Should You Bowfish With Your Hunting Bow?

By Brodie SwisherApril 28, 2023

Every spring, countless bowhunters dabble with the idea of giving bowfishing a try. They see the photos of monster fish taken with a bow popping up on social media, and the wheels begin to turn. “I bet I could shoot fish with my current bowhunting setup,” they think to themselves. And at first glance, it seems like a noble idea. Why not save the hassle and expense of buying another bow just for bowfishing, right?  

But after further review, I think you’ll realize shooting fish with you current hunting bow isn’t the best choice. Should you bowfish with your hunting bow? Absolutely not! 

Here’s a look at 5 reasons why that’s a horrible idea.

Best Bowfishing Gear For 2020
Thinking about using your hunting bow for bowfishing? Read on for a look at why that's a horrible idea.

1. You Will Completely Change Your Bow

Aside from the bow itself, you won’t use anything on your current bowhunting setup for bowfishing. You don’t need a bow sight for bowfishing, and you’ll use a different style arrow rest for bowfishing than what you use for deer hunting. Bottom line, everything will come off your  hunting bow as you convert it over to a bowfishing rig. 

You’ve probably worked really hard to get your bow dialed in and tuned just right for hunting season. Do you really want to tear that down and have to start completely over for the fall season? Not a chance! A bowfishing bow consists of an arrow rest that can handle fishing arrows and line, as well as a reel for retrieval. You pretty much start with a bare bow. Everything else must go. 

bowfishing bow arrow
Everything changes when it comes to bow accessories for a bowfishing bow.

2. It Will Take A Beating

Most shooters underestimate the abuse a bow will take when put to use bowfishing. If you’re bowfishing from a boat, your bow will likely be bounced around from the front deck to the back. It’s inevitable. When you shoot a fish, your bow will likely be thrown to the deck as you grab line to land fish.

It will be dropped, stepped on, kicked around, and at times, dropped into the water. It takes a literal beating when put to work on the average bowfishing trip. Think about how much you baby that bow throughout the fall. Now imagine it swapping licks with the side of an aluminum boat or dunked in the lake over and over. It gets ugly. Your hunting bow deserves better. 

Should You Bowfish With Your Hunting Bow?
Your bow will take a beating while bowfishing. Your hunting bow is not what you want to have on board.

3. The Draw Weight Is Too Heavy

Regardless of whether you shoot 50, 60, or 70 pounds with your hunting bow, your draw weight is too heavy for bowfishing. You don’t need that much mojo for shooting fish. With that kind of poundage, you’ll blow through every fish you shoot.

But that’s not the real problem. The bigger issue is that for every fish you miss, your arrow will be buried deep in the mud, grass, or brush. It’s way worse than trying to pull an arrow from a 3D target that’s got a death grip on your arrow. 

Aside from that, a heavy poundage bow will take a physical toll on your body after a long night of shooting. Think about it. You could potentially be making hundreds of shots, or more, on fish during a day or night on the water. That’s a lot of shooting for one’s body, regardless of whether your built like Justin Zarr, or Todd Graf. It’s a workout! 

A bow with 30-40 pounds of draw weight is plenty to securely anchor your fish, and be comfortable enough for a long night of shooting. 

4. It's Not Built For Snap Shooting

Most hunting bows these days feature let-off options of 70%, 80%, or even 90%. That’s a really nice feature when you’re hunting deer or elk, but not so much when you’re trying to snap shoot darting fish in the water. You need something smooth and fast to shoot fish on the move.

You’ll be shooting at fish from full draw, half-cocked, and everything in between. Today’s bowfishing bows are built with no specific draw length. They are smooth drawing from 20 inches to 30 inches. They are built to deliver smooth shooting performance, even when snap shooting is required.  

Should You Bowfish With Your Hunting Bow?
A fast, smooth shooting bow is what you want for sticking fish on the move.

5. It Will Smell Like Death

If things go well, your bow will smell like death at the end of your bowfishing trip. It’ll be covered in mud, blood, and fish guts. It’s a stink that won’t go away easily, if ever. And the fish blood, guts, and slime is a combination that’ll do a number on your bow’s finish, strings, and cables.

Your bow will take a beating, and the lingering odor just might be the worst of the abuse. A drive through pressure washer and scrub-down are the norm for any hope of ridding your boat, bow, and gear from the ungodly stench that will soon set in if unaddressed. 

Can you bowfish with your hunting bow? Absolutely! 

Should you! Heck, no! Don’t do it! There are too many other options that are better suited for bowfishing than turning your hunting bow into a bowfishing bow. Shop for a bow at a pawn shop, yard sale, online, or even the many bowfishing bows now offered by bow manufacturers these days. 

Be sure to check out the article What’s the Best Bow for Bowfishing, for more on what works best. 

Brodie Swisher
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
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