Bow versus Rifle: Things to Consider Before Your Next Hunting Escapade


The hunting season is just around the corner and for hunters and hunting enthusiasts, it is the most anticipated time of the year. By now, planning and preparations are underway for the next hunting event. If you are new to hunting or you have just received your hunting license and you are on your way to your upcoming hunt, it’s time to consider your weapon of choice for the hunt. Basically, hunters have the choice between a bow and a rifle. Either weapon has its advantages and disadvantages, but it is ultimately up to the one who will be using the weapon to decide on which works for them.  Having said that it is also important to keep your weapon maintained, for this various options of gun cleaning are available.


There’s not much difference between the two weapons when it comes to the initial cost for a starter kit. For as low as $300, you can buy decent starter packages of bows or rifles. While the rifle or bow can be readily used and of good quality, packages that come cheap do not come with an entire quality set of accessories. The arrow rest, bow sight or rifle scope may be sub-par with your hunting specifications and you will need to spend more on upgrading these accessories. If you are starting out with your hunting endeavor, it is recommended that you set aside at least twice that amount, preferably $600 to $800 in order to ensure that you are getting a quality package for your starter kit weapon.

Accessories and Maintenance

Bow or rifle accessories not only enhance the aesthetics of your weapon, but they are also made primarily to improve the accuracy or the power of the weapon. Riflescopes can effectively increase your range of vision, which can help you set up a nice hiding spot and set your aim on your target game. In the same way, the bow sight also helps improve the accuracy of your fired arrows. Buying a high accuracy bow sight is one of the steps you do to improve your accuracy. It is best that you learn the proper steps on how to tune your recurve bow to improve the overall performance of your bow. 

Contrary to common belief bows, particularly about recurve bows, is that they have a more complex mechanism than rifles and their tuning process involves several steps. The basic adjustments you need to make include perfecting the nocking point location, micro-tuning the brace height, centering your arrows, paper testing and testing the bare shaft accuracy. Even arrows need to be checked for signs of porpoising or fishtailing.

Rifles also need some tuning up and cleaning is one of the essential steps to rifle tuning and maintenance. Days before your hunting day, you need to inspect your rifle and clean it both on the outside and the inside. Disassembling the rifle and cleaning its internal moving parts, bolt and screws and applying lubricants can ensure that your rifle is in good working condition. Cleaning the barrel is also an important maintenance step that you can do on a regular scheduled interval. The scope needs to be checked for lens accuracy and the scope mounting should also be checked if stable. The rifle bench or rest, if you are using one, should also be checked for stability. The bullets also have to be inspected and tested before venturing into the hunting field.


Honing your hunting skills can take a lot of practice so you need to dedicate time and money to improve your hunting. Shooting ranges are good places where you can practice your accuracy and range when you hunt with your rifle. A minor downside is that regular shooting range practices can be expensive, so you need to prepare a budget for your practices. Also, there might be additional costs for the bullets that you use for practice, especially if you don’t have a case cleaner or brass tumbler for reusing spent bullet casings. 

Archery range practices require less spending compared to shooting range practices. Also, you can improvise and make your own archery range in your backyard or barn to save even more. Regular archery practices not only improve your accuracy, but they also help strengthen your arms and improve your body positioning for optimum power and stability. Your arrows can be repeatedly used while practicing with little to no need for replacement or new arrows. If you use your arrows carefully, you should rarely need to replace your arrows or broadheads. Arrow vanes may be more prone to wear, but they are cheap and easy to replace.

Effective Range

When it comes to the effective range or the distance where the weapon can effectively hit a target, there is a large difference between a rifle and a bow. A bow has a relatively short effective range, which is usually at 10 to 50 yards. While a rifle has a long effective range, going farther than 50 yards and up to 300 yards. The comfortability with the ranges is one of the major reasons why hunters prefer one weapon over the other. 

Rifles are primarily the first weapons of choice for most hunters. It is relatively easy to use, and when it comes to range, it outdoes the bow by several yards. Rifles have been used for several centuries as the weapon for hunting, and the creators of hunting rifles have improved the features and usability of these guns for more efficient and accurate shots. For beginners and novice hunters, the rifle is a convenient choice because it is easy to operate and you can get proficient with it in a short period of time. Having a successful first hunt can be easier to achieve with a rifle because you do not have to stealthily approach your target until you are within 50 yards and comfortably position yourself at a distance more than twice the 50-yard and conveniently pick a target from your rifle’s scope.

Bowhunting takes more skill and stealth, but gives a better adrenaline rush than rifle hunting. It may need more practice for you to be proficient in hunting, but the effort you put will be well worth it. Bowhunting has been one of the oldest methods of hunting used by our prehistoric ancestors. Practicing this method allows us to experience and reconnect with our primal hunting instincts. When executed properly, a bow hunt can have a better success rate than rifles when it comes to medium and large game. Also, a closer range can help improve your accuracy and power, as you do not need to strain your eyes to get a clear shot. However, a closer distance may mean there is a chance that your animal target may detect you. To remedy this, you will need to wear scentless clothing and camouflage to evade detection and get a closer hunting range. 

Ease of Transport

Being comfortable with carrying and transporting your weapon and ammunitions with you can be a factor in choosing which one suits you better. When it comes to weight, a rifle can be heavier than a bow because it has more parts and components made of metal. When it comes to length and size, the rifle still is relatively larger than the longbow or recurve bow. Carrying a rifle and a bag can make it harder to hike up a hunting trail, but your weapon is already in your hand, which makes it easier for you to shift into hunting mode when you see a potential quarry during your hike. In addition, when it comes to ammunition, the rifle bullets can be easy to store and stock in your backpack or vest pockets for easy access and reloading.

The modern hunting bows have been designed for lightness and durability, so they are easy to carry around. Bowhunters can choose to hand carry their bows or disassemble them and put the bow in a bag while they proceed to the hunting ground. The ammunition may need to be placed in a quiver or an arrow bag strapped on the back. You may need to bring two separate bags for your bow and arrows or you can also bring a large bag to fit both bow and arrow in. Reloading is a key step when it comes to hunting, so you will need to bring a specialized vest designed for holding at least two arrows if you think wearing a quiver is cumbersome.

Type of Quarry

Your weapon choice can also depend on your quarry choice. You need to know which weapon is legal to use on that particular quarry. Different states and counties have varying regulations when it comes to the weapon you will need to hunt down a specific animal. Thus, it is also important to get acquainted and familiar with state hunting regulations when you come to hunt on a certain site.

The rifle can be considered a long-range weapon because of its highly effective range while bows and shotguns can be considered close range weapons because they are effective within a 50-yard range. Shotguns are preferred for moving and highly agile targets because they shoot a spread of pellets. Rifles and bows project a single bullet and arrow, respectively, that need to hit an animal at the right spot for an instant kill. Thus, they are more fit for stationary targets.

Your hunting purpose for the type of quarry can also lead you to consider the type of weapon that can effectively carry out the hunting task and purpose of the hunt. If you are hunting for food, you’ll need to choose a weapon that can get the job done in the shortest amount of time. For example, if you are thinking of having quail for dinner, you can shoot your bow at the first quail you can find, if your state legally allows you to use it. Even if that is the case, your success rate in hitting a quail will be very low using that weapon. Thus, a shotgun can help you get your target quarry and have dinner before the sun sets. 

Even for an animal with a large kill zone, say a deer, you’ll need to consider your proficiency with the weapon you are going to use. If you are already a skilled and seasoned bowhunter, a grazing deer can be a great catch once you can get within the effective range of your bow. Big game hunting using a bow takes a lot of skill, practice and a dose of luck. Thus, use a weapon you are most proficient and comfortable using, especially if you are in the process of filling up your freezer with meat. Shifting from a rifle to a bow can take a while to get comfortable with, so you need to have patience and not use it for important hunting purposes such as food gathering for the meantime. 

Hunting Seasons, Tags and Regulations

You may want to choose one weapon over the other because of varying hunting regulations from place to place. Rifle and archery tags for the big game need to be checked if they are available over the counter or through a lottery system. For new hunters, over the counter tags are where they need to start since they have not yet gathered ‘points’ which can allow them to get a tag in a competitive lottery.

Certain parts of a state or county can have designated archery-only hunting grounds. If your hunting area includes lands owned by local private landowners, make sure to get the appropriate permission to hunt and agree on the weapon to use. Most landowners will only allow bowhunting on their property for security and safety purposes.

Season dates can be a good way of determining if you should head out hunting with a bow or rifle. Archers are granted a longer season than rifle hunters, so if you can spare more time for hunting, you can choose bowhunting for a specific archery season. Take heed of the overlapping of archery season with the general hunting season. You may not want to find yourself competing with rifle hunters for game. Instead, choose an archery season that precedes the general hunting season to have more time in the hunting field and conveniently select your quarries.

hunting rifle

There can be a lot of things to consider when it comes to choosing between a rifle and a bow on your next hunting trip. While convenience plays a big part in your weapon choice, there can be external factors like your quarry choice, hunting season, and state hunting regulations. Still, the ultimate choice in choosing which weapon lies with the user. Another important thing to remember, regardless of weapon choice, is to hunt ethically and reduce animal suffering as much as possible. Learn to hunt respecting the limits of your weapon and you’ll do well on your hunt.

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