By Aaron Farley:

When I first started bowhunting it was for purely pragmatic reasons.

Until 2 years ago, I hunted only with a rifle. I was a good shot and never had to track a deer very far at all. At the time, bowhunting represented potential for wounding deer, never recovering deer, and honestly just wasting my efforts.

I imagined a particular scene in my head repeatedly whenever I considering bowhunting. I would be sitting there with my bow, and the biggest buck of my life would come out at 75 yards. It would be a chip shot for my 30-06, but impossible with my bow. I would then watch him meander out of my life, never to return. At this point in my imaginary story, I usually broke my arrows across my knee and smashed my bow into the tree. I didn’t think I wanted to be a bowhunter.

As time would pass, there was the nagging voice doing the math in the back of my head, “If I bowhunted, I could double my hunting season.” Or, “If I bowhunted, I could get in here before the orange armies show up and spook the deer out.” And sometimes, “If I bowhunted, I might gain access to land off limits to gun hunting.” Finally, I wore my own self down and bought a bow.

It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the idea bowhunting, and archery in general. There is something ancient and natural about it. Sure, my bow has fiberglass limbs, a cam system, sights and let-off, but it is still a bow and arrow. I feel like Robin Hood when I watch an arrow sail 60 yards across my yard and smack into my target. There is something sexy about a razor blade affixed to the end of an arrow, ready to kill.

As I look back, I have come to realize that bowhunting has made me a better hunter in general. Maybe I was on a natural curve and was getting better with time anyway. Perhaps I would have learned the lessons that help my hunting in spite of the bow. Whatever the reason, I can clearly look back at my last 2 years of hunting (with a bow) and see serious improvements in my hunting game. I think it was bowhunting that helped me become a better all-around hunter, and here’s why I say that:

The Bow Taught Me Patience

Typically I hunt for food. My family eats a freezer full of venison every year. My primary concern when I enter the woods is to bring something home, not just to wait out a big rack. That said, I previously erred on the side taking the first available shot.

With the bow, unlike with the gun, I often have to wait quite a while from the time I see the deer until I have a good shot opportunity. Having to learn patience in waiting for the right shot, has also taught me a lot about deer movement. It was waiting on a doe to get close to the tree that taught me the big deer usually come in last. Passing a doe, may literally be trading a doe for a big buck, or bigger doe. Now I am more patient when hunting with any weapon, and this has increased my overall harvest each year in a positive way.

Having to learn patience while waiting for an opportunity to draw the bow, has also helped me learn to read deer behavior. Watching for walking/feeding behavior, tail movement, and ear movement have helped me learn to read deer in ways I missed with my rifle in hand. This helps me make better shots, and anticipate openings much more effectively in the hardwoods I hunt.

Bowhunting Practice Sharpens My Edge

I shoot my bow a lot. I mean a lot. Just about every day. When I shoot as much as I do, it keeps my mind on hunting. I can only stand on flat ground and shoot at my target a few times before I realize that is nothing like hunting. If I want to be a good hunter, I should practice for hunting. I shoot off my knees, around tree trunks, at quartering angles, and out of trees.

These different practice situations helps me to imagine real-life hunting situations. I plan how to draw behind a tree and lean forward to shoot. I plan how to spin in the stand and take an off balance shot. I plan how to spread my knees to help stabilize myself when shooting on the ground.

Exercises like these help me to be a better hunter. I suppose I could perform these same types of drills with my rifle and dry-fire. However, while it may be a good way to meet my local law-enforcement officer, I think I’ll have much more fun doing them with a fist full of arrows.

The Increased Challenge Increases the Reward

I hate a cliché. If you only knew how much it pains me to even use this as a heading, you would appreciate how much I mean it. The increased challenge that comes with bowhunting definitely increases the rewards that come with success. Just like any venture in life, the more we overcome to achieve, the sweeter that success is to us. I have yet to kill a buck with my bow. However, I can tell you all about the doe I shot last year.

It took several attempts, failed sits, and hot days serving up a mosquito buffet before I was able to connect on that doe last year. I was a nervous wreck while I watched that arrow sail between the limbs and sink into her brown fur. If you were to walk in my house you would see a couple racks on the wall and some antlers laying around as decoration. While I appreciate and cherish each of the stories that accompany those antlers, I must say I enjoyed that first archery doe a little more.

– Aaron Farley, RusticMan.com

Has bowhunting made you a better hunter? Let us know in the comments!