Archery Hunting for Beginners
The “Hunger Games” movie a while back has really spurred a lot of interest in archery hunting, especially among teenagers and females who never would have thought about the sport before that movie. That is a great thing, especially getting the females interested! I don’t know any female that bow hunts, but the more people we can get interested in the sport the better. I have decided to write a series of articles aimed at those people just getting started in archery hunting. To me, it is absolutely the most exciting form of hunting I have ever experienced, and I hope to share some knowledge with some beginners, whether you are a teenager or a female or neither, or even if you are a seasoned bow hunter.
I will start first with clothing. Each type of hunting has its own requirements for clothing and gear, and archery hunting is no different. For me, my archery hunting is done in September in Colorado, which can have a range of temperatures from 70 degree days to a foot of snow, and I have to be prepared for all weather conditions. Regardless of whether it snows or not, I can count on cold nights and frigid mornings, and if it doesn’t snow, it will likely rain. Selecting clothes for archery hunting takes careful consideration of the conditions you will face, as well how they will affect your ability to hunt and operate your bow.
The most important thing to remember is layering your clothes. Even though it may be 25 degrees in the morning when you head out of camp in the dark, you will likely be hiking in mountainous terrain and you will work up a sweat in no time if you are over-dressed. Remember the 3 W’s of layering – Wicking inside layer, Warmth middle layer(s) and Wind/Water outer layer. The Wicking layer should be a polypropylene material for long underwear and sock liners. The Warmth layer(s) should be fleece or wool. The Wind/Water layer should be Gore-Tex or at least 60/40 nylon. Lastly, be sure that your footwear will keep your feet warm and dry; there is nothing more miserable than being in the cold with wet feet. I also like to use wool gaiters that cover the lower part of my legs from the knees down; these are especially helpful in the morning when tall grass and ferns are wet with dew.
Some hunters put a lot of faith into camouflage patterns, I don’t. It is your hunting skills that are going to get you close to an elk, not your camouflage pattern or “Scent Lock” clothing. While I do wear camouflage when hunting, I don’t rely on it to conceal me, but rather to help me blend in. Any pattern or color shade that blends into the area you are hunting is sufficient. One year I bought some fatigues at the Army Navy Surplus store and for some reason while at the store this one pattern of camo appealed to me, so I bought a pair of pants and a shirt. When I put on those clothes on an elk hunt in 2006, my friend Rich made so much fun of me for wearing what he called a “Tiger Camo” outfit. After he said that, I looked at myself, and the pattern truly did look like a tiger pattern in green and black. I felt kind of stupid, but later that morning I shot a nice 5 x 5 bull at 12 yards with my bow, so apparently the pattern didn’t matter. Just remember, it’s your skills that will get you close to an elk, and more likely your odor will give you away long before your camouflage.
Next, consider the fit of your hunting clothing. For archery hunting you need to be very flexible and your clothing needs to allow for your body’s movements in ways that you may not be able to predict. You need to be as comfortable shooting from a kneeling position and various angles as you are when you are shooting from a standing position at the range.
The most important thing is how much noise your clothing makes as you come into contact with tree branches or brush. If your clothing makes a sound when you drag your finger nail across it, it is too loud. If you hunt from a stand, this is less important, but I still hunt, meaning that I walk through the woods, and those kinds of sounds are unnatural. Elk are loud animals themselves, so the snapping of a branch by your boot is not nearly as alarming to them as the sound of your pants scraping against a bush. This is important to remember with all of the layers of your clothing. Wool is about the quietest material available, and one of the best for all around hunting performance as far as weather protection goes.
The next thing to do is practice shooting while wearing your hunting clothes, you want to make sure that nothing gets in the way of your bow string, or that your clothing doesn’t hamper your ability to operate your bow in any way. This includes the full shooting motion from your bow at your side, getting an arrow out of your quiver, operating your release, and holding your bow comfortably at a full draw. One trick I have found that helps is to use a leather arm guard over my left arm to keep the sleeve compacted against my arm and out of the way of the bow string (or your right arm if you are left-handed).
Some other things to consider are a camouflage face net or face paint, as your face will reflect light and could reveal your presence. The same goes for your hands if you are not wearing gloves. Your boots are critical to a successful and comfortable archery hunt; they have to be waterproof, yet breathable, support your ankles, and be as light weight as possible. If you get new boots before the hunting season, be sure to break them in long before you head out into the field, I recommend at least 15 miles of hiking in similar terrain as you will be hunting.
Those are some basics for selecting clothing for your next bow hunting adventure, and I can attest that your clothing is just as important as the bow you choose to hunt with. You don’t have to spend a fortune on your clothing and boots, but you have to be smart about what you choose.