Whether you're a new bow fisherman or a seasoned vet, you're going to miss some shots while bowfishing. No doubt about it. If you are new to the sport, expect to miss a lot until you get used to instinctive shooting and adjusting your aim for water refraction. If you are a seasoned vet, you might have a bad day or night and getting frustrated can make matters worse.
Whether you're new to bowfishing or just having a bad day or night on the water, I've highlighted a few things you can do to set yourself up for success and increase you hit percentage.
1. Keep Your Bow Tuned Up
Missing your shots may not be strictly your fault. I know, that's what you've been telling everyone. We are giving you permission to use this excuse, sometimes. You can be the best shot in the world, but if your bow is out of tune you are not going to get consistent arrow flight.
The Easy Fix - Don't let your bowfishing bow be the reason you're missing shots. Every year I make it a habit to take my bows into the pro shop to get them checked out by a professional. They will get your equipment in tip-top shape and give you piece of mind that the bow isn't the issue when you start missing.
Keeping your bow tuned is important for both its longevity and your performance. This advice also applies to the different components of your bow.
Team Loxley Tip - Make sure to regularly check you knock point placement and your rest position. Whenever I start missing shots, these two things are my first suspects. Many times, one of them ends up being the culprit.
Team Loxley Tip - If you rest loosens up during a night out, it might be time to get a new rest. I prefer a 3/4 full containment which has always served me well.
2. Learn Consistency
Now that we got your bow shooting laser beams, the next thing I would look at when troubleshooting missed shots is your consistency. A perfectly tuned bow will shoot a perfect arrow every time... until you hand it to a person, then you've introduced a weak point. This is where we need to tune ourselves, so to speak.
The Easy Fix - You need an anchor point. An anchor point is the way we draw and hold our bow every time to feel comfortable. It introduces consistent movement and a holding pattern. It's the start of muscle memory. My anchor point is a finger in the corner of my mouth. Every time I draw my bow, I draw it to that position. This helps me create consistency so I am in the same position every time I am at full draw.
The Not Easy Fix - After you get really good at shooting from muscle memory, you can start snap shooting. Snap shooting is when you shoot without hitting full draw. This shooting style is used in certain circumstances and only with certain bow types. Be on the lookout for future blog articles with more information on snap shooting.
Team Loxley Tip - Snap shooting is helpful when you are very close to a fish and don't want your entire arrow to go through your target.
3. Stay Nourished, Hydrated, and Rested
Once I have the bow tuned and my anchor point, it’s time to call back to a previous article: 3 Ways to Prevent Fatigue While Bowfishing.
I won't go into a ton of detail here because you can read the article for all the tips, but make sure you're well hydrated, have snacks, and get good rest before you go out bowfishing.
4. Dial Down the Draw Weight
I have heard a lot of opinions about draw weight, so I'd like to add to the conversation. Shooting 50 pound draw weight isn't necessary for bowfishing. Bowfishing is a marathon not a sprint. You aren't sitting in a tree stand waiting for a deer to walk by and pulling your bow back one time. When bowfishing, you are constantly shooting, so it's easy to fatigue after a couple hours and start missing shots.
The Easy Fix - You don't need 50 pounds, dial it back to around 30 pounds. This is plenty to do what you need to do. It's possible in certain circumstances that you could use a heavier draw weight, but for most situations while bowfishing, it's just not necessary.
5. Take The Right Shots
Last but not least, let’s look at the shots we’re taking. This can be an incredibly hard thing to master but choosing your shots wisely can drastically increase your hit percentage. A lot of us are bow hunters during the fall. Some of us limit our distance to 30 yards, some of us shoot at 60 yards or further. If the shot is longer than our limit, we wait. This same concept should be applied to bowfishing and possibly even more strictly due to the water refraction, angles, and movement.
The Easy Fix - You will hit more fish more often when they are right next to the boat, that's for sure. You might get lucky and hit some fish on the move at a distance as well, but you won't hit them as often. You need to find your sweet spot somewhere in between and selectively shoot based on your skill level.
Easy Fix Number Two - This might seem obvious, but try to get as close as you can to the fish before shooting. We have all taken a low percentage shot and missed only to watch the fish swim right by the boat 3 seconds later without being able to reset fast enough. You don't have to shoot as soon as the fish is visible, be patient and you will bring more fish in the boat.
Follow our advice and miss fewer shots
These five areas are what I always consider when I am trying to hit as many shots as possible. I implement these strategies every year and every time I bow fish. When troubleshooting why you're missing shots while bowfishing, remember that these tips may not work exactly the same for you. You may have to tweak a little bit to fit your needs and your setup. This is at least a good starting point to give you some things to think about and ways to add a few more fish into your boat this spring.
- Johnathan Beebe
Johnathan Beebe is an expert bowfisherman from Michigan with 20+ years of experience. He is the most recent back-to-back winner of the Great Lakes Bowfishing Championship (2019 and 2021) and a proud member of the Loxley Bowfishing team.