How to become a bow hunter
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.