Where to Start

Bowhunting is a form of hunting as the name suggests but it involves the use of a hunting bow to take game.

The Bowhunters Society provides the framework to assist bowhunters in their pursuit of game by providing knowledge on where to start, where and from whom advice can be obtained on dealers, equipment, local clubs and general bowhunting within New Zealand.

Their are rules and regulations associated with bowhunting in New Zealand and it’s wise to be aware of them and staying within the bounds of the law.

So where do you start?

Firstly you need some knowledge about Archery.

Bows can be very dangerous if used without caution and consideration of others in the line of fire.  Safety should be a primary consideration when using a Bow & Arrow.  If you have had no experience using a Bow & Arrow then it would be wise to seek a local archery club or find another Bowhunter so that you can at least have a go using their gear. Try it out for a week or two to see if the challenge interests you enough to continue further.

There are three main bow types to choose from and each requires a different action and form to use.

The Longbow

The Longbow is one of the earliest forms of bow, the type legions such as Robin Hood made good use of. The Longbow, basically is a bent stick strung tip to tip and uses the force of the reflexed stick to launch the arrow. Long bows are now recognised as the traditional bow and while perhaps not as popular as other forms there is still a small, but strong, group of hunters who take on the added challenge to hunt with such a weapon.

The Recurve Bow

The Recurve bow is a modern form of the Longbow, where the last portion of the bow length is curved to provide more flexibility and forward thrust to the arrow. Unlike the Longbow, they are usually made by laminating strips of timber together to form the bow shape. Recurve bows are often made from modern materials such as fibreglass.

A Recurve bow is a little easier to use than a Longbow. As with the Longbow there is a strong group of hunters whom regularly take game trophies with a Recurve.

The Compound Bow

The Compound bow is the most modern form of bow and can take on many shapes and varieties. They typically consist of a more mechanical design incorporating cables and pulleys to enable the hunter to draw back a more forceful bow and launch the arrow at greater speed than a Longbow or Recurve bow. There is a multitude of compound bows on the market each catering for different shooting styles and performance. If possible try as many types as you can to get and idea of what style suits yourself. The compound bow is the most popular bow type used for hunting in New Zealand because of their rugged construction and ease of getting quick and accurate results.

Arrow Types

Along with Bow types you can choose a variety of arrow types. Traditional hunters (longbow) typically follow the tradition, by using wooden arrows, which are specially constructed and chosen for the bow in question. There are a variety of timbers being used with the most common being Port Orford cedars. More modern materials such as Fibreglass, Aluminium alloys and carbon fibres along with their various combinations make up the rest. These are constructed in a variety of sizes to withstand the differing forces exerted on them.

In all cases, arrows should be carefully chosen to suit each bow and its resulting force, otherwise damage to the bow may occur or in more drastic cases gear failure could result in physical harm to the hunter.


Broadheads are the sharp attachment to the end of the arrow that does the cutting of skin, muscle, veins, arteries and vital organs of the animal, causing haemorrhaging and ultimately death. Broadheads come in a multitude of shapes, cutting edges, size and weight. The most important factors are:

  • that it is suitable for the game your hunting
  • to have a Broadheads that is tuned to your bow and arrows
  •  is always razor sharp, ensuring a clean and efficient kill.

Bow, Arrows and Broadheads are the essential Bowhunting equipment.  Other items of choice might be:

  • A quiver – article to carry arrows
  • Finger tab and arm guard – protection for fingers and arm
  • Sights, peep sights – aiming mechanisms ·
  • Release aid – mechanical device to release string rather than using fingers and a multitude of other attachments that can improve your accuracy and success when hunting.
  • Range finder
Purchasing your first bow

The next step is purchasing your own gear.

As you will have found out when using other peoples gear is that each person is different and hence their gear needs to be set up to suit their own physic.

The two main settings are:

  • The draw weight (amount of effort required to pull back the arrow)
  • The draw length (distance the arrow is drawn on the bow)

From these two measurements you can be matched and set up with the right bow and arrows improving your accuracy. Arrows and Broadheads come in numerous materials and standards. It’s best to match the arrow and Broadheads with game you intend to hunt.

Hunting permits

To hunt in a DOC controlled lands requires a Bowhunting permit that specifies the equipment to be used:

  • Minimum drawing weight factor 15 kg (35 lb)
  • Minimum diameter of two opposing blades is 22 mm (7/8 in)
  • Only non-barbed hunting arrows are permissible
  • Arrows with any poison, explosive or other chemical substance on or in the head or shaft are prohibited.

Other conditions may appear on the standard hunting permit that apply to bowhunters.  Specifics can be found here

It is therefore sensible to ensure your gear meets or betters these requirements if you intend to hunt DOC controlled lands.

First Bow

Gear can be purchased from a variety of sources from dealers, clubs or even second hand stores if you know what to look for. We suggest you take a visit one of the reputable dealers as listed in our contacts area and they will provide all the necessary gear and advice you will need.

Prices can vary in range from second hand gear approx $200 to top of the line $2500.

The next step is practice and practice

Make up a target or shoot into a bank and ensure you can consistently hit what you’re aiming at. Start up close and slowly increasing the distance whilst still achieving consistent results. A good guide is having all your arrows within a dinner plate size zone at 25 metres. This is similar to the lung area of a deer and is a typical distance of game shot here in New Zealand. Learn what your maximum effective distance is. i.e. the distance at which you can reliably hit your target. Practice at differing distances and become more experienced at judging distances by eye. Join a local archery club and practice some more on a variety of targets with varying distances. Some clubs have a field course, which consists of targets set in the bush or vegetation. This can give you the chance of trying shots up and down hill, in and through vegetation gaining further experience. Practice and fine-tune your shooting using your Broadheads, as you will find they fly different to that of a practice field point.

Now you’re ready to go hunting

You have a bow & arrows with sharp Broadheads. You can consistently hit what you’re aiming at from a variety of distances. You have the necessary permission or permit and other hunting paraphernalia. You’re off into the bush to hunt game but wait!

You haven’t joined the New Zealand Bowhunters Society!

You could get that big stag, have it mounted on the wall, and miss out on the deserved recognition by other bowhunters in New Zealand. It could be recognised by a winning an annual trophy or place high in the societies record books. You can’t claim the trophy after the event so flip over to the membership page and join up prior to the big hunt.