The glossary below can be a good place to start if you are new to bowhunting. You’ll be able to quickly learn about bowhunting and some of its strategies and philosophies by reading through all the terms. The world of bowhunting can seem overwhelming. However, the definitions and terms below will help you to understand what it is.
This glossary is not an archery glossary. We’ve already covered that. It is a glossary for bowhunting terms. Although there are a few archery terms included, we have only included bowhunting terms.
If you are new to bowhunting, we welcome you! Bowhunters are a happy, lively group. We welcome all new members to our community. Remember that no one is an expert at bowhunting and that it takes time to master the art. Keep learning and be patient.
3D archery: This target practice allows archers to shoot at life-sized models in a variety of games, such as deer or turkey. 3D archery is a popular choice for bowhunters because it allows them to practice hunting. 3D targets, unlike regular target archery, are often set up at unmarked distances so archers can practice accurately aiming and distance estimation.
Ambush Hunting There are many types of hunting. This is a “sit and wait” strategy where bowhunters hide, wait for the game to enter their sight, then fire upon them. It is done usually from a ground blind or tree stand. This can be a tedious task that requires patience. It is a common strategy for hunters of all ages. However, it can also be beneficial for seniors and hunters with limited mobility.
Arrowhead A sharp tip on an arrow. Broadhead is the most common arrowhead used by bowhunters (see below definition).
Axle to-Axle Length In a compound bow, the length between the axle and the ax is the distance between the cams of the bow. These are the oval or circular components at the ends of the bow limbs that allow it to shoot arrows very quickly. A compound bow with a shorter length axle-to–axle is better for hunting. However, a bow with a longer length axle-to–axle is best for target shooting.
Baiting is A strategy to lure a game to a particular location with food, scents, and decoys. There is much debate in the hunting community about whether baiting is acceptable and whether it is legal in certain states.
Bed/Bedding Area: An area where deer rest. The thick woods and shrubs that surround bedding areas allow deer to easily see and/or smell predators. The shape of bedding areas is usually a kidney bean. They are usually covered with dirt, grass, and leaves that have been pressed into the ground.
Ground Blind / Blind: This tent-like structure allows hunters/bowhunters to wait and watch for their game. Some ground blinds are portable and look somewhat like a tent, while others are permanent and indestructible. They are usually decorated to blend in with the surrounding environment and have small openings or windows that allow the bowhunter to aim and shoot at the game.
Blunt An arrowhead with a flat tip. Blunts are used primarily for hunting small game and varmint. They have a high impact but do little harm to the animal’s flesh.
Bolt is a projectile that’s used in crossbows. Also known as a quarrel.
Bowyer: An Old English name for a man/woman who makes bows. It is still used today.
Bracing: Stringing of a bow.
Broadhead: A arrow tip used for bowhunting large game. Broadheads are usually equipped with three, sometimes two, or four razor blades attached at the arrowhead to increase the lethal power. Broadheads can penetrate the game quickly and effectively while leaving a trail of blood so that hunters can find the game they shot. It can be difficult to distinguish between two types of broadheads: mechanical broadheads that extend as they hit the game and fixed-blade broadheads, which are stationary and don’t move upon impact. You can find a series of broadhead posts here.
Broadside: A deer standing horizontally to a bowhunter so that he can view the entire deer’s side. A broadside shot gives you a better view of the vital organs of the deer and makes it easier to kill them quickly.
Buck: A male deer. Bucks usually have antlers on the tops or sides of their heads and they often shed them after mating seasons.
Bull: A male elk. Although they are similar to whitetail deer in appearance, elk are usually larger. A bull can also be a moose or a caribou.
Bump and dump: This hunting strategy involves the hunter getting the buck from his bedding area (ie “bumps”), setting up a tree stand over that area, and waiting for the buck’s return.
Calling – Make imitations of the sounds made by the game to attract them. There are many products available to help hunters call.
Camouflage/ Camo: We all know what camo means. Camo is a lot of art. Not every camo fits all. You need to match your camo to the environment. Camo should not only mimic the environment’s colors but also include the shapes and forms of the environment.
Conservation: Preserving wildlife and habitats. Conservation is an important part of hunter education. Bowhunters, hunters, and fishermen are all involved in conservation efforts.
Cover scent: Ascent used by bowhunters and hunters to mask the smells we humans have. Bowhunting is a very important aspect of scent coverage because a game of all sizes can smell far more than ours.
Cow: Female elk, moose, or caribou.
Crossbow: While most bows are shot vertically (most bows) a crossbow can be mounted on an equipment piece called stock and shot horizontally. Crossbows can shoot at extremely high draw weights and instead of shooting bolts (sometimes called quarrels). Every state has its own rules regarding crossbow use.
Decoys A clone, or look-alike, used to lure game (very frequently deer or turkey), into bowhunter’s range of shooting.
Doe: Doe is a female deer. However, it can also be used to refer to other species of females like rabbits or kangaroos.
Doe Trail A trail that deer leave, mostly used by does and their fawns.
Dominant Buck A dominant buck, which is usually the largest deer in a given territory, is the one who has the right to breed with all of the doe in that area. He does this by fighting other deer in his area.
Downwind/Upwind: This refers to the direction of the wind and the direction in which your scent is being taken by it. Animals will sense your scent and run if they smell it. You don’t want the wind to carry your scent to the game that you are hunting. You can see the wind blowing your scent in front of your face when you’re heading downwind. This is why you shouldn’t hunt downwind. The wind is delivering your scent directly to the animal and it will flee. You should instead head upwind so the wind is blowing past you and taking your scent with it away from the game that you are hunting.
Driving: A hunting strategy where a hunter takes an animal or group to another hunter to hunt. They are then ready to shoot at that game.
Estrus/ Estrous/ Oestrus: A period when a doe can mate (i.e. when she is in heat). Estrous periods for the dough are usually between two and three days. Most do not breed in less than 24 hours. Estrous is the basis of the hunting season for deer.
Fair Chase, This is a principle of ethical hunting. Fair chase starts with following the state and federal hunting rules. However, it also includes activities that don’t give the quarry a fighting chance (such as canned hunting). Although many principles of the fair chase have been agreed upon by the hunting community, others (such as food plots or drone usage) remain controversial.
Fawn A baby deer that is usually less than one year old.
Feet per Secon (FPS), An indicator of the arrow’s velocity. FPS is a measure of how fast an arrow can penetrate a target. Bowhunters have seen FPS as an important feature of bowhunting bows over the past decade.
Field dressing: This is a procedure in which a hunter or bowhunter removes all internal organs from a downed animal. It is vital to field dress an animal immediately after killing. This will prevent bacteria from growing and preserve the integrity and quality of the meat. This makes it easier for the animal to be transported back to camp.
Fletching The vanes and fins at the back of an Arrow. Fletchings were made of animal feathers in the past. Bowhunters use plastic vanes which are more resilient and can withstand adverse weather conditions.
Flu Flu Arrow: An arch designed for shooting short distances. Flu-flu arrows’ fletchings are usually made of long feathers, which create drag and prevent the arrow from traveling too far. Arrows that travel far are easier to find. Flu-flu arrows can be used to hit smaller games and have a blunt arrowhead. This arrowhead is great for shooting birds.
Flushing: This is the art of getting animals to emerge from hidden or obscured areas. Usually by scaring or frightening them.
Food plots: Lands that have oats or clover, soybeans, or other plants that game love to eat. A food plot’s purpose is to attract games within shooting range. Food plots are illegal in all states. There are strict rules about what constitutes a food plot. Many bowhunters and hunters consider food plots unethical.
Funnel, sometimes called a “Pinch Point”: A narrow area of woods that becomes smaller. This allows deer to funnel into one line. A funnel can be a great shooting opportunity.
Game, also known as “Quarry”: Any animal that is hunted for food or sport.
Viewing: Viewing refers to scanning terrain or a large area of land for a game using binoculars or spotting scopes. A sentence that says: “These trees are too thick to be able to glass any game.” Or “Glassing game is difficult in these thick woods.” The spot-and-talk strategy of hunting is based on glassing, which we will discuss below.
Grain An unit of weight that is used to make arrows. It also includes the parts of an Arrow, such as inserts and nocks. One ounce equals 480 grains. We know that grains can be confusing for people. You can read our lengthy post on grains here.
Ghillie suit: A camouflage suit that a hunter/bowhunter uses to imitate his/her environment. A good ghillie suit is very complex and can offer incredible blending-in abilities.
Harvest: Killing (or taking) an animal. Although harvesting is technically a term for crops, it is not used by all hunters.
Home Range: A large area on which a deer spends most of its time. Home ranges are usually very small, often a few miles in size.
Hunting Education Each state requires hunters/bowhunters to complete a mandatory hunting education class to obtain a hunting license. Safety fundamentals, hunting ethics, and principles of conservation and wildlife management are some of the topics covered in the course.
Hunting License Document/paper/ electronic that permits a hunter/bowhunter to hunt a particular animal within a specified time frame in a state, using a certain method. Hunting licenses are typically issued by state governments. Each state has a department or agency that issues hunting licenses. For example, Montana is home to an agency called Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
Hunting outfitter: An individual or company that is paid to offer hunting trips to hunters and bowhunters. Hunting outfitters can also offer hunting guides to help locate game and transport hunters to hunting areas. “Hunting Outfitter” is not to be confused with regular “Outfitter,” which sells much outdoor gear, such as hunting, camping, and hiking.
Instinctive shooting (see “Traditional Archery”): This method uses hand-eye coordination to aim an arrow at a game. Traditional bowhunters are familiar with instinctive shooting. They learn how to aim and hit their quarry using only their aiming skills. Intuitive shooting is a skill that must be learned. It can be difficult to master if you aren’t used to bowing sights. You should only use instinctive hunting when you’re skilled.
Let Off: In a compound bow, “let off” refers to the reduction in draw weight at full draw. Let-off is often expressed as a percentage. For example, a bow that has a draw of 100 pounds and has an 80% off would have a draw of 20 pounds at full draw. Hunters who draw an animal may need to let off. They will then have to hold the draw for a while to allow the animal’s vital organs to open.
This may not make sense. The bow’s draw weight is a factor in how difficult it will be to pull the bowstring back. It will be more difficult to pull back a bow that has a heavy draw weight, while a bow with a lighter draw weight will be much easier to drawback. Hunting with bows over 40 pounds is a requirement in most states. However, this varies from one state to the next. This is to ensure that arrows fly quickly enough to kill an animal ethically and not just wound it. The let-off makes it easier to pull back a compound bowstring to full draw. Bowhunters should remember to let off when choosing a bow.
Too strong: An archer using a bow too heavy for his or her needs, that is, a bow with too high a draw weight, is called overbowed. Overbowed can lead to missed shots, poor form, and even injury. An archer who shoots a bow with a draw weight that is too high can suffer muscle tears.
Pre-Rut This is the first phase of a rut. We’ll explain “rut” further down, but quickly, “rut” refers to when bucks and dos most of their mating. The period when deer seek a mate. It’s a great time for hunting because there is a lot of activity from deer.
Processing: This is the A-to-Z procedure of skinning, quartering, and then removing all meat from an animal. Many hunters and bowhunters take their quarry to butchers to be processed, but many others learn how to do it.
Quarrel A crossbow projectile.
Quarry (also known as “Game”): Any animal that is hunted for food or sport. A sentence that says: “Once your quarry is located, you can start to stalk it.”
Quiver is An arrow-holding container. Quivers are available in many shapes and sizes, including long pouches, tubes, and open canisters. They can also be held in different places: quivers can either be attached to the bow or held on the hip. Bowhunters, on the other hand, prefer quivers that attach directly to the bow. They want to be able to grab an arrow as quickly as possible so that they don’t spook their quarry. Target archers, however, tend to use quivers that attach securely to their belts.
Rangefinder: A small, handheld mechanical device that allows archers, bowhunters, and hunters of all stripes to accurately determine the distance from a target. It is crucial to determine how far your quarry is from you. Distance is an important factor in aiming. “Range” is the term used to describe the process of determining how far away a target is.
Release/Release Aid: When drawing compound bows, archers use a release aid, which is a tool that attaches to the bowstring. It can be held in one’s hand or wrapped around the wrist. The release aid is used by the archer/bowhunter to draw the bowstring. Release aids are powerful tools that can help you get a better shot. There are many types of release aids, including index finger release aids, where you use your index to pull the trigger and release the arrow, and thumb release aids, which you use to pull back on your trigger and release the arrow.
Rest, also known as an “Arrow Rest”, is an instrument that can be either part of the bow’s riser or a separate piece attached. It holds the arrow and stabilizes the shot. There are many arrows rests, but most bowhunters use either a whisker cookie (an arrow rest that is round with synthetic strands or whiskers that hold the arrow in its place) or a drop-away rest that holds the arrow in place. These are both good choices for hunters who may shoot at unusual angles and require an arrow rest to hold the arrow in place. If you are interested in learning more about arrow rests, we have written several posts.
Rub: Trees or branches that have had their bark removed by a buck. To leave its scent and mark territory, a buck will rub its antlers against branches or trees to remove the velvet. (See “Velvet” below). To find the best spots to harvest deer, hunters use rubs.
A rut is when bucks enter their estrous cycles and try to find and mate with them. This is a particularly active time for deer and hunters. Because bucks are busy trying to find a mate, they are less careful than usual and it makes hunting easier. The rut can last through the winter, depending on where it is located. The peak of the Rut is the period when deer are most active. This occurs usually in the middle of the season. In the United States, the average peak day falls around November 13. The rut cycle can be broken into phases but these phases are too complex for this description. If you are interested, we have written many posts on it.
Sanctuary: “Home base” for deer. Sanctuary is a place where deer feel safe and comfortable. It’s also where they sleep. Hunters will try to avoid a sanctuary because they want their deer to feel safe and secure there. However, they will still map the sanctuary and take note of it as deer “commute” between sanctuary and food sources. Knowing the path of deer between a sanctuary or food source can help you hunt better.
Scent Control This is the practice of changing or eliminating your smell to hide from being harmed. The sense of smell is a powerful one. Animals can often smell bowhunters from miles away. Bowhunting is all about scent control. There are many scent control options available that can reduce or cover your scent.
Scouting: Identifying signs of the game in a hunting area, such as tracks and trails, scat markings, and other indicators. Scouting is done either before or after a hunt. Sometimes, it can be done “on the fly”. Many tools are available to help bowhunters scout. These include trail cameras that capture hours of activity and transmit it via the internet back to your computer / smart device / etc.
Season: The period during which hunters are permitted to hunt certain species of animals.
Sight, also known as a “Bow Sight”, is A tool that is used by bowhunters and archers to improve accuracy and effectiveness. It’s similar to a rifle scope. Bow sights are typically mounted on a bow at its riser, just above the arrow rest. There are two types of bow sights. One is a fixed pin, which has multiple pins that the bowhunter can set to specific distances. The other is a single pin, which only requires one pin that can be adjusted at will to shoot at different distances.
Sign: Clues about where an animal has been. Signs can include rubs and scrapes, beds or trails, tracks, tracks, scats, and so forth. Hunting is easier and more enjoyable when you can read signs.
Silencer (also known as a “String Silencing”): Many people assume that a bow is quiet, especially when compared to a rifle. However, some bows can be quite loud and cause havoc in the area. String silencers can be attached to the bowstring or to the bow to reduce the vibration. There are many variations and each one has a great name. A cat whisker’s silencer is made up of several strands of rubber or plaster that absorb some of the vibrations. Beaver balls, which look almost like toys for cats, reduce some of the string’s sound.
Spot-and-Stalk Hunting: This hunting strategy involves spotting an animal from a distance and then following it. Although it sounds easy, it can be quite challenging. Hunting is easy, but it can be difficult.
Stabilizer: Long rod or tube attached at the riser of a Bow. It absorbs some of the bow’s vibration and makes it easier to shoot accurately. Stabilizers for target bows are usually very long. However, stabilizers for hunting Bows tend to have shorter lengths as it would be difficult to drag through the woods with a long stabilizer.
Stalking: Slow, methodical, and hopefully quiet pursuit of game. Stalking is a way to get close enough to your quarry to be able to hit it directly and make a humane killing. Stalking involves moving in a diagonal direction towards an animal, rather than following a straight line. This is more aggressive and increases the chances of an animal running away. Good stalking may involve standing still rather than moving.
Still Hunting Slow and steady movement across hunting terrain to locate game. Slowly take a few steps and then stop to look around. Listen for any movement or vocalizations. It is important to spot the game before it spots you, which can be difficult. Although still hunting involves a lot of (albeit slow) movement, its name comes from the hunter’s inactivity. Even though it may appear to be a simple form of hunting, the elements of weather, sunlight, wind, and movement of wind are all important.
Tags: Sometimes called “Field Tag”, Tags can be issued with a hunting license. They are permission slips for hunting a particular animal. These tags are very common for big game animals like elk, deer, and moose. They serve as proof that the hunt was legal.
Taxidermy is The act of conserving and mounting a part or all an animal. Taxidermists are either a lady or a fella who provides taxidermy services.
Tracking Using signs for following and finding animals.
Traditional bowhunting (see “Instinctive Shooting” above): Bowhunters use many high-tech tools to hunt games. These include bow sights, bow releases, and stabilizers. Traditional bowhunters don’t use all this equipment and instead use recurve bows that aren’t adorned with high-tech gadgets. Traditional bowhunters are dedicated to their hobby and keep the tried-and-true bowhunting tradition. Sometimes, traditional archery and bowhunter are referred to simply as “trad.”
Tree Stand: Platforms for bowhunters and hunters to set up in trees so they can shoot game from a higher perspective. Tree stands give the bowhunter a better view of the hunting area and allow for close motionless observation. They also make it easier to shoot from a more open position for the bowhunter. A tree stand can make it difficult to shoot a bow. There are two types of tree stands: open-open and enclosed.
Trophy hunting: Hunting wild game for sport, pleasure, or big game. There are many opponents and supporters of trophy hunting, as well as opponents and supporters within the hunting community.
Upwind We define “Upwind” here.
Venison and Meats from deer.
Vitals The chest cavity, which includes the heart and lungs, of game. Bowhunters often refer to an “ethical shot” as one that strikes the vitals of an animal to ensure a quick kill.
Whitetails A North American deer with a white tail and stomach. Whitetails are frequently hunted as they are often found in high numbers, and are considered a pest. Hunting them reduces their numbers, especially in areas with many people, and they produce a lot of meat that can then be used after the kill.