History, application, ethics, and the humanness of bowhunting.

By Daniel Kuhl, Eureka Outdoors
BSc Biological Sciences; Environmental Science and Wildlife Ecology
Wildlife biologist

 Dear Wildlife team, Department for Environment and Water,

I am writing to you on the topic of bowhunting, as the South Australian Government has taken further steps to ban bowhunting. I am a qualified and working wildlife biologist in Australia, specialising in invasive animals, plants, and other biosecurity matters. As an individual and as a business that’s part of the community that would be affected, I would like to raise several points which may have been overlooked in the decision process in the hopes to have this reconsidered. I ask that you read this in good faith, with the understanding that I am dedicated to natural conservation and humane destruction of invasive species.

History of bowhunting

Throughout human history, hunting has been integral to survival, with its methodology evolving alongside us1. Stone carved projectiles used in hunting practices, dating back eighty thousand years, have been shown as some of our first steps into bowhunting2. This new method of hunting allowed our ancestors to access a greater range of food sources to eat and move into new environments3. As humans progressed across new areas, our propensity to use and develop bows stayed with us, with archaeological evidence finding bows used for hunting purposes all over the world, from fifty thousand up to eight-thousand years ago4-6. This hunting method continued to evolve with modern culture and is now safely and humanely practiced by millions of people across the world. With this evolution came new technologies and materials to be used in bowhunting, making it safer for the user and provide a more humane method of killing than our ancestors used. To ban bowhunting would be a crime and insult to our history, heritage, and evolution.

Bowhunting in the modern era

In the current era, bowhunters are offered a wide range of bows for purchase and use, which include recurve bows, traditional bows, crossbows, and compound bows. Each of these have their own unique style and skillset; however, the compound bow is what is most commonly used by bowhunters today. Compound bows are engineered to use eccentric cams placed at the end of each limb, which when drawn, transferring potential energy to kinetic energy to the arrow when released7. This is a far more complex system than what our ancestors used, and through this design, allows for greater lethality. In the context of hunting, greater lethality is far more humane and ethical.

Lethality of modern bowhunting: the undebatable science

Figure 1 Range of broadheads typically used by Australian bowhunters. Sourced from Zach Williams, Hunting Connection Podcast

The ability to penetrate an animal is one of the largest factors in determining lethality, which comes from the arrow’s kinetic energy, momentum, and impulse – in this context is the amount of time an arrow spends inside an animal post penetration. To maximise this, bowhunters will typically work their way up to find the heaviest draw weight they can accurately hold, allowing for ethical kills. There are legal and community self-imposed minimum draw weights that bowhunters follow when hunting large deer, typically starting at 50-lbs, with an arrow weight of 400-grains, utilising a broadhead with at least two sharp edges8-10. This combination can induce a quick death in a number of ways. First, the function of a broadhead is to create a wide-wounding channel, causing deep external and internal lacerations through the heart, lungs, and other arteries, which results in a quick painless death due to loss of blood and organ function11. Bowhunters will generally aim to take one of two types of shots, the first being a “double lung” and the other to lacerate the heart. Upon a successful double lung shot, where the arrow penetrates through both lungs, bilateral pneumothorax occurs12, and death is within 30-seconds11. When a bowhunter shoots through the heart, central aorta, or other large arteries, the animal has a high chance of entering hypovolemic shock, and this can lead to death from between 2-5 seconds11, 13. These quick deaths are reliant on broadhead arrow penetration and successful passthrough of the animal, which bowhunters have shown to be able to successfully do in over 98% of shots fired14. It is undeniable that bowhunters are respectful of their target and that bowhunting results in a quick, painless death.

The misuse of bows is not bowhunting

So far, I have taken careful measures when using the words bowhunting and bowhunters. This is because the practice of bowhunting is a specific activity in which legal game are pursued by bowhunters using specific equipment purposefully designed to dispatch an animal quickly and ethically. Unfortunately, there are people who buy bows which are not designed to dispatch an animal quickly and ethically, shooting arrows at animals which are illegal to pursue. These acts are already illegal, and these actions are not bowhunting, nor are they performed by bowhunters. As seen in Figure 2 below, which are known to be the catalyst for this proposed ban, broadheads have not been used nor is there proper penetration or pass through. That is an undeniable indicator these actions were not performed by bowhunters nor were bowhunting bows used, and as such, should not be used to paint bowhunting as unethical or dangerous.

Figure 2 Animals shot, not hunted, by those who are not bowhunters. Images retrieved from RSPCA articles online15.

Environmental management

Bowhunting as a valid pest management tool

Under South Australia’s Landscape South Australia Act 2019, landholders are responsible for the removal of invasive species from their property16. The Department of Primary Industries and Regions, South Australia, lists “local hunters” as a valid management option in upholding their biosecurity obligations17. Due to the low-noise impact produced from bows and the low-risk of a projectile travelling further than intended, as with rifles, bowhunters are favoured by graziers and other pastoralists with smaller blocks of land. These factors are also important when removing pests from areas with infrastructure or livestock. By banning primary producers the ability to utilise bowhunters, a critical tool from their toolbox is being removed, their ability to properly implement integrated pest control, and uphold their biosecurity obligations.

Selective harvesting

The nature of bowhunting allows for precise and selective harvesting of target species. The quiet attribute of using a bow also generally allows for follow-up shots, allowing a practiced bowhunter – or bowhunters in a group – to dispatch multiple animals in a single session. The selective targeting of females in a species, for example deer, has been shown to be able to rapidly reduce a population quickly, due to reducing the amount of offspring the next generation18. An extension program with a heavy focus on outreach, education, and enforcement could easily utilise bowhunters to induce a rapid population decline via this method on smaller populations, especially on the aforementioned properties where firearms and/or helicopters are not suitable. This would be beneficial to the environment due to the reduction of deer, the ratepayers who are funding culls, and to those who would take and utilise the available meat.

Social factors

Physical health of bowhunters

For many bowhunters, this is their chosen means of exercise. Different forms of staying healthy call to different people, and bowhunting is no different. Hunting is renowned for imparting extensive health benefits for those who participate19. Bowhunting represents a rare combination of resistance exercise due to the weight carried when hiking and the draw of the bow, cardiovascular endurance over long hikes, and puts the bowhunter in a position to receive their recommended daily amount of vitamin D. Then, to ensure success in the field, many bowhunters will have tailored exercise regimes solely to complement their bowhunting. This pursuit pushes bowhunters to exceed the Australian Government’s own recommendations for 2.5-5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity, and/or 1.25-2.5 hours of vigorous intensity physical activity a week20.

Mental health of bowhunters

Mental health is just as important as physical health, and as we know, one in five Australian’s are affected by mental health issues each year21. Physical activity, while not a fix-all, has been shown to massively contribute to good mental health22. Furthermore, substantial studies have shown that spending time in nature has significantly positive effects on mental health23, with helping to reduce depression24, anxiety24, 25, and general all-cause mortality26. Bowhunting forces those who participate to be outside, in nature, and by extension, is an activity that has a positive effect on mental health. Beyond this, bowhunting can often be done as a group activity, either as a hunting party as part of a club, with the family, or with mates. This encouragement of spending time with family and of mateship is part of Australian values, and have been shown to have considerable mental health advantages and improvements27.

Cost of entry

I would like to commend South Australian Deputy Premier Susan Close for her support for hunting and the use of firearms during her interview on 5aa radio on the 4th of October 2022, however the Deputy Premier has unfortunately missed a key factor. That is the cost of entry and continuing costs of firearm ownership. The initial investment of a proper bowhunting setup generally approaches the cost of an entry-level rifle setup, however firearm ownership incurs ongoing costs that do not apply to bows. For instance, firearm owners must join a firearm club, incurring annual fees, undertake a firearm safety course, adding another expense, apply for a firearms licence, which is another cost, and invest in a good secure firearm storage container, such as a gunsafe, and that can be quite expensive. Furthermore, arrows can generally be retrieved and reused, whereas small arms ammunition cannot. Therefore, banning bowhunting would disproportionately disadvantage those with lower socioeconomic status.


In conclusion, the practice of bowhunting stands as a testament to humanity's long history of hunting for sustenance and survival, evolving alongside our species over millennia. From the earliest stone-tipped projectiles to the sophisticated compound bows of today, bowhunting has played a crucial role in our cultural heritage and continues to be embraced by millions worldwide. To ban bowhunting would not only disregard this rich history but also overlook the significant contributions bowhunters make to wildlife management and conservation efforts.

Furthermore, bowhunting represents a humane and effective method of pest management, particularly in regions where firearms may pose safety risks or logistical challenges. By selectively targeting invasive species and helping to control wildlife populations, bowhunters provide invaluable support to landholders and environmental management agencies. Additionally, bowhunting promotes physical and mental well-being, offering participants a unique blend of exercise, outdoor recreation, and connection to nature. Considering these multifaceted benefits, it is clear that bowhunting deserves recognition and support as a legitimate and sustainable hunting practice, rather than facing unjustified restrictions. Therefore, I urge stakeholders to reconsider the proposed ban on bowhunting in South Australia, recognizing its importance both culturally and environmentally.


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