How to be a Better Bowhunter: Part I

Article Posted: November 1, 2012

Quest Bowhunting Primal Bow

Archery is one of the oldest sports still in practice to date. Although equipment has become more high-tech as time has progressed, it still has traditional roots for the fundamental basic steps to learn how to properly shoot a bow. The three main types of bows are the traditional, recurve, and compound bows. The compound bow was designed in 1966 by Holless Wilbur Allen, and they are the most widely used by hunters today, due to their technical advantages over other styles of bows.

Archers should start out with high-quality equipment to learn the proper fundamentals of drawing a bow, and releasing an arrow on target. Poor gear that is used for practice can be inaccurate, damage easily, and possibly injure people in the process. Other things to take into account for beginner bowhunters, which will be covered in future articles, is learning proper form and technique, minimal noise (including clothing), removing scent from the body and clothes, along with proper exercise on muscle groups to learn how to hold a form to shoot arrow properly.

Any experienced bow hunter knows that shots do not always come in ideal situations. Taking into account factors such as weather, time of day, distance and elevation to a shot, all come into account when bowhunting. The components of bows can freeze up in cold weather, requiring lubricant, such as powdered graphic or certain types of oil. These make shots difficult even with proper gear and accessories. Practice in ideal situations to learn the proper technique is essential to learning the basics before taking part in more advanced shooting regiments.

Compound bows have certain aspects to them such as; figuring out how much kinetic energy and momentum an arrow has after it has been released onto a target. The trajectory of flight on targets at certain distances, elevations, and windage all need to be accounted for while out in the field. Sights help increase accuracy, along with judging distance to targets, in addition to the type of arrow needed for an animal a person is going after. The type of skin thickness an animal has, vital areas to aim for when targeting game, can determine how much weight an arrow needs to be to maximize shots.

Accuracy is the biggest factor in bowhunting. No matter how many times a person practices, they always have the potential to miss a shot in the field due to a host of factors. Learning to master equipment, draw methods, and different types of environments one may encounter before stepping into the field can help reduce any problems. Using the same form for every shot during practice sessions, no matter the distance, elevation, or release is key to success in the field.

Different Types of Bows:

  • Traditional - Also referred to as self-bows; are made of a single piece of dense wood with the ability to store enough energy to provide enough velocity to give the shooter an advantage on targets when the arrow is released. Most Traditional bows are approximately the same height as the shooter.
  • Recurve
  • Recurve - A Recurve bow has tips that curve in the opposite direction that the bow is strung. The string on a recurve bow stores more energy than traditional bows, but also requires a greater amount of energy to draw for each shot.
  • Compound Bow
  • Compound - Maximizes energy stored in the draw-cycle to provide less pull weight on draw and releases a peak weight to allow for a most consistent cycle of controlled, accelerated, and accurate shots compared to other bows.


Archery sets are used to introduce shooters to the sport of archery to gain the confidence and skill set to accurately hit targets. Bows can either be right or left handed, and can also come with sets that are specifically made for people who are vision impaired. The typical basic set includes the bow, strings, arrows, arrow tip protectors, target sheets, and a carrying case to hold the materials. More advanced sets are also available for shooters that include more accessories.
Picking out first bow
Grip - Handles and grips are used on recurve and compound bows, and are usually made of plastic or wood. The type of handle determines the type of shot a person desires to have while holding the bow in different positions.
Strings - The strings are made of Kevlar or Dacron by twining multiple strings together to make the cord stronger as a whole. Dacron has the ability to stretch out during draws, which makes it prone to have more inaccurate shots than Kevlar string.
Riser - The middle part of the bow is known as the handle or riser. The handle has most of the accessories attached to it such as the sight, button, and limbs. The riser serves as a mounting point on the hand grip of the bow. The reflex riser makes compound bows more powerful by moving the pivot points further away from the bow. The reflex riser also makes bows less accurate compared to the deflex riser. The deflex riser moves the grip closer to the string making the draw length shorter. Deflex bows are easier to shoot and have more accuracy.
Bow Limb - The bow limbs produce the power needed to fire a bow. The limbs are the long section of the bow and bend when an archer shoots. The risers are attached to the limbs and are usually made of carbon or other high-quality material to resist being deformed from constant use during shooting. This helps them maintain accuracy and consistent shots from bows.
Rest - The rest is where the arrow sits on the bow before it is drawn to be shot. Bows usually have metal, plastic, or magnetic rests that can be retrofitted with vibration sensitive accessories to help gain more accuracy during shooting.
Longrod - Longrods can also assist shooters by helping absorb the vibration that is produced when an arrow is shot. For shooters longrods need to be as light and is difficult to bend as possible to prevent it from bouncing when an arrow is shot.
Plunger Button - The Plunger button is installed on the riser to help prevent the rear of the arrow from overtaking the front of an arrow. For right handed shooters this would push the arrow to the left of a bow to help compensate for the angle of contradiction between the distances of the two arms when shooting. Also known as Archer's paradox, it refers to an archer's ability to hit the center of a target. The arrow must be pointed to the side of the target to actually hit it. The plunger button allows shooters to get the correct amount of stiffness to send an arrow on its correct path after it leaves the bow to get an ideal shot in the center each time.
Bow Sight - A bow sight is an accessory device that gets mounted on the riser of a bow. As the name implies, it helps archers increase their ability to aim to allow for more accurate shots. The peep sight is on the rear of the bow, and is used to center the front ring of the bow sight on targets. Bow sights help archers tell where their arrow is pointed in addition to helping them gain more accurate shots over longer distances. Most compound bows are outfitted with a sight, and a simple sight has a pin guard, pins, pin track, and is mounted with a bracket. The pins allow shooters to adjust them up or down to help with elevation shots, determine windage shots, along with being set in fixed positions for a known distance to help compensate an arrows trajectory while shooting. Archers that practice grouping shots adjust sights in small increments to the direction the arrows are missing targets. If a group of arrows is to low, then adjusting a sight down fixes the issue. If targets are missing to the right, then adjusting the sight to the right will fix the issue.

Sight Types

  • Fixed Pin Sight - The fixed pin sight is the most commonly used type of sight. It features anywhere from 3 to 5 pins that can be set for a known distance. The top in is used for the closest distance, while the lower pins are set for distances further away. Most bow hunters set pins in increments of 5 to 10 yards to allow them to use the pin to shoot a target from a known distance that allows an arrow to compensate for the trajectory of a shot.
  • Moveable-Pin Sight - Most hunters opt out of using a moveable-pin sight due to the risk involved in shooting them. It is harder to estimate the range, adjust the sight, and target the correct spot in the window of time most people train for shooting an accurate shot. Instead of having multiple preset pins, a moveable-pin sight has a single pin that can be adjusted to each shot a person makes. The system is set-up with brackets, levers, or gears that can slide the housing unit of the sight up or down on the mounted bracket. The sight either comes with a manufactured series of marks, or in some cases is handmade with marks to show known yardage distances. The sights are usually set-up in 5 to 10 yard increments and can be fixed to adjust the pointer between markers. This allows hunters to have more accurate shots on targets that are between even distances; for example a shooter can set a mark between 30 and 35 yards if a target is estimated to be 33 yards distance away from the shooter.
  • Pendulum Sight - Pendulum Sights are used for hunting out of a tree stand for shots taken at a close proximity, because they are designed to compensate for elevation based on a downhill angle shot. This gives bow hunters the ability to shoot a target from a distance accurately from elevated positions. The sight is mounted on a pendulum swing that swings out and up when the bow is tipped forward to compensate for the downward angle of a shot. The sights need to be adjusted for each shooters arrow velocity, along with the elevation prior to taking a shot, to allow for accurate shots. This does not allow for one-hundred-percent accuracy though, because the pendulum sight cannot account for all variables, including long range shots. Some pendulum sights do come with a secondary pin that is fixed to allow for better accuracy at longer distances though.
  • 3D Competition Sight -3D sights are designed for use in competitions, and most hunters do not use them due to their high cost. They are considered the most accurate sight available on the market to date though. It features a moveable pin sight with a high-quality windage and elevation click adjustment system.
  • Peep Eliminator Sight - Peep eliminator sight is designed to improve accuracy by removing the need for a peep sight. It has a eye-alignment device that features a magnifying lense, an easy-to-see dot at the focal length, and fiber optic light to gather light at the ring. They can be useful in low light situations, because the sight increases visibility during early morning or evening. The peep eliminator sight is designed to shoot from any position or angle, as long as the shooter can see the pin before shooting at a target.
  • V-Bar Stabilizer - V-Bar Stabilizers are designed to increase accuracy by stabilizing a shot, along with decreasing the vibration after a shot is released. The vibration is not as much of a major concern, because the overall accuracy does not increase during shooting. The arrow can be up to 10-yards in-front of a bow by the time a punch from a shot is felt. The stabilizer, however, increases accuracy by making the dot move more slowly, covering less area on a target. This helps reduce the vibration from the muscle groups during the draw that cause it to shift, allowing shooters to stay on target with less effort, along with being able to increase shot execution.
    The stabilizer adds weight to the bow to increase the MOI (moment of inertia), making it resistant to the draw, allowing an archers aim to be more consistent. A stabilizer that is set-up properly has very little or no flex to it. This allows shooters to separate with enough range to keep shots from going out of range on targets. A light weight stabilizer that is non-flexible keeps the bow still during each shot cycle. Most shooters choose to have rotational resistance to create a floating type of effect on the bow.
  • Clicker - The clicker is used on a recurve bow. This allows an archer to tell when they have drawn the pull of a bow back to a certain distance. This enables a shooter to tell once the string has been drawn back enough to release a shot on a target to create accurate shots.
  • Nocking Point - The nocking point can either be a piece of string or a metal clip that is attached on the bowstring, holding it in place to keep the arrow in a fixed position. This keeps the arrow from sliding up or down during the draw to prevent the trajectory from being off when the arrow is released. It can lead to inaccurate shots if there is any variation to the draw length and the straight line path of a draw is not taken to the full-draw position at the same time.
  • Sling - The sling allows a bow to rest in an archer's hand without having to hold onto the bow.
  • Kisser - The kisser is a optional button accessory that can be added to the bowstring. It is a small circular plastic piece that touches the shooters corner of the mouth or lips after the bow has been fully drawn back to create an anchor point. This allows archer's to have a consistent position to shoot from after each draw is made during shots, by allowing the shooter to draw from the same position each time an arrow is ready to be released onto a target.
  • Arrow Features

    • Pile - The pile is the pointed end of the arrow that penetrates a target. It can vary in shape or size depending on the type of archery that it is being use for on targets. The most common pile for target shooting is shaped the same as the tip of a bullet.
    • Nock - The nock is usually made of plastic, and is shaped like a clip so that it can fit onto the bowstring nocking point.
    • Vanes - The vanes (also known as fletching) influences the flight of the arrow when it is released at a target. Feather vanes have a reduced velocity after release, but are considered more stable during the flight into a target. The feather fletching tends to wear down faster than other types of vanes. Feathers are lighter weight than other types of vanes, and to compensate for balance, they are moved further up to the front of center. Feathers have a tendency to hold better during flight to keep an arrow in line during the path of flight. This makes them popular amongst bow hunters.

    However, plastic vanes are more durable, lasting longer, in addition to being waterproof. This can make them more practical in certain situations where weight might become an issue. Feathers can weight around 10 grains less than plastic vanes when dry. In situations where weather can soak feathers, plastic vanes can actually weight less, providing more accuracy on targets. According to some hunters plastic vanes have a sound advantage over feathers as well. The feathers tend to have a zipping sound that can cause game to become aware and move from position after an arrow is in flight, while the sound from a plastic vane is quieter, becoming less likely to be heard by game after an arrow has been released.

    • Arrow Shaft - The arrow shaft is the middle part of the arrow that connects all the parts from the front to the rear together. It is a long straight rod that can either be made of wood, aluminum, or carbon. Arrow shafts need to be matched for each person's bow in order to achieve proper flight once they are released onto targets. The stiffness of an arrow shaft determines how well the arrow flies to targets after being released. Also, determining factors such as an animal's skin thickness, distance to the target, and how good the arrow flight is to allow for maximum penetration.

    Depending on the type of game a bow hunter is after determines the type of shaft needed for the job at hand. The average arrow shaft weights 5 to 10 grains per draw pound that an archers bow gives.
    Heavy-weight arrows average between 8 on up to 10 grains per-pound of draw on a bow for proper penetration on targets. These types of arrows are considered useful for being able to take down large game.
    Medium-weight arrows average between 6 on up to 8 grains per-pound of draw on a bow for proper penetration on targets. Medium weight arrows are used to take down medium sized game such as deer or elk.
    Light-weight hunting arrows typically weigh 5 grains per-pound of draw force for a bow to allow for proper penetration on targets. These are typically used for 3D shooting and target practice.
    Bow Accessories - Some accessories, such as chest guard, are not always recommended by most bowhunters, unless a shooter has an issue with their draw being longer than the bow. Doing research on which accessory fits best for the theme needed to get the job done, will help determine if an accessory is necessary or not.

    • Finger Tab - A finger tab (release tab) is used to protect archers fingers while drawing the bow. These are fixed onto a compound bow string, to draw the arrow back without having the fingers actually come in contact with the string. The release tab features a button that allows the archer to release the arrow into flight once a target is acquired.
    • Chest Guard - The chest guard protects an archer's chest by making sure that any loose clothing does not become caught by the string when the bow is drawn back and released.
    • Stringer - The string server is used by recurve archers to string their bows. Compound bows are all ready strung during manufacturing, and stay permanently strung throughout the life of the bow, unless an unexpected event occurs to break the string.
    • Fletching and Nocking Jigs - The fletching and nocking jigs allow archer's to fix a nock to a shaft, and put vanes (feathers) on a shaft.
    • Arrow Straightener - Arrow Straighteners help archers repair bent aluminum arrows to help cut down on the cost of buying new arrows. Aluminum arrows are durable, but can be prone to bending, becoming otherwise unusable.

    Contributing Author: Jason Brumett

    Part II of this Article Coming Soon!

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