Whether it is choosing a first gun, bow, crossbow, or deciding what to put in their daypack, young hunters have many choices to make as they take to the deer woods. Story by Tim Herald of The Zone, which can be seen on Sportsman Channel on Mondays at 3 PM ET, Wednesdays at 9:30 PM ET and Thursdays at 12:30 AM ET.
CHOOSING A FIRST BOW
My 9 year-old Drew said, “Dad, this bowhunting is awesome. You get to be so close to the animals.” That statement came out about halfway through his first hunt where we didn’t take a gun. No, he wasn’t quite ready or able to take a deer with a compound bow, but he was practiced and confident with a crossbow, and his statement affirmed that he did indeed understand what any kind of bowhunting is about. You get close to critters!
I started both my boys out hunting with a crossbow for a few simple reasons. First it gives them a chance to hunt much more of the season than with a firearm. Secondly, they are not strong enough to draw a bow that I feel will cleanly kill a deer yet. Lastly, the crossbow lets them “bowhunt” and get the experience and knowledge gained from only being able to shoot deer within 25 yards (our self imposed limit) for a few years before they hunt with a compound.
They love shooting the crossbow in the backyard, which helps their marksmanship skills in general, and they have learned a lot about deer and turkey behavior by watching animals that they weren’t able to shoot but could still observe. It has really increased their time and enjoyment in the field.
There are many great crossbows on the market today, and choosing one is as easy as finding one that fits a youth well enough that he or she can easily see through the scope and reach the trigger. Just do a little research first and determine which models have gotten good reviews, and then it is mostly about fit. Our Carbon Express Covert crossbow has stackable butt stock pieces that can lengthen or shorten the fit and length of pull so my boys can shoot it comfortably, and so can I.
When choosing a good first compound bow to hunt with, there are many more choices than there was only a few years ago. For a youth that isn’t nearly fully grown, I highly suggest one of the bows out today that have a wide range adjustable draw weight, or at least replaceable limbs that will adjust draw weight at a larger span than the normal ten pound increment. These bows usually also allow for different draw lengths as well.
Many companies now make bows that can be adjusted one way or another from ranges of 30-60 pounds, etc. Almost assuredly a youth will be able to increase their draw weight quite a bit with practice in a short time, and then as they grow toward adulthood even more. You don’t want to have to buy a new bow after 6 months and another a year later because you have gotten stronger. There is no need to do this with the options available today.
Along the same lines, these bows are often made to fit a very wide range of draw lengths, and some will fit virtually anyone. This is very important to growing kids.
There are a number of short axle to axle bows out there that fit these criteria and are light and comfortable for youth shooters. I think some sort of full capture rest is a best bet, and starting out with a good caliper type release and a string loop will help accuracy as well.
A young hunter should visit an archery shop and seek the advice of a pro there. They can fit a bow both in length and poundage to start off, and give advise on when to increase these as the shooter gets bigger and stronger. They can also setup and tune the bow properly and give the shooter some pointers or a first lesson to get started. A good pro can mean the world to a beginning archer.
I personally feel that a hunter should be able to comfortably draw 40 pounds and be accurate at 20 yards before they should ever be able to deer hunt with a bow. No matter, the first few years, a youth should definitely limit their shots to very close yardage to insure quick and humane kills as well as to build confidence.
Just a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to take 15 year-old Zack Barker out on a hunt in Kentucky. I had a ground blind setup and there were some good bucks showing up on my trail camera, and I was hoping Zack would get his first bow buck.
When we crawled in my blind, Zack told me he had been practicing a lot, but his limit was 25 yards. He only had one pin set on his site, so we knew our distance limit. We discussed shot placement, etc., and we both felt like if a good buck showed up in our corner of the field we would be set.
An hour before dark a bachelor group of 3 mature bucks emerged from the woods only 14 steps away. I told Zack to concentrate on the lead deer, and I would tell him when to shoot. When the big nine pointer turned slightly quartering away at 18.5 yards, I told Zack to draw, and the buck turned completely broadside just before he sent his Rage broadhead perfectly through both lungs.
The buck only went 100 yards, and I know the hunt was a highlight of young Zack’s life. It is one of the most memorable hunts of my life as well as I was so proud of his poise and self control under pressure, but that came from hunting for a few years with his step-father Steve Hartley of Steve Hartley Outdoors (www.stevehartleyoutdoors) and gaining valuable deer hunting experience with a gun and shooting a few does with his bow. Practice and experience make perfect.
Next Week: Choosing Other Gear