Bows have been around a lot longer than modern firearms, yet it wasn’t until 1934 that the first bow hunting season was permitted in the United States. Since then the sport of bow hunting has grown in popularity, and the number of bow hunters is steadily on the rise. There are many reasons why one might choose hunting with a bow over hunting with traditional firearms; it may be that bow hunting offers the feel of being “one” with nature that traditional firearms do not; it may be that bow hunters find archery more challenging; and it may be that longer and earlier seasons are much more desirable to eager hunters.
All of these reasons are valid of course. Hunting with a bow as you may guess takes patience and practice, and requires a bow hunter to be proficient with his or her bow first and foremost. They must also understand the behavior of their target, as well as its anatomy, in order to get close enough, and to avoid an inhumane wound. Use of tree stands (tree platforms), ground blinds, and products like scent-away, give hunters an edge over the natural instincts of a wild animal, allowing the hunter to get within striking distance. However, once in range it is all about the ability to hit your target (who is now close enough to hear you and may be spooked away if you’re not careful!). Lastly, a bow hunter must know how to track, because an arrow is not a bullet, and an injured animal may run even after being hit. All these challenges make bow hunting the purest and most difficult form of sport hunting.
There are four types of bows used today: longbows, recurve bows, compound bows, and crossbows.
Longbows are the most traditional of the bows, and also the simplest. Generally made from a single piece of straight wood (a string, and a handgrip) these bows resemble bows made centuries ago.
Recurve bows, much like longbows, have a very simple design as well. The difference between the two lies in the ends, or tips of the bow, which are curved away from the arc and from the archer. When the string is tied to both ends the curve allows for shorter and more powerful releases. Though the original recurve bow was made of wood modern recurve bows are made in three pieces which might inclued laminated carbon or fiberglass.
Compound bows, which are a more modern version of the longbow, utilize a pulley and wheel system that provides a lower resistance while holding the arrow on target, this design creates a greater slingshot effect and increased velocity while allowing the operator to hold the draw for a longer period of time. These bows may be made from laminated wood, plastic and/or fiberglass.
Crossbows like compound and recurve bows may be made from wood, plastic, or fiberglass. However, they are positioned horizontally as opposed to the vertical pull of a traditional or compound bow. The big draw for a crossbow is the mechanism, or operation, which allows the bow to hold the draw until the crossbow is fired, much like a firearm. This is a slight advantage over traditional/conventional bows.
That said, there has been much controversy over the use of crossbows versus traditional bows throughout the years. At one time crossbows were only permitted to be used by disabled hunters, which is still the case in many states. Other states have accepted crossbows, and to some surprise they have had great success. States such as California have allowed crossbows but have limited their use (current California regulations allow cross bow hunting only in gun season). To learn more about hunting seasons which are designated strictly for bow hunting contact your state’s Fish and Game Department.