WON Landing Page OCT 2022

Ask Writing Huntress: On getting set up for bowfishing

Dear Writing Huntress,

My new boyfriend’s best friend is getting into bowfishing and it sounds like a lot of fun. He’s invited us to go, but I don’t know what to expect or how to prepare. Will my bow work for bowfishing? Is there any particular equipment I need to buy? What should I expect my first time out?

Shooting for Carp in Carthage


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Dear Shooting for Carp,

Bowfishing is easily one of my favorite activities to do in the summer. When I first started dating my husband, back in North Carolina, we spent never-ending weekends on Lake Norman aiming at big carp and fat catfish.


Bowfishing gear

My best advice in terms of your setup is to invest in a cheap youth-model bow with a bowfishing reel and arrows. This is because it’s difficult and time consuming to transfer your current hunting setup to bowfishing, and back again. It also helps to have a bow that many people can shoot, in case you want to introduce other friends to the sport. Personally, I chose a youth bow because bowfishing consists of shooting a lot in a short amount of time, which is facilitated by a shorter draw length and lighter draw weight.

While many a bowfishermen opt to go with a normal hunting release, I prefer to use my fingers. If you opt to go this route, bring along some sort of electrical or hockey tape to swaddle your fingers when the shooting gets rough.

Once your rig is set up, the real preparation begins. Keep in mind that bowfishing is much different than any other kind of fishing, or even hunting. Instead of casting a line and hoping a fish will swim by and take the bait, you’re trolling the riverbanks to spot fish and praying they’ll stay still long enough for you to get a shot.


Writing Huntress bowfishing setup


How to practice

In order to prepare for this strange type of hunting, I altered my practice regimen from aiming at a target 40 yards away, to standing atop our pickup bed, picking off leaves 5 feet away and 3 feet below. This forces me to hone in on 1 small aspect of the water as opposed to a large target that is a fixed number of yards away. *Please be sure to check your state and city laws before practicing at your home.


writing huntress bowfishing practice


Aim low!

Unfortunately, I have no real advice concerning actually shooting the fish, except for a bit of knowledge from a bowfisherman named Robin who told me, “Aim low, and then aim lower. When you think you’ve aimed too low — shoot.” The refraction of the water is going to make the fish appear to be in a different position than it is in reality, so you’ll be forced to compensate. It took me a little while, but once I began aiming so low I thought I’d hit sand every time, I actually started hitting fish.

If you’re hunting at night, the best advice I can give you is to take a lengthy nap before the trip, because you may be out staring into those high-pressure sodium lights well into 4 a.m. Pack warm clothes, too, because while the evening may be warm with the exertion of shooting minute after minute, it’ll cool down considerably on your way back to the dock.

Finally, the best way to get used to standing atop a bowfishing deck for hours on end, while at the same time shooting and steadying yourself anytime the trolling motor decides to rev to 1500 RPM, or your captain decides to run head-long into a sandbar, I suggest you screw 4 wheels onto the back of a piece of plywood and encourage the neighborhood children to pull you around with a rope. Shoot passing leaves if you can and be ready to sway or stop suddenly at any time. Always make sure to mind the safety rules when practicing.


writing huntress carp bowfish


As I said before, bowfishing is awesome, but it can also be extremely frustrating. If you don’t connect your first time out, don’t be discouraged! Keep shooting, aim lower (and then aim a lot lower), sway with the ebb and tide of the summer water, and when you finally hit on that monster carp, you’ll know all the preparation was worth it!


Happy Bowfishing,