If you fish long enough, you may become bored with conventional spinning tackle and pick up a fly rod. Hunters, too, sometimes tire of the rifle or shotgun and look for a new challenge - archery.
"It is not something you will pick up overnight," said Joseph Newton, who has been tuning bows at the Bill Jackson Shop for Adventure this week in anticipation of Saturday's opening day of archery season. "But once you start, it can be addictive."
Unless you are incredibly gifted, you probably won't be able to pick up a bow, warm up at the range and bag a deer on opening day. Like anything worthwhile, it can take weeks, months, even years, to become proficient with a bow and arrow.
The first step is to head to an outfitter and get "fitted" with the right outfit for your size and strength.
"It is a very personal fit," Newton said. "You can't pick up your brother-in-law's old bow and expect it to work for you."
Newton said he has had lefties come in with right-handed bows and wonder why they are having such a hard time getting the thing to shoot straight.
Recurve or compound
At the outfitter, ask to see both types of bows: the traditional or longbow (recurve) and the more modern, technical (compound) bow. The majority of hunters today use lightweight compound bows because their pulley systems make them easier to use.
"To hunt with a recurve bow, you have to be an instinctive shooter and really know what you are doing," Newton said. "Most people start off with compound bows."
A good, 50-pound (draw strength) recurve costs about $199. Compound bows start around $200 and go up from there.
"The best bet is to buy an outfitter package that has everything included," Newton said. "You will save a lot of money."
Get lots of practice
Once you buy a bow, it is time to hit the range. A bowhunter should be able to place a tight group of arrows into a target from 20 yards away before he even thinks about pursuing wild game.
"The last thing a hunter wants to do is wound an animal," Newton said. "That is why range time is so important."
But the effort will bring rewards. For starters, archery is the oldest and most difficult method of hunting. These traditionalists can take great pride in the history of their sport.
"One of the more common reasons why people take up archery is that they can go hunting much earlier than everybody else," Newton said. "Archery season usually opens two months before general gun season."
Start them early
The National Archery in the Schools Program operates in 49 states, as well as Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Mexico. More than 3-million children have gone through the program over the years, and Florida now has at least 120 schools participating. Every child, regardless of size, can use the same equipment, thanks to the creation of the Genesis bow, which eliminates the need for specific draw weight or length. This excellent starter bow is available at Bill Jackson's for $179.
An archery permit is required in addition to the regular Florida hunting license. A turkey permit is required if hunting turkeys. Only bows with a minimum draw weight of 35 pounds may be used. Crossbows are not allowed (without a disabled person crossbow permit). Archers may not use unleashed dogs (except for birds). Hunting with bows equipped with sights or aiming devices with electronic computational capabilities or light projection features (lasers) is prohibited.
- South Hunting Zone: Sept. 6-Oct. 5
- Central Hunting Zone: Sept. 20-Oct. 19
- Northwest Hunting Zone: Oct. 18-Nov. 16
Bill Jackson Shop for Adventure in Pinellas Park operates the only indoor archery range in Pinellas County. Hours are 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $15. Group classes and privates lessons are also available. You can bring your own equipment or rent a bow. For information, go to www.billjacksons.com or call (727) 576-4169.
In Hillsborough County:
- County-run Lake Park in Lutz. Call (813) 264-3806 or go to www.hillsboroughcounty.org/parks.
- Arrowhead Archery Shop, 10818 E U.S. Highway 92, Tampa, (813) 621-4279
- Archery Etc. 809 E Bloomingdale Ave., #391, Brandon, (813) 654-3946
National Archery in the Schools Program
In the state's Southwest Region, contact the Lakeland Field Office and ask for John Weatherholt or Carrie Ream at (863) 648-3200. Go to www.nasparchery.com/activea.asp for information about the national program.