By Daniel Ross
When choosing what weapon to use for deer hunting, it ultimately comes down to two choices for the modern hunter: the bow or the rifle.
Everyone seems to have their preference. Why do some prefer one to the other? What are the pros and cons of each? Which one costs more time and money?
While I, myself, have only ever experienced hunting with a rifle, I’ve asked many of my bowhunting friends what makes them prefer the bow to the gun. I’ve also researched each of the weapons to give a basic overview of how they’re used while hunting, and why some prefer one over the other.
Before I started hunting, I assumed that all hunters used rifles. It’s been the weapon of choice for hunters for two centuries and has become so ubiquitous that I didn’t even consider that other weapons were used. The main reason why is that rifles are just mechanically better than bows. They are easier to use, have easily-transportable ammunition, and have a much longer range.
Due to the ease of use, hunters who don’t have a lot of time prefer rifles as it doesn’t take as long to get proficient with it. The longer range is also important as it means rifle hunters don’t have to worry as much about being stealthy like bowhunters. A rifle hunter can take out a deer from several hundred yards away while a bowhunter has to get within about 40 yards.
Generally, the rifle is a much more accessible weapon for hunters. Not only that, but since it has been the most popular hunting weapon for so long, many hunters have developed certain traditions around it. I actually know a family where every boy is given a rifle as a gift on his thirteenth birthday. They’ve done this for at least four generations.
It’s also worth mentioning that using a rifle is actually cheaper than using a bow. On average, it’ll cost a hunter around a $1,000 to buy a useable rifle and all the necessary accessories for it. A bow will end up costing twice that when you consider that not only will they have to buy a working bow, but they will also need things like scentless clothing and camo to get within range of the deer they plan to hunt. Rifles are superior to bows as weapons, in my opinion. Although, many choose to hunt with bows for other reasons.
Something that surprised me when I started researching bowhunters is 75% of them also use rifles. In most cases, they started hunting with rifles first then decided to switch to bows later. When I asked why they switched, most of them told me it was because the sense of accomplishment they felt. It takes years to become proficient with a bow, and most of them feel a great sense of confidence wielding a weapon it took them so long to become good with.
Another thing I found was that many of them said that bowhunting felt like a much more natural way to hunt.
As a good friend of mine put it, “It’s the way all our ancestors did it going back to the cavemen. Stalking your prey, sneaking up close, and seeing the look on their face when the arrow flies feels so much more natural than taking them out through a scope 200 yards away. It feels like the way hunting was supposed to be done.”
Each of them told me that using a bow to take down their prey gave them an adrenaline rush that they couldn’t get by using a rifle. While a rifle may technically be a superior weapon to a bow, it doesn’t seem to give the same experience, according to those I’ve spoken with.
Ultimately, each weapon is different, and which one people prefer depends on a number of factors. Whether it’s convenience, tradition, or looking for a thrill, people will pick up a bow or rifle depending on which one better fits their needs.
Happy hunting, regardless of your weapon of choice.