What are the main benefits of bowhunting?
Hiking through the dark that morning, my mind was racing. As I focused down the tunnel vision provided by my headlamp what happened the night before kept replaying over and over again. A beautiful black bear stood beneath me at a mere 18 yards and I blew it. Not just once either, but twice. Two arrows went sailing right over his back. I thought to myself, “Would I even get another chance? Or was that my opportunity for the season?” Only a few hours later, a husky red boar fed across the canyon from me and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. Not with a bow at least. Had a rifle been next to me, then this story would have ended much differently. In moments like that, the act of bowhunting sounds insane. Why would someone want to put themselves through that? Believe it or not, though, there are actually benefits to this bowhunting thing. A light in the darkness.
Honing your skill
One of the first things that comes to mind — in terms of the benefits of bowhunting — is honing your skill. Spend enough time archery hunting and your skill as a hunter is bound to skyrocket, especially if you’re successful. Success with a bow is often described as “the stars aligning” and, while I do believe there is a bit of luck involved with all hunting, it’s not all luck by a long shot. Year in and year out there are folks who are consistently filling tags with their bows. There is a reason for that and that reason rhymes with “skill.” Please, let me assure you: I’m not downplaying rifle hunting at all. That is hard enough in its own right. However, something that cannot be denied is that there is far more that has to go right to put an arrow in a critter. More things matter and being hyper aware tends to be a common trait among successful bowhunters. For someone that wants to learn, the challenge of bowhunting will absolutely sharpen their skills as a hunter in general.
Don’t have to keep buying ammo
I’ll be the first to admit that shooting guns is just plain fun. Heading out into the desert and blowing up some produce or fine-tuning that scope for hunting season is time well spent — especially with good buddies. In order for that to happen, though, a trip to the local sporting goods store to buy some ammo has to happen ahead of time. Not only does this add up, but it involves the act of having to go to the store. You could say that reloading is the solution, but is it? Reloading requires an investment in time — not to mention the investment in the equipment to do so. As far as a bow goes, buy a dozen arrows and you’re good to go over and over again. As long as you don’t lose them or break them, of course. Other than those instances, it’s as easy as going and pulling them out of your target. That leads me to my next point: practicing.
Easier to practice on a more regular basis
Each year before annual deer camp, my dad and I would head down to the local shooting range to give the rifles a workout in preparation for the season. This was something I always looked forward to as a kid because it was like an event for me. We’d stop off and get a hot cup of coffee on our way, usually accompanied with a donut or two. It was good times. Every time we’d go, I’d always wish it was something I could do more often. In order for that to happen, though, we’d be making a heck of a lot of trips either out to the range or into the desert for a safe place to shoot. It was a time investment. With my bow, I can just walk out into the backyard, fling a few and go about my daily business. And, if I wanted to do that multiple times a day, I could and still can. This is great in terms of building familiarity with your weapon as well as the obvious shooting skill aspect. We have so much more opportunity to become better shots with our bows because we can practice with them more often. Most of us anyway. If you happen to live in the country and can shoot a rifle on your own property, then you’ve got it made in the shade on both fronts.
While bowhunting and rifle hunting are both dangerous in their own right, I truly believe that bowhunting is safer. Yes, broadheads are sharp and you can definitely cut yourself; however, bows aren’t accidentally fired when walking around with your hunting partner. Not unless you’re just walking around at full draw, which isn’t realistic at all. If you drop a bow, there isn’t a chance it will fire an arrow into your buddy. Of course, this all comes down to good firearm safety practice, right? You shouldn’t be walking around with a bullet in the chamber, but people do it anyways. If you do have a bullet in the chamber, the safety should be on until ready to fire, but there are people that do the opposite anyways. And while accidents do happen from time to time in the archery hunting world, they happen far less. How often do you hear about someone accidentally shooting their buddy or complete stranger with an arrow? Not often, which is why I consider this another benefit of bowhunting.
More time in the field
The Arizona Department of Game and Fish used to try and advertise archery hunting in their main regulations as an opportunity for "more time in the field. "It extends the normal rifle hunting seasons we were accustomed to. While bowhunting may be harder — no doubt — there is far more opportunity to do it. This is because it’s hard. Success rates aren’t super high at all with archery hunting, so more opportunity is available. When I first learned about how much more opportunity a bowhunter had out there, that alone was reason enough for me to really take an interest in it. Growing up and only going hunting once a year wasn’t going to cut it when I got older. The answer to this was bowhunting. With it, there is no excuse or lack of opportunity to go hunting.
As I sat there staring at that beautiful red boar hitting up his local fruit stand, I will admit: there was a bit of frustration. My dream bear was right across from me and I knew almost certainly that he wasn’t going to be catching a ride in my pack back to camp. Instead, he’d remain in my thoughts for years to come. Even as I write this, that bear still gets me going, which, in my opinion, is yet another benefit that I’ve received from bowhunting. Had I toted a rifle that morning, I wouldn’t have spent 45 minutes watching the bear or had this yearning desire that experience gave me. Then there are the close encounters. The ones that make your hair stand up and leave you motionless. Experiences that are at an all time high in the “almost” category. And when it does all come together, through the undeniable difficulty that rides passenger with bowhunting, that feeling of accomplishment is uncanny. All of that because you decided to pick up a bow and arrow. Priceless.