Over the last few years more and more people have had trouble deciding what they like better: bowhunting or fishing. They love battling a monster fish on the end of a line, but setting a fish hook just isn’t as much fun as shooting the hook right through the fish. And sitting in a deer stand is great, but you’re usually freezing your butt off, you have to be quiet, you have to be still, and you can’t drop your bow and cast a crankbait to a big bass swimming by. In fact, if you see big bass swimming by your deer stand at all you’ve got bigger problems . . .

Although the main target species for bowfishermen includes freshwater fish like gar and carp, those wishing to combine their love of deep sea fishing and bowhunting have a lot of options. You might not technically be “deep sea fishing,” but you’ll be able to bowfish in shallow water for species like sharks, rays and bonefish, and also do well going after surface feeders such as tarpon or redfish in deeper water.

Bowfishing contests have also gained in popularity. Usually held at night, these contests are held on bodies of water where carp and/or gar populations have gotten out of control. With 2-4 archers in each boat, it’s not uncommon for each boat to haul in hundreds of pounds of fish, which are weighed, then ground up and sold to fertilizer companies.

Bowfishing Setups

Some archers are comfortable shooting their compounds while fishing with their bows, but many prefer a recurve, which delivers plenty of power and can be shot a little bit faster. The efficiency of a recurve for bowfishing comes down to two factors: drawing and aiming. When using sights on a compound bow, the pin must be “settled” on the target after the string is anchored. A recurve, by contrast, is aimed as the string comes back, where it settles only briefly at the anchor point before being released. The entire sequence is basically a single motion which takes a fraction of the time it takes to draw, anchor and shoot a compound.

One type of bowfishing more suited for the compound bow is “aerial bowfishing” for acrobatic Asian carp. That’s right; shooting huge carp out of thin air with a bow and arrow. These crazy fish — members of an invasive species which pose a serious threat to the entire freshwater ecosystem east of the Mississippi — jump so high, so frequently that a guy can sit on the back of his boat with his bow at full draw, ready to enforce some PEST CONTROL.

Compounds are becoming more popular, and AMS, a company specializing in bowfishing gear, offers only compound bows ranging in price from $237 to $370. If you already have a bow that will work, the only gear you’ll need is a retriever reel, which allows you to crank the fish in and a few featherless fiberglass arrows tipped with special heads designed to penetrate and hold onto the fish. Reels range in price from $75 to $100. AMS offers a starter kid for $200, which includes two arrows with Muzzy Quick Release points, AMS Big Game Retriever Pro reel, an AMS Wave Rest, a float (for when your fish starts stripping out line) and an instructional DVD. You’ll also probably want a good headlamp, along with a floodlight mounted to your boat, since a lot of bowfishing takes place at night. To learn more about AMS, check out their website here: http://www.amsbowfishing.com/

So, if you’re torn between your love of bowhunting, and your passion for deep sea fishing or freshwater fishing, try bowfishing this summer and you’ll have a blast!

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