Archery hunting continues to be a fast-growing sport. With bow season just opening, many hunters are still on the fence wanting to try it for the first time.

If you visit a local bow shop or one of the big box stores with a bowhunting department, you can see the guys lined up at the counter "just looking." They want to take the jump, but remain hesitant.

By now, seasoned archery hunters are hitting the woods hoping to arrow an early season whitetail. Those left behind are just jealous enough to dig deeper into their pockets to get started. They are tired of hearing their hunting buddies talk about slinging arrows and "sticking" a deer.

The trouble is a lot of hunters wanting to get started don't know how.

They read the magazines, watch the hunting CDs and TV shows, and participate in related chat rooms, but can't always make sense of it all. Sometimes too many opinions can cloud the facts. So here are some practical tips to get you on the right track.

Seek professional help

Setting up bowhunting equipment for the first time to suit one's individual fit is something definitely left to the experts. It's great to get advice from your buddies, but when you are really ready to make the plunge, go with know-how.

It makes no difference if the bow is new, used or one somebody loaned - it still has to be set up for a particular hunter in terms of a personalized draw length, proper pull or draw weight, type of release to be used and correct arrow and broadhead selections.

Then there are add-on accessories. Some of these are necessary, while some are just nice to have. Choices are usually governed by the pocketbook. These items might include trigger releases, arm guards, arrow rests, bow stabilizers or balancers, string silencers and kisser buttons. Archery hunters will want an arrow quiver and some counseling on how to avoid severe cuts from razor sharp broadhead blades.

Of course, a big-ticket item is the bow sight. These run from simplistic primitive manually adjustable range sight pins to technological marvels involving multiple lighted pins, red dots and other electronic wizardry. Most bow riggers will recommend starting out with something on the basic side with the idea of upgrading later with experience. It's best to learn to shoot a bow correctly with a basic sighting system before going high-tech.

Finding the right help is paramount, according to Primos bow technician Ken Lancaster

"Whatever route is ultimately picked to start the bow selection process, your best bet is to find somebody in a recognized bow shop who can reliably walk you through the whole process from start to finish, or as I like to say from the counter to the range to the treestand," he said. "Finding just the right guy to trust to get you started right and not stuck with something that doesn't work properly or breaks the bank may take some shopping around."

When you find a good bow man, stick with him.

Hunting bows

If you are at all conversant with technological things like computers, X-Box games, Microsoft Vista, microchip-driven automobile engines and IRS tax forms, then keeping up with the advancements in hunting bows ought to be a cake walk. For the uninformed, read on.

Categorically, there are four general types of bows. These include the longbow, recurve bow, compound bow and the crossbow. Though interest has been picking up with all of the classic bows as well as the modern crossbows, far and away the most popular type of hunting bows are compounds.

Compounds come in two configuration types - single cam and twin cam. The cam mechanism effectively reduces the holding weight as the cams roll over at the draw. This permits nearly twice the draw weight of a recurve type bow. Draw weight is the effort required to draw the bow.

The heavier the draw weight the hunter can handle the better. However, use common sense in not picking a bow with too heavy a draw weight. The universal standard is a draw weight of 60 pounds. Start there until you are an accomplished bow shooter under all kinds of conditions including actual hunting in the field from an elevated treestand position.

Again, the smart thing to do is to visit a really well stocked bow shop offering several different brands and models to actually try out on an indoor range, or hit the circuit to check out every recommended bow department in your area. The more you learn firsthand and the more types you get to handle and shoot, the better your chances of finding the perfect hunting bow for your fit and personal preferences.

Arrow science

"When you finally get the bow of your choice rigged out and shooting on target with sights and everything set correctly, next turn to picking the best hunting arrows matched for that bow," advises Chris Bates, bow technician at Mean Mallard in Ridgeland.

Arrow shafts are made of many different materials, including carbon and composites, but aluminum is the primary choice. Good arrow flight is achieved by making sure the right arrow shaft is mated to the bow. Don't expect to use just any arrow with your bow.

There are a gazillion different types, brands and weights of hunting broadheads on the market today. Some are fixed blades in two-, three- and four-blade designs, or expanding blade types where the cutting edge pops open upon impact. Again, pick the right ones for your bow and arrows, and keep them sharpened.

From a beginner's standpoint getting into bowhunting may be an intimidating process, but it need not be. Bowhunting is exciting, and joining those ranks can certainly infuse new energy into your deer hunting experience. So get off the fence, and get into the game.