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Get Hooked on Bowfishing

The sun is shining higher in the sky, which means summer is on its way. If you enjoy archery and time on the water, try taking a shot at bowfishing. It’s a fun way to hone and expand your archery skills.

Bowfishing can also help manage a fishery by targeting invasive species like carp. Therefore, maximize your summer by getting out on the water with your bow and arrows. Let’s discuss how to get started bowfishing.

Visit an Archery Shop

Your local archery shop will be able to walk you through what you need to start bowfishing and may even offer classes. Photo Credit: ATA

If you’re new to bowfishing, first stop at a range or an archery shop. Ask if they offer classes that help you gear up, shoot safely and succeed at bowfishing. Classes also teach fish identification, what to do with fish you arrow, and how to communicate with those around you to ensure safety.

Bowfishing is exciting and action-packed, so it’s important to know how to participate safely before going out. You must also learn how to use new equipment. Even if you’ve been shooting archery for years, you’ll need to use a bowfishing reel and arrow with retrieval line. Bowfishing classes help you practice safely with the equipment, even if you’re not on the water.

Learn to ID Fish

“If your goal is to go bowfishing, practice will make your experience fun, safe and productive,” said Josh Gold, the senior manager of R3 (recruitment, retention and reactivation) and state relations for the Archery Trade Association. Practice goes beyond picking up your bow. Gold said archers can practice many activities at home to ensure they’re prepared.

Bowfishing is not about catch and release. You must be absolutely sure of your target before releasing an arrow. Learn your state’s fishing rules and regulations for the areas you’ll fish. Know which species you can shoot with archery equipment. Also make sure you know your state’s season dates and licensing requirements.

Once you know the species on your hit list, practice identifying them. Most fish-management agencies have fish-identification photos on their websites. Study these photos and compare them to other fish so you recognize their differences and similarities. You must be able to quickly and confidently make the ID and shoot. Studying fish species also helps you identify their habitat.

Understand Refraction

One of bowfishing’s biggest challenges is knowing where to aim. In many cases you’ll miss if  you aim directly at the fish because it’s actually deeper than it appears. That’s called refraction. As light travels from one medium to another it bends, so the fish you see is actually it’s refracted image in the water. To connect, you must aim slightly below that image.

You can explore refraction at home to learn how it works. This video uses a glass of water to demonstrate refraction’s magic. If you have children at home, they’ll enjoy this experiment.

This video shows how to aim below target:

Practice Shooting Instinctively

Fish can move fast. Shots are usually close, and you won’t have much time to aim with a sight. Bowfishing requires you to shoot instinctively, which means looking where you want to shoot and releasing an arrow. It’s like throwing a football to a friend. You use only your eyes and instincts to hit your mark.

Instinctive shooting takes practice, especially when shooting a compound bow with sights. The best way to learn is to work with a certified instructor. Visit an archery shop and ask them to help you learn the proper form. Once you learn the basics you’ll pick it up quickly with practice. You should also practice shooting from different positions, and from uneven surfaces and at downward angles.

Bowfishing is a fun, exciting way to enjoy late spring and summer, and it can provide some tasty bonus meals of fresh fish. With a little training help and practice, you’ll get hooked.



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