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Why do some hunters use a bow and arrow and is this type of hunting humane?

Article ID: 541
Last updated: 02 Dec, 2016
Revision: 5
Views: 16208

Some hunters use a bow and arrow to hunt animals because they consider it to be an ‘art’ or challenge that requires skill and patience. However, from an animal welfare perspective it results in significant pain and suffering. Wounding rates can be high, the time to death can be prolonged and animals remain conscious while they die from massive blood loss.

Bow hunters use either a longbow, recurve bow or compound bow with a broad-head arrow to kill animals. Compound bows are most commonly used as the system of wheels and cables along with sights, makes them easier to fire.

Crossbows are prohibited weapons in most states and are not permitted for hunting, however, they can still be used when hunting deer in Victoria as long as hunters hold the relevant government approval.

The same game species permitted to be hunted with a firearm can also be bow hunted (i.e. deer, feral pigs, feral goats, foxes, feral cats, wild dogs, rabbits and hares as well as game birds). The arrow is aimed at the chest to cause damage to the heart and lungs. Head shots are never used since deflection of the arrow is likely to occur from striking skull bones.

Bow hunting is regulated in NSW (by the Department of Primary Industries) and Victoria (by the Department of Environment and Primary Industries) but there are no specific bow hunting regulations in other states and territories.

The number of animals wounded (but not killed) by bow hunting is quite variable but can be very high. For example, with deer hunting, surveys of bow hunters indicate that between 12% and 48% of deer may escape whilst injured. This is significantly higher than the reported 5% of wounded animals that escape when shot with a rifle by professional shooters. Wounded animals that are not retrieved and killed can suffer from the disabling effects of the injury, pain and wound infection.

When using a bow, hunters need to get very close (no more than 20 metres) to the target animal. The arrow’s flight path to the chest must be unobscured by leaves or branches or it might be deflected and hit another part of the body. It can also be difficult to follow and kill mobile injured animals if they escape into thick cover, rough terrain or other inaccessible areas. Furthermore, with animals that are injured and have gone down, it can be hard to get another shot into the chest with an arrow, depending on the position the animal is lying.

The RSPCA opposes bow hunting due to the inherent and inevitable pain and suffering caused to animals.

How you can help

Please contact the Minister responsible for hunting regulations in your state and your local MP urging them to end bow hunting.


This website provides general information which must not be relied upon or regarded as a substitute for specific professional advice, including veterinary advice. We make no warranties that the website is accurate or suitable for a person's unique circumstances and provide the website on the basis that all persons accessing the website responsibly assess the relevance and accuracy of its content.
Also read
document What is the RSPCA's view on bow hunting?
document What is the RSPCA's view on recreational hunting?
document Is hunting using shooting a humane way to kill pest animals?
document How do recreational hunters kill deer and is it humane?
document What is the most effective and humane way to control deer?
document Where can I find information on best practice management of wild deer?
document RSPCA Policy C10 Hunting of animals for sport

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