I know some serious bowhunters that would never consider bowfishing, just as they wouldn’t be caught dead pursuing squirrels or even turkeys. I pity those folks. The pressure to kill big bucks and bulls is very real for many of us, which is why I enjoy low-pressure bowhunting pursuits so much. And if there is one opportunity that is nearly devoid of pressure, it’s bowfishing.
State-to-state regulations vary greatly, but a common thread throughout most is that bowfishing is largely encouraged on public waters. This means that unlike big-game hunting, the best spots are wide open to all of us. I’ve arrowed a variety of rough fish in situations that are as different as the scaly targets themselves. Plus, if you do it right, you can have a multispecies trip without having to try too hard.
For instance, I spent my college years along the Mississippi River, which meant that I could potentially skewer common carp, suckers, bowfin, buffalo, gar, and others on the same trip. Better yet, if the carp were uncooperative, there was no shortage of other species willing to offer up a shot—and shoot we did.
Bowfishing is also a great first step for beginners to go from punching paper to living targets. Perhaps due to some engrained anthropomorphism in all of us, it can be difficult for a newbie to arrow a furry creature, yet running a fish arrow through a whiskered, scaly bottom-feeder is no problem.
If you do use bowfishing as a gateway endeavor to introduce a newcomer to our sport, you’ll quickly realize that what you take for granted as safety concerns will become very prevalent. Attaching line to a fish arrow changes the pre-shot routine, and just like checking the safety on your 12-gauge religiously as you walk a cattail slough while pheasant hunting, it’s imperative to make sure that the line is hanging free and not wrapped around anything that might hinder its operation.
That and being cognizant of safety on the water are the two main issues that come up with bowfishing, otherwise it is inviting to everyone interested. Part of the reason for this come-one-come-all invitation is that bowfishing does not have to be cost-prohibitive. If you’ve got a bow already, you’re almost ready to bowfish. If not, there are some quality rigs on the market that will not break the bank. Several companies offer bowfishing bows, while many even offer packages that contain all you need to get on the water and start shooting.
- In the realm of bowfishing reels, I’d be remiss if I didn’t cover AMS Bowfishing’s Retriever Pro. This reel, along with earlier versions of it, have accounted for a lot of dead fish over the years. Unlike other bowfishing reels, the Retriever Pro is built to release line without the push of a button, meaning to quickly retrieve line it’s necessary to engage the reel. Each Retriever Pro comes standard with 200-lb. Hi-Vis Dacron line, two AMS Safety Slide Kits, and replacement nocks for your arrows.