All photo credit: Josh Kirchner
Bowhunting has no doubt grown in popularity over the last 10 years. Much of this is certainly due to the media. Hunting celebrities have raved about the bow life for a while now and it’s caught on with many. Between putting out epic hunting films and their overall inspiration, it’s done wonders for the growth of archery hunting. Many new bowhunters are even aspiring to make a name for themselves and do some inspiring of their own. And then there is the meat side of things. The craving for wild game meat and a healthier way of life is extremely appealing. From field to table has become a goal in households across the country. All of these things are fantastic for bowhunting, but they are not what this is all about. They are byproducts of something much bigger.
Benefits of picking up a bow
On the surface, there are several key benefits to picking up a bow and snagging a few archery tags. The first one is opportunity. Opportunities to archery hunt are plentiful across the whole United States. Pick your poison. Whether you want to sit in a heated box blind on private property and hunt whitetails or shoulder a pack and break ground miles into the backcountry where humans are seldom seen. Tags are there for those willing to trade in their bullets for arrows. Many of these tags are also over-the-counter (OTC), meaning you know you’re going hunting instead of hoping you’ll go hunting as you pray to the draw gods.
Another benefit to the bow life is how much easier it is to practice your shooting. Archery hunters across the country all likely have targets set up in their backyard to stay sharp all year. Heck, I’ve even seen some shooting inside of their houses. The opportunity to hone your archery craft is much more within grasp than having to head to the gun range every time you want to practice or sight in. And the more time someone puts into something, the better they’ll be at it. In bowhunting, preparation goes a long way.
Bowhunting.....for a living?
I’ve just got to cover this portion of bowhunting as it runs pretty thick these days. Seeing celebrity bowhunters grace the screen immersed in wild places is downright inspirational for many. Because of this, the number of YouTube channels started in the name of creating a brand and making hunting films is incredible. It seems like there’s a new team of hunters coming together to make content at every turn. This, I think is rad, especially if they are a positive voice for hunting and showing the true experience of it all. However, I also think there is a severe misconception between “being successful” and “hunting for a living,” as those are two different things. From where I’m sitting, I’ve never heard of someone “hunting for a living.” There are indeed folks who are paid to create hunting content, but nobody is getting a check for an elk they shot. They are compensated for the hard work they did creating an end product, whether that is film, photography, articles, etc.
Photo credit: Jason Kauffman
If working in the hunting industry is something that you strive to do, then I say do it. Know this though: at the end of the day, you’ve got a job to do and, for some, being in the field is part of that. This means that you better really love hunting because there are going to be times when you simply don’t want to be out there. Conditions might be miserable, animals could be sparse or you might just be “over it.” Calling it quits suddenly means a lot more than when you were just out there hunting for yourself.
Filling the freezer
There is something truly special about sitting down in the comforts of your own home and dining on wild game meat taken by your own hand. It is the field to table experience. Reliving that raw moment that happened in the mountains months ago brings a sense of gratitude, especially if you’re watching your whole family enjoy the fruits of your labor. These are special times. For a bowhunter, they can be quite hard to come by though. The fact of the matter is that bowhunting is very difficult. Just getting into arrow range of an animal is hard enough. Releasing a perfect arrow after the fact is another level. And to do that year after year to fill the freezer is something that comes far and few for most. Yes, there are bowhunters who are successful at doing this very thing, but these are some truly dedicated hunters who have really put in their time. To think that you can pick up a bow and simply start stacking animals tells two things. You have a fantastic imagination and you also have much to learn. Being consistently successful with archery tackle is definitely possible, but it doesn’t come easy. Don’t quit buying meat just yet.
Why do we really archery hunt?
We’ve covered the hard realities of bowhunting for a living and the difficulties filling the freezer via the arrow. Aside from the on-the-surface benefits mentioned at the start of the article, why do we really archery hunt? For those who embrace the bow life, you know. Even if you can’t put it into words, I know you know. There are way greater reasons we archery hunt than only those of opportunity and meat. It’s a feeling or I should say several feelings, really. Standing motionless, so close to a bull elk that you can hear him breathe. Seeing the nostrils of a black bear open and close as they taste the air around them. Your nerves tingling as blood races through your body. Then, there is the accomplishment. The accomplishment of successfully putting yourself in these very situations is a gift and one that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Experiencing the visceral feeling of releasing a perfect arrow and watching it disappear behind the shoulder of your quarry. Touching those antlers and patting that hide that lay before you by way of the bow. That is why we archery hunt. The experience.