Bowfishing: A Way to Experience a Newfound Frustration

Published on 6 August 2023 at 19:27

Last week Erik and Tyler with the CookHuntFish crew set out on Orman Lake in sunny South Dakota. The goal was to get dialed in with our bow fishing set-ups for the first time for Tyler, and for the first time in 10+ years for Erik. Now bow fishing to me seems confusing as I don't know if I am fishing or hunting. In a sense you are fishing because you are shooting fish in the water. On the flip side, it could be hunting because you are hunting the fish using a bow and arrow set up for bow fishing. I reckon this is one of those "glass half empty or half full", or "apples to oranges" type scenarios. Whatever the hell it may be, all I know is that it was a slam-packed day with arrows flying at carp, excitement was high, foul words were said, and memories were made. 

For our setups, I (Tyler) was running an old PSE Kingfisher with a spool attached to it and using a Cajun Fishing arrow. It may not be the fanciest set-up, but for what I paid for it (close to nothing) it almost got the job done. I say almost because between trying to figure out how to even hit a fish in the water to try to get my arrow to fly straight, it resulted in me not getting a fish in the boat. To be fair though I did hit a carp, but not how you may think. They say aim low, then lower than that when it comes to bow fishing carp. Well, I thought the perfect opportunity presented itself when a carp came rolling in towards the boat like a Mac Truck with no brakes and got about 10 yards. I was already drawn back thinking "Hell yeah, first fish I take a shot at I am going to smoke!" As you can probably figure it didn't happen like that. When I released my arrow came out goofy and as straight as the Rocky Mountains and the tip didn't hit the fish. What did hit the fish though was my arrow knock. The fish got hit with the knock, how the heck does that even happen? Must be one of those unknown mysteries of the universe and bow fishing will continue to be a mystery to me. 

Erik on the other hand has a pretty nice set-up for bow fishing (just like all his other equipment). He was rocking a Cajun Bowfishing Sucker Punch Pro RTF and has a few years of experience when it comes to bow fishing. While I didn't get any fish in the boat, Erik was able to successfully smoke three carp that day. The ones that he didn't hit I will admit the arrow was damn close for taking 25–30-yard shots on some fish.  His first fish was the second carp that he had taken a shot at that day. He nailed him towards the tail and while he was reeling it in, I was fumbling to get my phone out to record for our social media pages. While this fiasco was going on with him trying to reel the thing in, me trying to get it to record, and our boat captain battling 30 mph winds, the fish managed to get off the arrow to not be seen again. The second fish Erik had hit, the tip was loose causing the barbs on the arrow tip to go inverted allowing the fish to break free from the arrow in the same fashion as Billy the Kid escaping jail all those times! They say the third time is a charm, and that is what happened on the third fish. He tightened the point in with plyers, took his shot, domed a carp with a beauty of the shot, and successfully landed him in the boat. I don't want to take the spotlight off of his harrowing performance on the lake, so I have decided to opt out of talking about the fish he wasn't able to hit. 

So, by now in this article, you may be asking yourself, "So how do I aim while bow fishing?" Well, to put it into a textbook-style/old book from the 70s that your grandpa has stashed away it could go something like this. Aiming when bow fishing is one of the critical skills to learn to be successful. The first step is to determine the distance to the target, as this will affect the aim. Before releasing the arrow, hold the bow in your dominant hand and use your non-dominant hand to guide the aiming process. Start by pointing at the target with the non-dominant hand and move the bow towards the target until it matches the non-dominant hand's point. When aiming, be sure to account for target movement, such as fish swimming, and anticipate where it will be when the arrow arrives. Additionally, take into account any water distortion, such as refraction, which can affect the aim. Practice and experience are crucial to become proficient in aiming, so stay patient and consistently hone your skills to improve. To put it into simple terms, aim low, then aim lower. It is one of those instinctive human traits of trial and error to get accustomed to how to aim and shoot one of these bows. The more shots on fish that you can get, the more accurately you will find yourself shooting. You won't be turning into Cam Hanes with a bow fishing bow right away, well you may if you're an absolute unit, but with practice comes proficiency. 

Whether you are a veteran at bow fishing or a novice looking to get into this sport, it offers a great challenge and feels more rewarding than shooting a compound bow. You may be wondering how to get started, so I am going to lay it out fairly simply for you. First off you need a bow fishing bow. I highly recommend getting your bow fishing set up through Cabela's. If you don't want to click the orange Cabela's back a sentence, I highly suggest clicking one of the fancy banners on our website and proceeding to find your setup. I recommend Cabela's because they have everything that you need to get started in this sport. Once you have your bow in hand and set up for you (don't forget your bow fishing arrow) you are ready to get out there and poke some fish! 

Be sure to check with your State Department of Game, Fish, and Wildlife or Department of Natural Resources to be sure what fish species you can bow fish. It would be a shame to get a beauty of a setup just to get stopped by the warden and getting the book thrown at you because you failed to check out the regulations for your area. Once you are sure you are caught up on your regulations, you are ready to go miss some fish, get better, then start actually poking fish with your arrow! Finding fish is another aspect of it, I recommend just looking up lakes or rivers in your area, and check what species reside in the body of water. From there you can narrow it down pretty well on where to set out to. While you can bow fish from the shore, a boat definitely makes a world of difference as you can look directly down into the water over them. Not all of us are gifted with a boat though, so you can get out on shore, but it will be less opportunity to shoot fish. As the old timers say though, "A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work!" 

Thanks for taking the time to read this article and checking out our website. I hope you now have a basic understanding of bow fishing and got some humor out of the article. If you didn't... well here is a joke for you. Why did the carp try to be a comedian? Because it wanted to carp-tivate the audience! Good luck out there with your newly found hobby, and like always enjoy the great outdoors! Be sure to share our website, social media @cookhuntfish, and check out our merch shop located in the menu above! 


The author of this article is Tyler Tesch, who writes for CookHuntFish.

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