INSIDER

Great article. I’ve always though about hunting spike elk in Utah with bow during the any legal weapon season. Or hunting with a bow during an October any legal weapon Cow elk hunt

SETH D. - posted 2 weeks ago on 10-03-2019 03:04:29 pm
Sunny New Mexico
goHUNT INSIDER

Josh, great bit of writing.

I was a traditional archer for many years. I grew up in a rifle hunting family in Wyoming and my Uncle was the only one I know that bow hunted.

Fast forward I am 44 and now that a military career is finally over, I find that my family eats a lot of the time I would have to dedicate to archery practice. So..... no, can't say I would ever use archery tackle during a rifle season, UNLESS I was very close to town, and it made sense.

Much of public land hunting involves some sort of competition. You have to go as far as you can go to get away from that competition. I am personally more of a shooter than a hunter. Some day that might switch, but I have had so little time to dedicate to hunting, that I am going to take every opportunity to take something.

In the end of the journey, is yours. It is 100% your road to make, and if your road is using a bow. Then use a bow.

I used to fish a lake in Washington state that became a fly fishing lake only. It pissed me off, and it should have. The local elitist fly fishers locked the rest of everyone else, including those kids we try to recruit into fishing out of a public lake. I like to fly fish, but not all the time. I don't think it is zen, and I don't think hunting with a compound bow is zen either. There is more technology in a Mathews, than there is in a Weatherby Mark V. Especially from someone like myself who used to be a traditional archer.

As long as you don't do the same thing with rifle season, I don't think anyone should care.

SETH D. - posted 2 weeks ago on 10-03-2019 03:04:21 pm
Sunny New Mexico
goHUNT INSIDER

Josh, great bit of writing.

I was a traditional archer for many years. I grew up in a rifle hunting family in Wyoming and my Uncle was the only one I know that bow hunted.

Fast forward I am 44 and now that a military career is finally over, I find that my family eats a lot of the time I would have to dedicate to archery practice. So..... no, can't say I would ever use archery tackle during a rifle season, UNLESS I was very close to town, and it made sense.

Much of public land hunting involves some sort of competition. You have to go as far as you can go to get away from that competition. I am personally more of a shooter than a hunter. Some day that might switch, but I have had so little time to dedicate to hunting, that I am going to take every opportunity to take something.

In the end of the journey, is yours. It is 100% your road to make, and if your road is using a bow. Then use a bow.

I used to fish a lake in Washington state that became a fly fishing lake only. It pissed me off, and it should have. The local elitist fly fishers locked the rest of everyone else, including those kids we try to recruit into fishing out of a public lake. I like to fly fish, but not all the time. I don't think it is zen, and I don't think hunting with a compound bow is zen either. There is more technology in a Mathews, than there is in a Weatherby Mark V. Especially from someone like myself who used to be a traditional archer.

As long as you don't do the same thing with rifle season, I don't think anyone should care.