Updated: Apr 11
As one starts to embark on their journey in archery and eventually bowhunting there are a lot of things to consider.
"What is the best gear for bowhunting?"
"What are the top tips for new archers?"
What brand of bow is best to shoot?"
"Where are the best places to practice?"
"What are the best podcasts or books for archery & bowhunting?"
The list goes on and on. Honestly, it's daunting, and we know exactly what it's like to be in your shoes. We didn't grow up hunting. It wasn't a tradition that was passed down to us by our family. That's the whole reason why DNA Archery was started, so we could help get you on the right path and give you an idea of where to make sense of it all.
Below is a blueprint for how we started & what worked best for us. By no means is it an end all be all. There are TONS of routes you can go and everyone's processes are different. But through our experience, we wanted to compile all of the information for you in hopes that it helps you get to your first successful bow hunt!
Becoming proficient and comfortable with your gear takes time though. and you do not want to rush the process. Bowhunting is not something you should rush into. You need to have respect for the animal and you owe it to them to be extremely prepared. Practice and research are your allies on this journey. Stay a student, immerse yourself in this world and it will give you SO much back in return.
First, we start in what we call the "Research Phase". This is the preliminary phase before you even purchase a bow or gear. You will need to assess what you can afford, what brands align with you & and what gear you think you'll like best. So let's dive into it!
What Brand of bow will you shoot?
Many factors come into play taking all of the following (aesthetics, price, availability, and how it feels to shoot) into consideration. Each brand makes an entry, midline, and “flagship” model. Go to youtube search for the bows that interest you, make your notes, and put the top 3 choices on a list.
Option A or Option B?
Pre-owned bows: You can find some amazing deals on a bow if you have the patience and are savvy with your online research skills. You’ll want to check eBay, FB groups, & Craigslist religiously to stay on top of new listings.
New bows: These can be found in several places. The best place to buy a bow is going to be a pro shop that specializes in archery equipment. Say you think PSE is going t be the bow you'll want to shoot. You can click this link here >> PSE Retailers. Which will give you a list of all pro shops that carry their bows. Find the closest authorized dealer to where you live. Give them a call to confirm they have what you’re looking for and get to shootin'!
Bow: There are a lot of manufacturers that make all kinds of different styles of bows. What you want to hunt, where you want to hunt, aesthetics, features & benefits all will play a factor in your choice. Below are some flagship brands that all make great bows.
Arrows: Arrows will be specific. Based on your draw length make sure you go to a reputable shop to cut your arrows to the desired length. Remember that the weight of the arrows will make a difference in how far and fast they will shoot. Lighter arrows fly farther and on a straighter arc. Heavier arrows will go slower but pack a bigger punch. As a new archer focus on a standard pre-fletched arrow. You can go into the particulars of custom arrows down the line. The MAJOR factor is to ALWAYS shoot the same arrows with the same weight. If you have mismatched arrows they will not shoot the same.
Sight: There are two main types of sights. Adjustable, meaning they have a sight tape and a dial. You will have to sight this in and you can dial into the exact yardage distance. Or a FIXED sight, which means it does not have a dial and will have multiple pins which you will adjust to specific distances (for example - 20, 30, 40, and 50 yards) To shoot in between distances you'll have to do what's called pin gapping.
Stabilizer: This helps to stabilize the bow & provide vibration dampening. These vary greatly in size. I'd suggest putting a few on and seeing what feels best.
Arrow Rest: This is what your arrow sits on. There are two main types of arrow rests.
LIMB DRIVEN - meaning when you draw back the limbs are attached to the rest and help to draw the rest up and level.
CABLE DRIVEN - meaning the cables are attached to the rest and when drawn back they raise up the arrow rest. Both have their benefits, again choose your personal preference.
Release: There are 4 main types of releases.
Index Trigger: These are the most popular types of releases and a good choice for beginners. The trigger is connected to the wrist via a wrist strap. And the hook of the release is attached to the D-Loop.
Thumb Button: This is in the category of what's called a "Handheld Release". These generally have no wrist strap. They also come in a 2, 3, or 4-finger configuration. The release is activated by activating the trigger with the thumb.
Back Tension: Also in the "Handheld Release" category. This is going to have a "safety" which is engaged with thumb pressure. When ready to shoot, you will disengage thumb pressure and slowly pull through your shot in which the release will "break" and release the D-loop, shooting the arrow.
Hinge: These are great for working on smooth shot execution. a handheld release is engaged by slowly pulling through the shot and simultaneously tilting the release to get it to break and shoot the arrow. These are more for an intermediate to advanced shooter.
Rangefinder & Binoculars: Optics are extremely important so getting a good pair of binos and a reliable rangefinder are important.
Bino Harness: This is where you will hold your bowhunting accessories.
Camo: Not necessary until you begin hunting but here are some great brands.
Krpytek, Pnuma, Sitka, Kuiu
Archery/Hunting websites: These are great overall websites to buy all types of archery accessories, camping gear, hunting gear, etc from.
GoHunt, Lancaster Archery, Podium Archer, Black Ovis
Now you have all your gear…what next? Find a place to shoot. If you’re lucky to have space where you live you can buy a target from a company like Morell online, at a local sporting goods store, or at your pro shop. If you don’t have space then get online and start looking for places you can go to. Some will require membership to join. Figure it out, get out there, and start practicing.
Podcasts: Invaluable & free!
Elk Shape Podcast
JRE (Look for podcasts with John Dudley, Cam Hanes, Steve Rinella, Remi Warren, Adam Greentree, and Clay Newcomb)
Big Hunt Guys
Authors/Books: Look into anything and everything that piques your interest.
Steven Rinella (My personal favorite)
Cameron Hanes - Endure
Michael Easter - The Comfort Crisis
Dan Staton / Elk Shape - He’s the fucking man, analytical, down to earth, smart, and EXTREMELY dedicated to his craft. He’s one of my go-to sources for any and all bowhunting archery content. Runs yearly Elk Shape camps that go over anything and everything elk hunting related.
John Dudley / Nock On Archery - Legend in the game, very accomplished bowhunter, and former pro archer. Take a deep dive into his page and go down the rabbit hole. He is a wealth of knowledge & starting from scratch his “School of Nock” is extremely helpful.
Steve Rinella / MeatEater - This guy is so commendable in his pursuit of hunting it’s insane. He has spawned people the likes of Clay Newcomb, and Remi Warren to name a few along with multiple shows, podcasts, books, etc. When it comes to hunting anything and everything he’s your guy.
Cameron Hanes / Keep Hammering - If daily motivation is what you need he is your guy. One of the most accomplished and notable bowhunters in the world. Cam has been on the scene for decades and is an extremely dedicated hunter and an amazing athlete.
Unguided Outdoors -They are just your everyday guys that started to film their hunts. Super passionate, well-filmed, and a lot of fun to watch.
Hunting Public - From their YouTube profile “The Hunting Public is an online video series that focuses on relating to all groups of hunters. By hunting in a variety of different situations we will try to teach our viewers different strategies for harvesting game.”
This phase never truly ends. But it’s the next progression where you will use your gear and gain confidence and proficiency. You should always be practicing, honing your skills & staying ready. Don’t be that guy that hangs up his bow until a few weeks before the season then starts to practice. Keep yourself sharp year-round.
When I started shooting I would film my shooting and record my groups constantly. Here are some helpful tips on how to improve your shooting process.
Get a tripod and record yourself shooting. Check out this tripod I use here it's inexpensive and super durable. I use it to film my practice and hunts. >> Sunpak 5858DLX Tripod, iPhone attachment. The idea behind filming yourself is to look at how you are holding the bow, how you are engaging the trigger, how you anchor etc. If you shoot bad or good you can look back on what you were doing and make your corrections accordingly.
Get a notebook. I love Moleskine notebooks << Check them out here. I will take a picture of the grouping. Refer to the video of your shooting, then make your notes in your notebook.
Total Archery Challenge: TAC is the premier archery event in the states currently. Thousands of people flock to their events every year from all over the world, as do dozens of vendors. It's an AMAZING time. I can’t stress enough how pivotal it was for me to go to my first TAC. It features half a dozen courses with 15-25 shots per course. Giving you tons of simulated hunting scenarios that one can think of. On top of that, it’s a way to immerse yourself in the community. I met some great friends from my first TAC that ended up being the hunting buddies I shot my first deer with!
Beast Mode Archery Challenge: This is a newer production that has gained a lot of steam lately. They differ from TAC by adding a fitness element to it. Think of Spartan race meets archery.
Hike 2 Hunt: This is kind of a hybrid of the two previous events. Lots of hiking will test your fitness level.
Go to your local pro shops & archery clubs. See what shooting events or tournaments they offer and sign up for them. Shooting in front of people is a great way to put yourself under pressure. You’ll have to get over the stress of people watching you while you need to execute a good shot. This can translate well to hunting.
I love to practice various types of challenging shooting games. These are all designed to test you in different ways and are awesome to throw into your normal shooting regimen.
3 Minute Drill
Goal: Accuracy development, you'll need to shoot accurately and quickly. You have 3 minutes to progressively shoot starting at 20 yards - 50 yards. You get (1) arrow per distance. You want to progress through each shot hitting the bullseye at each varying distance in under 3 minutes. If you miss, you start over from 20. This can be done with a friend and the one who finishes the slowest or doesn't finish has to do 20 burpees.
How it's done:
Start at 20 yards and shoot (1) arrow hit within the bullseye. Run down, get your arrow, and run back to the next shot.
Progress to 30 yards. Repeat.
If you can get from 20-50 yards hitting the bullseye each time with your first shot a piece, clock your time. you are finished.
Elevated Heart Rate Training (EHR)
Goal: To improve accuracy by learning how to control your breath and heart rate.
How it's done:
Choose a shooting distance.
You will perform a predetermined workout or exercise. (Example - 10 burpees)
One (1) round is finished grab your bow, nock an arrow, and shoot.
Repeat for a certain amount of rounds. After each round, you shoot (1) arrow and repeat the exercise until the rounds are finished.
After the last arrow is shot you will run down to the target record your score & run back. Clock your time.
Record your time and score for future reference to work on improvement.
This can be done with a friend as well to compete on who can shoot the most accurately and who can finish the quickest.
In conclusion, The best bowhunting gear, and the best archery gear are all about what works best for YOU! These are all just suggestions and guidelines. Getting out there, practicing, gaining experience, and learning are the most important factors.
So get out there and have fun!