Archery Vs. Rifle: Which is Best For You?

Category: Whitetail Hunting Tips

 Feb 20th, 2024 by sworrall 

Modified Feb 20th, 2024 at 12:15 PM

There’s a big debate amongst hunters about who the true hunters are: archery or rifle hunters.


While I used to be on one side of the debate, as I’ve grown older and wiser, I find it a silly argument because it only divides hunters when we should unite over our shared interest in the outdoors. After archery and rifle hunting for years, I’ve discovered that both styles have benefits and drawbacks.


Archery Hunting Pros


I’ll never forget making bows and arrows out of sticks as kids with my younger brother. We had so much fun “hunting” in our yard and pasture, and we may or may not have shot at each other…

Thankfully, we knew our stick bows were not powerful enough to do much damage unless we shot each other in the eye.

When we were old enough, our parents bought us compound bows so we could join Dad in the woods.

Taking my first deer with a bow was an eye-opening experience that will stick with me forever.

Here are several of the reasons why I still love archery hunting:


  • It’s quiet and forces you to be more in tune with the environment
  • You can use a bow in places where firearms aren’t allowed
  • Archery season is much longer than rifle season
  • It’s safer to hunt small properties with a bow
  • You can reuse your arrows; there is no need to buy more unless you lose or destroy them.


I have to be constantly doing something, and I love that archery hunting forces me to slow down and take in everything around me. Otherwise, I might miss my chance to bring home some venison for my family.

In high school, I had a buddy who shot a monster buck with a bow near a disc golf course. He had permission to hunt the property that bordered the course, but since it was just inside city limits, he couldn’t use a gun. Harvesting the deer with a bow was legal.

I have yet to find a state where rifle season outlasts archery season. Typically, you can bow hunt for 3 to 4 months, whereas you can only rifle hunt for 3 to 4 weeks.

We’ve had an influx of people move into my area and buy smaller portions of land, 5 to 10 acres. Rifle hunting around these small plots can be dangerous, but bow hunting is much less hazardous in these areas since the average bow hunter’s maximum range is 50 yards or less.

As great as archery hunting is, it still has a few significant drawbacks.


Archery Hunting Cons


  • You must get much closer to your target without spooking it.
  • Tiny branches can knock your arrow off course
  • Shot placement is even more critical
  • Not everyone can pull a bow back


I’ve had to pass on a lot more deer while bow hunting because they were just out of my range, whereas they were well within my range had I been rifle hunting.

It’s so disheartening when everything goes right except for one tiny detail. You didn’t see that little branch until it knocked your arrow off course and spooked the deer. I’ve had this happen a couple of times while archery hunting, but never while rifle hunting.

I pride myself on taking only good shots, but sometimes things happen, and my shot placement is lacking. I’ve gotten away with poor shot placement when using a rifle, but that rarely happens when using a bow. I’ve seldom had to track a deer when rifle hunting, but I’ve had to track most of my deer when bow hunting.

I was a small kid growing up. So, when all my friends were strong enough to pull a bow back, I struggled. Then, there was one season when my dad injured his shoulder while skiing, and he was unable to draw his bow, but he could still shoot his rifle. Most people can shoot a gun, whereas drawing and accurately shooting a bow is more difficult.


Rifle Hunting Pros


My first deer came with my dad sitting beside me and his old 30-30 Marlin against my shoulder. It was bigger than any buck my dad had shot until that point in his life; he’s now harvested several deer much larger than that 8-point.

That was when I began to appreciate all the benefits of rifle hunting.


  • It’s the best way to introduce someone to big game hunting
  • You have a longer effective range than bow hunting
  • It’s easier than bow hunting

I’ve introduced several people to hunting, and it’s always been with a rifle. This is because the skills to harvest animals successfully are much easier to develop using a gun than a bow.

Even though a 30-30 Win isn’t known for long-distance shooting (typically maxes out around 250 yards), it still offers hunters a much further effective range than archery equipment (typically maxes out around 50 yards).

Rifle hunting is much easier than bow hunting because you don’t have to be as still and quiet; you have a further effective range, and shot placement matters less (it still matters).

However, that doesn’t mean rifle hunting is best for you; downfalls exist when hunting with a rifle.


Rifle Hunting Cons


  • You must visit a gun range or have land to practice shooting and sighting in your gun.
  • Ammunition is expensive, and you must keep buying it/reloading.
  • The season doesn’t last as long
  • Many locations place restrictions on using firearms

You’ll need a safe place to shoot the rifle to sharpen your skills, unlike when shooting a bow; most backyards won’t suffice.

You’ll also have to keep buying ammo or, at the very least, the supplies to handload it, which is very expensive and time-consuming. You can’t reuse bullets like arrows!

If you enjoy hunting but are limited on when you can go, the rifle hunting seasons tend to be much shorter, limiting your options even further.

You’ll also be even more limited on where you can hunt since firearms are more restricted than archery equipment.


Parting Shots

While archery vs rifle hunting might be a considerable debate for some, I don’t see any reason you shouldn’t do both, except for how expensive each is becoming! It’s taken me years to gather all the gear I need to enjoy both hunting styles, so don’t feel like you have to go out and purchase everything all at once. I recommend beginning with rifle hunting and slowly testing the waters with bow hunting over the next few seasons. Whichever you choose, stay safe, and I wish you the best of luck!

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