If you believed the ads and popular television shows, you’d think it costs a fortune to be a successful bowhunter.
Every year, new products and technology hits the market and costs hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Cue the celebrities paid to endorse products and persuade you to believe you need a certain product if you want to kill your next trophy buck.
But is it really that easy? Can you buy your way to bowhunting success?
Many hunters try to buy their way to success simply by buying opportunities. The two main ways they do that is in the form of private hunting leases and guided hunts.
If your pockets are deep enough, you can lease prime hunting ground and tie up large tracts of land, limit pressure, and let bucks mature. It’s a sure-fire way to increase your chances of success, and plenty of self-proclaimed experts have done just that.
In fact, I believe this is one of the major disconnects in the hunting industry, where those with access to tons of private property and managed deer herds shame others who may not have the same opportunities that they do for just trying to fill a tag. Not everyone has their own private lease where they have their choice of bucks and can allow deer to grow year after year.
Also, if you’re a landowner or have a private hunting lease, you can plant food plots that concentrate deer and provide all the nutrition that mature bucks need to reach their potential. The equipment, seed, and fertilizer needed to plant expansive food plots aren’t cheap. Yes, it requires a lot of work, but you can’t do it without money, and the combination of private land and healthy food plots can increase your opportunities to harvest mature bucks exponentially.
Money can also buy a guided hunt with a premiere outfitter every year. Heck, with a big budget, you could buy two or three a year to increase your odds even further and guarantee that you’re hunting during the peak times of the season in some of the best areas of the country.
There’s a reason so many hunting shows feature outfitted hunts. The hosts of the show (some of them, not all of them) don’t have to spend the time scouting and doing the work to locate good bucks. They basically pay someone else to do it for them, and that is very much an example of buying success.
Hunting gear is another way that hunters try to buy success. We convince ourselves that we need the latest and greatest products if we want to kill that big buck this fall.
There’s no doubt that many of today’s products absolutely will help you become more successful. Consider the many items that have become “standard” gear for bowhunters: trail cameras, scent elimination sprays and washes, treestands, and a wide range of camouflage clothing.
Now, companies are upping the ante to include battery-powered devices that hang near your treestand and neutralize human odor, some of which cost hundreds of dollars. Many hunters swear by these devices and wouldn’t hunt without them. I guess we’ve come a long way from just making sure the wind direction was right before hunting a stand.
As far as products go, trail cameras are perhaps the main item that a hunter can purchase to increase their bowhunting success.
Having the ability to actually see what’s there and use cameras to pattern deer has been a game changer for the whole industry. I can think of at least a handful of bucks I would not have killed if not for trail cameras.
I’m not saying they’re bad, and I sure wouldn’t go as far as some states are in terms of outlawing them, but they are a tremendous aid. Many hunters won’t even sit a stand unless they get trail cameras photos of good bucks in an area, and for many other hunters, running trail cameras is the bulk of their scouting efforts.
All of the gear we buy can range from relatively affordable to lavishly expensive depending on brand and features included in each product.
And yes, quality often comes with a price tag, but who would have predicted, 30 years ago, that we’d willingly pay upwards of a thousand dollars for top-of-the-line camouflage jackets and pants because we believed they’d help us be more successful bowhunters?
The same goes for compound bows and crossbows, which range from the somewhat affordable $300-600 range to the high end $1,200-1,900 range – just for the bow, without any of the accessories such as sights, arrow rest, etc.
Those prices are a long way from the first bow I ever owned, an old Jennings compound that I bought in 1994 from my neighbor, with four aluminum arrows, for $60.
That old Jennings was NOT a pleasure to shoot, and it was a constant struggle to get consistent accuracy with it. However, today’s technology has enabled much better designs that are easy to shoot and need relatively little tuning to achieve good accuracy.
These developments are awesome to see, but I know hunters who feel like they need the newest, most expensive model on the market in order to be successful. They trade lots of backyard practice for technology and think they can buy their way to better shooting skills. And sometimes they can.
Maybe we should take a moment to define – or perhaps redefine – the meaning of success. My handy dandy dictionary defines success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”
With that in mind, let’s revisit the initial question: can you buy your way to bowhunting success?
If we’re talking about buying opportunities, then the answer is yes. We can absolutely buy opportunities.
If we’re talking about buying gear that is more comfortable, improves our scouting, and makes us more deadly, then the answer is also yes. We can buy products that will help us accomplish all of these things.
But I think it’s fair to say that all bowhunters have the same goal, or purpose, which is to be the best hunters that we can be. Period.
Many hunters, myself included, probably rely too much on products to help us achieve this goal when the real “secret sauce” is working harder, practicing longer, scouting more, and continuing to learn about animal behavior.
Also, so much of hunting success involves your personal journey and making the most of the resources available to you. Success can be shooting Pope & Young whitetails or it can be just putting meat in the freezer, and both are equally valid definitions.
You can’t buy work ethic. You can’t buy patience. You can’t buy discipline. You can’t buy the mental fortitude to stay on stand and keep hunting long after many others have quit. You can buy a host of opportunities and products that may contribute to your bowhunting success, but you can’t buy these.