So You Think Traditional Bowhunting Is Unethical?

Legal hunting equipment isn't unethical—it's the hunter you have to consider

“Traditional archery gear should be a thing of the past. We have access to crossbows and compounds now that are much more reliable and accurate.”

This particular comment on an Instagram post caught my attention. The comment wasn’t directed at me, but as a traditional bowhunter, I sure felt like it was.

I have had this same point of view foisted upon me before, and I’m still always surprised to discover how many other hunters feel that way. But not me. As I see it, traditional archery is as ethical as any other type of hunting. And maybe more so, in some ways.

As a kid, I would occasionally get very frustrated when I wasn’t shooting my bow as well as I wanted. Of course, I would blame it on my equipment. Each time, my dad would remind me it’s the archer, not the bow, that truly matters. This has always stuck with me, and I apply it to any type of hunting: rifle, shotgun compound, crossbow, recurve. For all of these methods, the deciding factor of whether or not a piece of hunting equipment is ethical, all depends on the hunter shooting it. It’s really that simple.

You can take the best rifle money can buy, stick a high dollar scope on it, and still have someone choose to make an unethical shot. You can take a longbow with no sights and no shooting aids—just a simple stick and string—and make a perfect, ethical shot. The outcome depends on who’s behind that bow, how much work they’ve put in to become efficient, and what kind of decisions they make when it comes to taking a shot.

Bowhunting with a traditional bow is hard. In order to be successful with a traditional bow, you have to practice. You have to practice a lot. You won’t be taking shots at distance, you’ll be taking shots that are generally just 20 yards away, or 15, or 10.

Many people give up on shooting traditional before they even get a chance to hunt, as you need to wholeheartedly put your time in. Traditional bowhunters put in more time than anyone I know, and we take pride in that. While compound or crossbow hunters may only shoot their bow a few times before bow season starts, hunters shooting a traditional bow will practice year-round. When I was growing up, my dad wouldn’t let me, or my siblings, go bowhunting in the fall unless we were practicing every week throughout the year. That’s something I think every hunter should consider.

As hunters, we need to try to be the best that we can be. We need to set an example for non-hunters and for the future generation of hunters. This means practicing with whatever legal equipment we choose, and making smart, ethical decisions about each shot. Your equipment can’t make these decisions for you: you always have the choice of whether or not to take the shot. It’s not your rifle, and it’s not your trad bow. You are the deciding factor about whether or not you’re an ethical hunter.