Bow Hunting: Choosing Your First Rig

Whether you are a novice or experienced hunter there are many different options when considering how to rig a bow and arrow for hunting, but most hunters can agree on a few key factors to consider when choosing your rig: accuracy, speed, forgiveness, and stealth. With hundreds of brands and thousands of rig combinations, it is easy for a beginner to get confused, make poor decisions, or simply follow bad advice. The key is to consider each of these needs one by one to ensure you are making educated buys that are truly going to increase your hunting ability.

So, after this little article you should definitely:  load up, hike out, and set up base camp for a thrilling bow hunt.  Good luck!  Need hiking advice?  The good folks over at hikinghydration.com have you covered.

Choosing Your Bow

If you are a novice to archery and have no clue how to rig a bow and arrow for hunting, make sure you choose a bow that includes a wide variety of adjustments. You do not want to loose interest in this great hobby just because it is difficult to adjust your draw strength! There are several brands that offer bows with a range of draw length from 13 to 30 inches, and a range of draw weight from 5 to 70 pounds. Until you figure out your specific draw length, weight, and decide exactly what it is you want to be hunting, choosing a bow with a range of options is your best option.

Choosing Your Arrows

Arrows may be the number one expense for any archer. It is highly recommended that the novice archer chooses quantity over quality arrows. Every hobby has its prodigies but before you go spend a fortune on costly arrows its best to refine your shot (that means practice!). For this purpose, carbon arrows are generally durable enough for beginners and a much least costly option. Make sure you are purchasing the right spine stiffness for your draw length and weight.

Choosing Your Broadheads

Expensive bows do not kill deer. How expensive your bow is does not matter if you have inadequate broadheads. There are two different kinds to choose from: fixed blade and mechanical. Fixed blade broadheads are considered to have better penetration because there is no risk of the blade not expanding; Mechanical blades are typically considered to have better accuracy because their appearance is more streamlined, like the field tips you will be practicing with.

Other Features

Often times you can purchase a bow with all the needed features: a sight, string loop, rest, stabilizer, quiver, and sling. This is a great option for a beginner until you get some experience and figure out what options are best for you. Other features to consider adding to your rig are a string stop and a release aid for a quieter, more accurate, and a much more forgiving.

Learning how to rig a bow and arrow for hunting is a touch and go process and it will take some time to figure out which options are truly best for you but as long as you keep these key components in mind you are off to a great start to your first hunting season!

Put & Take Pheasants

Southwestern Ontario, specifically Essex County, hasn’t had a wild pheasant population to talk about for at least 30 years and many hunters would argue that figure should be much higher. With urban sprawl and rural agricultural land being turned into residential neighbourhoods at an astonishing rate, something had to give and naturally, or unnaturally as you may see it, the wild game species took the hit. The ringneck pheasant bore the brunt of the intrusion seeing its numbers dwindle down to just a very few thousand at best. They’ve been pushed into ever smaller pockets of appropriate agricultural land where the enterprising coyotes and feral cats await them at every turn. In fact, finding a wild bird with a tail longer 12″ is quite a trophy and you can bet it would take a full days’ walk about to find one and that’s if you were looking in the right area.

Enter the “put & take pheasantry”. We have a couple operations in the Essex County region, one of which is the New Breed Game Farm owned by Ken Collenutt in Essex proper. Ken raises elk and buffalo for the game meat, not for hunting, that is sold locally to the public and a handful of diners. His pheasant operation is the best known catering to hunters looking for a great day afield with friends and for the chance obviously to take a few pheasants and/or chukars. It’s not a cheap proposition at about $16 a bird, more or less, but it’s still a hunt that involves a fair bit of walking and of course a good shot, something I’m personally working on.

Hunters are allowed to bring their own dog for their hunt or a guide with a dog can be supplied for a charge.

On this day in early December ’07, I had the opportunity to hunt the private pheasant hunting preserve New Breed Game Farm with a good friend of many years, John Sim. John’s springer spaniel Astro (aptly named for his boundless energy) accompanied us this day and I truly think we would have been lost without him. Not only that but given the fact that John and I are up in years, the sluggin’ through knee high corn and sorghum crop would have done us in much earlier in the day.

The hunt started at a conventional 10:00am after a coffee, breakfast and heaping helping of lies from past exploits and accomplishments. The birds were “dropped” throughout our first corn field a half-hour before us entering the field. At first you think that all you have to do is walk up and down the rows of stubble and the birds would automatically jump up for you but nothing could be further from the truth. I was beginning to doubt the fact that there were actually birds in the field for the first 15 minutes. Astro was quartering beautifully about 15 yards out in front of us with his held high trying to pick up a scent. We had walked approximately 70 yards before he started acting “birdy”. John cautioned me to cover my left while he positioned himself for a right angle shot opportunity. Astro stopped dead on command then leapt into the sorghum tangle at John’s instruction. The big cock bird busted out in full cackle to John’s right and with one shot from his Browning Auto 5, the bird dropped in a heap 30 yards out. Now that’s how I remember hunting pheasants 40 years ago. It still makes your heart skip a beat when explode from cover like that and it’s something you never forget.

These birds wake up a few minutes after being dropped in the field and some will hold tight while others get up and run for better cover than what they were placed into. It was another 50 yards down field before Astro ran headlong into a pile of corn husks and stubble on my edge of the field and kicked out a nice bird that fell, amazingly enough, to my second shot pulling straight away from me. The “big boy” retrieved my bird to hand, thank you so much and saved my knees for another couple of hours of more hunting. Another 5 birds were taken on first pass of the field in various degrees of shooting difficulty, man made and natural. I would guess that’s about average, 7 of 10 birds shot for the pot. Occasionally you get lucky and shoot all of your birds but with the amount of land and cover for these pen raised birds to run to, more get away than into your game bag, but that’s part of the experience.

Waterfowl

Waterfowl hunting can be a tough game. It takes it’s toll on hunter, calls, apparel and decoys. If you want the best results possible, you have to use the best products available. Sure, we all have our loyalties and that’s how it should be, but if you’re using something that just doesn’t quite finish the birds the way they should be finished, then you have to look into changing some of the tools mentioned above to give yourself the best opportunity for success.

GreenHead Gear has produced the most advanced line of decoys on the market today, not only in materials but also in design. They know geese and ducks and this translates into realism that’s scary. The hunts you see on this page in the late season of 2009 will be using GHG FFD (fully flocked decoys) Life Size Harvester Shells. Usually we have snow in this region of SW Ontario by now, but this year, the weather has done a 180° turn. No snow, warm temps, etc. is making life as a waterfowler tough. Finally, ice is here, for now, and with this we’ve broke out the GHG shells and production has immediately taken a turn for the better. Sure, we used them in the early season with predictable success, but then also, we’re working young-of-year birds so you know it’s going to be easy. However, at this time of year, we hunt Jack Miner geese and if I’ve said it once, I’ve said a hundred times, these are the wariest birds in the central flyway. They’ve seen everything from James Bay on down and religiously evade decoyed, cut corn and bean fields to get to Miners just 45 seconds down the road so we have to give them something that looks like the real thing to be successful.

As shown above, you can see the difference GHG FFD’s make on the ice, now just think of how what they will look like on white snow. No comparison. Dark backs. White throats. No Shine. All vital to a realistic spread.
I hunt with champion callers and guys that have hunted Miner geese since they were boys and they know the game. They know that decoy numbers alone don’t cut it all the time. Realism is the name of the game when geese are circling your spread just out of range. You don’t want to sky blast these birds and educate them, you want to finish them. As these birds inspect the decoys for flaws and signs of fraud, we have to trust in our equipment and GHG gives the best available. We finish birds! Period.

Do yourself a favor and look into the GHG line of duck and goose decoys.
If you’re gonna be huntin’, you may as well hunt with the best as opposed to all the rest.

I love the opportunity to get a mixed bag of ducks and geese . . . rarely anything better than that. But to hunt with a mixed bag of hunters is something else. You’ve got your old pros and take the ‘pros’ literally: Rusty Heron, JT Ames (youth) and Sean Drummond are all champion goose callers and it shows in the production during hunts. Then you have Steve ‘Goosinator’ Branch who’s a little long in the tooth and our chief guide as well as Eric Hodgins equally as accomplished in a walleye tournament as on the killing fields. Along on the hunt is our Young Gun JT Ames, a champion goose caller in the youth division and admitted waterfowl addict at 14 years of age. To see these boys interact is a laugh from start to finish. First, there is the initiation by verbal fire from the old pros levied on the young gun from start to finish and I don’t think they took it easy on the colourful language one bit – JT got an earfull but enjoyed every minute of it. Then came the shooting and it came in bunches.

It’s been said time and time again that our youth are hunting’s future and to see the old pros guide the young guns, I think we’ll be in the fields for a long time to come. Decoy education, where to place sleepers, sentries, feeders – when to do it depending on changing weather conditions – when and how to call to flocks, singles or small groups – how to swear every third word and still sound you know what you’re talking about and making sense. We had it all and all day long. It was a beautiful thing!

JT learned how to scold geese that didn’t react well to his calling. He learned how to take out a mallard cripple and then some (and we won’t go into that one). JT found out that it’s also a vital part of pit hunting that you act fast in shouldering your gun for the shot because if you’re more than a second late, you get to watch birds drop without taking a shot – but then you also get to save on shells for next time, which by the way is usually a repeat of the first time unless you’ve learned your lesson.

There is no taking it easy on the novice, not in this pit. You earn your keep by working the spread, learning to flag, learning that competition calling is usually different than meat calling but at the end of the day, the novice learns to appreciate the good days and respect the knowledge of the old pros that will eventually turn him into an old pro in a few years and then to pass it on to his young gun.
I did manage to take some video for the day as seen below. More video can be seen on the swobg.com youtube channel.

I have to apologize for the camera work. I’m in the pit and trying not to bust the birds while all the time trying to put the camera over my head and between bundles of cornstalks and still get the birds on camera. It worked somewhat but then the rain started again and blotted the lens – what do ya do?! Enjoy (I hope).