Deer Hunting with a Recurve

Video hunting deer with recurve bow

Recurve hunting is no easy task.

The first bow that I ever owned was a recurve that my dad bought me when I was a kid. I knew that the Indians had shot recurves, and I thought that was pretty cool. It’s a very traditional form of archery requiring instinctive shooting, much like throwing a baseball.

My archery career started in my late teens and early 20s. Even though I focused most of my energies toward shooting a compound, I knew that one day I’d really like to kill a deer with my recurve bow. Keeping this in mind, I’d practice with it from time to time. But, every year when hunting season came around, I’d always end up leaving my recurve at home and toting my compound into the woods with me. I worried that if a buck of a lifetime stepped out in front of me, I wouldn’t be able to harvest it with my recurve. Sealing the deal is hard enough with a compound bow. So for that reason, I’d never taken it with me.

A couple of years ago, Michael Waddell and I started talking about our mutual desire to take a deer with our recurve bows. We started practicing more with that as a goal. Last year we both decided that the only way to kill deer with our recurves would be to take them with us hunting.

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I have a little bit of property around my house that I hunt. I hadn’t seen any really big bucks on the property, so I wasn’t that worried about missing the buck of a lifetime there. I decided that I’d set aside my property for traditional archery hunting only. That way, I’d be forced to hunt with my recurve.

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A Bite of Humble Pie

I practiced all summer long and got to where I could hit a 6-inch circle at 20 yards. I became really proficient and thought that when it came time to shoot a deer with my bow, it’d be a real slam dunk. So, I took it hunting with me on my property. I ended up eating a big slice of humble pie that season. I shot at a coyote and seven deer and missed every single one of them at 20 yards. I couldn’t believe it. Even though I could hit a target when practicing, I couldn’t hit a live animal. I chocked it up to nerves.

A buddy of mine explained to me what may have caused my misses. He said when shooting a recurve, you must come to the same draw length every time you shoot the bow or you’ll end up changing the trajectory of the arrow. When you’re nervous, you’ll often draw the bow 1 inch farther back just because of a rush of adrenaline. That one inch can change everything, especially since the deer often drop when you fire your bow. When I had shot at those seven deer and the coyote, I was shooting really high. I actually watched the arrow go a solid foot over their backs. What he said made since to me.

Well, my misses just fueled the fire. I practiced even harder and became more determined to take a deer with my recurve. I knew when I finally connected with my recurve that it was going to be rewarding.

Goal Achieved

I had a hunt planned with Michael at Steve Anderson’s ranch in Texas. We both decided that we wanted to take deer with our recurves. We planned to hunt bucks with our compound bows and does with the recurve bows. After I took my buck, as planned I took my recurve to the stand. As feared, I missed the first two does. I began to think I was never going to accomplish my goal. After realizing that I was shooting high again, I decided to aim low. So when I had another shot opportunity, I aimed six inches under the deer and ended up making an excellent shot. That was the greatest feeling ever. I finally harvested a deer with my recurve. I did it again with another doe. I was more excited about taking those two does with my recurve than I had been about any of the bucks that I’ve taken with my compound.

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This year, I planned to do the same thing on my hunting property. I changed out some arrows and practiced all summer long. I had some game camera pictures of an older 8-pointer that lived on my property and decided that I’d try to take him. He wasn’t a great deer, but one that I could be proud of shooting with a recurve.

So I set up a stand in a persimmon tree and hunted over a food plot one afternoon. I sat there for several hours and with only 10 or 15 minutes left before dark, that buck came walking out and stopped at 18 yards from me.

I felt myself getting nervous and decided that if I miss, I’m going to miss low. So I picked a spot 6 inches under the deer and shot. To my immense relief, I made a perfect shot. It went right through him. The deer ran 150 yards and died. I was ecstatic. After all of these years, I finally got my recurve buck.

Michael and I are going back to Steven Anderson’s ranch in December. We both plan to shoot does with our recurves again.

I love hunting with my compound bow, but its fun to change the pace and increased the challenge a little bit every now and then. You really bump up the pride factor when you connect with a recurve.

Editor’s Note: This was originally published in 2007.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>