10 Essential Gears for Archery and Bow Hunting
Getting ready for archery, or your first time this hunting season? Here are 10 of the best essential bow hunting gears that you must have in your backpack. It’s not just the ladies handbag anymore that accessorize out in the wild wild world! Read on for a quick archery and bow hunting guide that covers basic to must-have equipment to get you all geared up for this sport.
1) Bow Sights
Ancient hunters and experts on the instinctive shooting can hunt without bow sights, but to have one is a game-changer, especially for long range shots. Bow sights are mounted at the riser of the bow and help you point out on where the arrow is headed. There are different types and designs of bow sights in the market, and each one varies based on the hunting level and sophistication that you need.
- Fixed-Pin Sights – These usually have 3 to 5 pins and can be set on fixed positions (Pins are used as distance or range guide).
- Moveable-Pin Sights – Has a single pin that you can adjust for any distance whenever needed.
- Pendulum Sights – These are called Treestand sights because it’s designed for treestand hunters or those shooting downhill.
- Competition or Target Sights – Most accurate sights but are rarely used in hunting.
Many bow hunters prefer single-pin sights for hunting. Unlike multiple pin sights, you don’t need to remember the range set for each pin. You can set the single-pin to a particular range, and then hold-low or hold-high to shoot within or beyond.
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2) Arrow Spine
Before you get confused with all technical specifications on choosing your arrows, take some time to read and understand what spine arrow deflection is.
The arrow spine is a measurement of the arrow’s stiffness, and “spine deflection” describes how resistant your arrow is to deflection. For safety and better shooting accuracy, the arrow spine should match the power of your bow. Incorrect arrow spine specifications can affect the flight of the arrow. From observation, under-spined arrows will usually veer to the right of your target, and too stiff arrows will usually fly to the left side.
Arrows that are too limber or under-spined for your bow can cause it to wobble, or what archer’s describe as a fishtail flight, and that can be hazardous. Many archers say that it is better to have stiff arrow spines that the ones that are too weak. On the other hand, one most common problem from arrows that are too stiff is that it results to poor grouping on target shooting.
There is a standard arrow spine rating and selection chart used on Easton Hunting, and you can find this posted on almost every hunting and archery shop. You can also download the Easton Hunting Arrow Selection Chart here.
A good broadhead design can minimize flight deviation, and increase shooting efficiency. Arrows have to fly straight into the target, in other words, a broadhead that causes your arrow to wobble is a bad one.
How do you choose a good broadhead for your game hunting? Let’s start with the two types:
- Fixed blade – These broadheads are ideal for bow hunters with slower shooting speeds. The blade tip also makes it good for hunting whitetails or thick-skinned animals.
- Mechanical blade – These have blades folded in-flight, and then opens up upon penetration. Because of this design, it can hold larger blades that can be used for big-bodied or thin-skinned game animals. However, you need to choose your target area strategically, as sharp-angled entry and deflections can minimize penetration.
The type of target or game animal you’re hunting plays a big role on which broadhead you should use. For game animals like turkeys and slender deer, many bow hunters recommend mechanical broadheads. Why is that? Wide blades on mechanical broadhead give larger wounds but less penetration.
On the other hand, if we’re going to prioritize penetration efficiency, fixed-blade broadheads can give you the edge. Broadhead manufacturers have come up with happy medium standards for bowhunters targeting whitetails and muleys. These usually have 1-3/16-inch wide blades and can provide ample penetration and moderate blood trail to recover your game.
The arrow point or the tip of your arrow can be designed based on its function. There are numerous styles, and shapes that can be used for practice or big game hunting.
- Bullet Points – These are commonly used for practice on sack or block targets (See section below on Archery Targets).
- Field Points – These have distinct shoulder tips, and are used for target practice. Some hunters also use this on small game animals.
- Judo Grabbing Points – These tips have small wired hooks and are used for target and moving field practice.
- Blunt Points – From the name itself, the tip is blunt or flat instead of a pointed one. These are used on small game targets like rabbits. These are designed to kill the small game by “shock”.
- Bowfishing Points – These are designed for fishing and to penetrate into hard fish scales.
- Broadhead Points – These arrow points have blades designed to penetrate further into targets, and are used for big game hunting.
(image source: bowhunter-ed.com)
4) Archery Targets for Practice
In the early days, archers used to practice on sacks of hay and grain as targets. Now, you can choose between different designs and materials that are matched to the type of bow, arrows and broadhead that you have.
- Sack Targets – These are also called bag targets and the most common type used for archery practice. It’s designed to be tough and can hold together repetitive shots. Use this to practice field points and that means avoid using broadheads on sack targets. Arrows are easier to remove without it and won’t shred and tear out the outer covering.
- Block Targets – These are mostly made of foam, light to carry around. Arrows are easier to remove on these even with the broadheads on. Avoid using heavy draw weight to prevent the arrow from piercing too deep, which can make it difficult to remove.
5) Archery Release
It takes practice to shoot accurately with your fingers, but an archery release can make your life easier and one of the best essential bow hunting gear that must have in the backpack. These mechanical releases can be attached to your wrist, or hand-held and controlled by your fingers.
- Wrist Release – Designed to be attached to the wrist, it’s the thumb that can activate the trigger to release the arrow. This is the most common type, and higher-end models may have options to adjust the pressure released from the clamp. Some designs have hair triggers, and others required a mechanical pull to activate it.
- Hand-held Release – Also called grip release, many target archers and bow hunters prefer this design because it offers more control and finer trigger mechanism. These types can be more expensive than the wrist-release models, but its light-weight and easier to use.
The most important factor that you should consider when choosing an archery release is the quality. Choose one with strong construction and material, padded wrist straps, and buckles for added security on hand positioning. Among the most recommended archery release models is the Silverhorn Release, it’s has a high-quality streamlined design, and hair trigger that’s smooth and accurate.
Bow stabilizers can increase your shooting accuracy. Think of your bow like a camera; you don’t want shaky videos and blurred images. Modern bows can be equipped with a stabilizer that balances out the weight of your bow and keeps it steady at full draw and after you shoot.
Stabilizers come in different sizes and can be screwed into the bow. What it does is add weight to the front of the bow and this balance out the weight when you pull out the string. When you release the arrow, the energy build-up from the release results to an energy transfer that shakes the entire bow. With the stabilizer, it can reduce hand vibrations, and absorbs some of the shocks on your bow – which improves the accuracy of your shot.
Some veteran hunters recommend stabilizers especially if you shoot on stiff winds and long-range targets (>40 yards). It’s also ideal if you’re hunting from a tree stand or standing on one spot, but if you’re running or mobile hunting, it can be an optional gear because of its additional weight.
7) Bow Quiver
The quiver is the handy case that holds your arrows; some types can be attached to the body, and some are designed to stand on the ground.
- Back Quiver – This is the most common type and features a strap so that you can wear it on your back or side. The downside of this type is that it requires more movement and space from your reaching arm.
- Belt Quiver – Also called the hip quiver, this is designed to be light and compact since you have to carry it on your belt or hip side. Some have leg straps at the bottom so that you can attach it closer to your body or at the hand-dominant side. However, this type can prove to be difficult to handle when you’re on the move, especially when going through bushes.
- Bow Quiver – Not ideal for hunters using long bows, but many compound bow archers use this when they foresee the times that they need to make multiple shots quietly and efficiently, as it requires minimal movement from your arm to reach out and load.
- Ground Quiver – From the name itself, this is designed with a stand for stability on the ground. Not ideally for hunting, but this type is commonly used for archery tournaments.
The type of quiver you’d use would be based on personal preference. Some archers can reach instinctively on their back and some prefer on their belt or upside. When buying a quiver, consider the following;
- Orientation Design – Choose the right fit if you’re right or left-hand dominant.
- Quiver Tubes – These allow you to pull out arrows easily from the quiver tube.
- Extra compartments – Similar to a day pack, choose a quiver with small pockets where you can organize and store arrowheads, stringers, strings wax and other items.
- Size – Standard quivers can usually hold five arrows. Choose one with ample size and space to hold the arrows you need.
- Choose a quiver with lid – This one will protect your arrows from rain, and other elements, plus you don’t want them falling off your trail when you’re on the move.
8) Bow Case – Do I Need One?
Yes, you do. For storing, transport and protection, a bow case will do the job. It will protect your bow and gear from impact, weather and keep everything organized. Should you get a soft or hard case? Decide based on the points below:
Soft Case – These are bags made of fabric and foam that are designed with compartments to hold the bow, arrows/arrow tube, and gears. Look for a soft-case bag with high-quality, moisture and water-resistant fabric and densely padded to protect it from impact and drops.
Looking for a more portable option other than the usual hand-carry design? For hunting trips, its best that you get a good backpack bow case so you can carry everything you need while on the move, and still have your hands free. Bow hunting backpacks can range from daypacks with internal frames that can carry your bow, camouflage design, and hydration-ready compartments.
- Hard Case – The best option for storage and transportation is to get a hard case. It will protect your expensive gear from impact, and with the hard, high-density plastic case, you don’t need to worry about piling other heavy items on top. This is also a must-have when you need to travel with your archery equipment by airplane.
Choose a hard case with egg-foam padding and fasteners to secure the items, and prevent it from bouncing inside in case of rough handling and bumpy travels. Other than the lock latches, there should be a latch with holes to put on a small padlock for added security.
9) Climbing Tree Stand
Tree stands can provide a good vantage point for hunting, camouflage and hiding your scent from the ground. How do you choose the right tree stand? Consider portability, terrain, tree types in the area and hunting location.
|Climbing Tree Stands – This type allows you to be mobile and versatile. The standard design includes a chair, platform, and the harness system. Hike to your hunting spot, choose a healthy, sturdy tree, and then climb using the tree stand as a climbing mechanism.|
|Hang-on Tree Stands – The only problem with the other types of tree stands is the space they consume. With hang-on tree stands, you can nearly climb any sturdy tree trunk. Many designs include a lock-on platform that produces less noise when you move on it, which can be advantageous when you want to be as stealthy as possible.|
|Ladder Tree Stand – If you’re into comfort and additional functionality, ladder tree stands are your best option. It’s a fixed tree stand with a ladder integrated on it. Sit on it comfortably while hunting for your target on a tree, and when you need to go down to track your game, you can easily go down the trunk using the ladder.|
Tree Stand Do’s and Don’ts
Do yourself a favor and think proactively to prevent accidents when using a tree stand. Here are some tips, do’s and don’ts when using a tree stand.
- Wear full-body harness. Don’t make same mistakes as many have, anchor yourself while you’re on that elevated platform. With just one misstep, many hunters have fallen off their tree stand while hunting.
- Check everything first for signs of wear and tear. Before you leave the house or start climbing and assembling, inspect the tree stand parts, harness, chains for any damages and missing parts. For your safety, secure and replace the damaged parts first.
- Read the manual and practice at ground level. Take note of the warnings and instructions on how to use your tree stand. Practice harnessing with it at home while you’re on the ground.
- Choose a healthy tree with the right size. Learn how to identify dead and weak branches for climbing.
- Wear non-slip boots/shoes. Must-have shoes for trekking and hiking.
- Always carry emergency equipment. Include a whistle, flashlight, knife, and cellphones with long battery life.
- Always check the tree for insects and animals. You don’t want to climb a tree with a bee hive, do you?
- Never carry your hunting equipment while climbing. Carry a backpack first with all the essentials in it, including a first aid kit. The hunting bow and other gear can come up later using a haul line.
- Do not leave without informing anyone. Tell a friend or family where you’re hunting and when you’re expected to return.
- Do not climb smooth-barked trees. These only spell “accident and injury” all over it, especially during winter or rainy weather.
10) GPS Devices for Hunting and Tracking
GPS for Hunting Directions – Topographic contour maps, hunt waypoints, and boundaries, these are just among the reasons why you should get a GPS device. Imagine yourself rushing towards your shot and now trying to remember where you had the tree stand. Some GPS devices can also have hunting calendars, barometric altimeter, geocaching, and data for temperature, distances, elevation, latitude and longitude coordinates.
GPS for arrow tracking – Never lose your arrow again! Track your trophy game regardless of the terrain and weather. Most GPS transmitters for archery systems can be attached to your arrow broadhead. Upon impact, the transmitter broadcasts the live signal, and your receiver can tell you which direction the animal moved.