The closest thing that the hunting world has to a rivalry is the ever-present tension between die-hard firearm hunters and archery purists. The firearm folks will say that archery purists are sanctimonious blow-hards who injure a lot of animals that are never recovered, while archery purists say that firearm hunters are afraid of a challenge and use tech-nology as a crutch to make up for their lack of skill. Obviously, each extreme is way off. Just as pants and shorts both have their place in a person’s wardrobe, firearms and bows each have their own particular role in the arsenal of a versatile hunter who’s looking to maximize the amount of wild meat on his dinner table.
From a purely pragmatic standpoint, two of the most compelling reasons to take up bowhunting are to enjoy extended hunting seasons and to gain access to weapons-restricted hunting areas. In Michigan, for instance, you can typically hunt whitetails with a bow for a total of ten weeks per year. On the same patch of ground, you’re allowed to hunt whitetails for only two weeks with a rifle or shotgun and another ten days with a muzzle loader. (If you choose, you can use your bow during the rifle and muzzle loader seasons as well.) As for weapons-restricted areas, a bow gives you access to land that might otherwise be completely closed to gun hunters. Such areas are particularly prevalent in suburban landscapes, where an errant slug or bullet might easily take out some-one’s window, or worse. Think of such places as the greater Washington, D.C., area and much of New York’s Long Island. But even rural and predominantly wilderness states have weapons-restricted hunting ar-eas. In Missoula, Montana, there’s an archery-only whitetail hunt where you can kill up to five does during a season that lasts over four months. These deer permits are not available to rifle hunters, and much of the land is outright closed to firearm hunting because of proximity to resi-dential areas. Oddly enough, there’s an archery-only duck hunt on a coastal refuge in the vicinity of Anchorage, Alaska. That alone should you make you a believer in archery equipment!
Archery equipment and rifles both have their places in the arsenal of a well-rounded hunter.
An Athens Recluse set at a draw weight of 70 pounds. This rig is a versatile hunting tool that can handle a wide variety of species under ever-shifting sets of circumstances —be it belly-crawling into a herd of javelina, sitting in a makeshift ground blind for elk, or perched high in a tree for whitetail deer.
A: Quiver. Find one that holds your arrows securely and doesn’t add too much bulk to your bow. For tree stand hunting, some folks prefer a quick-detach model, so only the bow and nocked arrow are in hand while waiting on ambush. This particular quiver is made by Tight Spot. It’s an excellent choice.
B: Stabilizer. As the name implies, this device stabilizes the bow as you shoot. Also absorbs some of the shock from firing the bow. This model is made by Action Archery.
C: Sights. Go with simple, tough setups that can withstand being banged and dropped. Don’t overcrowd the sight with too many pins, which can impair your sight picture. This sight, the Schaffer Opposition, is an excellent choice.
D: Mechanical release. A mechanical release helps the shooter achieve consistent string releases, which lead to greater accuracy and tighter groups.
Scott manufactures excellent mechanical releases.
E: 100-grain, 4-blade Bloodshot broad-heads; 100-grain, 3-blade Thunderhead broadheads (see this page). F: Maxima Carbon Express Hunter arrows.
ARROW AND BROADHEAD BASICS
From left: Fixed-blade broadheads: Thunderhead, GS Montec, Bloodshot. Mechanical broadheads: Rage Chisel Tip Extreme, Rage Hypodermic.
There are two main types of broadheads used by hunters: fixed-blade and mechanical. Fixed-blade broadheads have blades that are rigid and immovable; the blades of a mechanical broadhead open upon impact with the target. Mechanical heads generally fly better because they are more streamlined but have less penetration because some of the energy is lost in opening the blades. Mechanical blades are also prone to a variety of failures. If you abide by the “Keep it simple, stupid” mantra, the fixed-blade broadhead is for you—particularly when hunting large, hard-to-penetrate animals such as elk.
When it comes to opinions about arrows, there are two crowds: those who like arrows that are heavy and slow, and those who like arrows that are light and fast. Both arrows and broadheads are weighed in grains, an ancient measurement that came from the average mass of a cereal seed. There are 437.5 grains in one ounce. Most arrows are labeled with a “grains per inch” (gpi) value. Manufacturers typically build arrows weighing from 7 gpi to 12 gpi. Broadheads come as light as 85 grains and as heavy as 300 grains or more. The light and fast crowd will shoot an arrow averaging about 350 grains total weight. The lighter arrow increases speed and makes a flatter trajectory. This could be advanta-geous when shooting a whitetail deer, a species known for “jumping the string,” or reacting so swiftly to the sound of the bow that they’ve already moved by the time the arrow reaches them. But when hunting larger and slower game, consider a heavier arrow weighing around 600 grains or more (broadhead included). The heavier arrow reduces noise and provides enough kinetic energy for deep penetration. This results in higher incidence of exit wounds on large-sized big game, which allows more blood loss for a quicker death as well as a better blood trail.