Any new endeavor can sometimes be intimidating and always involves a learning curve of some sort, but in the case of taking up the sport of bowhunting, the rewards are endless and the process of becoming proficient can be a pleasant experience as well. Developing your ability to consistently place an arrow where you want it to go is largely based on practice, practice, practice. Developing the ability to become a consistently successful bow hunter is more a function of reading as much as you can about bowhunting and asking as many questions of your bowhunting friends as possible. As you gain experience, skill and understanding, there are a number of pointers that you might keep in mind to help you along the road to feeling totally comfortable in taking game with a bow.
Here in Northcentral Pennsylvania, there are quite a number of great privately owned archery stores. Start there to gain knowledge of the latest equipment available, particularly for the beginning bowhunter, and then begin the regiment of practice, practice, practice. Once you have become totally comfortable shooting at a flat target or silhouette of a game animal in a level open field, practice shooting from a setup like you will be hunting from. If you are going to hunt from a ground blind, practice shooting from a ground blind. If you expect to hunt from a treestand, then practice shooting from a treestand. You will learn to adjust for shooting at downward angles.
Being able to accurately judge distance to an intended target of wild game can be difficult. As they move through the brush, or even as they travel in the open, distance can be hard to judge. If you can move undetected, a good range finder is perfect, but all-too-often your movement will be detected. If you are hunting from a fixed position such as a ground blind or treestand, memorize distances to known landmarks or consider marking premeasured distances with stakes that indicate to distance. Be aware of the maximum range at which you are consistently comfortable shooting and place a stake there as well so you will not be mistakenly shooting at a distance beyond your capability.
Study the anatomy of the game you will pursue. There are plenty of books and videos that cover the location of an animal’s vital organs as viewed from various angles. Be particularly aware of the heart and lungs locations as they will usually be the best shot placement locations. A bad hit in a non-vital area is the last thing any bowhunter wants, especially as they are starting out.
Patience, Patience, Patience. Patience is a key factor in all phases of successful hunting. Being as still as possible in your treestand, or even in a ground blind where your movements are usually concealed, is critical as you wait, sometimes uncomfortably long periods of time for game to arrive. Once game does arrive, you must engage patience as you wait for the best shot opportunity. Rushing your shot can easily lead to bad shot placement and result in a bad experience.
The archery deer season is a generously long season, beginning statewide on Saturday, October 2 and running until Friday, November 19. A second archery season goes from December 27 until January 17. So, there is no real need to end the season by taking the first shot possible, if you have decided to wait for a particular buck that you have spotted earlier. During the archery season, with fewer hunters in the woods and without the intermittent sounds of gunfire to alert wildlife, it is the opportune time to observe and learn wildlife movement and habits. The more time you can spend in the woods during archery season, the more chance you will have of observing and learning, and sometimes witnessing things in nature that most folks will never have the chance of seeing.
Becoming a safe, ethical and proficient bowhunter takes time, and it is a goal that should not be rushed. The more you learn about the animals you hunt, the more woodsmanship skills you develop and the greater you become aware of the effects of wind and concealing your human scent, the more successful you will be as a bowhunter. Enjoy the day, and enjoy the journey!