Story and photos by Nigel Fox
Bowhunting in Alaska
Hunting in Alaska can be very challenging! Logistics, weather, and timing play a big part in planning a hunt in Alaska. The gear you bring or don’t bring can also contribute to your success. Generally, bowhunting is challenging, but when you add Alaska’s backcountry to it, it becomes incredibly challenging. There are a few rules that I follow when getting ready for one of my Alaska bowhunting trips, which, in my experience, has helped to ensure I have a successful trip.
When planning, the first few things you want to focus on are what species you want to hunt, logistics, and the timing of your Alaska hunt. If you do not know when you are going, where you will go to, and what species you want to hunt, then there is no reason to get bowhunt ready. Once those things are solidified, then you can focus on your training.
Once I have my plans set, the next thing I like to do is check my bow over and make sure all my equipment is in good working condition. I do all my own bow work but that requires a few pieces of equipment in your home shop. If you do not have a home setup, any local pro shop can fix anything on your bow and/or check it over to ensure you are good to go. This always ensures that I am starting with a bow that is tuned and sighted-in properly.
When I get back in the groove of practicing every day of the week instead of my norm of four days a week, I generally start shooting 20 arrows a day from 20 yards to 40 yards, making sure my bow is on at those distances. Because you are not shooting too far out, this gives you good, quality repetitions and practice with your bow.
Once I have three- to four weeks of solid practice at that yardage, I move out to further distances. That distance depends on what would be a comfortable distance for you to take an animal at. I generally practice out to 80 yards, and sometimes to 100 yards, but I hope I don’t ever have to shoot an animal that far. Practicing long distance really makes you slow down and make a good shot, which in turn will make the closer shots easier and more automatic for you.
I also like to practice different up- and down angles, and will only do that once or twice a week. The reason is because I usually have to either go to a local archery course or grab a small target and head to the mountains to practice these shots. The shots taken at different angles, up and down, will make you see how your bow is shooting so you can hold properly on the animal if you have to make a shot like that.
Once I start practicing out past 40 yards, I only use a life-size target like a deer, bear or some sort of 3D target. It helps me with shot placement on the animal. This helps you know you are putting an arrow where it should be to make an ethical kill.
Fit for Backcountry Adventure
Getting dialed-in with your bow is just one thing I do when getting ready for my hunts. I also start to exercise with a purpose. That usually consists of a lot of hiking, walking/running with a weighted pack, and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts with weight training. Having your body in great shape will help you out tremendously in the backcountry. I will generally workout five days a week.
When training, whether it is shooting my bow or some sort of exercise like hiking, I try to wear my hunting clothes. It will help with in-the-moment shot opportunities, and it will help you get used to hiking and moving in your gear. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. It might be slightly overkill, but it helps with my confidence when I am hunting.
Of course, there are several different ways to get ready for any hunt, but this is what I do to be successful. Some basic rules to follow are:
- Have a good logistics plan.
- Make sure your gear is in good working condition.
- Get/keep your body in top shape.
If you follow these basic guidelines, you should be ready for your Alaska bow hunt.
Nigel Fox has been co-owner/guide at Alaska Drift Away Fishing for over two decades. He is a lifelong Alaskan and avid bowhunter of the Alaska backcountry. When he is not spending time guiding clients on the Kenai River, he is on another Alaska hunting adventure.
If you are looking for more bowhunting content, check out Hunt Alaska’s entire Bowhunting blog.