Guest Blog -

Guest Blog by Jack Billington - Bowfishing: an excellent way to extend your season

Mention bow fishing to an avid deer hunter and you are most likely to get a puzzled look. However, the fact is that more and more archers are discovering the thrill of stalking "course fish" with a bow. In fact, bow fishing is an excellent way to introduce young archers to the sport of hunting since it does not require camouflage clothing, tree stands, ground blinds, or the patience of Jobe to sit still as a statue for hours on end without speaking. Also, the best time of year to bow hunt its usually in the Spring when the fish move into the shallows to spawn and thus, the best bow fishing weather is on warm, sunny, days and, of course, the fish don't mind if you converse with your hunting buddy since they only have one thing on their minds. Furthermore, it can be a very inexpensive sport to pursue since all a hunter needs is a bow, a bow fishing reel, and a single fiberglass arrow with an appropriate arrowhead and thus, there is no need for expensive hunting club leases or the services of a professional guide. So, if you have not yet given this exciting sport a try, then I urge you to do so!

In addition, although the regulations do differ from state to state, most of them do allow hunters to pursue any non-game fish species such as Carp, Gar, Bowfin, Catfish, Shad, etc, with a bow. In fact, bow fishing can be done in either freshwater or saltwater and it can be done in either the daytime or at night. Thus, regardless of where you live, there is bound to be at least one fish species that you can hunt with a bow. Also, because bow fishing is by nature a shallow water sport, an expensive boat is not necessary and thus, hunters can actually wade into the shallows in pursuit of their prey. Consequently, the best bow fishing is usually found in shallow ponds or in shallow, grass-filled, coves in larger lakes or in shallow estuaries, bays, or mangrove swamps. However, turbidity is a factor that needs to be considered when bow fishing because it is very much a visual sport and thus, clear or only slightly turbid water is best because you will need to be able to see your prey under the surface of the water and you will need to learn to deal with the way that water bends light (called refraction) in order to learn where to aim because the fish will inevitably be deeper in the water column than they appear to be. The Swamp Eye Revamped Lights are great for adjusting the color tone of your lights while bowfishing to most optimally see fish swimming below you. The single most common mistake novice bow fishermen make is to aim too high. Therefore, a common rule of thumb when bow fishing is to first aim for the fish's belly and then lower your point of aim another ten inches or so in order to allow for refraction. But, it should be noted that this is merely a starting point since your point of aim will need to be either higher or lower depending on the distance of the fish from you and their depth in the water column. Thus, two rules of thumb that may help you are:

  • Aim approximately 6 inches low for every 1 foot of depth.
  • The 10-4 rule which states that if the fish is 10 feet away and 1 foot below the surface, then you need to aim 4 inches low. But, if you double either the distance or the depth, then you also need to double the point of aim. For instance, you would need to aim 8 inches low for a fish that's either 20 feet away and 1 foot deep or 10 feet away and 2 feet deep.

Furthermore, it should be noted that most bow fishermen prefer recurve bows over compound bows for bow fishing because the prey is often wary when in shallow water and thus, sometimes shots need to be taken quickly. However, a compound bow designed for hunting must be drawn all of the ways to the wall before the arrow can be released and thus, compound bows designed specifically for bow fishing lack the cams which create let-off and instead employ round wheels that enable the archer to shoot without coming to full draw. On the other hand, because shots are most often taken at close ranges, bows with draw weights greater than 45 lbs. are seldom required. In addition, because water is a relatively dense medium and because your arrow will sometimes strike the bottom instead of the fish, tough, heavy, arrows made from fiberglass are preferred over aluminum or carbon arrows. But, it should be noted that bow fishing arrows also require specialized arrow rests and specialized arrowheads with retractable barbs to prevent them from sliding out of the fish's body one the shot has been made. In addition, you will also need one of the many different styles of specialized bow fishing reels which are specifically designed to mount in the stabilizer hole in the back of your bow; although some manufacturers do make adapter mounts that enable you to use a standard bait casting or spin casting reel such as a Zebco 33. But, other than that, a pair of hip or waist-high waders and a pair of sunglasses with polarized lenses are all that you are likely to need.

So, when you take into account the fact that bow fishing is most productive during the offseason for deer hunters and that it is most productive on warm, sunny, days combined with the relative lack of expensive equipment and the fact that an expensive, specialized, boat is not necessary, bow fishing is actually an excellent way to extend your bow hunting season and/or to introduce youth to the sport of bow hunting. Furthermore, since bow fishermen generally pursue non-game fish species, they are not in competition with other fishermen and are even sometimes regarded as heroes because they pursue fish species that compete with other popular game fish for the available food resources. Thus, if you have not yet experienced this extremely exciting sport, then you should definitely consider doing so since the sport is growing rapidly and thus, not only is appropriate equipment readily available, there is a large community of bow fishermen who will be happy to provide you with advice as well as tips on where to go.

Author’s bio: Jack is a blogger. On Secret Storages, he writes about different home defense things: holsters, guns & safes, alarm, and other stuff. Also, time after time, he’s conducting shooting courses.

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