A case for bowhunting
Authored by Daniel Kuhl, Firearm Owners United
An open letter to the South Australian Labor Government
We understand that the South Australian Labor government has committed to banning the hunting of animals with bows and crossbows. As an organisation that represents the Australian hunting community and has many South Australian members, this is deeply concerning. We would like to raise several points which may have been overlooked in the decision process in the hopes to have this reconsidered.
Humans themselves have been hunting before modern humans (Homo sapiens) even existed1. As modern humans evolved, so did our hunting methods. Analyses of carved stone tips, dated to approximately 80,000 years ago, in southern Africa indicate they could have only been a projectile shot as the tip of an arrow from a bow2. With the implementation of such devices, humans were able to vastly increase the amount of food sources we could eat and environments we could inhabit3. As humans moved into Europe, the bow and arrow was brought with them, as archaeological evidence has recorded the bow in Italy 50,000 years ago4, Lebanon 43-44,000 years ago5, and France approximately 30,000 years ago5. The tactics did not end however, with bows used for hunting found in modern Denmark dated to 8,000 years ago6. This hunting method continued to evolve with modern culture and is now safely and humanely practiced by millions across the world. With this evolution came new technologies and materials to be used in bowhunting, which will be explored further.
Comments by Deputy Premier Susan Close as to why the South Australian Labor party want to ban bowhunting were along the lines that they believe it causes undue pain and suffering and believe that an arrow cannot compare to a bullet from a rifle. We acknowledge and appreciate the support of the use of firearms for hunting purposes from Deputy Premier Susan Close, however we must also address the inaccurate statements.
First, it’s important to note that bullets kill animals in a different manner than how arrows do, making the comparison unfair. Bullets will generally kill an animal one of two ways, fatal damage via shots that impact the thorax region and shutting down organ function, and/or by irreversible unconsciousness via shots impacting the brain or cervical spine and shutting down central nervous system function7, 8. When determining how lethal a particular bullet configuration may be, estimations are made prior to implementation through calculation of its kinetic energy (Ek). Ek is calculated by: which in Australia Ek under the metric system would be measured in joules (j), m is the mass and for bullets is measured in “grains”, and v is velocity which typically for bullets is measured in feet-per-second, but more commonly in metres/second-1 9, 10. The first purpose is to transfer as much of the kinetic energy of the projectile to the intended target, causing bullet compression and maximising organ shutdown. The hunting community in Australia has many self-imposed and regulated minimum kinetic energy requirements when hunting different species11, 12, typically needing to exceed 1,000kj’s of kinetic energy transfer. The second goal is for the projectile to create as much wounding ballistics on the animal13. Many traditional hunting bullets are designed to “mushroom”, which creates a large internal cavity, creating the aforementioned organ shutdown14. This is why the comparison of bows vs rifles is unfair and will explain how a “bow and arrow” kills.
We acknowledge that there are multiple types of bows used for hunting, which include compound bows, recurve bows, traditional bows, and crossbows. Each have their own characteristics and skillset; however, we will be focusing on the compound bow. A compound bow utilises eccentric cams placed at the end of each limb, which gain kinetic energy that’s passed onto the arrow when released15. A typical bowhunting system will utilise a compound bow, wound to “60-lbs draw” – which means it takes 60-lbs of force to draw the string back, shooting a 580-grain arrow approximately 300 feet-per-second. However, contrary to bullet projectiles, arrow lethality is not determined by kinetic energy, rather penetration from its momentum and impulse, which in this context is the amount of time the arrow spends in the animal post penetration16. This is defined as , meaning that kinetic energy only applies to part of the arrows killing potential, and that the penetration abilities are a much larger factor. This, again, contributes to rifles vs bows being an unfair comparison. Arrow projectiles will be equipped with a tip known as a broadhead, a sharp tip specifically designed to penetrate animal tissue, as seen in the image below.
Figure 1 Various types of broadheads used in bowhunting. Image from Zach Williams, Hunting Connection Podcast
It is for this reason that the statement “it’s very very hard to kill with a bow and arrow without risking serious injury and not immediate death” (from the 5aa radio appearance on Tuesday the 4th of October 2022) is incorrect. These broadheads are expertly sharpened so on impact with the animal, they will create a wide wound channel, causing deep external and internal lacerations that will cut through the heart, lungs, and/or arteries, resulting in a quick death due to blood loss and loss of functional organs17. Whilst there are numerous causes of death, there are a few that a bowhunter will focus on. One is called a “double-lung” shot, where a hunter aims to pass a broadheaded arrow through both lungs of the target animal, causing bilateral pneumothorax18, and unconsciousness and death can occur within 30-seconds17. However, should the arrow pass through the central part of the chest, cutting the heart, central aorta, or other large arteries, the loss of blood pressure can cause unconsciousness in 5-seconds17. Furthermore, but not final, should neither of these scenarios occur, but a significant vein is at least hit, the animal has potential to enter into hypovolemic shock, occurring when the animal loses a certain ratio of blood per body mass (which differs per organism) and can lead to unconsciousness and death within 2-seconds19. This, again, is reliant on broadheadded arrow penetration and pass through of the animal, which has shown to happen in over 98% of shots fired20.
A bowhunter will only ever use an arrow tipped with a broadhead when hunting. The bowhunting community will self-impose this rule onto themselves, if it has not been regulated by an authority21.
Here we note the examples of animal cruelty as presented below by the RSPCA are not tipped with broadheads:
Figure 2 Animals shot, not hunted, by those who are not bowhunters. Images retrieved from RSPCA articles online22.
This is a clear example where these actions have not been perpetrated by bowhunters, however, by those who do not abide by any code of ethics, any rules of fair chase, or are part of the hunting community. Further, these animals legally cannot be hunted in the first place. The hunting community as a whole utterly condemns these actions and do support legal action against those who do the wrong thing.
Moving on from the science and actuality of how bowhunting works, we are going to address the personal side of bowhunting. Hunting, by itself, is renowned for its extensive health benefits for individuals23. The Australian Government’s Department of Health and Aged care recommends those aged 18-64 years (most bowhunters fall within this age bracket) to be active for at least 2.5-5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity, and/or 1.25-2.5 hours of vigorous intensity physical activity24, on top of regular muscle strengthening activities. Bowhunting represents an accumulation of all of these recommendations, as the very nature of bowhunting incorporates hiking long distances, with hill and mountain climbs making the bowhunter exert themselves enough to fulfill both the 2.5-5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity, and the 1.25-2.5 hours of vigorous intensity physical activity. The act of pulling the drawstring back, as noted earlier they require a lot of force, and if successful, moving the body of an expired animal, fulfills the muscle strengthening recommendations. Many bowhunters will also tailor their exercise regimes specifically to help their bowhunting success, and it is in this way that bowhunting helps with physical health.
Beyond physical health, is mental health. Unfortunately one in every five Australian’s are affected by some sort of mental health issue each year25, and while there is no single fix, we do know that good physical health helps contribute to good mental health26. Substantial study has been done to show that spending time in nature has positive effects on mental health27, with reductions in depression28, anxiety29, and all cause mortality30. Hunting generally, including bowhunting, can often be done as a group activity. Either as a hunting party as part of a club, with the family, and/or with a group of good friends. This is important, as exercise regimes that include spending time with other people – such as bowhunting as a group – have shown to have considerable mental health advantages and improvements31.
Outside of the science, the considerable objective physical and mental health benefits, we also consider the cost. Again, we wish to applaud Deputy Premier Susan Close for her support and encouragement of hunting and specifically hunting with firearms in her 5aa radio interview, however a key factor has been left out of the equation. That is the cost of entry. While the cost of a hunting bow, arrows, suitable broadheads, and release, may come close to an entry level rifle hunting setup, there are many “hidden” costs of firearm ownership. First, a firearm owner must be part of a firearm club, that has an annual cost. They must then partake in a firearm safety course, another cost, apply for a firearms licence, more money spent, and then purchase an applicable firearm rated container, a “gunsafe”, which can be quite costly – especially if renting. However, those who wish to bowhunt do not need to do these, and as such, the banning of bowhunting would disproportionally disenfranchise those who are worse off socio-economically.
To conclude, we have shown that the banning of bowhunting would be to ban an activity that has lasted at least 80,000 years, dismissing a long-held tradition and halting any further improvements and evolutionary advances.
We have proven that bowhunting does not cause the hunted animals any undue pain nor suffering and in fact have shown it is quite a humane way of hunting. We’ve shown that banning bowhunting does not fix the situation of animals being shot with target tips, as it is clearly not bowhunters who are firing arrows at these animals.
We have shown that bowhunting offers extraordinary physical and mental health benefits, and that banning bowhunting would negatively impact those who pursue bowhunting as a sport, an activity, and a lifestyle, and banning of bowhunting dismisses the positive impact it has.
Lastly, but not by any means final, we have shown that the banning of bowhunting will disadvantage many people, including those who unfortunately fall in the lower end of income.
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- Thomson, D.U., et al., Computed tomographic evaluation to determine efficacy of euthanasia of yearling feedlot cattle by use of various firearm-ammunition combinations. Am J Vet Res, 2013. 74(11): p. 1385-91.
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- Wildlife Management Branch Department of Primary Industries, P.W. and Environment, Code of Practice for the hunting of wild fallow deer in Tasmania Code of Practice for the Hunting of Wild Fallow Deer in Tasmania. 2012.
- Sporting Shooter Association of, A., Ethical hunting. Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA), 2022.
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- Stokke, S., S. Brainerd, and J.M. Arnemo, Metal deposition of copper and lead bullets in moose harvested in Fennoscandia. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 2017. 41(1): p. 98-106.
- Park, J.L., The Behaviour of An Arrow Shot from a Compound Archery Bow. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part P: Journal of Sports Engineering and Technology, 2011. 225(1): p. 8-21.
- Ashby, E., Momentum, Kinetic Energy, and Arrow Penetration (And What They Mean for the Bowhunter). 2005.
- Georén, B., The Mode of Action of the Broadhead-tipped Hunting Arrow. 2019.
- Rim, T., J.S. Bae, and Y.S. Yuk, Life-Threatening Simultaneous Bilateral Spontaneous Tension Pneumothorax – A case report. Korean J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg, 2011. 44(3): p. 253-6.
- Boyd, C. and L. Smart, Hypovolemic Shock, in Textbook of Small Animal Emergency Medicine. 2018. p. 986-992.
- The European Bowhunters, A., The European Bowhunters Association Evaluation of The Danish Bowhunting Association The Danish National Forest and Nature Agency´s Statistics on Roedeer (Capreolus Capreolus) shot with bow and arrow in Denmark. 2005.
- Australian Bowhunters, A., Bowhunting Code of Ethics. 2017.
- RSPCA Home. RSPCA South Australia.
- Abram, T., Health benefits of hunting. MSU Extension, 2012.
- Australian Government Department of, H., Physical activity and exercise guidelines for all Australians. Australian Government Department of Health, 2021.
- Health, D., Mental illness. Healthdirect.gov.au, 2019.
- Comprehensive mental health action plan 2013-2030. 2021: World Health Organization.
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