There is a contingent of modern bowhunters out there who have shot their share of deer with compound bows, and now they are looking for a different challenge.

“It’s not just different, it’s the ultimate challenge,” says Jonas Strong, who has hunted deer with longbows and recurves all his life out in the river bottoms of eastern Montana. “You use your skills to get within ‘wolf range’ of your quarry, mere yards where a doe or buck instinctively senses danger. Then you have to draw your bow and shoot without the animal seeing you. There’s nothing like the rush of it.”

Gearing up for Traditional Archery

Strong suggests a traditional, or “trad,” bow of 60, 62 or 64 inches. “The longer the bow, the more forgiving it is to shoot and learn with,” he says. “I recommend a bow in the 50- to 55-pound range, though you can kill anything in North America with a sub-50-pound bow. Don’t be afraid to buy a 35- to 50-pound bow if that is what you can pull the best. On the other hand, don’t buy a bow with too much weight. It can be tough to draw, and detrimental to your form as you learn to shoot.”

You can spend from hundreds of dollars to $2,000 or more for a high-grade custom wooden bow. “For your first bow, a used bow will suit you fine. I use Ebay and similar sites for a lot of bow purchases for my collection.”

Strong shoots wooden arrows, but he recommends aluminum or heavy carbon shafts for your first recurve or longbow hunts. Be sure the spine of your arrows meets or exceeds your bow’s weight. “It is okay to go five pounds or so over on arrow spine, but not under,” he says. “If you buy a 50-pound bow, shoot 50 to 55 spine arrows; with a 55-pound bow, 55 to 60 spine and so on.”

A rule of thumb is that your arrow and broadhead should weigh 10% of your bow weight. A 50-pound bow, for example, would need a 500-grain or heavier arrow/broadhead combination. “I shoot bows from 50 to 66 pounds, and I use 650- to 800-grain arrows,” notes Strong. “I suggest only fixed-blade or cut-on impact broadheads, 125 grains or heavier.”

Wooden Bow Shooting

The beauty of “trad” is its simplicity. In addition to a wooden bow with a good string and a dozen practice arrows with field points, the only other things you need are a shooting glove, an armguard and a quiver.

You can buy a few block targets to shoot at like compound bow shooters do. Or like Strong you can tack small targets onto hay bales and practice like trad shooters have done for decades.

Either way, it’s all instinctive shooting with no sights. Bend at the waist, cant your bow a little, learn the sight picture of your arrow in relation to the target and fire away. Says Strong, “The only way to learn is to shoot hundreds of arrows into the hay from 5 to maybe 20 yards. It’s fun. I enjoy shooting my bows almost as much as I do trying to shoot a deer.”