Contributor: Troy Wood
Location: New Mexico
Years of Experience: 14
We have all had that time in the summer, when the days stay warm and light long enough to start practising for hunting season. Now these are, of course the thoughts that exceed the five shots a day, twice a week habit and venture more into the idea of work getting in the way of your valuable shooting time.
This is the time for me personally where my exercise and eating habits are their very best, and all I can think about is shape up and shoot. It is this time when my dreams venture from the typical mulling over of the next day’s tasks to the moment of truth while holding back on a big pronghorn buck or a screaming bull elk. When this starts to happen the internal drive pushes harder than ever to let arrows fly and at times a foam target just isn’t enough to satisfy your instinct. It is times like these that I like to get a little adventurous with my practice habits.
It is important to note that I shoot all types of bows and some tend to be better suited than others for particular practices. One great pastime that can be tailored around virtually any sort of hunting bow is bow-fishing. Here in New Mexico it is only legal to shoot non-game fish species, of which the most abundant is carp. It is important to know each states rules and regulations on fishing with a bow but most states allow it in some form.
Because of increased fish activity, night fishing with artificial lights seems to prove most productive but even an hour or two during the day can prove to be some of the most addicting practice you can endure. As with all things it is a much better experience if well equipped, I use a riser mounted reel by AMS for compounds which minimizes retrieval time of the arrow and results in more shots.
As with most bow hunters I have a couple older compounds floating around which make a good base as a bow-fishing set up. In the area I live in for most of the year there are irrigation ditches everywhere around the agriculture development. With some explanation most farmers are in total cooperation to allow access for bow-fishing when asked politely and few have more request than to close the gates and let them know how you do. Bow-fishing can be as simple as one person with a rig and a headlamp or as complex as tailored air boats with enough halogen lights to illuminate a small town. I enjoy the camaraderie of a couple friends who are always only a phone call away and at least one or two light shiners who take a bit more persuasion.
With the spare bow being set up and an eager group there is little more preparation needed than insect repellant and either charged lights or sun screen. Polarized sun glasses are also a good idea if daytime fishing. Some tips to know before you head out are to keep new strings on your bows, when I got my fishing bow it still had the factory string and was in desperate need of replacement but with a new string I trust the set up as well as if it were all new. Arrow quality is a must; keep arrows in good shape, replace fishing heads as needed to ensure retrieval of fish.
This is often a see and shoot sport so shots are quick, but try to do as always and focus on a spot and make the shot count. With this type of habit it is likely you will shoot less but hit more fish. It is also important to remember light refraction during the day and learn to aim low, sometimes below the fish completely to compensate. As the goal of the shot is to retrieve the fish rather than to kill the fish there is not a particular vitals area to aim for; once landed the fish can be dispatched as with typical fishing and put on ice.
I personally shoot instinctive as do most people I’ve seen when bow-fishing, but I have a friend that does use a single pin sight and shoots with a release when shooting. Although this is not my preferred method he uses the pin as a bearing of where he expects to hit and ends up with as many fish as I do typically. Don’t be afraid to see what works best for you.
If you care to eat the fish there are actually many resources that provide carp recipes; although they have a reputation of being a trash fish the primary problem with cleaning and eating carp is the bones. They are as a rule a very bony fish and take some extra care; I personally have enjoyed using canning methods which pressure the bones to a point that they dissolve. If you know there are carp in your area but are not sure where to go, contact the bass anglers in the area. Carp are notorious for destroying bass beds and although not a direct predator fish, can really do damage to a bass population over a couple of years. If bass anglers are aware of this they are usually happy to know there is some solution to this problem in their favorite fishing hole.
After a few trips out a few fish landed there is likely to be an occasional dream of landing a big fish with your bow in the mix of the nightly bowhunting medley that occurs in the pre-season. I am also sure that later in life there will be bowfishing memories that rank within the realm of the most memorable of hunts!