Beginner Bow Hunter


Does your wife want to go hunting…. daughter/son want to go hunting….friend want to go hunting?  If anyone that you know and care about is interested in learning how to hunt, then bow hunting is a great (and did I mention satisfying way) to get involved in the sport.  As a veteran hunter yourself, you have a certain responsibility to teach and guide your newfound hunter as they learn the basics, skills, and throughout that very first season.  Many of us depend on the local pro-shop or sporting goods stores for products and advice, as well as the lovely internet.  However, with all of these conflicting opinions floating around, it can be very confusing for the novice bow hunter.  Therefore, I am going to share with you my story and some helpful hints for the beginning archer.

And so it begins…

I grew up as a farmer’s daughter in southeastern Virginia.  Hunting, fishing, and growing things are our way of life and sometimes it can be said that things are a little slower on the farm.  While many members of my family are avid hunters, my father was more likely to teach me how to fish and farm than hunt.  It was not an aversion to the sport, simply the fact that rut falls right in the middle of the harvest, our busy time of the year.

Fast forward a few years…

In college, I met my husband, Andy and as we dated, I got to learn how much he enjoyed hunting (in particular bow hunting) and interacting/teaching others the sport.  In fact, he was a bow tech for a pro shop and volunteered to assist with hunter safety courses.  By the time we had been together for awhile, I knew that hunting was going to become my passion too.  In fact, Andy took me along on hunts, blood trail searches, and field dressing experiences.  Perhaps this was to see if I was truly interested, or for the fact that I was not yet a Maryland resident and could not harvest my own deer.  Either way, I learned to love the brisk fall mornings and freezing winter evenings and the adrenaline rush that came with spotting a deer (especially a buck J).  Now, I shoot a Parker Side Kick bow that has the awesome Grow Up with Parker program that allows you to exchange the limbs when your draw weight increases.  This is a great bow for beginning youth and lady bow hunters.  Check out Cabelas for my Parker Side Kick and other great choices.  Now for my tips for beginners!!!

Beginners Luck Advice

1.    Establishing a Dominant Eye

If you are a bow hunter beginner or teaching a new bow hunter, the first thing that you should do is a test to establish which eye is the dominant eye. What is a dominant eye?  One of your eyes is better at judging alignments than the other.  Have you ever played a game as a child in which you look at a specific object and closed one eye and then the other?  When one eye was open and one was closed, you could see the object, when you switched eyes , the object moved and was not in view!  This is due to your dominant eye.  When you shoot a bow, you want to look out of your dominant eye while the other is closed.  This allows you to hit your target, instead of having the target move like that object when you were a child.  Eye dominance is genetic and usually it corresponds with your dominant hand.  However, always test your eyes before you make an investment in a bow.  Surprising to me, I am right handed and left eye dominant.  If your dominant hand and eye are different….then you have a choice to make.  You can either shoot your bow from your dominant hand while looking through the opposite (dominant) eye or you could be like me and take on the challenge of shooting your bow with the same hand as your dominant eye, even though it is not your dominant hand.  In other words, you can choose which hand to shoot from, but your eye dominance is not negotiable to be deadly accurate.

So now that you know what eye dominance is….how do you test it?  It is very easy.

Step 1: Hold your arms out and make a circle with your fingers to look through.








Step2:  Focus on a permanent object that you can see through your fingers.








Step 3: Close your right eye…did the object move or stay in place?








Step 4: Close your left eye…did the object move or stay in place?








Conclusion:  Whichever eye was open when the object stayed in place is your dominant eye!

(The pictures above are a representation of the test and are based on my results, your results will vary depending on your dominate eye)

**If you would like more directions, check out the Dominant Eye Test Card provided by

2.   Do Your Research

Doing research before buying your new bow is essential to finding out what is right for you.  Once you have determined your dominate eye, you are now able to decide if you need a right handed bow or left handed bow and this is the first step before starting research.  The next step would be to go to your local pro-shop and have them measure your draw length.  This will vary greatly from person to person depending on the length of their arms.  Once you have that figured out, you can then ask to try pulling back a few bows and to help determine your draw weight.   This again will depend on the person, some young archers, men and woman can only pull back 30 – 40lbs others can pull back 70+.  This is the final step before you can really start thinking about what bow to buy. Remember, a lot of bows come in different draw weight ranges, and have adjustable draw lengths. However, not all bows fit everyone.  I do not recommend buying a bow on your first trip into the pro-shop. Make that first trip an opportunity to gain information, take that information home and use the internet to find what bow best fits your needs.  You can check out our Long Compound Bows vs Short Compound Bows article to help narrow your search, as well as BHM’s Top 5 Bows of 2011.  You will want to do most of your research on topics that help you decide what size and type of bow you want, check out the manufacturers’ websites as most of them have detailed specs on their bows which will allow you to find the right match for you.  Key things to look at are weight, axel to axel length, peak draw weight, draw length adjustment, type of cams, and type of limbs.  Make sure you pick 4 – 6 bows solely based on the specs of it, then when you start the homework section look at price.

3.   Do Your Homework

Once you have done your research, now is the time to do your homework on the best place to buy the bow you have selected.  Start by thinking about if you want to buy it online, or if you want to buy it in a store.  I would start by looking at price online and find local retailers’ or pro-shops’ prices as well.  Once you have done that homework, this will give you an idea of what direction you think you are heading in.  Once that decision is made, head to a local retailer of the bows you chose and ask to see each of them.  A lot of pro-shops will let you at least draw them and get a feel for each bow; some will even let you shoot them.  Once you have done that, you should be able to narrow your choice down greatly if not have a decision.  If you are comfortable buying your bow at the location you tried them out and the price is right, go for it.  But remember, the bow is only as good as the person that sets it up and teaches you how to get it shooting accurate for you.   Once you have your bow, if you want to do any work at all on your bow you will need the right tools.  Andy has 5 basic bow tuning tools that after being a bow tech for 3 years, he can tell you they are a must have for anyone who is serious about archery.  Finally, make sure you do your homework on arrows. The arrows need to match your bow, what you intend to use them for, and how you use them.

4.   Practice, Practice, Practice!

Now that you have selected your bow, purchased it, and had it setup.  You have found the right arrows, had them cut to fit your bow and you are now ready to start shooting!  Start shooting at close distances, 15 yards or less, as these are not only the best shots for sighting in your bow, but also the easier shots to learn on.  In the beginning, sighting in your bow, getting comfortable shooting, and gaining consistency will play off of one another to allow you to develop the skills you need to be successful.  However, as each of these things gets better, if one skill is off it will become clear.  So in the beginning, do not get frustrated, it just takes time for those 3 factors to improve, just keep practicing. It does not matter how much money you spent on the bow, because practice is the only way to become a good archer.  Andy started out shooting a recurve bow, transitioning to a youth compound, finally to an adult compound and he always said that each had a learning curve that only practice will allow you to overcome.  Continue to practice until you feel like you are ready.  A good way of knowing if you are ready is if you can group 4 – 6 arrows in a 2 or 3 inch circle at all of your practiced distances.  Remember to follow, if you have your bow sighted in at 15 – 20 – 30  yards, stick to shots that are around 30 and lower, do not try to expand your shooting distances without practicing them.

5.   Hunter Safety…Hit the Books…and the Range

The last step before you are ready to hit the woods is to take hunter safety.  Each state has different rules for hunter education.  However, it is a very common law around the U.S. that in order to purchase a hunting license, you must first pass a hunter education class (also known as hunter safety).   Some states require you to take different hunter education classes for each weapon you intend to hunt with, but many have a general hunter education course which covers all types of weapons but focuses around firearms.   Maryland offers different types of courses for different weapons but most take the general course that covers everything to avoid having to take more than one class.  Maryland’s DNR has all the information you need on hunter education rules / requirements for Maryland, as well as a useful list of Maryland hunter education classes.   Taking hunter education is very important and it is a must to ensure that every hunter that enters the woods is safe, educated on subject, and ethical while hunting.  After you have taken hunter education and passed the written test and the practical shooting exam, you will be issued a Maryland hunter education card that includes the number that allows you to obtain a hunting license.  Maryland hunter education cards are also accepted by many other states, which is very helpful.  So if you are planning a hunting trip out of your home state, verify that the state you are going to be hunting in will accept your Maryland hunter education course (or whatever your home state is).   After you have passed hunter education, you are now finally ready for the hunt after all of your hard work.

6.   Before the Hunt

Before you fully get to the hunting stage, you must first decide on if you will be hunting out of a tree, or from the ground.   I wanted to give you good examples of your choices; I used Cabelas to give you the examples of the most popular items in each category.  If you choose to hunt from the ground, the two most popular choices are a good ground blind such as the Ameristep Doghouse Blind, the other choice would be a good tree seat such as the Summit Folding Trophy Chair.  If you choose to hunt out of a tree, there are three main choices.  1. Climbing treestands such as the Summit Dagger Climbing Treestand, 2.  Lock-on treestands such as the Gorilla King Kong Lounger HX Treestand, 3. Ladder stands like the Big Game Executive Ladder Stand.  Once you have chosen between ground hunting or hunting from a treestand and found the right choice for you, you are closer to heading out in the woods.  One of the most asked questions for those that choose to hunt out of a treestand is…how high should I climb in a tree? Check out our How High Should I Climb in a Tree article for more advice. Get comfortable with your choice, whether it is a treestand, tree seat, or ground blind and practice with it including setup and take down.  The Maryland DNR also provides some great treestand safety tips. Remember, if you plan to hunt on public land, lock-on treestands and ladder stands are usually prohibited.  Finally, you are ready to get ready to head out in the woods.  One of the most important parts of getting ready to head out in the woods is scent elimination, using the scent technology that is now available to all hunters.  Make sure you remember to remove any type of unnatural scents from all of your hunting gear.  This includes you, your bow and all accessories, treestand, clothing, and any other gear or gear bags you take with you.  There are some great products out there for eliminating scent.  Manufactuers such as, Dead Down Wind offers several different kits, but the basic kit includes: scent free body wash/shampoo, laundry detergent, and field spray.  I highly recommend upgrading to the Dead Down Wind Scent Prevention Kit, which includes: odorless hand sanitizer, field wash cloths, antiperspirant, body and hair soap, field spray, pac-it refill pouches, and skull cap.  The kit offers everything you will need before and during the hunt to be completely scent free.

You are now ready to head out into the woods, enjoy nature and the beauty it offers.  Test your luck on getting the opportunity to harvest a deer of a lifetime.  You have put the hours into getting ready and it will all pay off.  Being prepared and knowledgeable is half the battle, and with the information we have provided you with, you are well on your way to taking your very first deer.

Good luck, hunt safely, ethically, passionately, and remember to introduce the sport of hunting to your friends and family allowing this great sport to be passed down through the generations.

Last but not least…never stop asking questions….and never stop learning.  Remember that the more you shoot and practice, then the better sportsman you will become.  The hunting industry is always changing and evolving.  Therefore, keep your eye out for new hunting technology and interact with other hunters both in person and online.  We hope that our beginners article helped answer some of your questions and we welcome you to come back and visit our site for more upcoming information, products, and stories from us and our readers.  As always, please share with us some of your hunting stories and trophies.  Good luck beginners on your first hunting season in 2011!!

2 Responses

  1. Gino Ciotola
    Great post...wish I has that much information when I started bow hunting!!
    • admin
      Gino, Thanks for the comment! When Andy first got me started bow hunting, I think asked about a million questions. Therefore, I hope my Beginner Bow Hunter article will serve our new comrades well. ~Amber

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