Back in 2018, I tagged along on an archery hunt for the first time. I had moved to Colorado two months prior, and my boyfriend at the time asked me if I wanted to join him on an archery elk hunt. He grew up bowhunting whitetails in Minnesota, and while he had hunted elk in Idaho a handful of times, this was his first time hunting them as a resident in the West and without his longtime hunting buddies. I had no idea what I was in for. After hiking five miles into the backcountry, I watched him shoot a four-by-four bull elk at three in the afternoon. Not only had I never witnessed a successful big game hunt, but I had also never butchered a big game animal. It was an utterly unforgettable experience. We didn’t make it back to his truck, packs loaded with elk meat, until one in the morning. After that hunt, I expressed interest in bowhunting myself. That Christmas, that same partner gifted me a compound bow. I quickly went to town shooting my new bow, excited to learn more and improve my shooting skills. Since then, I’ve gone on my archery hunts, joined an archery league, and bought my first recurve bow.
This entire experience has been very empowering. Not only do I feel more capable as a hunter, but I’m a better target shooter and more robust, and I’ve found another activity I’m passionate about. I’ve also met other incredible women who shoot bows along the way. I think archery is something everyone, especially women, should try. These are the main reasons why.
5. Archery increases body awareness and strength
Before I picked up archery, I did a lot of yoga. I knew a bit about body awareness, how to activate small muscle groups, and how to keep my breathing steady. However, I noticed an increase in all these things once I started shooting a bow. Plus, some of the zen I find while practicing yoga has leeched its way into my archery training.
Practicing archery is a great way to work on your balance, breathing, focus, mobility, and strength. However, you’ll eventually want to increase your draw weight on your archery journey. If you’re going to bow hunt, additional cardio and endurance training will also make hunting season easier for you physically. Caring about how effectively you shoot your bow will increase your physical fitness, especially if you add other types of exercise to become a well-rounded athlete.
4. Build your community and make new friends
Over 40 percent of USA Archery members identify as female. Unfortunately, that’s a much higher percentage than the number of women who hunt; that number lies at a mere 10 percent. However, there are an estimated 10,000,000 hunters in America, so at least 1 million are women. That’s a lot!
What those numbers mean is that you’re not alone. Once you try archery, you’ll realize many other women enjoy the sport, too. Trying something new is always daunting, but feeling a sense of community and making friends while trying a new sport is incredibly rewarding. I find that it expedites your learning as well.
As a result of enjoying archery, I’ve started teaching beginner classes through Uncharted Outdoorswomen. Women who participated in them have felt more confident, less alone, and extra excited for their fall hunting seasons. Watching women walk away from a morning at a range like that as an instructor and guide is priceless. These learning opportunities also allow women to connect. Consider looking for women’s archery classes in your neck of the woods; I can’t recommend them enough.
3. Archery will send you down a gear rabbit hole.
If you’re a gear nerd, archery is an excellent sport. If you’ve ever hopped on Google or gone to an outdoor store to purchase a bow, I’m sure you’ve been overwhelmed by the number of options. There’s already a ton to choose between recurve, traditional, and compound bows. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Bows are just one thing you need to shoot archery. You’ll also need arrows, fletchings, broadheads, field tips, targets, a release, and any other attachments you’re interested in. It’s safe to assume there are hundreds of options to consider with any of those items, and each one will alter your shot. Whether you want light or heavy arrows, fixed or mechanical broadheads, a 3D whitetail target or a box target, a trigger release or a thumb release, or any combination of those things, you can begin diving down the deep hole of archery gear options.
Don’t be intimated by this, though. It’s fun to try out different types of gear and see how it changes your shooting. Plus, once you have a bow dialed to your needs, you will have even more fun shooting it at the range.
2. Archery opens you up to more hunting seasons.
If you already hunt with a rifle or a shotgun, hunting with archery equipment will open up more chances to get out in the field. For example, rifle elk seasons in Colorado take place from October to November. However, archery elk season occurs in September. Not only would picking up an archery elk tag allow you to hunt one more month out of the year, but it’ll also expose you to new habitat types, as elk are much higher up in elevation during the early season than they are later in the year.
Archery also invites you to try different methods of take for the same species. If you’re great at smoking rabbits with a .22 long rifle, try hunting them with a bow. If you’ve always shot flushing dusky grouse with a 20 gauge shotgun, try to hit them with a judo point-tipped arrow while on the ground. You might find that small game or bird hunting with a bow and arrow is an exciting new challenge. Plus, the more time you spend with a bow in hand, the better shooter you’ll be.
1. It’s empowering
As I previously mentioned, learning archery felt empowering to me. Today, I am pretty bow-savvy, have met countless other amazing women who enjoy this sport, and have been inspired to continue my archery journey because of incredible experiences, people, and memories. Being confident, safe, and proficient with a firearm feels good. It feels even better to have more opportunities to share unforgettable experiences outdoors with fellow outdoorswomen.
If you’ve been looking for a new sport, to make new friends in the outdoors, or a new way to hunt your favorite species, try picking up archery. It might just be exactly what you’re looking for.
READ MORE: WOMEN LEARNING FROM WOMEN: ALL ABOUT “BECOMING AN OUTDOORS-WOMAN” WORKSHOPS
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