If Hollywood is to be believed, then you can carry arrows in the nocked position at all times with zero risks.
John Rambo. Katniss Everdeen. Hawkeye in the Age of Ultron. Time and again, Hollywood’s depiction of archery has been flashy and crammed with cinematic liberties.
Let’s say one of these movie characters inspired you to take up archery as a sport or as a passion.
Would you be able to use the technique in a real life situation? Can you really go field hunting with the arrow in the nocked position?
Can you rapid fire arrows to take down a passel of hogs?
‘Don’t forget one thing. What? A good supply of body-bags’ ~ First Blood
No can do.
Arrows can do some serious damage if left in untrained hands or if not controlled. Just like bullets.
Okay, maybe not as severe as bullets. But pretty close.
When you have an arrow in the nocked position, it doesn’t take much to send it wayward.
Keeping the arrow on the string carries a certain amount of risk with it.
And hence, must only be used in very specific scenarios.
Before we talk about ‘when’, let’s talk about ‘why not’.
To be honest, it’s a no-brainer.
With the arrow in the nocked position, you are ready to send a razor-sharp projectile into the air at a high velocity.
A momentary lapse in concentration, tripping while walking, misjudging your target, miscalculating the distance, your target bounds over the horizon, there are so many small things that can go wrong right until you release the arrow.
In any one of these scenarios, you can either end up injuring yourself with the arrow or causing a serious injury to a fellow hunter or archer and in a worst case scenario, even kill a fellow hunter.
There have been multiple instances of pets being injured or killed by stray arrows that were intended for target practice.
Believe us when we tell you, the arrow is much safer in the quiver until you are ready to shoot.
Besides, walking through the woods with the arrow in the nocked position is no joke. Your hands will be dog tired in no time.
Not to mention that there’s a high possibility that you might damage your high quality hunting bow.
The position should also be determined according to the terrain. In thick brush, your arrow will keep getting snagged which not only increases the risk of injury to you, but also creates an annoying scraping noise giving away your position.
If you are hunting on uneven turf or in a steep incline, do yourself a favor and put it in the quiver. Too many factors that can go wrong, including damaging a prized broad head.
When Nocking the Arrow Is Allowed
Having said that, there are certain situations that warrant nocking of the arrow.
- When you are hunting in flat terrain and can see till vast distances.
- When you are stalking instead of walking to the stand. There are many occasions when you are walking casually to the stand and a large buck walks right past. If you can get a shot going in, then why not. As always, ensure that you and your fellow hunters know that there’s a lethal weapon in your hands ready to fire. Follow the safety rules and you should be good to go.
- When you can spot the target clearly and are in a position to take a comfortable stance. Your feet should be firm on the ground. The front foot should face the target; your body should be squared slightly.
- When there’s nothing surrounding your target that can interrupt or stop the arrow. This includes other animals and people.
- If you are hunting from a blind or a tree stand with fellow hunters and there’s virtually no risk of injuring people or an unintended species.
- This is only meant for experienced hunters. If you are a nimble footed stalker who knows their way around the woods and are tracking game using your instincts and senses, then you can keep the arrow in the nocked position. Do remember that the basic safety rules still apply.
- When you are defending yourself or your family from a threat.
Things to Consider Before Deciding to Keep the Arrow on the String
All said and done, hunting on foot is filled with uncertainty. That’s part of the appeal of the sport.
There will be many situations in which you’d be tempted to walk with the arrow in the nocked position.
Here are a few factors to consider before you decide on it.
The Arrow Point
What type of arrow point are you carrying while you are on the move?
Here are the most common ones.
- Blunt Point: Typically used for small game hunting. Unlikely to cause serious damage but can still be risky.
- Field Point: Used mainly for target practice and hunting small game. Can cause serious injuries.
- Judo Point: Used in grassy terrain for hunting small game. Can cause serious injuries.
- Bullet Points: High risk of injury
- Broadhead: Used to hunt big game. Can definitely kill somebody. (Here’s how you attach a broadhead)
Understand the risks and assess the potential damage that the weapon can cause. An expanding broad head can very easily kill a human. Even if it’s a mishit, it can sever critical arteries causing severe blood loss.
Your Experience and Skills
You are the best person to gauge your hunting and tracking skills.
If you can stalk like a ghost and have the expertise to handle a bow and arrow responsibly, by all means use it in any position that’s comfortable and maximizes your chances of coming back with a kill.
But there’s a thin line in between confidence and overconfidence.
You don’t want to be the dumb hunter who accidentally shot himself in the face after he fell on the arrow.
Your Assessment of the Situation
If you are stressed and aiming instinctively, then it’s always recommended that you assess the situation calmly for a few seconds before you fire.
Note: here are some ways you can practice aiming your bow without a site.
In other words, keep the arrow in the quiver until you are sure.
You should always be relaxed during the hunt. Your muscles should never be tensed.
Try and enjoy the hunt and then take informed decisions.
Arrow Safety 101
Remember the hunter’s safety course that you took years ago?
Let’s rewind some of the basics once again because the Instagram-obsessed generation often tends to overlook these safety norms for the sake of that exquisite shot.
- Never shoot at what you can’t see: Unless you are a sadistic psychopath out to hurt people or animals, never shoot at what you cannot see clearly. This includes during the dark pre-hunt hours when you are walking to the stand and spot a couple of does at a distance. But you are not sure if they are does in the first place. Even worse, do not shoot arrows over trees, over clearings, fences, or over the horizon. It looks good only in the Korean war movies.
- Don’t shoot into the sky: As stupid as this sounds, people often shoot straight up in the air. An arrow shot straight up can come down at double the velocity and can potentially kill someone.
- Do not nock the arrow if someone’s walking in front of you: Don’t be the dork who shot his fellow hunter in their ass. You shouldn’t even be walking with a nocked arrow aimed in their direction. You never know what can cause a deflection. There have been incidents where hunters have been accidentally shot and killed in freakish accidents.
To sum it up
Despite what you read on messaging boards or what your fellow hunters do, always make your own judgement.
Is it worth the risk to walk with a deadly weapon in the ready-to-fire position for a rare hunting opportunity that may never present itself in the first place?
Make an informed decision.