||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (January 2009)|
Big game hunting requires a draw weight of 35+ lbs. For larger game such as elk or moose, 50+ lbs is suggested. Most male American archers can draw a bow rated at 50-60 lbs, most women 30-40 lbs.
Lighter arrows, other things being equal, will give a higher speed, more kinetic energy, and a flatter trajectory. Arrows with mass more than 900 grains (58 g) carry more momentum and penetrate better in large animals, so might be the bow hunter's choice when hunting these animals.
Methods of hunting
In contrast to a rifle hunter, who may shoot effectively from ranges in excess of 600 yards (550 m); archers usually restrict shots to 2.3 yards (2.1 m) to 42 yards (38 m). The distance depends upon individual ability, the target animal, the bow strength, terrain, arrow and weather. The bow hunter may walk along the ground slowly, looking for game and stalking it carefully in the final approach. This type of slow, methodical stalking, is called "still hunting." Hunters often wear camouflage clothing and walk upwind (with the wind in their face) so that game ahead of them cannot smell them.
In "stand hunting," the hunter waits for game to come to him, usually near food, water, or known trails. Brush and other natural materials may be placed for cover, or a  "ground blind" that looks like a camouflage tent may be used. They usually "pop" up and can be set up from folded in under a minute. The hunter may wait on a wooden or metal stand elevated in a tree, from three to six meters.
Bowhunting for fish is called bowfishing. Bowfishing equipment usually adds a line attached to a spool or a reel as well as a specially designed, heavier arrow. Most bow-fishers do not use sights, but if they do have sights they are different from standard ones to allow for refraction.
Legal and cultural considerations
Bowhunting often has different seasons and restrictions from firearm hunting, and they differ significantly between areas. Legal and cultural approaches specific to the area must be taken into consideration by the hunter.
Nations including Denmark, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Hungary, Finland, Bulgaria and Slovenia use bow and arrow hunting as a hunting tool in modern game management. Some European countries including Croatia, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Lithuania and the United Kingdom prohibit bowhunting. Bowhunting, like target archery, was revived in the UK during the Victorian era, but has been banned since 1965. Recently a law was passed in Estonia that would allow bowhunting of small game.
USA and Canada
In the USA and Canada, as with other styles of hunting, bowhunting is regulated by individual provinces and states. Regulations often address issues such as which area to hunt in, what time of year, (season) and which sex and species of game may be taken. In many cases, a special archery season is set aside, to minimize interference from rifle hunters. While bowhunting can run into rifle hunting seasons, hunter orange is typically required to be worn during the cross over seasons. In addition, in an effort to maximize game recovery and shot lethality, there are often technical regulations, such as a minimum draw weight, minimum width of head, and lack of barbs.
In general most bow hunting for big game begins in late August or early September in northern states or Canadian Provinces, and slightly later in southern states.
Organised bow hunting began in New Zealand in 1945. The New Zealand government regulates bowhunting An annual 3 day field shoot tournament is held every Queens Birthday Weekend at various locations throughout New Zealand. Bowhunters must have permission to hunt on private land, and they cannot hunt in DOC lands, National parks,or any other reserves without a permit.
Bowhunting is practised in Australia and is not specifically subject to regulation by law. Only non-native species are recognized as game by the Australian Bowhunters Association. However, native species may be killed during government authorized culls.
The states of Victoria and New South Wales both regulate bowhunting. In Victoria hunting is regulated through the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) In New South Wales this is done through the Department of Primary Industry. At the current time there are no specific hunting regulations in other states and territories.
On July 2013 the NSW Government disbanded the Game Council, and temporarily suspended licensed hunting in NSW State forests until now.
While both Victoria and New South Wales place licensing requirements on would-be bowhunters, the sport is self-regulated. The Australian Bowhunters Association and local clubs assess hunters through the Bowhunter Proficiency Certificate (BPC) which is designed to ensure that animals are killed according to humane principles.
To some, hunting represents a humane way of controlling animal numbers, ensuring continuing financial interest in the maintenance of healthy wild populations and habitat, and bringing urbanized humans to understand the natural world. Others are deeply opposed to hunting, on the grounds of cruelty. Opponents to bowhunting argue that killing an animal with a bow is difficult and the animal will be left wounded instead of killed. Even the most experienced hunters cannot usually guarantee to place an exact shot and an instant kill. A study conducted by the Oklahoma Fish and Wildlife Agencies found that approximately 50% of deer that were shot were never recovered. Some deer survived for up to 5–7 days before succumbing to their wounds. Despite widespread practice by bowhunters and their usual pride in their personal accuracy, "71% to 82% of all shots taken" miss the target and "shot placement is, for all practical purposes, random".
In another study, archers who had passed a pre-season accuracy test claimed that 82% of deer hit were recovered within 24 hours.
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- "The PETA Guide to Animal Liberation". Retrieved 5 October 2008. "Bowhunting is one of the cruelest forms of hunting because primitive archery equipment wounds more animals than it kills. Studies indicate that bowhunting yields more than a 58 percent wounding rate. For every animal dragged from the woods by a bow hunter, at least one animal is left wounded to suffer."
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- Horace Gore - Whitetail Project Director, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. As quoted in Dr Ed Ashby, ARROW LETHALITY. Part I: Introduction - The Need for Knowledge. 1996. http://www.tuffhead.com/ashby_pdfs/ashby%20ours/PDF%20Arrow%20Lethality%201.wps.pdf accessed 22 August 2012.
- QDMA staff. "2008 Proc. Annu. Conf. SEAFWA Wounding Rates of White-tailed Deer with Modern Archery Equipment". Quality Deer Management Association staff. Retrieved 26 September 2013.