Lampasas Dispatch Record

2015 Hunter’s Edition of the Lampasas Dispatch Record

The many facets of bow hunting – by Jeff Lowe, Staff Writer

Bowhunters may disagree about the best broadheads to use, their favorite brand of bow and other equipment preferences. But one thing remains constant. “Bow hunting is still a game of close proximity,” Aaron Barton said.

Barton, a bow pro at Hoffy’s Archery – located between Hoffpauir Ford and Hoffpauir Chevrolet – said close distance to the prey is a central part of the sport, regardless of the hunter;s skill level. The exact shooting distance should be dictated by the skill of the archer and what he determines are the limits for an ethical shot. Odds for a clean kill shot drop drastically beyond about 25 yards, Barton said. Even for advanced hunters, he suggests limiting shots to about 25 yards or less. Younger, beginning hunters often use lower poundage and a slower arrow, which requires a closer-range shot, Barton said.

For young hunters, “a 35- to 40-pound pull weight is a good minimum weight that’s got a fair amount of killing power for momentum to do the job,” he said. Experienced hunters sometimes shoot a 70-pound bow, Barton said. Higher pull weight, however, is not always better, accuracy is a more important consideration. “Reducing the poundage by even two to three pounds can have extreme benefits to accuracy,” Barton said. “Accuracy is final, as Wyatt Earp said.”

Correct pull weight
Barton discussed the steps he uses to help determine the right pull weight for each hunter. Sit in a chair upright; stick the bow straight out in front of you. Draw the bow straight back towards your face, without having to point it up toward the sky, straight back to your face. “You have to be able to draw that bow back from an [point] A to B sitting in a straight line [with] no jerking [and a] …consistently smooth draw,” Barton said.

The majority of bowhunters in the area hunt with compound bows, which use cables and pulleys, and have stiffer limbs than long or recurve bows. A variety of brands are available to choose from. “Arrow and broadhead selection is another paramount factor that a lot of people don’t put a lot of thought or consideration into,” Barton said. He advocates a heavier arrow with a good cut-on-contact broadhead.

Factors to consider
To select a good broadhead, Barton considers three main factors: flight characteristics, blade sharpness and durability. An arrow’s weight should be more distributed front-of-center, allowing more penetration, and helping the bow operate more efficiently and quietly, Barton said. A single-bevel broadhead penetrates better than other types, he added.

Fixed broadhead and mechanical broadheads each have pros and cons. Once fixed broadheads are screwed onto the shaft, there are no moving parts and therefore less potential for failure. Mechanical broadheads have moving parts and often fold down on contact, causing blades to open up. Mechanical broadheads offer a larger cutting diameter and usually are more streamlined because of their smaller profile.

Practice is crucial regardless of bow type.

Other characteristics of bows, such as their speed, are not as important when deer hunting, Barton said. At the distance that bowhunters generally shoot, there is not a major difference between an arrow shot at 300 feet per second or one at 240 feet per second, he said.

Hunting with a crossbow
Crossbow hunting is another approach that involves some fo the same dynamics as archery. The legal minimum pull is 125 pounds for crossbows in Texas, while there is no legal requirement for draw weight on compound bows. Crossbows also mush have a mechanical safety and a stock that is at least 25 inches long. A crossbow allows hunters to avoid one of the most difficult aspects of bow-hunting. “The hardest part of bow-hunting is getting to full draw while going undetected in the process,” Barton said.

Shooting a compound, recurve or long bow requires a wider range of motion, which can be hard to do without scaring off a deer 20 yards away. Once a crossbow is cocked back and locked into place, there you have no holding weight. The hunter just has to hold it steady at the intended target and squeeze the trigger. Crossbows also are ambidextrous, making the same bow usable to either left-handed or right-handed archers.

On the other hand, if the first shot at a deer with a crossbow misses, chances for a second shot are much slimmer than with a compound bow. Reloading and shooting a crossbow requires much more noise and movement than with other bows, Barton said.

The projectiles for crossbows are called bolts. Bolts are similar to arrows used in other bows, but they are generally shorter and stiffer. An 18- to 22-inch bolt is average. Specific bolts are recommended for particular crossbows, and it is important to use the right ones when hunting.

Importance of practice
Regardless of the type of bow, consistent practice is crucial for a successful hunt.

The same challenges that are present in target practice are compounded during a hunt. Wearing heavy clothes during a hunt, having to draw around a tree and other situations can make it even harder to hold steady and keep composure. Hunters handle adrenaline in different ways also. “Some people in the heat of the moment either get stronger, or they get weaker,” Barton said.

While the bow-only deer season began several weeks ago, archers can continue to hunt whitetails through the end of the general season. Turkeys also are a popular game animal for bow-hunters in Texas.