Archery Hunting Preparation
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama
As fall approaches and the weather begins to cool, hunters nationwide are preparing for their pursuit of North America’s most popular big-game animal — the white-tailed deer. Whether it is because the white-tail can be found in almost all of the lower 48 states or because it can be harvested with several different types of weapons, one thing is for sure: They cannot legally be taken year round. That makes harvesting this deer a bit of a challenge, especially for bow hunters. Before this and every archery season, bow hunters should familiarize themselves with their equipment, their state’s regulations and education requirements, and weapon safety.
One of the first decisions archery hunters need to make is what type of equipment they’ll use for their specific hunt. There are long bows, recurve bows, compound bows and crossbows. A bow’s basic function as a hunting weapon is to store energy in a limb system and then transfer that energy via the string to an arrow — or bolt, when using a crossbow — when released. Hunters should consider what game they are looking to harvest and then select the appropriate bow or crossbow.
The evolution of bows has progressed so much that there are modern models capable of shooting an arrow more than 400 yards; however, the bow and arrow is still generally considered a short-range — but very lethal — hunting tool. Depending on the situation, the average shooting distance for most bow hunters hunting white-tailed deer is less than 40 yards. At this distance or less, the arrow, more specifically the broadhead, is still capable of delivering a low-energy impact with enough cutting force that will ultimately result in a mortal wound, depending on the hunter’s accuracy. This is why bow selection, draw weight, draw length, arrow selection, shaft materiel, arrow length, and broadhead design and choice is so important. A hunter’s ability to handle the bow properly and safely, combined with their accuracy, will greatly improve the chances of a successful hunt.
Regardless your state’s requirements, it’s a good idea for all hunters to familiarize themselves with the hunting regulations before their first hunt of the season because the rules may have changed. Nearly every state requires hunters to take some type of education or safety course. In some states, the course must be completed prior to purchasing the actual hunting license; proof of course completion may also be required to be in the hunter’s possession when hunting. A few states will allow hunters, generally minors, to hunt without having completed a course as long as they are accompanied or supervised by a person who has passed an approved hunter education program. Each state sets its own requirements either based on either a “born-on” or “born-after” date or a minimum age required to complete a hunter safety course.
It is safe to say, however, that almost every state does require hunter education to be completed, either in a formal classroom setting or via an online program such as the one offered on the Hunter-ed.com website, which is approved by the International Hunter Education Association-USA. All states that have a mandatory hunter education requirement will accept your state’s completion certificate or card. This is known as reciprocity and makes it easier to travel to other states to hunt different species, assuming you purchase the required hunting license as an out-of-state resident.
But what if you are going to hunt with a bow or crossbow? Are you aware of the laws regarding archery and/or crossbow hunting? Do you know if your state even allows the use of a crossbow? Does your state, or the state you are visiting, require you to complete a bowhunter education course? There are several states that now require hunters to take an International Bowhunter Education Program (IBEP) course before bowhunting or obtaining a bowhunting license. The IBEP course is administered by the National Bowhunter Education Foundation, Inc. Again, make sure to check your state’s bowhunting regulations because they might have changed since last season.
Although basic hunter education programs include archery and bowhunting, the IBEP requirement goes above and beyond. The IBEP can be taken online, but some states require both the online course and a “field day” in order to satisfy the requirements to obtain an archery permit and legally hunt with a bow or crossbow. Additionally, several states have a minimum age before obtaining an archery permit.
In your haste to enter the hunting area at the beginning of the archery season, your ability to operate the archery equipment safely and accurately is not the legal requirement to harvest your game. The legal requirements are your hunter education, your hunting license, completion of an archery education course if required by your state, and the legality of using a crossbow versus a compound bow (state laws). Not all states allow archery hunters to use a crossbow to harvest game. Some have outlawed the use of crossbows, while others allow their use by disabled hunters only.
Harvesting a white-tailed deer with a bow is a significant achievement for anyone. It clearly shows your commitment, dedication and prowess to the sport of archery. With this much investment, it would be a shame to add a fine or revocation of your hunting privileges to the end of a successful archery hunt solely because you were unaware or chose to ignore the state’s requirements.
Bows and crossbows are an excellent way to add another dimension to your hunting season; but they are also dangerous if handled improperly. Long before your first bow hunt, you should spend as much time as possible honing your skills. Continued practice and your comfort with the equipment is imperative to your success.
Bowhunter-ed.com offers the following archery safety rules:
- Only point the bow and arrow in a safe direction.
- Only nock an arrow when it’s safe to shoot.
- Be sure of your target and what is in front of it, immediately behind it and beyond it.
- Never shoot over a ridge.
- Only shoot when you have a safe range or shooting area and a safe backstop or background.
- Avoid dry-firing a bow (releasing the bowstring without a nocked arrow). It may cause serious damage to the bow and can injure the archer.
- Do not shoot an arrow straight up into the air.
- Wear an armguard and finger protection while shooting bows and arrows.
- Handle arrows carefully. Protect yourself and the arrow points with a covered arrow quiver.
- Use a bow stringer for stringing longbows and recurve bows.
- Immediately repair defects in equipment.
- Prior to each use, check your bow for cracks, dents, breaks, separating laminates, peeling glass and defects in mechanical parts.
- Check the bowstring regularly and replace it if it becomes worn or frayed. Frequent use of bowstring wax greatly extends the life of a bowstring.
- Check arrows for cracks, dents or bends; discard any that have permanent flaws.
- Store your bows in bow cases — preferably hard cases — and store recurves and longbows unstrung.
- Store arrows in quivers and accessories in a sturdy box or padded bag.
- Keep your emotions under control and think about safety first.
- Do not drink alcohol or take mood-altering drugs before, during or after shooting a bow.
Even if you are an experienced archery hunter, review your states requirements for certainty and consider taking or attending a Bowhunter-ed.com™ or an IBEP course yourself, even if your state does not require it, prior to archery hunting. There is an abundance of archery information for all skill levels presented in the online course. Hunting is a privilege; doing it safely is a choice. Hunting legally, however, is the law. Be safe and know your state’s requirements and hopefully you will have a safe and successful archery hunt.
In an effort to prevent accidents and save lives, Hunter-ed.com works with the International Hunter Education Association-USA, more than 45 state agencies responsible for hunter education, and various industry partners to develop comprehensive online hunter’s safety courses that teach students important laws and regulations, game identification, and safe, responsible weapon handling. Visit the site at https://www.hunter-ed.com, click your state of residence and get educated.