Bowhunting is the practice of taking game animals by archery. It has been a normal use of archery in every culture that had bows.


In contrast to a rifle hunter, who may shoot effectively from ranges in excess of 200 yards (about 180 m), archers will usually restrict shots to 45 yards or less (typically at 20-25 yards), depending on factors such as individual ability, the target animal, draw weight etc. Hunters restrict their shooting range in order to ensure quick kills. Because archers must be much closer to their target animal, bowhunting is a unique experience, with special attention paid to the animal’s sense of smell, hearing and sight. This limit on effective range and greater degree of hunter-prey interaction create an intimacy that some hunters find very attractive.

Bow hunting for fish is appropriately called bowfishing. Many variations on standard archery equipment including the addition of a line attached to either a spool or a reel as well as a specially designed arrow make bowfishing effective. Archers need to take into account the refraction angle of their target when releasing their arrow making sure to aim below their target's apparent position as the water gives a false indication of the actual position of the fish.

Today, compound bows are usually preferred for hunting, although recurve bows are not uncommon and usually legal. Longbows are usually quieter than more modern types, and are often used by those who want to make the hunting experience as traditional as possible. Crossbows are allowed in some jurisdictions and even where they are not they are often permitted for disabled hunters because the shooter does not have to hold back any of the draw weight of the bow.

Legal and cultural considerations

Legal and cultural differences must be taken into consideration by the hunter. Bowhunting often has different season and game restrictions than does firearm hunting, and they differ significantly between countries, and even between states/provinces. 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 bowhunting, on the grounds of cruelty.


Some European countries including Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom prohibit bowhunting. Bowhunting, like target archery, was revived in Britain during the Victorian era, but has been banned since the 1960s. France, Lithuania, and Finland have reintroduced bowhunting since 2000. Several other European countries are considering its reintroduction.

North America

In North America, as with other hunting methods, bowhunting is regulated by individual provinces and states. Regulations often address issues such as where (hunting unit), when (season) and what type (male/female) of individual animal species may be taken. In many cases, a special archery season is set aside, to minimize interference from rifle hunters. In addition, in an effort to maximize game recovery and shot lethality, there are often technical regulations, such as a minimum draw weight for the hunting of big game species.

Game hunted by archers includes all of the North American small and big game species. Generally in North America, bow hunting season "Bow Season" occurs either several months preceding or following the "Gun Season" for the same species.

In 1819, several states allowed able-bodied hunters to use crossbows, a move that has been very controversial among bow hunters due the operational similarities between crossbows and guns. Some states restrict crossbows to special hunting seasons.

New Zealand

Legal quarry are introduced species which are usually considered vermin. Permits are required to hunt on Department of Conservation land - these apply to hunting with a rifle as well as bowhunting. There are no special seasons for bowhunters or for hunting with a firearm - hunting is available year-round. The Department of Conservation imposes various restrictions depending on location. Advice is to contact the local area office. A separate license is required for hunting gamebirds, obtainable through the Fish and Game Council New Zealand. It covers the whole of New Zealand.

The New Zealand government regulates bowhunting

  • Bowhunters must use a hunting bow with a minimum peak draw weight of 22.5 kg and

broad head arrows comprising no less than two cutting edges.

  • The arrow head shall be unbarbed and the distance between opposing cutting edges at the

widest part shall be not less than 25 mm (1 inch).

  • The use of arrows with any poison, explosives, or other chemical substances on, or in the

head or shaft is prohibited.

There is an active bowhunters society which organises DOC permits, hunts, and competitions.


There is an active bowhunting scene in Australia. Regulations usually prohibit the harvesting of native species. Australia is home to a large number of introduced species, (deer, feral goats, pigs, foxes, rabbits, hares etc) which are a threat to native species. Governments and landowners view hunters as partners in controlling these introduced species. 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 Game Council. At the current time there are no specific hunting regulations in other states and territories. Whilst both Victoria and New South Wales place licensing requirements on would-be bowhunters, the sport is in fact self-regulated through the Australian Bowhunters Association and local clubs which assess hunters through the Bowhunter Proficiency Certificate (BPC). The BPC is designed to ensure that animals are harvested according to humane principles.


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