by Naomi K. Shapiro
There are hundreds of articles about what a novice bow hunter needs to deer hunt. This one will be using the "KISS" theory: "Keep it Simple Stupid." No, that's not an insult, but if you started listing all of the stuff that even any TWO deer hunters may suggest, you're going to end up with all types of different equipment, arguments galore, and a thousand different reasons why "I'm right, and s/he's wrong." Stow it all. What I've done is compiled a generic list of items from experienced guides that I believe is a fair grouping of items that meet the general needs of a novice deer bow hunter. Is it "written in stone?" Of course not. People vary. Needs vary. Regs vary. Terrain, weather, seasons vary. It's all different. But on balance, I think it's a good start – and since like a savvy politician I want to be able to cover my-you-know-what, I'll readily say as a "disclaimer", my list can be modified for anyone's particular, personal requirements.
The reason I selected discussing bow hunting, is that its equipment is far more technically challenging than gun hunting. So it's tougher to do. We're not in Sherwood Forest, and no one's going to emulate Robin Hood with his ash bow, and hand hewn
arrows. This is the 21st century. The novice should first and foremost do his/her "homework" - -big time. Go to a bow hunting seminar or show - -they're held all over. Here are just a few of the rhetorical questions, you'll want answers to: Do you want a recurved bow or a compound bow? What about the arrows? You need the right weight and length. Then there's the draw length that your bow uses, the multiple types of fletching (feathers or "veins" to "steer" the arrow when it's released), the material that the arrows are constructed of - -aluminum, carbon, plastic, wood - -combos. Then there's the type of broadhead and weight (there are some real "junkers" out there). Like in all things "hunting," the lists are endless – and every year there's something new.
My personal advice is that you find a friend, or a friend-of-a-friend, or a "guide friend" - -someone who really is an experienced bow hunter. Offer him/her a Jack & Coke, a brat, maybe even a ride on that big Hawg Harley of yours, and ask if he/she will "train, mentor, and teach" you about equipment and how it's used. And I know I'm sounding like the proverbial broken record, but again I will say, there's no substitute for actually being with an experienced hunter in season. There are so many things that you'll see and "feel" that no seminar, or "hunting professor" can describe. Hands on experience is indeed the best teacher.
OK – you're ready to buy. While there are plenty of used bows and equipment for sale, bow hunting is very "personal" when it comes to equipment. IF you can find good, used equipment that meets your personal specs, go for it. You'll save a lot of money. That being said, don't settle for "close." You need bow hunting equipment that fits you EXACTLY. "Close" doesn’t make it. Ask any successful bow deer hunter. So - -go into an outfitter, and based on what you've seen and been taught, go through the stock and test out equipment that makes your feel real comfortable. The pull of whichever bow type you've decided on is right. The weight is right. The kinds of arrows – all of that stuff.
OK, you've gotten your basic equipment, and they've taken a photo of you all dressed up in camo, behind the stuffed, 12 point buck you've supposedly just nailed, sitting on the plastic woodlands scene in the store (the photo to be used at the corner bar after you get skunked during the season), and you've kept your expenses down. Now what?
Well – there are so many additional accessories, that I don't have room to list them all. Sights, silencers, tree stands, tree ladders, decoys, - - just to name a miniscule few. What do you do? Stick to the "KISS" theory! Buy less to start. You can always add on, or make upgrades.
Here is a list of "gimmes" that ANY hunter- - novice or experienced should take with them, and it’s a compilation of what I was told by a number of different experienced bow deer hunting guides: Cell phone. Water or liquids (some of the guides suggested water tablets or other specialized water purification items). Snacks or simple non-perishable food - -energy bars are good (make sure you can eat whatever it is quietly - -no noisy wrappers, or crunchy stuff like taco chips or apples, and the like). GPS or compass. Rope. Combo tool. Gutting knife. Some plastic "zipper"-type baggies, and a couple of garbage bags. A luminous dial watch. Small flashlite. Matches, flint, or a "fire tool." Bug repellent. Small binoculars. One thing that I'd recommend is a group of "quick remedies" (not all the guides agreed with the things that I've listed, but my long experience in the wilderness tells me that I'm qualified to speak to these items): Blister gel, headache and pain pills, and a small first aid kit. You may also have special needs- - like an EpiPen for those who are subject to allergic reactions.
Please note all the items are or should be SMALL and lightweight. That's the secret. Don't overload yourself. You may set out feeling spry, but after walking the woods for a couple of hours, that spryness wears off real quick.
One final thing. I deliberately left out info or selection of things like clothing, rain gear, boots, etc. Those are items that I personally don't believe require "special mention." They are so obvious, and needed by any outdoors person - -let alone a hunter. Yes- -I know. What about camo? Well, that's part of "clothing," so there! Good hunting – and after you've gotten that prize buck, and are back home or at camp, THEN you can say like the bearded older guy whose surrounded by young Hugh Hefnerites in the Dos Equis ad: "Be thirsty my friend." Celebrate. You earned it.