Archery season opens later this month in selected areas of the province. For years I've promised myself I would take up bow hunting, but time always seems to slip away. If you're a little further down the road and are considering archery (maybe even for this season), here are some helpful tips from Chris Derouard, hardlines department manager at Cabela's in Winnipeg.
SZ: Take me through the process when someone comes into the store and says, "I want to take up archery and go deer hunting this fall."
CD: When a customer comes to Cabela's looking for an archery set-up we'll ask them if they shoot already. From there we determine their archery skill level. We set the customer up with many different bows for them to try in our archery range. After trying a couple of bows, a customer can easily recognize that one that feels the best. This will vary due to grip, draw cycle, brace height as well as the overall fit for the customer. All of our outfitters will coach the customer through the setup process to ensure they get a bow with a comfortable draw weight.
SZ: I've heard a lot of discussions about longer bows vs. shorter bows (for easier handling). What's your opinion on this?
CD: We refer to it as long ATA (axle to axle) vs. short ATA. Typically a longer bow will have a shorter brace height and a shorter bow will support a larger brace height. A shorter brace height is commonly linked to a bow being unforgiving. After release, the arrow remains on the string for a greater period of time with a short brace height making it more susceptible to input from the archer. This input can cause accuracy issues. If you are a ground-blind hunter, a long ATA bow can be cumbersome inside the blind. However, when you are in a tree stand, a longer ATA is very desirable. A longer ATA bow will naturally stay more perpendicular due to the length and weight distribution and will be more forgiving in grip and form, therefore reducing errors. Most experienced shooters will not experience issues shooting a shorter bow.
SZ: I'm under the impression that a 50 to 70 pound draw is optimum. What happens when someone can't pull 50 pounds?
CD: Draw weight is a personal choice. Arrow selection is more important than draw weight. You need to match the spine of the arrow to the draw weight of the bow. In Manitoba, to hunt big game, you must have a draw weight greater than 40 pounds with a compound bow and 40 pounds at 28 inches draw length with a traditional bow. If you are not able to draw 40 pounds, you can purchase a bow with an adjustable draw weight to lower it below 40 pounds.
SZ: How important is practice when it comes to archery? Can you buy a bow in August and start hunting with it in October if you've never held a bow before?
CD: Practice is huge. If you are a proficient archer, you can take a few months off and pick it back up like you never set the bow down. But for the beginner, I recommend shooting as much as your life will allow. By shooting frequently with the proper training, you will learn good form and gain confidence. With the correct setup and professional advice, you can purchase in early August and be successful in September, as long as you practice. Our outfitters can give you the tips you need to ensure that your first hunt will be remarkable.
SZ: What's the biggest mistake people make when investing in a bow?
CD: One of the biggest errors people make when buying their first bow is that they do not shoot enough before they decide to buy it. They can have buyer's remorse if they don't take advantage at a range. When I bought my first high-end bow it took me nearly eight months to decide which one I wanted. It boils down to choosing the bow that shoots best for you.
SZ: How much should you spend on your first bow?
CD: Your first bow can vary greatly in cost. You can get a full package for under $400 that comes ready to shoot. At the other end you can get a bow with no accessories for over $1,500. The biggest factor is what shoots good for you. If you have a budget of $600 we can put plenty of bows in your hand to try out.
SZ: What are the legal requirements for purchasing a bow? Do you need to be in possession of a hunter education card?
CD: There are no legal requirements to purchase a bow. You do not need a hunter education card to buy a bow. However you're required to have a valid hunter education card to purchase any hunting licence in Manitoba.
Shel Zolkewich writes about the outdoors, travel and food when she's not playing outside, traveling or eating. You can reach her with your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org