Did you just wake up for your first hunt of the season only to realize you have no way to carry your bow out to your tree stand?
It’s a more common problem than you’d think.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to carry your bow on your back without any extra equipment.
Plus, even if you don’t want to carry your bow on your back, we’ll dive into five other ways to carry it with the details you need to know to protect your bow and have a successful hunt at the same time.
How To Carry A Bow On Your Back
Even if you forgot to add a bow sling or case to your accessory shopping list and are now sitting in your truck in the dark frantically reading this article trying to figure out how you can avoid taking two trips, you most likely have what you need to carry your bow on your back with you. A towel is ideal, but if you don’t have one with you, a shirt, jacket or really any piece of cloth that’s long enough will do. Just follow these easy steps:
- Wrap the towel or cloth around the bowstring: In a spiraling motion, make sure the entirety of the bowstring is more or less covered by whatever you’ll be using to carry it. This ensures a balanced hold that doesn’t end up tipping the bow, and it also protects the bowstring from rubbing against your body or other gear.
- Tie the ends of the cloth together: You should hopefully still have a considerable amount of cloth extending from either end of the bowstring. Tie these in a tight knot so that the towel, shirt or whatever forms a loop.
- Use the towel or cloth as a sling: Pull the towel or cloth over your head and one shoulder so that it wraps over one shoulder and beneath the other. The knot should be over your chest and the bow over your back.
- Hold the bow as you remove it: When you get to your tree stand, be sure to to remove the bow from your back by holding it, ideally by the riser. Lift it over your head while raising the sling at the same time. This will protect the bowstring and help keep you from knocking off accessories or making too much noise.
You can carry a recurve bow on your back by simply slipping the string over your head and letting the bowstring rest on the middle of your chest.
In the image above, you can see a man carrying a longbow made of wood on his back.
Other Ways To Carry A Bow
Of course, the easiest way to carry your bow is to buy professionally manufactured equipment beforehand. In this case, you have three main options.
Carry With A Bow Case
If protecting your bow is your biggest concern, a bow case is arguably the ideal way to carry it. You can get both hard-shell and soft-shell cases, though hard-shell cases are usually geared more towards long-term storage than transporting your bow for hunting.
Many manufacturers make cases specifically for their bows or a line of bows. Others are more general. As you might guess, model-specific cases usually fit much better but can be harder to find and more expensive.
Regardless of what specific case you get, your primary concern should be how easy it is to carry. Most at least have a carrying handle, but that takes up one of your hands, same as the bow. A better idea is to look for a case with a shoulder strap so you can sling it over your back or shoulder.
Finally, many cases have extra pockets. This way you can carry more than just the bow, like your bow release and bow tuning tools, and free up your hands at the same time.
Carry With A Sling
The simplest way to carry your bow is with a sling—a professionally made one, not the makeshift DIY one we discussed above. There are two different kinds: shoulder straps and wrist slings.
Shoulder slings are certainly the most versatile. We especially recommend getting one with an adjustable buckle or strap. This way you can change the length to be comfortable and switch between slinging the bow over your back or just one shoulder, whichever works best with your other gear.
The only thing to be aware of is that most bow slings work best with compound bows because they attach to skeleton-frame limbs or accessory threads. You can still find slings that work great for recurve and other traditional bows, but you need to verify how they attach and it will work with your bow.
As for wrist slings, these aren’t as good for transporting your bow, but you can still try them if you want to improve your grip and get more stability. Basically, wrist slings just tie the bow to your wrist. This way you can let go of the grip, but the bow won’t fall.
This doesn’t really free up your hand and is a bit awkward if you’re doing something like walking out to your tree stand. However, once you’re in the stand it can prevent accidents.
Carry With A Backpack
A backpack may seem like the obvious choice for transporting your bow. While you could probably stuff your bow down into your old high school backpack and just leave the zipper partly open, this isn’t really ideal. You risk the bow falling out, your quiver becoming dislodged, making too much noise as you walk, etc. However, there are specific bow hunting backpacks that solve these problems.
Most bow hunting backpacks have a specific compartment where you can put the bow that has protective padding and straps that you can tighten to make sure the bow is snug and not moving around too much. Then there are more compartments behind it that let you carry other accessories, your lunch or whatever else you need for the hunt.
For it to be a really good hunting backpack, look for two specific features. First, it should come in camo to keep you hidden from game both while you’re moving and in the tree stand. Try to get a camo design that fits the environment you’re hunting in. Second, the backpack should also have a specific compartment or quiver for arrows. This will protect them while you’re walking, especially your broadheads.
While most bowhunting backpacks hold the bow in place with straps but otherwise let it extend out of the backpack itself, others are as long as your bow and totally enclose it. In reality, these are merely carrying cases with shoulder straps so you can hold it on your back like a backpack.
These backpacks still work great for hunting and transporting your bow but are slightly more awkward than other backpacks and are more likely to shift around as well as bump into things and make noise. As with carrying cases, the most important thing here is to look for a backpack that’s the right size for your bow and accessories, including your bow sight and quiver.
How To Carry A Bow While Hunting
Despite all the different equipment out there for carrying your bow, you don’t have to use any of it. There are plenty of ways to carry your bow just using your body.
Carry It In Your Hand
If you have an extra hand, the most obvious way to transport your bow is just by carrying it in one hand. If you’re going to do this, the best idea is to hold it by the riser. Then hold it down at your side so that it’s pointing in the direction you’re walking. This keeps it from bouncing against your leg and minimizes the chances it will catch on brush and make noise.
You carry a right handed bow in your left hand and a left handed bow in your right hand.
When carrying a bow by hand, be aware of your surroundings. You may need to change hands or readjust your grip to get better balance. This is when a wrist sling can also come in handy so that you don’t accidentally drop the bow.
Also, care must be taken to insure that you don't get parts of your bow hung up on sticks or vegetation, possibly damaging something. This is especially true if you are using a drop away arrow rest, which can easily get knocked out of tune.
Carry It By The String
If you’re carrying a bow by hand, it’s best to hold it by the grip or riser, but you can hold it by the string if you need to. There are some downsides, though:
- The bow is less stable and can bounce around and hit your body or surroundings.
- If your bowstring is high quality, you’re unlikely to damage it, but you may damage the nock serving, nocking points or accessories attached to the string like silencers.
- If you have a compound bow vs recurve, persistent unbalanced stress on the bowstring may put the cam tunings out of sync.
You can also use the bowstring to carry your bow without using your hands. Instead, you can slide the bowstring over your shoulder or back using it as the bow’s own sling. This is much more stable than holding the bowstring by hand and is otherwise a secure way to carry the bow in general, but it does put a lot of stress on the string.
This method works better for a recurve or longbow.
In fact, carrying your bow regularly this way can wear down the bowstring and cause it to fray. Additionally, it can cause all the same problems that carrying it by hand does like damaging nock servings or accessories. Most significantly, carrying your bow like this, especially if you have a big chest that puts a lot of stress on the bowstring, is likely to put your cams or timing wheels out of sync.
You should not carry a bow by the bowstring using a bow release. This could not only lead to damaging the bowstring, but also to damaging the release aid.
Damaging the bowstring could lead to accidentally dry firing your bow which can damage the bow.
One of the most frequently overlooked aspects of bow hunting is carrying and transporting the bow itself.
The type of bow that you choose will largely determine how you will carry it, both while transporting and in the field.
Carrying it on your back has certainly become a popular way because it keeps the bow safe and out of the way while freeing up your hands.
Freeing up your hands will allow you to carry other things, such as your archery target or tree stand.
That said, feel free to choose any of the options we’ve discussed as long as you’ve taken into full consideration the safety of the bow and aspects of bowhunting like noise and camouflage.