By Bob Humphrey
Fall hunting seasons are still several months away and avid bowhunters are resigned to wiling away the days shooting 3-D targets or casting for bluegills and crappie. But rod-and-reel isn’t the only way to catch fish. Bowfishing is a great way to spend a summer’s day on the water while also keeping your bow shooting skills honed.
The equipment list is fairly simple and inexpensive. Most any compound or recurve bow with a peak weight around 40 - 50 pounds will do. Lighter poundages are preferred, particularly with the amount of shooting involved. Attach a conventional “bucket and crank” bowfishing reel with Dacron line, or an oversized closed-face spinning reel with heavy (40-50-pound) mono. Fishing arrows are typically un-fletched fiberglass or carbon shafts of 30-plus inches with barbed fishing heads. For a rest you need only a simple, open shelf. Sights are optional and a simple, single pin will suffice. Last but not least, polarized sunglasses are a must to cut the glare and protect your eyes.
Tactics vary depending on species, but are also pretty basic. Some situations allow shooting from the bank but a boat allows access to more water. Then, you simply drift, pole or motor slowly through the shallows looking for fish. When you see them, you shoot them.
The toughest part is compensating for refraction, which makes fish appear higher than they are. You have to aim below your target, and it may take a few shots before you get the hang of it. Don’t worry though; you should have plenty of opportunities to get it right. And if you’re shooting invasive species like carp, you’ll also be helping the environment.