As the hunting season comes to a close we all have to find a way to hone our skills and to keep in tiptop shooting shape for the upcoming season. Punching holes in paper is only fun for so long, other than putting all your bow hunting equipment aside to gather dust until the following season arrives you can take up bowfishing in the balmy summer months.
Bowfishing is a sport, which is still in its infancy in South Africa but has been really popular in the USA for quite some years. Now the big question, “How do I get started?” It’s actually very simple; there are a few bow shops that stock a standard bowfishing kit that is very easy to set up. Bowfishing kits like one’s made by either Muzzy or AMS Bowfishing equipment are probably the best way to go. You can of course make a very basic bowfishing rig yourself, there are a couple of guidelines but you have to make everything from scratch. I prefer the above mentioned kits, which take all the frustration and headache out of trial & error home made rigs.
There are a couple of things which are essential, polarized sunglasses are a must. It will be nearly impossible to try and see the particular fish you are shooting without them. Any bow will do, recurves are very popular because of their light weight, but I use an old round cam bow that has been hiding in the closet for quite some time. The only benefit of using such an “ancient” bow is that they are usually heavy and have a low let off, this will make your usual hunting bow seem like a breeze to hold steady. The bowfishing rigs consist of a spool & retriever that has a built in hand operated braking system through which the 30yds of 40lb dacron runs, an arrow rest (made especially for the very long and heavy solid fiberglass arrows) and two arrows with barbed tip attached. To top it off there is also a step-by-step instruction sheet. Any simpler it cannot be. The only thing you will have to add is a one-pin sight.
Now, sighting in the bow is going to prove a task. After a whole heap of missed shots we found out that we had to sight our bows to shoot about 4” low at 15yards. This is to counter for the infraction caused by the water, (you remember what that grumpy old science teacher groaned?) to hit a fish one should roughly aim about 4” below the fish at basic shooting distances, which are usually short. Why we sighted our bows to hit low at 15yds is so that we can place our pins ON the fish while the arrow will enter the water at the right angle to ensure a good hit. It just feels better and improves discipline to aim at something than to hold over or under. On the fiberglass arrow is a cable slide to which is attached the dacron type line; this feeds into the line holder through the line retriever. It sounds much more complicated than it is. Another option for the line retrieval is to mount a close-faced reel on the stabilizer of the bow. The line that now comes out of the reel is attached to the arrow by means of the usual cable slide or home made version.
To say that bowfishing is fun is an understatement! One can have hours of fun if the weather is good. Cloudy weather makes it hard to see the fish even with polarized sunglasses. Shooting fish is not as simple as it sounds. Fish are very cautious by nature and you seldom get straightforward easy shots at fish that are within range. Bowfishing will teach you a lot about patience and waiting for a shot to present itself. You have to outsmart them by trying to blend in with the usually lush green surroundings. Standing dead still in deep shade also works well, this is why bowfishing is such a great means of staying on edge for the following bow hunting season, as you do all the above when hunting the usual animals. Other than being immense fun the rewards are also great, you get some time to hone your skills while harvesting some delicious fish to eat. Remember it is always important to get permission from the farmer to bowfish on his property. Shoot sensibly; only shoot as many fish as you need. If a days fishing is good you will have absolutely no trouble in filling your quota in no time at all. What the legislation is in regards to bowfishing is not yet clear; can someone shed some light on this? Please send any information you might have to firstname.lastname@example.org