Getting Started – A Guide to Archery
My first deer, taken with a bow that I got at a yard sale. And yes, it's obvious that I didn't know how to field dress a deer. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
My eyes locked on the metallic blue of the bow, which hung from a spindle of the coat tree. I navigated the tables of baby clothes, shoes, dishes, puzzles and other items seemingly standard for yard sales.
A leather quiver of arrows dangled from a strap next to the bow. “Ten dollars,” a man hastened to say as I took the bow by the grip. I held the bow out, sighting at imaginary game over my left fist.
I’d never shot at anything, using a bow or a gun but in my minds’ eye I envisioned an elk, towering over the tricycle and skateboards in one corner of the yard.
“With the arrows and quiver, all for ten dollars,” he added, mistaking my silence for hesitation. On my way home I stopped at a farm for straw bales, which I double-stacked against the shed in my back yard.
I measured out twenty yards by marching a high-knee 32 steps – three years as a flag twirler in my high school band, eight steps for every five yards ingrained in muscle memory. Measuring distance that way made me realize how illogical this idea was – at that time, I was a 27-year-old woman from suburbia and sidewalks who had never hunted, never known anyone who hunted, who for some reason wanted to be an archery hunter.
And then of course, I couldn’t draw the bow back.
Lesson No. 1: Your most important piece of equipment for archery hunting is obviously the bow. Go to a pro shop and buy one that fits you. It will be hard to draw a bow, since you’re using a new set of muscles. The draw weight – how many pounds of pressure it takes to draw the bow – can be adjusted. Start with the weight that allows you to draw the bow using proper form, so you can practice correctly. Resist the urge to make big jumps in poundage. With today’s technology, a modern bow set at 50 pounds has as much speed and power as a ten-year-old bow set at 70 pounds.
That first season, since I didn’t have any camouflage clothes, I wore black snow pants and a brown jacket. I took that bright blue bow and spray-painted it in various shades of green, using leaves and ferns to make a pattern. I was so proud of it – until I went to some 3D shoots and saw the other bows.
Lesson No. 2: You’ll meet other archers at a pro shop, and the great majority of them will enjoy helping you. Find a local archery club that holds 3-D shoots, which are typically courses using 30 lifelike animal targets, set at different distances. Shooting 3-D will help you get better at judging distances, and the clubs will usually have tree stands. You will be more successful as an archery hunter if you hunt from a tree, and you must practice shooting from one. Draw the bow the way you always do, and then bend at the waist to get the sight pin on the target.
I shot my first deer, a Pennsylvania doe, from a kid’s tree hut. I was lying down, reading a book, when a couple of deer entered the area, feeding on acorns. I had to put down the book, sneak to my feet, grab the bow and shoot. All the deer ran away at the shot. I’d read that you should wait at least a half hour before looking for a deer. I found out just how long a half hour can be.
Now with many more hours spent hanging around in trees, waiting for deer, and just shooting the bow, I’m amazed by how far the archery technology has come. Some would say that it’s long past the time for me to dig out that first bow and put it out on the table at a yard sale.
I tried it one time, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t put a price on it.