Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s Canada

Our First Bow

Learning Archery Part 1

In Alberta, the general rifle season for the majority of the foothills (300 series) and prairie areas (100 and 200 series) WMUs (Wildlife Management Units), is quite short, lasting usually only a month (November). This season is shortened even further in the prairies, as you can only hunt from Wednesday to Saturday each week. Couple the tight time constraint with the fact that the majority of tags are draw tags only (priority based waiting system) and you have very limited rifle hunting opportunities. Not the case with archery!

It’s possible to lengthen your season by choosing to hunt in the mountain areas (400 series WMUs), where most general seasons are open from September 17th-November 30th. Although, the 400 series are also mainly over the counter general tags with only a few exceptions. The issue with choosing to hunt these areas is that it can mean a very large amount of travel for those who live East of the foothills.

As we live in Calgary, we mainly choose to hunt a prairie WMU within an hour from our house (versus driving 2 hours to a mountain WMU). This WMU is open for archery equipment for September and October, after which, a draw tag is required to continue hunting.

After our first hunting season (2014), we started looking for ways to lengthen the time that we got to hunt. We began looking into buying a bow and started learning archery prior to the 2015 season. Hello, STEEP learning curve.

As mentioned in the Navigating the Retail Experience post, we ordered our bows online **Not something we would recommend to a new archer. Our accessories were purchased from Bass Pro Shops during a holiday sale.

We ended up purchasing a 2009 BowTech Captain 70lb draw on closeout in early 2015. We ordered online through North Pro Sports in Saskatchewan. Shipping was quick and free(!). We paid $450+gst for a bow that retailed for ~$900 new in 2009. Our accessories included the IQ 7 pin bow sight that I reviewed previously, an apache drop away arrow rest, a G5 arrow quiver, a 9” stabilizer, and a cheap caliper wrist strap. We installed all the accessories ourselves with no experience setting up a bow.

Knowing what I now know, the rest should have been levelled, the sight level should have been checked and adjusted, and the bow needed to be checked for timing and cam lean. We were convinced that our younger brother could tie our d-loop and set up our arrow rest for us. So, we bolted everything together and grabbed a box of 350 spine Bass Pro Shops arrows and cut them to 29’’ as that’s what our brother had said.

Next, we started shooting to sight in our bows. What an adventure (HAHA)… by the end of that process we had to buy additional arrows as we had already lost a few.

Here is a look at a 30-yard group.

In the photo above, the arrows are hitting inside a 6-8” pie plate. This size of the impact zone is generally used as the kill zone tolerance. But if you’ll notice, the shafts are all angled in different ways. This is not because we are shooting from a different spot. The different angles highlight how poorly tuned our bows were at the time. Being new and trying to self-educate, it took us a while to come to the conclusion that our bows weren’t functioning properly.

We finally took our bows into Jim Bows Archery in Calgary and paid the very small fee for a basic re-tuning of the bow. They confirmed draw length, checked the cams for timing issues, adjusted the drop away rest, and re-tied our d-loop. They then allowed us to use their indoor range to re-sight in our sight at 20 yards.  Well worth it.

Here is a group at 40 yards post bow tuning out in the field.

I hope this highlights the importance of proper bow setup and tuning. Seeing how much improvement was made with minor adjustments sent us down the rabbit hole of trying to learn as much about archery as we could. After doing some research online we found 3 great resources, the best part? THEY ARE FREE!

  1. John Dudley and all of his podcasts and tuning videos
  2. Aron Snyder. He has many podcasts with Gritty Bowmen and now the KifaruCast
  3. Your local archery pro shop

As we approached our first archery season, the next piece of gear to get was broadheads. All our research had told us that unless your bow was perfectly tuned getting fixed blade broadheads to fly true was quite difficult. That mechanicals tend to group more closely to field points. Searching for mechanical broadheads on Youtube highlighted the “effectiveness” of the Rage Hypodermic. With John Dudley being a huge advocate, we made our purchase.

The one thing we did right that season had to be the fact that we shot the practice heads and the real broadheads prior to hunting to confirm that they hit with our field points.

For those new to archery a field tip is a small bullet shaped point that is used for target archery and what most use for practice. A broadhead is the hunting specific tip that can either be a fixed blade (non moving parts) or mechanical (moving parts).

Many new archers just screw on their heads and go hunting. Especially those who have not had contact with a pro shop or a more experienced archer. An improperly tuned arrow and broadhead can miss by feet at distances of 30 yards. Add in the nerves of shooting at an animal and that can result in a very poor hit, wounding an animal, or best case a clear miss.

After these trials and tribulations, I came up with a list of 5 must-dos as a new archer.

  1. Go to an Archery Pro Shop to buy your bow. They will help you set up and help sight in your new bow. Ensuring your first exposure to the sport will be enjoyable.
  2. Listen to individuals that have had success as both target archers and hunters. These individuals understand the importance of tuning an arrow and the bow to work together. As mentioned previously, we found John Dudley and Aron Snyder to be extremely knowledgeable.
  3. Join a local archery club. It took us years to figure this one out. Surround yourselves with better archers than yourself. Ask questions, watch, and learn.
  4. Take care of your equipment. Slight bumps and knocks can shift your rest and sight.
  5. Shoot often! This seems like a no-brainer BUT it is very important. You need to build up good habits so that your shot routine is second nature prior to the major adrenaline rush that comes from being close to an animal.

Stay tuned for Part 2: The first two seasons.


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