First Time Bow Hunting—20 Useful Tips For Beginners
You may know someone you want to be as good as or someone who seems to always have success every time they go out on a hunting trip and wonder how exactly they got that good, how they are able to completely dominate the field every time they have a bow in their hands. It may seem so natural when you’re on the outside looking in, but the truth of the matter is that it took many years of practice and preparation to get to that point, and just like you, they all started off as a beginner.
The truth is that everybody starts somewhere, and with enough commitment and patience, you too can be at that level someday. With that said, check out these 20 tips so that you can know what to do and what not to do on your first steps to greatness as a bow hunter. Also, here is the list of what you can expect to read about…
- Practicing Silence
- Hunt The Wind
- Avoid Eye Contact With Game Animals
- Stay Alert
- Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself
- Keeping Your Scent Hidden
- Get Assistance
- Take Things Slow
- Bring Someone With Experience
- Repel Mosquitoes
- Make Sure You Have All Your Equipment
- Bring A Bottle To Whiz In
- Don’t Get Too Overwhelmed
- Get Mentally Prepared
- Practice Your Shot
- Scout The Land
- Expect Downtimes
- Get Physically Prepared
- Study Rules & Regulations
- Pack A Lunch
Silence Is Key
Aside from the skill and accuracy, you’ll need to successfully take down any animal that you set your sights on, staying silent will be one of the main components to bow hunting on every trip. Your ability to be able to stalk and prey on your target without being spotted will be a very valuable skill to have and once mastered, you’ll be able to tag anything you desire.
Maintaining silence can be a very challenging thing to do when first starting off in this sport because certain things we do such as talking or walking carelessly come as second nature and therefore we don’t put much thought into it before doing it, and even though this is okay in the outside world, this can get you into some big trouble in the hunting world.
Practice silence on every hunt and with time you will get better. All the whispering and walking oh so slowly and carefully will pay off once you take that first deer and the more and more you implement silence in your hunts, the better you will get at it without even trying.
The Wind Is Your Best Friend
Hunting the wind is without a doubt the most common way of keeping your scent hidden from deer and even though the concept of it sounds simple, hunting the wind for a beginner can be a little difficult.
To break it down, hunting the wind means that you are going to want to hunt in the direction in which it is blowing downwards from the deer. That means if you’re walking from one direction and the deer are walking from the other but you are both walking towards each other, you’ll want to wait until the wind is blowing in the direction in which the deer are walking.
If the wind is blowing in the direction that you are walking, your cover will likely be blown. The wind will carry your scent right under the noses of the deer and the chances of you tagging one will become very slim at that point.
To make determining which way the wind is blowing a little easier, get your hands on a bottle of powder that can be used to check the wind. Puffing the powder inside will give you a visual aid for seeing exactly where the wind is coming from.
Many big-name brands carry this powder specifically for this purpose, but if getting your hands on a bottle of it is not possible at the moment, there are DIY guides online that will teach you how to make one at home.
Avoid Eye Contact
You should avoid direct eye contact with deer and other big game animals for two reasons. The first reason is that if you get close enough to a deer and at any point, they lock eyes with you because you’ve caught its attention, you will likely spook them away.
Blinking, coughing, or any other indicator that will give you away as a potential threat will be enough to lose the good game and if you’re not careful, can cost you a good kill. You can try to sit and have a staring contest with the deer in hopes that eventually it will look away, but 9 times out of 10, the deer will likely win the contest.
Another reason is that if a deer has spotted you and it is in a heightened state of aggression like they usually are during the rut, the deer can make you out as a threat and might attack you out of defense to protect itself and its offspring as well.
Making eye contact with smaller game animals such as rabbits and squirrels will not be a problem but if you’re hunting anything bigger such as coyote, bear, or deer, I’d steer clear of it just to be on the safe side.
In the world of bow hunting, alertness is one of the main things that will make or break a hunt. There are unique clues all around us that game animal give and if we neglect to pick up on them, we could very well be coming home empty-handed.
On your first bow hunting trip, be prepared to listen, watch, and prey very carefully. That faintest noise or slightest sight of an animal can be a complete game changer for your hunt and if you’re able to keep your sense awake and stay completely alert when dealing with game animals, you’re that much closer to tagging your first kill.
To ensure that you’re fully awake and completely devoted to giving your first hunt all of your attention, get some good rest the day prior. Feeling sluggish or sleepy will make you slow at reacting to things around you and can cause you to miss vital signs that you will be relying on for finding your next animal.
Another great way to stay alert is to have caffeine in your system. Energy shots and coffee are great for boosting adrenaline and will keep you up and attentive for the duration of the hunt. Be careful though as these two things can pack a large punch when it comes to smell and could very well be picked up on by deer that is a fairly good distance away.
If you want to eliminate this problem, bring caffeine tablets instead. They won’t give off any smell and will be just what you need to get the job done. Be sure to read the bag the packaging for instructions on how much and how often you should take them through.
If you already have a high amount of energy, don’t worry about taking anything extra to boost that. Too much adrenaline can cause buck fever, which I have written an in-depth article on here, and could do more harm to your hunt than good while you’re out there.
Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself
It’s great to set your expectations high and to aim to have the most successful bow hunt possible when first starting off, but with the lack of experience and practice, meeting these expectations can be a little more difficult than you might think.
With that said, set your expectations a little lower so that you are not too hard on yourself afterward. No bowhunters that I know have ever gone out and had tons of success on their very first trip, so please keep that in mind for when you’re ready to get out there.
Focus on getting better any chance you can and expect to be a little crummy when first starting off. If you utilize good strategies and you practice these basic tips, there is no doubt in my mind that you will get better and better the more you practice them.
Hide Your Scent
The good thing about hunting small game is that, fortunately, you don’t have to worry about hiding your scent from them when you’re hunting. Many commonly hunted small game animals do not rely on smell to spot a threat and I think I can speak for most hunters when I say, this is awesome.
But, if like many hunters your primary target is deer, then hiding your scent is everything. As I’ve stated many times before, deer have a very, very keen sense of smell, and if they pick up on your scent, it’s game over.
Since scent control is a huge part of deer hunting, I wrote a full article on it here. Concealing your scent is a very crucial step and should be one of, if not the main things to consider when hunting for deer.
There are many things that go into staying and becoming scent free such as using cover scents, how you wash your clothes, and how you care for your clothes afterward, so check out the article above to get all the information you need on doing so so that you’re in the clear for your first trip.
Get Assistance With Your Tree Stand
Many mistakes can be made as a beginner when handling equipment, and unfortunately, some of these mistakes can be fatal. I don’t want to scare any newcomers to the amazing world of archery, but like almost anything else you do in life, safety should always be your number one priority.
With that said, it is probably best to get some assistance with some of your more ‘dangerous’ equipment, such as your stand. There is equipment that can be bought such as a safety harness that will keep you safe and secure without the fear of falling off your stand and hurting yourself, but if the stand isn’t secure, the safety harness won’t be very useful.
Ask a fellow hunter or hunting buddy that has experience with setting up stands to help you out and show you the ropes of setting one up on your first trip. Being in a tree stand can be a very scary thing to think about as a new hunter, but if you can see how it’s set up and practice how to set one up yourself, you’ll be able to keep safe and have peace of mind.
When first starting off you’ll want to make sure you are pacing yourself carefully. Bow hunting is a physically demanding sport, and when first getting out there you may find out that you’re more unfit than you thought you were.
Overexerting yourself can result in dehydration and when hot outside, can cause various issues with health. Make sure to take things easy and slow so that you don’t overdo them. With enough time and practice, your body will get more used to the activity and you will likely find hunting less and less tiring the more you do it.
Make sure to bring plenty of water to replenish yourself and know your limits when things start to get a little too much to handle physically. This is especially important for seniors who are at a natural disadvantage due to age and other individuals who are not used to doing much physical activity.
Bring Someone With Experience
Experience is the absolute best thing to have under your belt when it comes to this sport, so what better way to learn the nuts and bolts of it than by learning from someone who has tons of it? If possible, bring along someone you’re close to who has a good amount of experience with this stuff.
They will be able to give you the rundown on how to stay safe, how to set up important equipment, how to stay silent, and so on and so forth. I can teach you all of this through my articles, but the fact of the matter is that there’s nothing better than first-hand experience.
If you’re like me, you learn better when you’re able to watch someone demonstrate something in person, so ask a friend or family member who is knowledgeable in bow hunting to come with you on your first trip so that you can get a better grasp of what you need to do.
If there’s one thing that bow hunters can agree on the most when it comes to annoyances, that is getting bit by mosquitos endlessly as you’re trying to hunt. Mosquitos are a huge nuisance, and when you’re trying to focus in and line up a shot, it can even be problematic. So problematic that many hunters won’t even leave the house and hunt without some type of repellent.
The OFF spray gives off too much of a scent and will likely get your cover blown, so if you’re serious about your hunt then you’ll need to get your hands on a Thermacell. Thermacells let off a certain repellent called allethrin and have been a top-gear item for many, many hunters.
This particular repellent is a complete game changer for every hunter and should be a bare necessity to have in your bag for every single hunt.
I’d say Thermacell is top of the line when it comes to repellents, but there are others that have been found to be useful as well. Some of these are powders and maybe a little more inconvenient to deal with, but they are effective. These repellents include…
- Powdered Sulfur
- Permamanone Spray
If you have sensitive skin, check on whether or not you can apply it to your skin before using.
Double Check Your Bag
It’s easy to forget to bring important equipment along with you out of excitement, but it is very important not to. Make sure you double-check your bag to ensure that you have all the necessities. Leaving the house without water or repellent can make a trip very sour and will likely result in you packing up and leaving early.
If you have to, get a checklist and check off the items on the list as you’re throwing them into the bag. This will help to keep track of what items you have and don’t have much easier and can prevent you from cutting a trip shorter than you might want to.
Bring A Whiz Bottle
When you have to go, you have to go. For many hunters, nerves start to kick in right before a hunt. And no matter how much experience they have under their belt, that feeling of excitement never goes away.
With these feelings, weird things start to happen in the body. Some people react to nerves in many different ways, and for some, that means having to empty their bladder. If nerves don’t affect you, you’re likely to have to use the restroom sometime throughout your trip anyways.
If you’re a female, get somewhere where you can cover yourself like in a ground blind or behind a tree, and proceed to handle your business. Keep in mind that deer aren’t actually affected by the smell of the pee but can be startled due to the sound of it hitting the leaves, so try to hit an area where there aren’t that many leaves.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed
It’s extremely easy to get overwhelmed when first coming into anything new in life, especially bow hunting. You have to worry about safety, what to avoid so that you don’t spook the game away, how to use the restroom, and the list goes on.
It can be hard to worry about everything all at once but if you just practice one thing at a time, you’ll eventually pick up on these things a lot easier. Bow hunting will give you practice that will make old challenges second nature and before you know it, you’ll have nothing to really worry about.
Get Mentally Prepared
Mental preparation is good for many things. It can be used to get you into a winning mindset and even calm down the nerves that you may be having before a trip. If you want to get the most out of your hunting experience and set yourself up for success well before leaving the house, do things that will put your mind at ease.
Meditating and doing relaxing activities such as reading a book, listening to music, or watching a TV show that you enjoy will help put your mind in a better place, therefore, giving you more confidence for the trip that you have ahead.
Practice On A Good Target
It’s true, practice makes a perfect, kind of. Although nobody is truly perfect when it comes to this sport, there are people who are pretty darn close, well at least that’s how they make it seem. If you want to have a successful hunt, you have to practice. Practicing will improve form, accuracy, and patience over time and is absolutely vital to bettering your skills.
If you’re a deer hunter, then I highly recommend practicing on this target here from Amazon. This is a 3-D target that will give you the experience you need to step your game up to the next level. It is one I personally use and would recommend it to any hunter of any level.
If you’re a small game hunter, then practicing on a good old foam or bag target will do you just fine. Practicing on a target that best aligns with the game you mostly hunt is always the best idea but practice, in general, will put you in the right direction when it comes to upping your skills over time.
Scout The Land
A common mistake that some hunters make is failing to properly scout the land. Scouting the land will tell you where deer mostly frequent, where bedding areas are, and where they go to eat and drink.
Without this knowledge, you’re more or less playing a guessing game. Knowing these things will help you know where to look on the day of your hunt and will help you determine where you will be setting up for the best possible outcome.
Bow hunting is a very exciting sport once you get into it, but keep in mind that it does have its downtimes. There will be times when you will be waiting for very long periods at a time just waiting for something to walk past, but then there are other times when things will be a little more active, such as when hunting the rut.
Just to be on the safe side, bring a nice book, or coloring pad, or text friends with your phone on silent just in case you get bored. It’s always best to connect with nature to get the full experience of your trip but if you’re an antsy person like me and waiting is something that is not something you necessarily like to do, bring along something that will keep you entertained.
Over time, your patience will increase and days where you have to wait a little longer to get a chance at shooting something won’t bother you as much.
Be Physically Prepared
Bow hunting is great for developing yourself physically if you stay committed to it long enough, but before jumping in and expecting to get fit right away, you’ll want to give yourself a boost with exercises at home or at the gym beforehand.
When you bow hunt, you are using muscles such as the triceps, biceps, deltoids, legs, and even back muscles. Aside from muscles, you are also using tons of stamina, cardio, and endurance as well. There are various exercises that will help improve each of these and will be absolutely great for improving your physical appearance, condition, and your bow skills overall.
Some exercises you can try to improve these particular parts of the body include…
- Weight Lifting
- Jumping Jacks
- Treadmill Running
There are many more exercises you can choose from, but I’ve personally found these to work the best for me. They are fairly basic and will be just what you need to step your archery game up.
Study The Rules
Rules and regulations are important to follow for various reasons. Not only should they be carefully examined and studied for legal purposes, but they should also be taken into consideration for safety reasons as well.
The consequences for breaking park rules can span from anything getting your hunting license taken away to a jail sentence and should be completely avoided at all costs.
Another reason you’ll want to study the rules is that they are there to keep you safe as well. For beginners, it can be tough to know what to do and want not to do to keep yourself safe and if you fail to read the rules, it can land you in a lot of trouble with not only the law but with your safety as well.
So wherever you hunt, make sure you keep an eye out for the rules of that particular piece of land and study it as if it’s an important essay for college.
Pack A Lunch
If you’re active enough, hunger will strike. With all the movement, setting up equipment and walking you’ll likely be tracking down the game, you will get hungry pretty quickly. And aside from having to use the bathroom, there is absolutely no other worse feeling than trying to focus on your surroundings while hungry.
To stay on the safe side, bring a lunch box or bag with you with food in it. Filling foods such as peanut butter, eggs, and fish are all great options if you’re into those particular foods, that is. If not, here are a few more you can take into consideration when packing lunch for your trip.
- Trail Mix
- Beef Jerky
Bow hunting is a very exciting sport. If you like a challenge, this sport is for you. Between chasing down deer, planning out your next strategy for how you’re going to hunt on your next trip, staying hidden and quiet to avoid being spotted, and sitting back and enjoying the nature that you have all around you, there is no other sport that can beat this one.
Newcomers will develop a love for it and with the right tools, knowledge, and commitment, you’re likely to head down a road to greatness.
As you utilize these tips over and over again, you will notice things getting easier and easier and as the years go by you will likely improve your physical appearance, and mental state, and maybe even make a couple of friends along the way.