By: John E. Phillips


I’ve always felt that buying and keeping-up the equipment I bowhunt with is almost as exciting and as much fun as hunting itself. Most men are just great big boys with more expensive toys. I don’t consider myself a gadget person, but I am interested in new bowhunting equipment that makes my hunting situations more comfortable or gives me a little one-up advantage in my bowhunting.

However, often newcomers come to the sport shop for bow equipment based strictly on price. Years ago when my buddy Harley came over to my house for me to help him get tuned-up for his first bow season, I’d never seen so much stuff. He had a recurve bow, a compound bow, wooden arrows, aluminum shafts, four different sizes and types of broadheads, field points that weren’t the same weight as his broadheads, a tab, a release, two different sights and a quiver that should attach to a compound bow but wouldn’t attach to the compound he had. Harley was excited about only paying $50 for his paraphernalia, since he had priced better bows in the K-Mart store for more than $200 apiece.

I didn’t have the heart to tell Harley what a bad deal he’d made. To be a bowhunter, your equipment almost becomes a part of your body. Bowhunting is a part of my heart. One thing’s for sure – if I were shopping for a body part, I wouldn’t pick the first cheap product I found, and I certainly wouldn’t buy it at a garage sale. I didn’t necessarily make all the correct choices in bows when I first began to bowhunt. But I suggest you visit an archery shop with an indoor range and consult an archery expert about the best equipment for you.


Rather than hurting Harley’s feelings, I recommended he talk with my friend, Chuck Terrell. Harley didn’t know Chuck. Because Chuck was an archery professional and not just a bowhunter and friend like I was, I knew Harley would believe what Chuck told him more than what I said. Chuck could put Harley on the right path with the correct equipment to help him become a better bowhunter.

Here’s Chuck Terrell’s 10 keys for selecting bowhunting tackle that he told to Harley.

1)      Get A Bow That Fits You

To shoot accurately, select a bow that has the perfect draw length for you. An archery-shop pro will help you determine your draw length. Then he’ll watch you draw the bow to make sure you’re not overdrawing or underdrawing. Every move in archery has to be performed the same way each time you shoot, if you are to consistently shoot accurately. Therefore, when you draw the bow, the string needs to come back to the same spot and stop at that place when you’re at full draw. You want to be able to pull the bow all the way to the back wall of the bow.

2)      Have a Qualified Instructor Teach You the Proper Form

You need to know:

  • what the proper stance is for you to take;
  • how to draw the bow smoothly to the back wall;
  • how to anchor the bow to a particular spot;
  • how to aim the bow;
  • how to release the arrow; and
  • how to follow through.

These steps must become mechanical for you to learn to be a good bowhunter. Repeated practice will help you combine these steps into a smooth draw, anchor and release. You’ll also be able to perform these tasks subconsciously.

3)      Match Your Broadhead and Arrows to Your Bow

To shoot consistently, have the arrow designed to shoot the number of pounds you’re pulling in your bow. Also use the broadhead that best suits that arrow. Most archery pros use the Easton selection charts ( to find the best arrow for their bows. Once you know the number of pounds you want to shoot and your draw length, the chart will recommend the type of shaft to shoot. However, if you’re shooting a release, you probably can shoot an arrow that’s slightly lighter than the chart suggests, because the chart is set-up for archers who shoot fingers. Usually the finger shooters (archers who actually shoot with their fingers instead of allowing a mechanical release to hold the string) shoot a more stiffly-spined arrow.

If you don’t want to spend time sharpening broadheads, then get a replaceable-blade broadhead, preferably a broadhead in the 100- to 125-grain range. Many different types of broadheads are available. Broadhead selection is as personal as the brand of bow you buy. The arrow needs to be somewhat heavier on the front of the shaft than on the back of the shaft. But again, if you have no experience, rely on the knowledge of the archery pro.

4)      Tune Your Bow Properly

The best advice I can give is for you to let the pro at the archery shop tune the bow for you. When the bow’s tuned correctly, the arrow will leave the strings and come out of the bow without porpoising or yawing. Once you believe your bow’s tuned properly, most archery instructors will have you stand 6- to 8-feet away from a piece of paper and shoot through that paper. The way the arrow cuts the paper as it flies graphically will demonstrate how the arrow is coming out of the bow. You’ll be able to see if the arrow’s flying tail-high, tail-low, tail-left or tail-right. If the arrow has any of these problems, the archery pro can correct the arrow flight by synchronizing the wheels, altering the height and position of the arrow rest or possibly changing the arrow shaft you’re shooting.

5)      Decide on the Type of Sight You Like the Best

The easiest sight to shoot if you’re a tree stand shooter is a pendulum sight. This sight compensates and allows you to aim at unknown distances without having to guess the distance when you’re hunting from a tree stand and the ground below the stand is flat. However, pendulum sights are ineffective if you’re aiming up a hill. Pendulum sights can be very accurate if you climb to the same height in trees each time you hunt, and the ground beneath those trees is always flat. Within those parameters, the pendulum sight can and will shoot accurately out to about 40 yards.

Another option many professional archers choose is a bead sight, which consists of beads held on wires or strings. Bead sights don’t tend to rattle as much as pin sights do. A good bead sight should have a master-adjustment system. Once you set the beads for the trajectory and velocity of your bow at certain distances, if you need to make a major change in your sight, you can move all the beads to the left, right, up or down with the master-adjustment device. But the most-commonly-used sight for bowhunting is the pin sight, which attaches above the handle of the bow. The pins in the sight can be moved left or right or up and down to correct your aim.

Whether you’re shooting pin sights or bead sights, many bowhunters recommend you use them in conjunction with peep sights. The peep sight attaches to the string.  Most bowhunters prefer peep sights, because they’re easier to use to line-up the shots consistently each time. A peep sight is to the bow what a rear sight on a rifle is to a rifleman. It allows you to more accurately line-up the target. Most archers prefer the non-rotating type of peep sight that uses a rubber band.

When you’re shooting a peep sight, remember to make sure the hole in the sight is large enough to allow enough light to pass through at dusk and dawn to be able to see your beads or your pins. Many peep sights aren’t equipped with holes big enough to let the archer shoot in low-light conditions. Be certain the hole in your peep sight is between 1/16- and 1/8-inch in diameter, which should allow plenty of light to get through the peep for you to sight effectively during prime bowhunting times.

6)      Practice Shooting

Set your sights, whether they are beads or pins, at varying distances from 10 to 40 yards. Measure the distances you are from different targets. Then determine what your maximum effective range is. Most bowhunters abide by the rule that under hunting conditions they only try and shoot animals that come in at half of their effective ranges. In other words, if you can shoot very effectively at 40 yards at an archery range or in the backyard, then you should limit your range in the woods to 20 yards. The main reason for setting up these parameters is you can’t control a live animal in the woods like you can a target in the backyard.

To determine your effective range, use these standards as guidelines. At 10 yards, you should be able to shoot a 1- to 2-inch group. All the arrows you shoot into the target should fit in either a 1- or a 2-inch circle. At 20 yards, you should be able to shoot a 2-inch group. At 30 yards, you should be able to shoot a 3-inch group, and at 40 yards, you should be able to shoot a 4-inch group.

7)      Shoot Under Hunting Conditions

One of the biggest mistakes beginning bowhunters make is once they can shoot consistently in their backyards wearing T-shirts and shorts, they assume they’ll shoot the same way when hunting season arrives. But you need to put all your hunting clothes on to practice effectively just before the season. Dress exactly like you’ll be hunting. Also practice shooting from your tree stand, since many things change when you’re shooting from a tree stand. You’ll realize you don’t have the room to maneuver in a tree stand and get the shot when you’re on a small platform as you do when you’re on the ground. In the winter, you’ll be wearing more and heavier clothes than you do when you practice in the spring and fall. Your string may hit your clothing, which can inhibit arrow flight. During cold weather, your muscles won’t react the same way they do during warm weather and pulling the bow will be more difficult.

To check your draw weight, sit down on your tree stand, and try and pull your bow 10 times. If you can’t draw your bow 10 times, then you’re attempting to pull too-much weight. You need to have the draw weight of your bow reduced. A common mistake made by many beginners is trying to pull a bow that’s too heavy for them. Do shoot all the poundage you can shoot effectively, but not more than that amount.

8)      Learn How to Judge Distance Accurately

Use a range finder to learn to determine distance. Then begin to practice judging distance without the range finder. When you can guess distance somewhat accurately, measure off 10 yards with a tape. Learn to be able to recognize 10 yards anywhere you see it. Then when you accurately can identify 10 yards, add another 10 yards to make 20, and another 10 yards for 30. By picking spots on the ground and judging 10- yard increments, you’ll better know how to judge the distance you’ll be from an animal.

Once you can judge 10 yards with your eyes, next learn how to step off 10 yards. Measure your gait. Then you’ll understand exactly how many normal steps you must take to pace off 10 yards. Practice judging distances everywhere you go. After you’ve guessed the distance, pace off the yardage to see how accurately you’ve estimated. Learning to accurately determine distance is one of the most critical keys to successful bowhunting. You should be able to judge within 2 yards the distance you are from an animal to be able to shoot accurately.

9)      Have the Archery Instructor Recheck Your Form and Your Equipment

Oftentimes an archer will develop bad shooting habits that he can’t recognize by himself, but a qualified instructor can. Also be sure all your arrows are straight, and your bow’s still tuned properly. Then you’ll know you consistently will shoot straight during bow season.

10)  Shoot 3D Archery Courses and Tournaments

By shooting a 3D archery course, you can bring all the elements of your practice together. You’ll have to judge the distance you are from life-sized animal targets in the woods and shoot a wide variety of different-sized animal targets placed in the woods under hunting conditions. If you shoot with a group of people, you’ll understand the emotional pressure you’ll feel when you have a big buck standing under your tree stand within range. Shooting 3D archery allows the hunter to practice most of his hunting and shooting skills under actual hunting conditions. If you begin to shoot with a club or a group of people who normally go to the same archery shop, by the time bow season comes in, you already may have shot at and accurately arrowed 100 to 1000 animal targets. Then when a live deer comes in and presents the shot, you’ll be attempting to make the same shot you’ve made on the 3-D archery course many times.

After Harley learned these lessons at the archery shop, he sold someone else his bargain equipment for $65 and made a profit. Today, he’s deadly-effective with his bowhunting equipment. If you choose bowhunting equipment carefully, it should fit you as comfortably and be as useful as a quality pair of hiking boots. When you select bowhunting equipment incorrectly, you’re much like a mountain climber who shows up at the slopes with a pair of flip-flops and a tennis racket.

This is an excerpt from my book “Jim Crumley’s Secrets of Bowhunting Deer” check it out at

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