July 05, 2023
Although it’s become more accessible in recent years, diving into bowhunting for the first time can be a bit intimidating for a woman with no close friends or family members to show her the ropes. If you’re interested in taking up bowhunting but don’t know where to start, begin with these basics.
Find Your Perfect Bow Match
The best way to get set up with a fully outfitted rig perfectly “fitted” to you is to head to a local archery pro shop. The experts there can help you determine your draw length and give you some guidance as you explore your options. Most of these shops allow you to draw back and shoot a few different models to find what feels most natural and comfortable.
If you’re completely new to archery or don’t have a lot of upper body strength just yet, bows that allow for a wide range of draw weight adjustments are usually the best choice. You can start off with a relatively low draw weight (15-20 pounds) and gradually increase it (to 35-40+ pounds) as you get stronger and more confident over the course of a few months.
Many of these highly adjustable bows are also available as affordable ready-to-hunt packages that come with all the basics you need to start shooting such as sights, stabilizers, and arrows rests. As you gain valuable shooting experience and grow more proficient, you can upgrade accessories based on preference, but these budget packages are ideal for beginners.
You can walk out of a pro shop with a dialed-in bow — plus a release and the right arrows for your setup — in just an hour or two. You might be tempted to snag a cheap used bow off a friend or online marketplace, but selecting a rig built for your frame will start you off on the right track.
Getting over the learning curve that goes along with becoming a bowhunter can seem daunting. You probably don’t know what you don’t know. That’s why getting connected with other women who can mentor you and share their wisdom is so valuable for new bowhunters.
Many wildlife agencies offer mentorship programs that pair newbies with seasoned bowhunters for workshops and hunting opportunities. Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) and R3 initiatives at the state level are great places to start. A lot of pro shops and archery ranges coordinate clubs and events for female archers, while wildlife conservation organizations can provide connection through volunteer opportunities and fundraisers. You might also be able to find region-specific online communities via social media to get plugged in with like-minded ladies in your area.
It’s possible to figure it all out on your own, but having community and securing a mentor will make the experience much easier and more enjoyable, especially if you’re a woman who learns better through hands-on instruction than skimming a few articles or watching a tutorial.
These experienced bowhunters can advise you on the best gear from a woman’s perspective, offer pointers as you pick up your bow for the first time, teach you tried-and-true tactics, show you what to look for in the field, take you to their trusted hunting spots, and even lend advice on what to do as a woman when nature calls in the woods.
Put in the Practice
Before you even think about taking your bow into a treestand, you should put in several months and hundreds of practice reps to ensure you can make an ethical shot on an animal.
Consider taking a few lessons from an archery instructor, coach, or mentor if you’ve never shot a bow before. These experts can help you learn the right way the first time around so you don’t have to break bad habits down the road.
Start at close range, focus on proper form, and try to get at least a dozen reps in each day. If you’re struggling to pull back your bow or increase draw weight to the legal minimum, you can add in some simple exercises that target the muscles you engage when shooting. Building strength both at the range and in the gym has been a gamechanger for a lot of female bowhunters, myself included.
Once you master the basics, start practicing the way you plan to hunt. Will you be setting up along a field edge in a blind? Practice shooting from a seated position. Will you be climbing 20 feet up? Take some shots from an elevated position.
Consistent practice is one of the most important steps in setting yourself up for bowhunting success.
Beyond a bow, you’ll need a few other key pieces of gear to get started bowhunting. Some of these staples such as rangefinders and broadheads won’t be gender-specific, but others work best when they’re tailored to fit a woman’s body.
With women-specific brands such as DSG Outerwear and Prois as well as dedicated lines from companies such as KUIU and Sitka now readily available, female bowhunters have plenty of options for finding camo that truly fits us. Look for clothing that accounts for how a woman’s body is shaped, moves, and loses heat rather than pieces that simply slap some colorful accents on men’s designs with no functional differences. Boots, gloves, and harnesses built with women in mind will also perform better than gender-neutral styles.
Hand-me-downs can save you a few bucks in the short term, but make sure you’re not settling for old men’s gear that will bunch up, slide down, or get in the way when you’re coming to full draw. You can get started with some basics without breaking the bank — invest in just a few quality pieces that will fit you well and last for years to come.
Staying warm, dry, and comfortable in gear that fits properly can make the difference between a miserable sit and an enjoyable hunt.
Make it Official
Before you can buy a hunting license, you’ll likely need to complete a hunter education course, which will teach you about wildlife identification, hunting techniques, shot placement, firearm safety, and state-specific regulations. Requirements are different in each state, with some allowing you to complete the course online and others requiring in-person portions. You can visit Hunter-ed.com or contact your wildlife agency to learn more about your state’s requirements.
Some states additionally require hunters who plan to pursue animals with archery tackle to complete a bowhunter education course. You can learn more and get started (even if your state doesn’t require the course) at Bowhunter-ed.com.
Once you’ve met all education requirements in the state(s) where you plan to hunt, make sure you secure the proper licenses and tags and stay up-to-date on hunting regulations (including minimum draw weight).
Start a Lifetime of Learning
There’s a lot more to learn about bowhunting than states can cram into a safety course. From where to hunt to which tactics to use on your intended quarry to how to care for game after a successful hunt, bowhunters develop a deep knowledge of archery and wildlife over years of experience. And we can learn something new every time we step into the woods.
Take advantage of all the wisdom mentors have to share and the resources available to expand your knowledge and hone your craft. Keep your expectations in check and prepare to put in plenty of hard work to become a proficient bowhunter — just as good as the guys.