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What Do I Absolutely Need to Start Bowhunting?

Getting into bowhunting is no doubt an exciting time. You’ve watched loads of youtube videos, talked to several experienced bowhunters, and are ready to dive head first into the vast pool that is bowhunting. Once down beneath the surface though, you’ll soon realize that there is more gear than imaginable. With so many opinions and styles, this part of the process can be quite confusing. And if a person isn’t mindful, they can leave out the other end of this with a much skinnier bank account than when they started the endeavor. In this piece, we’re going to dive into what a person actually needs and is going to want to get started bowhunting.

Bow Set Up

Josh from Dialed in Hunter's bow set up

This is a given right? Of course you are going to need a bow set up. Let’s define that though. You’ve got the main portion which is going to be the bow. That part is non-negotiable. After that, there is the sight, quiver, stabilizer, rest, release, and arrows with field tips and broadheads.

While technically a person doesn’t actually need a sight, and can shoot what we call “instinctive” it is probably in your best interest to get one of these. It’ll just make life easier in the aiming department, and you’ll feel better about your archery skills.

Quivers are also a huge benefit, as they give a hunter a safe place to store their arrows. Carrying loose arrows with broadheads is not only cumbersome, but dangerous.

Honestly, a stabilizer isn’t absolutely needed. Do they help? Yes, they help, but aren’t a make or break gear item. These are merely there to help balance out a bow. For someone just getting started though, they probably aren’t going to notice a huge difference.

The rest is also pretty non-negotiable(in the compound bow world), as that is what will hold your arrow in place before you shoot.

The release aid is another item that you don’t technically need, but probably want. There are plenty of folks out there that shoot their bows with just fingers, but the level of consistency and more ease of use is going to come from a release aid, especially for a beginner. A good old index finger release aid will do the trick just fine.

In all of these categories there are very affordable options for the new bowhunter, so don’t feel like one needs to get the most expensive stuff out there. Get what you need to get started, and then build from there as you grow in bowhunting.

A Good Knife

A good knife aiding in the task of processing an animal in the field after a successful bowhunting trip

A good knife is something a person should have any time they are spending time in the hills. They are great tools and can really help in a pinch. I find myself using my knife for all sorts of things be it a screwdriver or cutting up branches to build a brush blind. The ultimate reason you’re going to want a good knife though, is if you are so fortunate to send an arrow through an animal. This is the tool that will help break down your harvest into more manageable pieces, as well as get it cooled down, which is vital. There are several different styles of knives to go with. Replaceable blade knives are fantastic because they require no sharpening at all. And fixed blade knives, while they may require sharpening, are stout and great for working through joints. A person can’t go wrong with either option, and it really comes down to personal preference.


Good binoculars go a long ways in bowhunting
Vortex Razor UHD 10×42 binoculars

Alright, alright. So, you might not absolutely need binoculars and a rangefinder, but let me break this down for you. This is especially going to reflect western bowhunting, and more specifically spot and stalk. To be forward, you can’t kill what you can’t see and binoculars are going to help immensely in that space. Sitting back on a high vantage point and watching animals act like animals is the ultimate way to figure out a game plan and make a stalk accordingly. If you happen to be sitting in a treestand or blind, then binoculars likely won’t do much good, as you are waiting for the animals to come to you.

In both cases though a rangefinder is a game changer. I’m a firm believer in having the ability to guess yardage. That’s a skill every bowhunter should have to a degree. With that being said, there is nothing that beats knowing exact yardage. As hunters, we have a responsibility to try and make the most ethical shot possible and a rangefinder is going to put one that much closer to doing so. Aim small miss small. Rangefinders can also help when actually planning a stalk. If you range a deer bedded at 700 yards, and range a big boulder above them at 740, you’ve got some valuable intel. Now, you know if you can get to that rock, you’ll have a 40 yard shot.


Josh from Dialed in Hunter heading out on a bowhunting adventure

There are a whole lot of items that a hunter can empty their wallet on. Whether it’s the fanciest clothing, GPS, or the most high end optics there is. After once gets through the few things that they actually need and will make life that much easier out there, the only other thing they need is a good head on their shoulders and positive attitude. We aren’t going to beat around the bush. Bowhunting is very difficult and can come with alot of frustration at times. That’s not to say it isn’t gratifying though. The feeling of being within bow range of an animal without them knowing you’re there is one that’ll keep a person coming back, even if they have to ride the struggle bus now and again. Bowhunting is not a race, it’s a marathon. Enjoy the ride.

Written by: Josh Kirchner of Dialed in Hunter

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