~This is technically a re-post of an old blog from way back when Small Acre Hunting was just that, a blog. However, in a recent exchange with a follower this old post was brought up and I felt it was worth re-posting here to the new website's blog spot. So with some revision and polishing....
October, it's that time of year many of us will log into various forums and hunting sites...scroll down through the various threads hoping to see some awesome bucks harvested and the stories which accompanied them. However, at times it seems there are as many 'horror' story type threads as there is success stories. We read about people jumping deer, making bad shots, not waiting long enough before tracking, shooting broadheads on hunt for the first time and much much more.
It's true this can get quite frustrating for those of us which have some years of experience behind us, but perhaps the proper knowledge isn't readily preached or available...with that in mind I shall share with you the 10 things I personally feel a new or inexperienced bow hunter MUST KNOW prior to hitting the field for an actual hunt (and us wiley vets can always use a refresher):
#10- Find a good reputable pro-shop. This will be your greatest resource so don't skimp on it by picking the cheapest one around or something like that. Go to a place where other hunters go, especially the ones you regard as good hunters; for it will be the place of hopefully the most knowledge. This is where you can get properly sized for a bow, because NOT all bows will work for your specific size! A good pro-shop will always assist you in picking things out like a bow, broadheads, arrows, rests and such by asking you what you desire before simply stating "Oh you should use "x" product."
#9- Be able to spot check your bow for problems. Know how to spot a damaged cam that's cocked, framing issues or weakened/worn strings. You don't have to be an expert, but be able to notice anything which would trigger you to get it to a pro-shop as soon as possible.
#8- Read up on the basics of arrow selection. At minimum find the charts every single good arrow manufacturer has of their recommended arrow spine/weight/type for what your draw length and weight is. Also a little knowledge in FOC will go a long way to building an arrow you like. There are many resources to learn about all of this from that pro-shop you picked in #10, some online resources and even some forums are filled with knowledgeable guys (my favorite is bowhunting.com)
#7- Practice, practice and practice. Now this doesn't mean go shoot 20, 30 or 40 times over and over and over. When you will be shooting a lot of times be sure to allow your muscles some rest...the last thing you need is to attempt to hone your skills with strained muscles weakened with repeated shot after shot; if you're straining to draw back, hold steady or both STOP and rest for a bit. I personally never shoot more than 3 arrows without a quick 5 minute break. I want every time I draw my bow to be with fresh muscle strength causing a more consistent shot process. Then as the season approaches I change up my whole practice style, which is outlined HERE.
#6- Don't assume you're ready as soon as you group well. Keep shooting every day if possible, this will hone your muscle memory down to a science and you'll begin to see tighter groups and quicker target acquisition. I personally in the weeks leading up to the season am a fan of the one shot practice idea. In the field you will get one shot, so practice that way...get home from work or before leaving for work sling one arrow down range.
#5- Understand proper shot choice...and know that not all hunters can or should take the same shots. I'm a big advocate of never taking a quartering to shot...now some will claim that at 15 yards or under they can slide the arrow down and through inside the shoulder given the proper quartering to shot. However, even they'll admit it's not the ideal shot choice nor would they recommend a novice or young bowhunter to try them. Pretty much follow the following pictures and you'll be safe.
#4- Stay consistent throughout the hunting season. Don't change your arrows, or rest or release unless something breaks or you're changing your target animal enough to dictate the change. Consistency is pivotal to consistent grouping. Changing any part of your set up means you need to re-tune your bow (more on that later). I advocate upgrading sights, rests, releases, arrows and what not; however I encourage this to always be done outside of the hunting season.
#3- Check your arrows thoroughly after shooting sessions and especially after shots in the field. Aluminum arrows bend, carbon arrows break...make sure to check them thoroughly to make sure nothing is bent by looking down the arrow and/or spinning the arrow if aluminum and flexing them if carbon. You do not want to shoot a damaged arrow...only bad things can happen when you do.
#2- Know how to do a basic tuning of your bow. The Easton Bow Tuning Guide is a great source every bow hunter should read and be familiar with. It's true when in doubt I always have my pro-shop tune my bow as best they can, but I have a good solid pro-shop and honestly have had some set ups that I had to do minimal adjustments after they'd got it set up...that is not always the case though.
#1- Broadheads MUST BE SHOT/PRACTICED AND BOW TUNED TO THEM PRIOR TO HUNTING WITH THEM! I capitalize this not to make anyone feel like an idiot or less of a hunter, I simply cannot stress it enough. It doesn't matter if you shoot mechanical or fixed, Rage or NAP, 2 inch or 1 inch....practice with them! Yes this could mean shelling out enough money to have designated practice broadheads (to keep your other heads sharp and hunt worthy) but it's what you SHOULD do. If you can afford to bow hunt you can afford to grab an extra set of broadheads for practice heads (some companies offer atleast one practice head anyways). Assistance with broadhead tuning can be had by a good pro-shop and the Easton Guide mentioned in #2.
Like any list there are many things I feel novices or young bow hunters should be aware of but these are the highest on my personal list that pertain specifically to the bow and its set up.