Hunting With Bow & Arrow by Eric Vance
Hunting with the bow & arrow is likely the reason, or high on the list, for the survival of our species. It enabled man to reach beyond arm’s length and stone or spear’s throw with lethal force, gaining position at the top of the food chain. This allowed humans the means to support and defend growth of the species. As the primary tool in this way, it has been our closest companion in need until the age of guns. From then we see it somewhat disappear from military history.
Archery has surfaced slowly over the last few hundred years in all forms of recreation to an Olympic sport. For those devoted to all forms of this sport is undoubtedly shared a feeling for its deep-routed association with mankind for many thousands of years. In future articles we may discuss field & sport archery, here however, we will simply look at hunting with a bow & arrow in an overview of what makes it special & different.
Ethics of hunting aside, we will let statistics speak for themselves in maintaining the balance of nature in relation to maintenance of healthy species of fowl & mammals as well as prevention of extinction of any if possible. In hard reality, it’s so much easier hunting with a gun if all one is after is to fill the freezer with a supply of meat. Likewise, we can do that from the supermarket! So why are we out there snooping around the woods hunting with bows & arrows? It’s all about the bow & arrow and sensing some of that ancient kinship with it. It’s just the same as how animals know when it’s hunting season. We’ll see them all year ’round and then, pouf! – It’s wit –vs.- wary through open season. They’ve been hunted as long as we’ve been able to do so, and to any outdoorsman, hunting is practiced or accepted.
Hunting with a compound bow allows an archer to reach a little farther yet with confident accuracy. While most compound archers utilize tree stands & fixed blinds, I know many who still hunt the old ways of stalking & still hunting. It’s generally a little more difficult moving about with a compound bow. It is compact, but heavier and usually accompanied with peripherals like range finders, binoculars, and a support tool kit for the bow. It all adds up to a bit more weight & gear than a traditional bowhunter needs in the field.
Traditional recurve & longbows (non-mechanical bows) take us deeper into archery than most of us have experience with. Proficiency with these bows is all about practice. You will find that traditional bow shooters likely spend more time shooting year ’round in practice & friendly competition, keeping their skill sharp and ready for the hunting season. A well-sighted compound bow is a ready tool that should shoot just as accurately with a steady hand & good eye as it did when last used. Not true with a longbow or recurve. It’s up to your level of practice to make the good shot when it counts with all likely factors against you.
While this is true with any sport, mechanical aids are always a shortcut of means to an end. In that light, and with my personal love of traditional archery, much of my reference here may be in that direction. Let me say, though, that I own a compound and enjoy it. It really makes no difference to me, which your preference is between traditional or compound. It’s like riding a motorcycle, so long as the wind is in your face; it is all about the ride.
The extended hunting season allowed bowhunters to help manage the balance of herds to some extent. More does’ are usually taken in the early season, while frisky bucks during the rut and gun season are more likely to be less wary and encounter the hunter’s wile.
Bow hunting also allows hunting in more restricted areas where problems of overrunning deer populations, and the usual resulting increase of predation with threat to humans, often come into play. Bow hunters have often been called in to areas where these problems arise due to the quietness and limited range of the weapon and relative higher safety factor.
In choosing a bow for hunting, whether it be a compound, recurve, or longbow, for many of us, the choice is already made. For those seeking to enter the sport, or expand their own hunting experience, one must consider his or her own way of life. If you are not likely to be in a position to practice constantly and keep your skill level up, you should probably lean toward a compound bow fitted with well-adjusted sights that will require less input to prepare for the season. If you are indeed in love with the sport as well for its history & heritage and have time to practice, then by all means try traditional bows.
A recurve will be a little closer to home for those coming from a compound bow in terms of feel in the hand and having easier accuracy with a centershot shelf. If you are attracted to longbows for their deeper history and graceful appeal, then go for it. These days a longbow, with advances in limb design, will perform as well as a recurve and offers more in developing “instinctive” accuracy.
Instinctive accuracy is basically shooting without sights. While there are several ways to approach accurate shooting with a traditional bow with no sights, many of them are indeed methods of actually “aiming”. True instinctive shooting is when the archer maintains “full focus” with both eyes down range on the mark, then raises & draws the bow in one motion, releasing upon touching anchor with the string-pulling hand.
A compound shooter is likely using pin sights out front and perhaps a peep-sight installed in the string. Simply lining up the pin in the rear peep with a steady hand should bring the arrow to the mark. Aiming with no sights means that you are using some foreground perspective off the bow and/or arrow itself in alignment with the bullseye to get your arrow there with some consistency. An example of that is called “gap shooting”. This is when the archer uses the point of the arrow in relation to its distance from the bullseye in estimation of elevation required to cover a given distance. Gap shooters generally are holding the bow vertical and bisecting the bullseye with the bowstring to eliminate or reduce “windage”, or left/right drift. It can work with a “canted bow”, but is a little more difficult to see, using an imaginary “vertical plane” via the dominant eye over the shaft of the arrow to similarly bisect the mark.
Another way of aiming without sights is to visualize the “sight window” that is usually cut into recurve bows, and seldom in longbows. The cutout sight window on a bow is the “scoop” in the handle, or “riser”, over the arrow shelf. This scoop may be short or tall. Whatever size it is, the archer tries to visualize a “circle” that size hanging off the bow at the sight window and tries to find the “sweet spot” where the bullseye lives and focus there, with remaining attention to the “gap” & elevation adjustment for the distance, once again.
Whatever method you may employ to attain accuracy, there is always practice involved. It may be less practice with well-adjusted sights, or much practice over the course of the year as you enjoy the sport for its attraction and meditative qualities. Archery requires dedication and focus to maintain a consistent good shot. The fact that it is quiet and unobtrusive to the immediate surroundings and calls upon ones concentration, makes it a wonderful stress reliever and fun & demanding pastime as well.
All bowhunters, culminating in the experience of the traditional archer, enjoy an experience that takes us back in time and induces the primal instincts common to us all. Outdoorsmen & women appreciate the stimulation of the senses that comes with being out in nature – something that is out of touch with most folks these days.
Bowhunting is not a necessity to survive anymore, but it’s still a part of our heritage on an instinctive level and a passion with those who find its fascination. For me, it’s being out in the early morning with my bow in hand. The sun comes late through the green canopy. The woods are alive with silence. I move like a ghost through the flickering shadows. My quarry awaits……..