Whether you’re an experienced hunter with other weapons or totally new to the sport, bowhunting deer is an incredible experience that you are sure to love. Deer hunting with guns is fast and efficient, but bowhunting whitetail deer with a more “primitive” weapon is about making the connection between yourself, the animal, and nature.
Preparing for your first bow hunt can feel intimidating, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. Here is everything you need to know to get started!
Choosing a Weapon
The first step is figuring out what type of bow is right for you.
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Compound bows are a fantastic choice for beginner bowhunters and are definitely the most popular bow. They’re considered standard issue because they are much easier to shoot than other bows and don’t require a ton of strength. They do require a lot of practice to become an expert bowhunter.
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These are ancient weapons that allow you to truly get in touch with your primitive roots. A traditional bow is simple but challenging. Bowhunting deer with a recurve bow, the most popular type of traditional bow, is an incredible thrill and accomplishment! It requires more strength than a compound bow and is the most affordable option. Simplicity has its perks!
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Crossbows are so user friendly that they used to be mostly used by senior citizens, or people with injuries or physical limitations. They are quiet and lack any recoil, so they are a fantastic choice for first-time bowhunters. There isn’t much of a learning curve with crossbows, especially as many hunters are able to aim with a scope, which allows for better aim.
Be aware that most states have a minimum draw length requirement, which is typically 45 lbs. Make sure your weapon, no matter the type, complies with state requirements.
Find the Right Bow for You
Regardless of what type of bow you decide to try, it’s crucial that you find the exact right one for you. Your bow has to fit your specific body/needs. You will need to consider:
- Draw length
- Draw weight
- Which specific type of animal you want to hunt
It’s very important that you don’t try to shoot a bow that draws too heavy. Practice will strengthen your bowhunting muscles, but starting out with a heavy draw can injure your shoulders. Look for an easy draw.
Talk to your local bow expert or retailer about your needs so they can help you figure out what is right for your first deer bowhunting experience.
Just like with bows, arrows are not one-size-fits-all. It’s important to pick arrows appropriate to your bow and needs. This is based on your bow style, the draw weight, and the length.
Broadheads: Most bowhunters use arrows with practice points when they are training. When it’s bowhunting season, switch to broadheads, which have razor-sharp blades designed to rip right through an animal’s hide and flesh for a quick, ethical kill. There are a ton of broadhead options so consult your local expert to make sure that you have made the right choice.
What to Wear
Camouflage is an absolute MUST for deer bowhunters! You need to be unseen so that you can approach an animal and get within range. It’s important to match your camo to the hunting area.
Dress in layers! Bowhunting means some seriously sweaty activity and also long bouts of waiting in wet, cold, or windy climates. Be prepared for any conditions.
Be sure to get a good hunting backpack to carry all of your gear, food, and licenses. You might even want one that can carry your bow. If you plan to hunt in areas that are only accessible by foot, be sure to select a pack designed to carry your harvested animal.
Good boots might be one of the most important investments a bowhunter can make. They need to be comfortable, supportive, and durable.
Ground Blinds and Tree-Stands
Ground blinds are small, portable camouflage tents that you set up wherever you’re planning to hunt.
Tree-stands elevate bowhunters above the deer’s normal view. Never leave the ground without wearing a full-body safety harness to prevent a dangerous fall.
Both options allow deer bowhunters to hide out and wait for the whitetail deer to come within bow range. Be sure to bring binoculars so you can search the landscape for deer. Another helpful tool is a rangefinder, which can pinpoint the distance between the animal and your hideout.
Tips for Beginner Whitetail Deer Bowhunters
Always carry your bowhunting licenses on you.
Dedicate a pocket of your backpack or wallet to your hunting licenses. I recommend keeping them in a sealed plastic bag to avoid the risk of water damage.
Go with an experienced hunter.
Whether you decided to go on a guided whitetail bowhunting trip or if you happen to know an experienced bowhunter, learn in the field before going it alone. They will know all about safe, effective bowhunting and can show you how to do things properly to ensure success.
Change arrow points.
Remember that the arrows you use for bowhunting practice (field point arrowheads) should NEVER be used when actually on the hunt. These points are unethical and illegal to hunt with. They pass right through an animal, causing little immediate damage, but a slow, agonizing death.
Always use broadheads instead.
Use a bow hanger.
When using a tree stand, a bow hanger is something you screw into the tree for secure, convenient storage for your bow. Otherwise, you will have to hold it the entire time you are waiting for a whitetail deer to come within range.
Aside from camo, show as little skin as possible when you are on a bowhunting trip. Cover your hands and face, or paint them into camouflaged colors.
You will also want to conceal your scent, as a deer can smell a human from 400 yards away. It’s a great idea to use field spray and scent-eliminators on your gear and clothing.
Always stay downwind!
Perfect your aim
Don’t aim for the deer as a whole; aim for a specific, small area. You should aim for the vital organs. This is a crucial bowhunting skill.
Take ethical shots
Never shoot at an animal that is not broadside. This means that the animal should be sideways to you. This enlarges your sight area. You want to hit the vital organs (lungs and heart). This is an ethical shot. Hitting both lungs causes a fast, nearly painless death. Yes, you are hunting an animal, but you should NEVER seek to cause needless suffering. Bowhunting whitetail deer should always be ethical.
NEVER aim for the rear, neck, or head.
Enjoy the Whole Journey!
Bowhunting deer is not easy and you shouldn’t expect it to be, even if you are an experienced hunter. It takes time to master, and it is definitely not for everyone. Part of what makes it such an incredible experience is how difficult it is.
No matter the specific bow you choose or the sort of blind that works best for you, bowhunting whitetail deer offers a rush that you won’t believe! Check out more info about bow hunting at X Factor or contact us to book your bow hunting adventure with an expert guide!