Philosophy part 2: Why I Bowhunt

In Part 1 I talked about why I feel driven to eat wild game instead of commercial meat. Today I’m going to describe my path from rifle hunting to bowhunting, and hunting with a longbow specifically. This was a very conscious decision based on my personal ethics.

I grew up just down the road from Paul Schafer, but I never met him. Most of the hunters I grew up around felt that bowhunting was an immoral way to pursue big game, so I didn’t have a chance to socialize with any bowhunters to learn what it was really about. I really wonder what turns my life might have taken had I met Paul when I was a young teenager.

During the years of hunting with rifles I cleanly and swiftly killed several animals. Actually recounting them now, all of them were killed with a single bullet and recovered within 100 yards. While my personal successes were text book, I was on several hunts that didn’t turn out nearly as well. I saw other hunters miss shots for various reasons. I saw hunters get bad hits requiring long tracking journeys, a few included lost animals. I saw three occasions where wounded animals were kicked out of beds and additional shots were required to bring them down.

Twenty years later I realized that I could no longer support modern “farming” systems. I knew I would have to return to hunting for my own meat or become a vegetarian. I found myself at a moral crossroads. One option was that I could go back to hunting with a rifle with that big BANG noise and the animals getting hit with a projectile so hard it can damage a great deal of precious meat. Another option seemed intriguing to me, converting to bowhunting. As for becoming a vegetarian, I was determined to avoid that if at all possible.

Bowhunting wasn’t an easy choice for me given my well ingrained prejudices against it. I invested a lot of time researching how bowhunters go about the pursuit, and even more time dissecting hunting stories from the point of the shot to the recovery of the animal. Most of what I read provided very little helpful information. I watched several videos posted online, and most of that was initially useless as well.

As time went on and I read more and more about bowhunting, I realized two things started to become clearer. First, is that the guys shooting old wooden arrows with 2 blade heads seemed to get more consistent “pass through” shots leading to a faster death. Second, the guys shooting longbows and recurves sometimes shot animals and they didn’t seem to know they were hit. The more research I did on quiet “traditional” bows and heavy arrows with super sharp two blade heads, the more confident I became that this was the most ethical way to kill an animal. I purchased a longbow and began learning the skills needed to bowhunt ethically.

With my longbow I have shot through animals that didn’t know they were hit. More commonly, I see animals look at where the arrow hits the ground than towards me and the sound of my bowstring. My game recovery distance has averaged HALF of what my rifle shot animals ran with that big dose of adrenaline after the gunshot.

With my personal experiences over the past several years, I am now confident I made a great decision to become a bowhunter.  I believe that my bow and arrow are more humane than any slaughter house practices, or the bullet from a gun. This is why I am a bowhunter.