|Thinking of Becoming a Hunter?
By Luke Clayton
If you’ve been thinking about learning to shoot a bow, there’s no better time than early summer to begin. The opener of whitetail archery season is 4 months away, which gives plenty of time to become proficient with your new ‘rig’. I’ve been shooting and hunting with a bow for a couple decades now.
My first bow was a Mathews Featherlight that pulled 53 pounds, maxed out. On my second bow hunt for deer, I harvested a fine buck at 20 yards. At the time, 53 pounds was considered a pretty light draw weight for bow hunting but my bow pushed the arrow completely through the buck and the shot was every bit as lethal as if it had been made with a centerfire rifle. I’d been practicing with the Featherlight for about 5 months, shooting my 3D deer target several times each week. I was later accepted as a member of the Mathews Pro Staff and, through the years, have shot and hunted with just about every bow the company makes. The biggest change that I have noticed is the increased speed, even at lower draw weights.
My buddy Fay Frigon, a pro shooter for Mathews, is an excellent bow technician. He sets up my new bows each year. It’s important to have a qualified technician measure you for the correct draw length, adjust the bow’s limbs to the proper draw weight and install and adjust sights and arrow release. Until a couple years ago, I’d been pulling 62 pounds during both practice and hunting. When my buddy was setting up my new Mathews Reezen bow, he instructed me that 58 pounds draw weight would achieve about the same arrow speed as the heavier draw weight I’d been pulling. At first, I was a bit hesitant to ‘back down’ on the draw weight. I asked him to chronograph my 64 pound bow and compare it against the new Reezen set at the lighter draw. After testing, the new bow actually shot FASTER at the lighter speed than the previous model at 64 pounds!
While most men can pull 70 pounds a few times during practice, a lighter draw weight is much easier to pull during a hunting situation. It’s one thing to pull 70 pounds while standing but quiet another from a contorted position up in a tree stand, aiming at a buck that might be in a ‘tough’ position to shoot, especially when the air is frigid and one is bundled up in winter clothing!
Heavier draw weights do have their place. When hunting the mountain states, 40 yard shots are common and I’ve got plenty of buddies that have harvested deer, elk and antelope at much greater distances with archery equipment. I practice regularly at 40 and 60 yards but keep my shots at game to 30 yards and less. For my style shooting and hunting, 58 pounds draw weight works just fine but, 70 pounds would defiantly flatten the trajectory at the extended yardages.
There’s a brand new mechanical broadhead on the market that, in my opinion, suites the lower draw weights perfectly. The INVERTER is a seven-eights cut on contact broadhead that opens to 1.5 inches wide upon penetration. These 100 grain broadheads fly exactly the same as a practice point and have proven lethal on game ranging from antelope to buffalo.
So, are you convinced, yet, to get rigged and ready for bow season this fall? If so, make sure and go to a qualified bow technician and get fitted for the bow of your choice. After your bow is set up, ask the tech to go to the pro shop’s range with you and get you started by teaching you good shooting form and how to adjust the point of impact by adjusting the elevation and windage of your sight pins. You will be amazed to learn that after this brief session, chances are very good that you will be able to keep your shots at 20 yards in a relatively close group. Modern day compound bows are very forgiving and greatly sharpen the learn curve common twenty years ago.
If hunting with your bow is your goal, purchase a life size 3D deer target and place a bit of white paper towel or dot in the heart and lungs region and learn to ‘pick a point’ to aim at rather than shooting at the entire kill zone. I practice just about day at ranges varying from 20 to 50 yards. Just before an upcoming hunt, I concentrate on shooting 20-30 yards. I’d rather shoot 10 well executed shots per session than three times that many ‘quick’ shots without concentrating on good shooting form and tight groups.
Judging distance is extremely important bow hunting. Today’s economically priced range finders take the guesswork out of this age old challenge. In the beginning, it’s best to set a sight pin for 20 yards and one for 30 so that you can actually see the drop in trajectory. For years, I have used only one pin for hunting. I keep the top pin, the green and most highly visible one in low light, set at 24 yards. At 30 yards, it’s only a couple inches low and only an inch or so high at 20 yards. I find it much easier to concentrate on one pin when a big buck, hog or elk comes within bow range.
After a month or so of regular practice at shooting and judging yardages, you should be ready for an economical hog hunt. There are many ranches that offer day hunts for hogs for a nominal fee. Keep in mind that the animal’s body position when the shot occurs than when hunting with a rifle. Broadside of slightly quartering away shots are best. Hog’s vitals are a bit lower than that of deer and shots tight behind the shoulder and in the lower one-third of the body make for short trailing jobs.
My friend Mark Balette, who runs a hunting ranch in East Texas near Groveton says he advises his experienced bow hunters to shoot hogs just in front of the shoulder. “I’ve noticed that these shots often result in anchoring hogs in their tracks or very short blood trails.” tips Balette.
Hopefully these tips gleaned from many years of shooting archery equipment and hunting will help get you off on the right road to many years of enjoyment shooting and bowhunting. Now, it’s time to give a call to your local pro shop and visit with a bow tech that will insure you get started properly!