The Aim of Archery: Deer Hunting in Ohio for Beginners
“I love the taste of venison but I don’t know where to start when deer hunting.” I hear this a lot serving in the outdoor education section for the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Bow hunting is at its peak in popularity, and more and more people are looking for a source of safe, hormone-free organic meat. Venison fits that bill.
The truth is learning archery, and even learning to hunt deer, is not an easy overnight process. I often think of my own journey, the struggles and failures that I had early on in my archery and hunting career, and the mentor who helped shape me into the hunter I am today.
My archery and deer hunting careers started at about the same time. I can vividly remember my first real bow. It was the week before my 14th birthday, and my grandmother took me to Hittle’s sporting goods to pick out the bow so I could hunt deer. Based on the advice of Mr. Hittle and my best buddy, I received a Bear White Tail. It was a compound bow with a 50-pound draw weight, large fiberglass limbs, an archaic string and pulley system, and a camouflage finish. There had to be millions of them sold in the ’80s and early ’90s. At the time, it was the bow to own. It was too heavy, too slow, and too large for me to shoot comfortably. I matched it with six brand new 32-inch Easton arrows, which were too large, plus some target points and hunting broad heads that were too small.
Mr. Hittle slapped me on the back and wished me luck. Man, I was ready to go. The deer in Northwest Ohio had some trouble coming their way.
My first target practice consisted of a paper plate stuck to a straw bale behind my buddy’s barn. I was anxious. My equipment didn’t fit me, so it scared me, plus I had no clue what I was doing. I nervously slid the arrow on the string, took aim, and shot my first arrow 100 yards into a standing cornfield never to be seen again. Not to be discouraged, I nocked my second arrow. This time I aimed harder and held it a little lower to make sure the arrow would make a hit on the target. Bam! I hit the steel drum below the bale bending my arrow into an S shape. Hey, at least I found it.
After just one year of frustration and poor archery, I gave up compound bows for a crossbow. It was state of the art, super fast, but most importantly it was fairly easy to shoot accurately. I learned deer hunting with my crossbow. Instead of worrying about missing, I could focus on learning the habits of whitetail deer. I had many successful hunts and brought home a lot of venison, but in the back of my mind I always knew I wanted to shoot a compound bow.
In 2001 I was in an archery shop with my grandfather when we struck up a conversation with the owner. I told him my tale of woe from past experience and he chuckled. The more we talked, the more I listened, and the next thing I knew he was measuring my draw length and fitting me with a compound bow. He matched that bow with the proper arrows and accessories and we headed to their indoor range.
He taught me proper shooting form, walked me through my first shots, and by the end of the hour, I was consistently hitting my mark. That day I walked out of that archery shop with a new compound bow and a new friend who helped make me into the archer I am today.
Now, 14 years later, I am the state’s shooting sports coordinator and I get to teach other people archery as part of my job. From experience I know that finding an ideal mentor is half the battle. When it comes to mentoring new archers or guiding aspiring archers down the right path I think of that day in that small archery shop. While taking up archery is something you can try to learn alone, a good mentor with good information can save you time, money, and frustration, and help you get started in the lifelong activity of archery.
How to get started on the path to becoming an archer
1. Find a mentor. Go to a local archery shop and visit with them. A lot of shops offer archery lessons, or at least can point you in the right direction. These people can gauge your interest and match you with the right equipment and lessons to accomplish your archery goals. Central Ohio Archery shops: Velocity Archery Range; 2480 Creekway Dr.; Columbus, Ohio 43207; velocityarcheryrange.com. Cabelas Polaris; 1650 Gemini Pl.; Columbus, Ohio 43240; cabelas.com.)
2. Join an archery club. A good resource is the Ohio Bow Hunters Association ohiobowhunters.net.
3. Get more information. For information on state archery ranges or for information on how to get started in archery hunting and archery hunting opportunities in Ohio go to wildohio.gov. The Archery Trade Association offers a great website that contains everything archery at archery360.com. Here you will find information on the history of archery, the different types of archery, how to get started, archery equipment, where to shoot and the locations of archery shops, shooting ranges, plus much more. Easton Sports Development Foundation exists to further the sport of archery by bridging the gap between first experience and elite experience. Information on how to get started in archery can be found at esdf.org.