View Full Version : How to become a bow hunter

07-05-2011, 11:28 AM
I have been checking various forums for a while asking questions, getting answers and learning everything I could about bowhunting. I have come to the realization that although there is a lot of good info out there it is fragmented and sometimes hard to find. I figured I would start this thread for others like me who are just getting into bow hunting, hopefully save them some time and possibly even show some who are on the fence how it can be done on what I consider a realistic working man with a family budget.

I'll start by telling a little about myself. I'm 33 in average shape and have been hunting most of my life with varying degrees of success and commitment. I have lived in Idaho since I was born and never hunted in another state. After last years dismal season I decided to increase my season by taking up bowhunting. I have decided to become more committed than years past and that made me look at my current gear and figure out what I need to replace and what I need in general. I will include a running tally and hopefully when I'm done my wife won't read this. My goal is to have a workable set up with everything I need for a successful season and do it for less than a lot of guys pay for a few pieces of gear. I won't be packing a Swaro spotter or Zeiss bino's and my bow isn't the top of the line but I plan on proving that an average guy can get it done with good equipment that doesn't cost a fortune.

Tags: As an Idaho resident I purchase the Sportsman's Package every year this includes hunting and fishing licenses as well as tags for deer, elk, black bear and mountain lion. It also includes the archery validation needed to hunt with a bow during archery only seasons. The package is $117.25. I also put in for controlled hunt antelope $6.25 application fee and drew, $31.25 for the tag. Because I have never hunted with a bow I was required to take the Bowhunters Ed class from IDF&G. $38.00 (internet course and field day). With all the required legal stuff out of the way I can now go after deer, elk, antelope, black bear and mountain lion. Total cost $192.75

Bow: I looked at several options but it was a no brainer for me. I have a relative that works for a bow manufacturer and with their help I was able to get a bow package that came set up ready to hunt out of the box for $350. Now, if you are reading this thinking you don't have the option of getting a bow for this kind of price you are probably correct. However while trying to decide what bow to get I came across last years model from the same company, set up ready to hunt out of the box on clearance for $425 so I know if you look around you can find a good bow that will do everything you need it to for less than $500 including sight, rest and quiver. I picked up 12 Cabela's Carbon Hunter Arrows for $49.99 (sale) and another 6 Easton Storm arrows (same arrow) for $36. I have about $20 or less in field points. The fancy ones with the collar that supposedly pull out easier were my first ones and the cheap $0.42 bulk tips make up the rest. I don't notice much of a difference using my Cabela's target $39.99 (sale). I picked up a Scott Shark release $69.99 and 6 G5 Striker broadheads for $30. The broadheads were on sale from a place called Promotive.com. They were on special for the site and priced well below the normal discounted price. Promotive is a member based web site that gives deals to people who qualify. If you are able to join it's well worth it, especially since it's free to join you just have to qualify. Back on point, I downloaded some free bow tuning software and built myself a paper tuning stand out of some scrap lumber and I am practicing every chance I get and becoming more comfortable and accurate with my bow every day. I got a package of 6 Easton Axis FMJ arrows for Fathersday so even though I'm not including them in the total I know she paid $59.00 for them if you want to add them yourself. I am having a custom bow case made up by a company in Challis Idaho called Personal Sportswear that has the fuzzy feeling quiet waterproof fabric in Mossy Oak Brush on the outside, fleece on the inside, some inside pockets for various things, a tube on the inside for arrows and the straps used for the handles will be stitched like MOLLE so I can attach it to my pack. The quoted price with a family discount is $65.00 Total bow set up $660.97


Optics: I have had and still have some very cheap binoculars, they aren't worth the headache, literally and figuratively. I recently purchased a pair of 10x42 Cabela's Alpha Extreme binoculars using a coupon for $100 off that I found in their early May 2011 flyer and I am more than happy with the quality for the $119 I spent. As for a spotting scope I have a cheap worthless piece of junk that has less resolution at 25 power than my new binoculars have so I am in the market. I have pretty much decided on the Leupold Ventana kit that includes a case and tripod for $242.45 on Promotive. I picked up the Redfield range finder a while ago for $149.00 (sale) and after using it for a while I do believe the guy behind the counter who said it was a step up from the Leupold 600 with a better price. Total Optics $510.45

Pack: I currently have an Eberlestock X2 that I payed under $200 for but I am planning on getting something a little bigger and have several good options for less than $300 so I'll use $300 as the total and update it when I decide on a pack. Total Pack $300 or less

Camp: Since my current sleeping bag is a monster I decided to upgrade and just yesterday I ordered a Big Agnes Down bag for $145 (Promotive) and I have a $30 sleeping pad that seems to work just fine. I don't have a good light weight tent but I'm confident I will find one for less than $150 and I'll post it when I do. I picked up a Jetboil SOL as my new stove $119.00 and for $4.00 I can get a little spork thing. I have a couple good hydration bladders, Cabelas open top ones are my choice because of the ease of cleaning, filling and price $16.99 for a 2L. Add a good headlamp $20, flashlight $20, water tablets $15 and figure another $20 for para cord, electrical tape, stove gas and a few other little things. Not including the food I will need. Total $539.99 or less depending on the tent.

Hunt: I have a few different calls, if you subscribe to Eastman's they send you free ones every year so lets say $40.00 and I get the magazines for both motivation and information. I have what I need for about $20 more than what I got from Eastman's invested in calls. If you need a knife join the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Although their membership knives in the past have been borderline worthless over the past year or two they have given away some good stuff that I know will work just fine in the field. Add in the membership and the magazine for $35 and it's a steal. Game Bags $11.99, scent control kit $24.99 and some wind indicator $4.99 round out my hunting gear. Total $136.97.

Clothing: I'm not going to include clothing prices because honestly I don't remember what most of what I have cost. I figure if you've been hunting before you have it and since I doubt there are many naked people reading this everyone has some kind of clothing they can use without spending much money. The last item I bought in this department was a pair of Kings Camo pants I picked up off the clearance rack at Sportsman's Warehouse for $20. I know people who have the $1000 + sitka set up and I know a guy who took an old pair of tan wranglers and a couple of black and brown sharpies and made up some jeans that would compete with some of the stuff off the rack. I know some is better than others but I figure if they can't smell me and my silhouette is broken up in some way they probably don't care what brand I'm wearing.

If you've read this far let me know what I forgot, did wrong, did right or you're alternative. I know I could have done it cheaper but I had a budget and although I splurged on a few things I more or less stuck to it. I also know I could have spent several thousand more but would it have made that much of a difference? I'll keep you all posted. I also plan on picking up some maps when I decide where exactly I'll be going so I'll post that info as well.

07-05-2011, 12:56 PM
Sounds like your on the right path to having a fun season. The only advice I can give you is, don't give up. Bowhunting can be challenging and frustrating at times. Practice, Practice, Practice. Get in good shape. And most of all have fun and share pictures. Good luck!

07-05-2011, 03:26 PM
Sounds like you have covered your bases as far as equipment and tags go. That only leaves practice, mental / physical prep and hunting. As time goes on and you gain more experience in the field you will discover what preparation methods and equipment works for you and your style of hunting. As stated above, bow hunting can be extremely difficult and frustrating, but the there is nothing more satisfying and fulfilling than an archery hunt that comes together after months and months of preparation. Good luck and enjoy the greatest sport on earth.

07-05-2011, 04:38 PM
After my last couple years rifle hunting I have the whole frustration thing down pretty well. It just made me want a longer season, somewhat ironic I guess.

07-06-2011, 09:25 AM
Well...I am sure that if you are wearing some major namebrand camo....the elk do take notice of the sexy guys out there and pose for them longer....lol.

Bow hunting for me has never been about shot placement or gear so much as nerves and stalking practice.
I have such a steady hand its scary...then......the deer or elk step out and you would think I was a wino that just went four hours without a drink......so odd how the shakes can come on so dang fast...its just a fury target right?

Stalking I have always been good at. But for some, the learning curve of going from rifle hunting (100 yards out or more) to bow hunting 20 yards....is steep.
Spend as much time as you can getting close to them. One game thats tons of fun that helps you practice is paintball. If your good enough to stalk a man up to a barrel tag(thats touching them with the barrel, not shooting them point blank) then you have got a good start.
Men dont pay attention like animals, but its a great place to put on the off season stalk game.

07-06-2011, 12:34 PM
I actually get to do a bit of that stuff for work. Hopefully it helps. I have also heard good things about "Stumping" for getting practice with shooting lanes and judging distance. I figure I'll try that as soon as I have some free time, my bludgeon tips showed up in the mail yesterday.

07-06-2011, 04:31 PM
Just got a call from my wife, a schedule change will open up a few days in the next few weeks that I will be able to use to do some overnight scouting trips so I ordered the Eberlestock Dragonfly with the butt bucket and the spike duffel. I was looking at the Blacks Creek Barbarian Featherlight as well after eliminating the OX and the Full Curl. I got the whole set up for $302.00 so now I just have to hope it hurries.

07-06-2011, 05:37 PM
Just remember....its the sneaking up part that is the most frustrating, most anyone and stand at 20-60 yards and shoot a target, but when you are 25 yards from a bugling bull or a velvet buck and you are trying to draw back slowly and shakeing so bad hoping he doesn't notice your movement now thats what living is about ! So make the most of it even if/when you screw up, remember to look around and enjoy the country. Guys that only hunt the rifle season are sometimes on a tight schedule and don't get to spend as much time in the field. The one thing about bowhunting that I love is that when you are successful it is so rewarding, and when you aren't you can still be thankful that you get to enjoy the outdoors and a sport we all love !!!!

07-07-2011, 07:20 AM
That's a big part of why I decided to start. I took a couple weeks off last year for rifle season and decided not only did I want to hunt longer but I also wanted to hunt warmer! I have a few overnight scouting trips planned, I have a three day weekend before the season opens to scout and should have about 2 weeks off starting 3 days after the season opens. I figure if that's not enough I have a few more three day weekends and some extra vacation I can burn if need be. I've been working on my stalking skills with my camera, so far I can say I pretty much suck at it but I am getting better.

07-07-2011, 09:34 AM
I am jealous of your pack!!!! I have their Sling Shot pack...older version of the tailhook. Have been looking at a blue widow or X1A1 to upgrade to.
I second SD...success is so amazing. Even on a simple doe. The hard work it takes to close that deal is why.
My first deer ever with my bow was my most gut renching hunting experience. It was also my first ever big game kill. The stalk was text book good. She was perfectly broadside. I shot and miss judged my distance and missed. I was lucky she didnt know what happened and ran in a cirlce and stopped right where she had been. I had ducked on the miss and reloaded...stood and shot again...only to repeat what I had just done the first time. She reacted exactly the same way...now I was counting my lucky stars....and re judged the distance, took off 15 yards...she was not at 30 yards but mearly right there!! Talk about tunnel vision. My third shot hit home beautifully!!!! I was so stoked. Radioed back to camp..told my wife...others on radios over heard the success....

Seven hours later was still looking for her. Camp guys came up and guys on the road going by offered help.....noone found her. A week later I got a call from a group that camped right across from me...they had finally found her...she had been eaten by then but had dogged back from her origial direction and skunked myself, and many other older hunters with really good tracking skills!!!!

I almost hung up the bow I was so sick that year.....Two years later my first deer on the bow season.......same sh--!!!!! This time however I was lucky and when I found my arrow two days later it had no blood only a little hair and fat....I had missed and this one lived. I closed out that season with a little doe....but the relief I had with that deer in my hands from my bow was so amazing.

I am the guy that can stand next to you at the range and plug pop cans all day out to 60 and 70 yards.....and miss a barn at 10 yards when a big ol buck is standing in front of it....the shakes are so frustrating but also the reason I hunt...the rush is the chase!

07-07-2011, 06:40 PM
I plan on proving that an average guy can get it done with good equipment that doesn't cost a fortune.

That's already BEEN proven time and time again... which leads me to my next point: You should be out there bowhunting for YOURSELF, not to prove anything to anyone else. Otherwise you will drive yourself crazy. Just have fun, try your best, and before making any life or death decisions (for the animal), always be sure to ask yourself if it's a responsible decision before following through. Do those things and everything else should fall into place. Also, focus on learning new things about the animals each time you go out.

07-10-2011, 08:29 AM
Perhaps I worded that a little wrong. I don't plan on proving anything necessarily to anyone and I know there are a lot of guys who have already done what I'm doing. The point I was trying to get across was based on the large number of forums out there that get over run with the " don't buy that save your money until you can afford the best most expensive gear" comments that don't actually offer any help to a guy who asks about products he can afford that will get him in the field. This site doesn't seem to be that way and thats why I posted this here. If someone posts in here to find out who makes the best spotter for under $100 he probably already knows what quality he will get and doesn't need to hear who makes the best one. I have been that guy and if I could have found a place like this I would have known that even the Trekker spotter is better than nothing but the Simons would have been a better choice.

07-10-2011, 11:35 AM
If anyone is looking to buy Eberlestock products, hit up Steve Speck at sandsarchery.com. He's a great guy to deal with and can give you reviews on any of the products he sells. He has good prices as well. I got a couple J34's from him for me and a buddy of mine and recently purchased a Biag Agnes Fly Creek UL2 from him. Fast shipping and I like supporting a fellow archery hunter as well.

07-10-2011, 12:34 PM
Sounds very intereesting and practical- My husband says he is going to teach me how to bow hunt as soon as he sells our unique 640 property with believe it or not a year round stream, pine and juniper trees and pre subdivided into 40 acre lots in Gold country Nevada I hate to see it go especially at the price he is selling it $590k any suggestions

07-10-2011, 12:39 PM
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Bitterroot Bulls
07-10-2011, 01:19 PM
Smells like spam in this thread, grepa123.

07-10-2011, 01:30 PM
Obviously spam.

07-10-2011, 02:45 PM
I like spam!!! Fried with some eggs...makes a great breakfast for bowhunters...and no I dont have a website about it hahaha.

07-31-2011, 11:06 AM
T43, i am on a similiar path. although I have hunted my entire life, I have avoided archery because i really like guns and because of the low success rate many archers experience. Well a few years ago I was given a Martin recurve and I have began shooting it this summer. Im kind of getting hooked. it is facinating to me how the brain knows how to aim when shooting by feel. I am nervous to take thistraditional set up into the field though. I am killing vital size targets with consistancy at 30 yards, but still nervous. I am however going muzzy hunting for the first time this year. This whole switch for me from rifle is the fact that I have very limited time in october for the next three years and that is the rifle season here in CO.

I cant wait to hear about your experience.

As far as gear, my budget is small as yours. I recently upgraded to a real hunting pack-the eberlestock Just one. I was interestd in the Blue widow, but I figured most of the time the pack will be in compression state and I can suffer alittle on the meat end of the deal. I leave my big Gregory in trck for the second load. I always hunt alone and end up pulling my elk out by myself in several trips.

I have a great pair of Brunton binos and when I had to purchase a spotting scope with limited funds I went with the Redfield Rampage. honestly my Bruntons are better most of the time. The Redfield is great at 25 power and decent at 45 power, but at 60 power it goes to hell. Oh well. I think in this department it is "buy cheap, buy twice".
Im using my old North Face mountain tent that has been with me for 14 years. It weighs in at 12 pounds with the fly and other goodies, but it is a bomb shelter. I still have a strong back and legs at 39 so this tent will have to do for the next couple of years.

Good luck and keep at it with updates!

07-31-2011, 06:47 PM
I'm headed out for a scouting trip Tuesday with my new Eberlestock Dragonfly. I was a little sad selling the X2 to help pay for it but I think I'll get over it. In fact I may be over it on Tuesday as the guy I sold it to will be going with me. I picked up a Eureka tent for about $60. It's about 5 lbs and should work perfectly for September. I still need a spotter and I think it will probably be a put off until next year deal. I have the trekker piece of garbage and it will have to do for now. I've been watching the classifieds for used ones but nothing has materialized. I talked to the local game warden and the regional biologist about the area I'm looking at. both were encouraging. I won't be far from where I have always hunted but it will be far enough that I figured I would at least take the time to make the calls and I'm glad I did. I'm headed to Boise next week and figure I'll pick up a few Mountain house meals, some new game bags and a new set of base layers that don't rub like 80 grit haynes long johns. Other than that I'm set. My vacation is scheduled for the 9th through the 21st of September. If nothing else I'm going to have a great time.