Bowhunting 101: Beginner’s Guide to Archery Gear
Hunting has existed for millennia. Ever since our First Nation People set foot on this land, the spectacle of our diverse wildlife has provided both sustenance and thrill. With the introduction of foreign animal species, the scope of hunting has expanded, as have the variety of available hunting tools and methods. Today, hunting provides multiple purposes. It cultivates healthy numbers in native and protected animals while balancing damage to farmland from game and feral species. But in its essence, hunting serves to nurture our instincts, as well as our inseparable connection to nature.
While most hunting is with firearms, a growing number of hunters are reverting to traditional weapons, some inspired by native people. The traditional bow and arrow is gaining in popularity, both as an organised sport in the form of archery or for traditional bowhunting. Field archery in Australia is well organised, with national and state bodies overseeing regulations and competitions. National championships are held annually, along with regular state and regional competitions organized by local clubs. Australian archers have been relatively successful globally, with medals picked up at major events, most notably the Olympics.
Bowhunting in Australia
With the exception of crossbows, which are either prohibited or need a permit, owning a compound or recurve bow for field archery or hunting does not require a permit or license. There are, however, restrictions regarding hunting. Different states have different laws as to what can be hunted, and when. In general, native species like kangaroos, koalas, possums and wombats are off-limits, if not regulated by law like the recent kangaroo cull. Game species like deer, quail and duck can be hunted during open season. Feral pest species like wild dogs and cats, rabbits, foxes, wild boar, horses, cattle and camels can be hunted at any time. Regulations for Victoria can be seen here and for NSW here.
Bowhunting requires a few types of gear. From the obvious hunting bow and arrow to accessories like quivers, releases and sights, or more general hunting gear like hunting clothing and boots. We’ll go through different types of gear to suit your skill level.
Recurve bows get their name from their shape. The middle section of the bow curves towards the archer, while the tips of the bow curve away. These bows are some of the most popular bow types often seen as the first bow used by beginners. They are also commonly used by hunters and the only permitted bow for Olympians.
Recurve bows are easy to shoot accurately, fast and are relatively quiet, with little string flap. They come in various sizes and draw weight depending on your arm span and drawing power. Materials used in recurve bows range from plastic in beginner bows, to all-wood designs and bows made of composite materials. Some recurve bows are collapsible, if space is an issue. Additional accessories can be mounted on the grip body, or ‘riser’.
Compound bows are a newer bow type, generally used by more skilled archers and hunters. They consist of a system of pulleys and cables that pull on the bow edges or ‘limbs’. With more composite materials in the riser and additional stiffness of the pulley system, they have more draw weight power than recurve bows of comparable size. This gives them the advantage in scenarios like hunting, as they provide better accuracy and arrow speed at longer distances. Like recurves, compound bows come in various sizes and draw weights with the option of accessories.
Longbows are the oldest type of hunting bow. Immortalised by medieval heroes, they are rarely used in hunting today. As their name implies, they are the largest in size, and are traditionally made of a single piece of wood. They lack the outright accuracy and speed of other bow types and require particular strength and skill to be used effectively. Traditionalists though, might opt for a longbow once they’ve mastered recurve and compound bows.
Arrows are either target arrows for archery or hunting arrows. Target arrows are usually lighter and thinner. For hunting use, choose the appropriate arrow weight, depending on the draw weight of your bow. Arrow shafts for hunting are commonly made of tough carbon fibre or cheaper variants in aluminium, with traditional wood rarely used today. Shafts vary in length and weight, depending on your needs. Arrow shafts require notches at the end, vanes for flying accuracy and arrowheads for piercing. Different arrowheads have different piercing capabilities, depending on the game you’re hunting. Use broadheads for shooting large game, like deer.
Bow and Arrow Accessories
Many accessories are available for bowhunting, with the purpose of easier shooting and better storage. Bows can be equipped with bow sights, giving you added accuracy when shooting. To eliminate vibrations and bow shake, you can add a bow stabiliser. Bow quivers will store your arrows. A quick release and finger tabs will give you added comfort for your shot, and to protect all your hunting gear, get a bow case that gives you added space for any extras.
Other Basic Hunting Necessities
While hunting, keep in mind the terrain, the weather, and how long you’re staying. Remember to dress adequately, so get a pair of quality boots for traversing difficult terrain and weatherproof clothing to keep you comfortable from the elements. And if stealth is key, consider a camo outfit when shooting at close quarters. Spotting scopes, rangefinders and binoculars make it easier to spot your next target, and a camp or hunter knife can come in handy when dressing your kill. Further, consider a meat bag for proper storage.
You can carry essential supplies in a range of hunter backpacks, from smaller waist bags to large daypacks. For shelter, get a decent weatherproof tent and a groundsheet. Though a host of other equipment is available, this should cover most bowhunting situations you’ll come across. All that remains is to prepare adequately. Get some target shots in before you go. Finally, familiarise yourself with the terrain by getting a proper topographical map and of course, the prey you’ll be hunting.