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4 reasons to bow hunt vs. using a hunting rifle

Bow hunting is becoming a more popular way of hunting for several reasons, including the level of skill it requires


Editor's Note: The following column is part of our TacticaList series, a collection of expert columns and features on all things tactical — from fishing and hunting to camping and shooting, and pertain to a broad audience of law enforcement, military, sport shooters, hunters, and beyond. These columns are featured in our monthly TacticaList newsletter. Check out our most recent issue and let us know what you think! Click here to subscribe to the TacticaList.

By TacticaList Staff

Bow hunting versus hunting with a firearm is a matter of preference (and frankly, many well-rounded hunters prefer both methods). According to a 2011 study funded by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 33 percent of the 13 million Americans who hunt have used a bow — and its popularity has grown in recent years.

We gathered answers from Quora among other resources to answer the question: Why choose a bow to hunt over a firearm?

Jim Bruchac takes aim with compound bow and arrow as he demonstrates still hunting techniques used for hunting in Greenfield, N.Y. (AP Image)
Jim Bruchac takes aim with compound bow and arrow as he demonstrates still hunting techniques used for hunting in Greenfield, N.Y. (AP Image)

1. In many regions, bow season is longer and more plentiful

John Lilja answered:

“In Minnesota, deer hunting season is several months long if you hunt with a bow, while the gun season is only two weekends.  

“I'd rather have the bow if the deer was my only meat for the year.”

According to bowhunter-ed.com, a national survey revealed that 24 percent of those who claimed they hunt with a bow cited the longer season as their top reason, and 11 percent said it was because bow season had an earlier start.

Bow season also tends to occur at a time of year when game is more plentiful than it is during muzzle loader and rifle season. 

2. A bow strengthens different skills

Michael Bertsch answered:

“A bow and arrow is preferable to a gun when the shooter wants some good exercise while satisfying the urge to improve one's target-directed motor skills.”

In same survey as noted above, the top response 58 percent hunters gave as the reason they preferred a bow and arrow over a gun was the challenge bow hunting provides.

Despite the fact that today’s modern bows can shoot arrows up to 400 yards and at speeds exceeding 200 mph, the bow is a short-range hunting tool, ideal for a distance of 30 to 40 yards, if not closer.  The ability to maintain your composure and your target at that close of a range requires skill, which often makes a kill feel like a greater accomplishment than when it is done with a hunting rifle.   

3. Nothing’s more quiet than a bow

Lance Sheldon answered:

“When you're on a stealth mission, because even the best silencers are still loud compared to the relatively silent twang of loosing an arrow from a bow; there is also no muzzle flash, which is generally what gives away snipers.”

Camouflaged, crouched down, and blending in with nature, the swift silence of a bow and arrow doesn’t disrupt the creatures around you the way echoing gunfire does.

4. Even the playing field

Jamie Page answered:

“If you are talking about legally hunting an animal, a bow and arrow would be preferable to a gun if you believe in giving the animal a fair chance at survival. 

“Using a bow pits user hunting skills [against] animal instinct.  Using a rifle at distance takes away the animal’s skill at survival…

“[For] example, shooting a deer at a hundred and fifty yards with a rifle and scope versus shooting a deer at 15 yards with a bow is a much different hunt.  

The bow method requires more skill on the hunter's part and in I my humble opinion, is the fair way to hunt game.”

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