Editor’s Note: Eva Shockey, well-known outdoors woman, has traveled all over the world taking big game animals with bows and rifles. But she never had hunted fish until a couple of years ago when she tried bowfishing at Lake Guntersville in north Alabama. Lake Guntersville was selected for a bowfishing tournament due to the large number of carp, gar, drum and catfish living there. During the summer months, when most hunting seasons are closed, bowfishing is a fun way to get outdoors and hunt fish.
As a hunter, taking an animal after dark using lights always has been off the table for me. In most of the world, bowhunting using a light to take game animals is illegal. As a hunter, the idea of hunting fish at night with lights would take me into an environment I never had entered before. I wasn’t sure how easy taking shots from a boat that was moving at a fish that was moving would be. But I was surprised how easy you could get off a shot at a fish at night using lights. In the daytime, when you’re bowhunting, you can see the animal before you take it. But when bowfishing at night, you don’t ever see the fish until just before you need to shoot. I guess this is what makes bowfishing so exciting for me. The fish just appear in the lights. If you don’t try to take the shot as soon as you see them, they disappear. There’s only about 6-8 feet in front of the boat for you to see the fish.
I strongly recommend that anybody get a bow and try bowfishing. Whether you wade and shoot fish in the daytime or have a boat and rig it up with a shooting platform and lights for nighttime bowfishing, bowfishing is just fun, and it can be fun for the entire family. We watched youngsters shooting and harvesting fish; and we saw father and son teams, and father and daughter teams. We saw that children enjoyed going bowfishing, since they didn’t have to sit still or be quiet, and they could eat snacks and drink water and soft drinks. If they got tired, they could go to sleep in the boat. Bowfishing is a good sport to get the family involved in and to take the family outdoors with you.
I’ve also realized that bowfishing isn’t as serious as bowhunting. Before you go bowhunting, you need to be as proficient as you possibly can be at shooting a bow, because you don’t want to wound an animal. But in bowfishing, you don’t have to be that serious, since one of two things will happen. You’ll either take or miss the fish when you shoot.
Another thing I like about bowfishing is that bowfishing is best in the spring and summer months when big game hunting season is closed in most states. If you’re a turkey hunter, you can hunt turkeys at first light and then bowfish after dark. Most bowhunters I know like to shoot their bows as often as they can. That’s one reason 3D archery continues to grow during the off-season. With bowfishing, you get to shoot a lot more each time you go out than you do when you’re hunting during the season. If you’re a deer hunter, you only may be able to shoot your bow once during the entire bow season. But when you go bowfishing, more than likely, you’ll shoot your bow 50-100 times per night, and I like to shoot my bow.
As I mentioned earlier, the first night we went out, we had several rain showers pass over us, and the temperature dropped a little, which didn’t bother me at all. I often hunt in cold, wet weather. As long as you have some warm clothes and a quality rain suit, you don’t have to stop bowfishing. In the summertime, when the weather’s very hot, a cooling shower at night can be refreshing. In April, I had on warm clothes and a rain suit, so even when the rain started falling, the bowfishing still seemed like a nighttime adventure.
When I’m bowhunting, I shoot my Eva Shockey bow made by Bowtech (https://bowtecharchery.com/). For bowfishing, I used the Bowtech Diamond Edge bow with its shorter draw length that I could turn down to 30 pounds of pull. Almost all the bowfishermen were shooting only about 30 to 40 pounds of weight, because most of the shots they were making were at 10 yards or less. The Muzzy bowfishing arrow (http://www.muzzy-bowfishing.com/fish-arrows/) was a heavy fiberglass arrow that packed a lot of punch, so you didn’t need a super-heavy bow to bowfish. Since I was shooting with my fingers instead of a mechanical release, I wouldn’t want to pull a bow much heavier than 30 or 40 pounds. I liked the Bowtech Diamond Edge, since it was short. When I leaned out over the rail on the boat, I didn’t have to raise my bow up to clear the rail and could shoot right over the top of the rail without the cams on the bow coming in contact with the boat’s rail.
I used the new Muzzy bowfishing reel on my bow. I was concerned about the reel I’d be using, because some of the other bowfishing reels have a button you have to push on the back of the reel before you can take a shot. If you don’t push the button on the reel before you draw back to shoot the bow, bad things can happen. The new Muzzy bowfishing reel has a feature on it that doesn’t allow the bowfisherman to draw the bow, unless the lever on the reel is in the right place to let the line free-spool out of the reel when you take the shot. Learning that I can’t draw the arrow back in my bow without moving the lever on the reel has made me much more comfortable about bowfishing. When there’s a target in front of me, I have a tendency to get excited. If I had been using a push-button reel, I wouldn’t have been surprised at all if I forgot to push the button before I drew the bow.
To learn more about bowfishing, go to John E. Phillips’ book “The Bowfishing Bible” at http://amzn.to/22zX7Zz.