Is Bowfishing in Your DNA?

Bowfishing just may be the perfect off-season fix for your bowhunting needs.
Is Bowfishing in Your DNA?

If you’re anything like me, your world somehow revolves around bowhunting big game virtually every day of the year. It almost sounds like a sickness — at least that’s what the fetching Mrs. Strickland thinks. But if I’m not actually tied to a tree bowhunting somewhere in the Midwest or climbing some no-name mountain out West with a bow tightly gripped in my hand, I’m thinking about past adventures or planning new ones. With that noted, I’m always trying to find something else to arrow, and after talking with Mark Land, I knew bowfishing might be my next bowhunting addiction.

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Mark Land with a massive albino bighead carp.

Mark Land is the technical support manager for Feradyne Outdoors, which encompasses Rage, Muzzy, Tru-Fire, Nockturnal, Glendel and many other high-quality archery brands. If that’s not enough on someone’s plate, he also handles bowfishing promotions and the Feradyne pro staff team. To top it off, he’s a bowfishing professional and has been at it for nearly 30 years.

As soon as he started slinging arrows at fish in 1989, Mark knew he was hooked for life. Not only did it allow him to shoot a bow and arrow more than he was already doing with his typical fall bowhunting and archery tournaments, but as Mark put it, “It’s a heck of a lot of fun as well.”

“Bowfishing is a target-rich environment,” explained Mark. “When you consider fresh- and saltwater opportunities for countless species of fish, as well as alligators, which is the most intense bowfishing experience available, I don’t understand why every bowhunter isn’t doing it. Furthermore, it’s a great off-season challenge. You get to be outside with friends doing something you enjoy and have the opportunity to do it at night during the warm summer months.”

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Mark Land has skewered everything from fresh- and saltwater fish to this monster gator.

Water vs. Woods

Although Mark would tell you that it’s not as challenging as zeroing in on a particular whitetail buck come fall, there are challenging moments. Similar to successfully bowhunting any big game animal, a serious bowfisherman will know their quarry’s habits, likes and dislikes, and where to find them throughout the year. Another challenging aspect is that virtually every shot you take is quick, and no one shot is the same when you consider angle, depth, distance and target mobility.

Bowfishing tournaments are also a great way to enjoy the sport, and they have come a long way in the past decade. When Mark first started bowfishing tournaments in 1989, they were few and far between. Now, every state in the Lower 48 has them, and some offer cash payouts of up to $10,000. Just one look at Muzzy’s bowfishing custom craft (top photo) and you’ll see just how serious bowfishing has become.

In Mark’s opinion, the least-expensive way to learn how to bowfish and see if it’s in your DNA is to hire a bowfishing guide. A good guide will supply all the equipment needed for a great hunt on the water, have a well-equipped boat, know where the fish are and, most importantly, be a good teacher.

Don’t Beat Up Your Deer Bow

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Muzzy Addict Bowfishing Package

As far as bowfishing equipment goes, Mark says, “Keep it simple!” Bowfishing is typically tough on equipment. Although you can set up your deer hunting bow for bowfishing opportunities, he doesn’t recommend it. According to Mark, you do not need a finely tuned bow slinging arrows at 330 fps, nor do you want your prime bowhunting rig going through the tortuous demands a season of bowfishing will deliver. Instead, buy a dedicated bow that is rugged, sturdy and simple to use. A secondhand bow can be a great choice, and with the bowfishing kits that are available today, you would have a perfect setup. Companies such as Cajun Bowfishing, Muzzy, AMS and Oneida Eagle all make affordable bowfishing setups to get you started.

“Don’t worry about heavy draw weights, either,” Mark said. “You’re not trying to shoot through a deer’s cavity at 20 yards, but rather a fish that is often mere feet away. Draw weights of 40 to 50 pounds are adequate for almost any situation, and many seasoned tournament pros I know shoot less weight that that. Keep in mind that you might draw your bow a 100 times in a night, and unless you’re trying to achieve Schwarzenegger-like back muscles, 40 pounds is sufficient. Now, for certain species and specific situations like alligators, heavier draw weights and even heavier arrows can be beneficial, but for your average carp outing 40 pounds is perfect.”

When it comes to picking the type of bow, Mark insists it’s all about comfort. “Many beginners appreciate the simplicity a lightweight recurve setup can offer. With the high-quality kits that are available today, they will deliver years of bowfishing enjoyment.” Personally, Mark uses a compound bow for his bowfishing adventures. Although compound rigs will generally cost a few more Benjamins, there are many topnotch and affordable setups that offer the adjustability that a beginner will need to be successful.

Lastly, find a local pro or knowledgeable bowfishing angler in your area to learn as much as you can about the sport. Most people enjoy sharing knowledge about something they are good at, and although they are not likely to give up their favorite carp holes or secret techniques, the bowfishing community as a group is generally willing to help anyone looking to get started.

Great Bowfishing Gear

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Cajun Sucker Punch Kit

With a peak draw weight of 50 pounds, the Sucker Punch compound bow kit ($450) from Cajun Bowfishing features an overall axle-to-axle length of 35.25 inches and allows countless hours of shooting without finger pinch. Its deep cam grooves prevent string derailment, and the 60 percent letoff allows you to stay more relaxed for the shot. The kit includes Cajun’s Hybrid reel, Blister Buster finger pads and two white fiberglass arrows tipped with Piranha points.

Muzzy’s Addict Bowfishing Package ($250; photo above) was designed with the mobile hunter in mind. This 58-inch recurve has a lightweight magnesium riser and tool-less takedown assembly for easy storage. The XD Pro spin cast reel offers an integrated mount and switch-activation system, and the Fish Hook arrow rest is uniquely designed to allow the line to lay in the groove under the arrow while providing a three-sided capture.

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TruGlo Speed Shot Bowfishing Kit

Being able to reload quickly is the name of the game in the bowfishing world, and the Speed Shot Bowfishing Kit ($40) from TruGlo delivers just that. The revolutionary spring-coil design of the arrow rest provides quick reloading capabilities, while the pivoting barb on the pair of arrows provide improved penetration and quick fish removal.

AMS Eradicator Kit

Partnering with Quest Archery, the folks at AMS offer a complete compound bowfishing kit in the Eradicator, or E-Rad ($750). With an adjustable draw weight of 30 to 60 pounds, the E-Rad features new smooth-drawing Phaze cams. A lightweight, precision machined aluminum riser gives the bow a mass weight of 3.6 pounds. Included in the kit is the TNT Tournament series reel with 350-pound braided Spectra line, AMS Lava Crux Carbon Cored arrow with Ankor point and Cyclone tip, and the AMS Tidal Wave arrow rest.

For a taste of the fun that can be had on the water in pursuit of carp and other roughfish, check out the 30-second “Why I Bowfish” video below from AMS. Spring is the best time of the year for bowfishing, so get rigged up today.

 

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