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.
Here’s one of the things that really surprised me. When I was learning how to bowfish, I quickly realized that I had to forget everything I knew about target archery and bowhunting and reprogram my brain. When you’re bowfishing, you don’t have an anchor point to anchor your shot, and you don’t always pull your bow all the way to the back wall before you shoot. Also, I’ve learned that I can shoot faster and more accurately shooting with my fingers on the string, instead of shooting a mechanical release.
As long as I’ve been shooting a compound bow, I’ve never shot instinctively. When I’m bowhunting, I have a shot routine. I look at my balance and my level, and I mentally go step-by-step through my shot sequence. But with bowfishing, you see, you draw, you shoot, and everything happens automatically. There is no shot sequence to go through step-by-step. When I’m bowfishing, I use an anchor point, but it’s not the same anchor point I use when I bowhunt. When aiming, you have to quickly and instinctively know where and how to aim, depending on the distance you are from the fish, and how deep the fish is in the water.
Although at first I tried to mentally figure out how to aim, as the night wore on, I learned to quit thinking and start shooting, and then all those calculations would happen instinctively. When you first start to learn bowfishing, it seems to be much different from bowhunting. But once you develop your own shooting sequence, the sport’s not that much different from bowhunting.
After the afternoon bowfishing trip, we went out again on Friday night. The temperature had dropped, and we were caught in several different rain storms. I took my first catfish early in the hunt that night. I was really excited about taking the catfish, because I knew we could eat it. One of the reasons I like to hunt is that I know I can provide meat for myself, my family and other people and now I can change up our diet with these fish.
The 83 teams at the bowfishing tournament took thousands of pounds of carp, buffalo, drum and gar. Often, these fish eat the eggs of game fish like bass, crappie and bluegill. These fish are as damaging to freshwater lakes as coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions are to wildlife. I learned that the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources appreciates bowfishermen removing these rough fish. All the fish shot in this bowfishing tournament were donated to a commercial turtle farm or carried to a plant that made dog food and cat food. None of the fish harvested were wasted. They were all recycled.
To learn more about bowfishing, go to John E. Phillips’ book “The Bowfishing Bible” at http://amzn.to/22zX7Zz.