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Archery 101 - Part One

Archery 101- Part One

Less hunting pressure and longer season dates are just a few reasons why bowhunting is growing in popularity. Whether you’re a seasoned vet or just dipping your toes into the world of archery, a few simple considerations can make your experience more enjoyable. (If you haven’t already checked it out, take a look at this blog for more on the boom in bowhunting.)

Make sure your bow fits

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to finding the perfect bow. Fitting the proper draw length and weight is entirely specific to the shooter, and important adjustments in the bow’s cam system dictate those measurements.

Bow hunter getting a grass sneak.

Getting from buying a bow to stalking big game can seem like a daunting challenge. But with some patience, and a little help, you’ll be tagging game in no time.

Start by fitting your draw length, which is the amount of available length you can pull the bowstring back while reaching full draw. With a little help from a friend, measure from the tip of one middle finger to the other to get your overall wingspan. Divide your wingspan by 2.5 to get your approximate draw length, which can be tweaked by +/- a half-inch to get the perfect fit.

If you’re between two draw lengths and can’t decide which is best, choose the shorter length. When you add bulky clothing to the mix (more to come on that), it’s better to have a short draw length that promotes a slight bend in the shooter’s elbow to ensure string clearance of your insulated garb. Sting contact with the shooter’s arm is a sure sign that your draw length is too long.

With your draw length established, it’s time to settle on your draw weight. Most states have minimum draw weight requirements as a baseline for ethical hunting practices, so be sure to check with your local game and fish department and adhere to those regulations. Once you’ve met or surpassed that threshold (which is usually around 30-40 lbs), you’re able to hunt.

Bow hunter drawing back bow string.

After you’ve got your bow fitted, you need to head to the field to make sure your draw weight is both comfortable for you, and powerful enough to ethically harvest game. Make the copy that’s currently in italics regular paragraph copy.

The combination of draw weight and length dictates the correct arrow spine (stiffness) that’s appropriate for your bow. Under/over spined arrows don’t fly consistently and can resemble a curveball thrown by a major league pitcher as they approach your target, making repeatable accuracy nearly impossible. Thankfully, arrow manufactures make it very easy to understand what spine is best for your setup by integrating a chart on the arrow box. Simply find your draw length and match it with your draw weight using the chart provided to find the correct spine.

Nearly all shops that sell bows and archery equipment has expert staff members on hand that can ensure your bow fits and is properly tuned. A final paper tune, which is done by adjusting your nocking point and arrow rest positioning, will improve your accuracy and make for tight, consistent groups at the range.

Practice like you play

Sight in your bow at the range at varying distances but be sure to let your primary hunting or shooting style dictate how you dial in your bow. For example, if you’re a treestand hunter who primarily chases whitetails in thick timber, 30 yards will likely be the furthest you’ll send an arrow. For western hunters or those who primarily hunt field edges, consider stretching the distance as far as you’re comfortable. Disclaimer – the 60+ yard bombs you’re accustomed to watching on TV take years to perfect before attempting on a live target. Regardless of your hunting style, your maximum effective range is roughly whatever distance you can no longer consistently stack arrows in a softball-sized group.

Bowhunter shooting arrow.

Perfect practice makes perfect. Remember: Rare are the days you’ll hunt in perfect conditions with an animal as cooperative as your arrow bag, so try to replicate hunting situations where possible.

Once you’re dialed, it’s time to switch gears in your shooting regimen and get replicate a hunting situation. Shots rarely present themselves on flat ground, and you almost certainly won’t be wearing your flip-flops, shorts and t-shirt while bowhunting.

To be sure you’re ready at the moment of truth, it’s best to adjust your practice to it simulates a hunting scenario. This means wearing your insulated hunting jacket and making sure your bow string clears the bulky clothing and shooting from elevated positions to understand how the shot angle effects your anchor point. Plus, your heart will be pounding out of your chest in the seconds prior to the moment of truth, so consider doing a few jumping jacks or burpees prior to releasing an arrow to understand how your equipment performs under stress. It’s important to understand these implications prior to the hunt so you can make any changes that need to be made proactively, and don’t miss that shot of a lifetime.

Gear up

A rangefinder and pair of binoculars are key components in any archer’s toolkit. Rangefinders, like the Vortex Impact 1000 have built in angle compensation to understand the true distance to your target when shooting at steep angles – an important consideration for anyone shooting from a treestand or hunting uneven terrain. Remember to range prominent stumps, trees, or other objects before your quarry shows up so you can quickly judge distances if an animal shows up unannounced, allowing no time to range your shot. (Need some tips on glassing more effectively? Check out this blog.)

Hunter's bow hanging in tree.

Although your bow and some well-tuned arrows are all you really need, hunting from a tree stand or from the ground gets easier and more effective if you carry a little extra gear.

Binoculars are essential for identifying targets and spotting game. If you’re primarily a whitetail hunter, a pair of 8x42 or 10x42 binoculars pairs a wide field of view with ample magnification to identify targets. For western hunters, look to a pair of 12x50 or 15x56 binocular for glassing vast expanses. The Vortex® Diamondback® HD lineup is a highly capable, yet reasonably priced family of binoculars that’ll fit the bill across the United States in a wide range of hunting applications. Whether you’re hunting dense swamps or dissecting open country, there’s a configuration ready for the job.

Bowhunter dragging out a large deer.

A bow built around your body, time spent honing your skills in the field, and a whole lot of patience can add up to one thing: Memories that will last a lifetime.


Bowhunting offers unique challenges that require you to get very close to your quarry, which naturally lends itself to exciting encounters. Whether you want to extend your season or try something new, visit your local retailer and pick up a new bow. You won’t be disappointed.

Want even more bowhunting content? Listen in as the podcast team discusses bowhunting.

It’s our hope you can learn and laugh along with the expert voices we feature on this blog. We want to be clear that the opinions you see featured here are just that: opinions. The content belongs to the authors and is not necessarily the opinion of Vortex Optics.

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July 31, 2020
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