Hunting serves several purposes, a few of which are to:
- Allow residents (who own public game animals) to harvest meat;
- Follow long-held traditions;
- Manage game populations
The two most common types of tools used in hunting are firearms and bows.
Hunters who just want to harvest meat often don't care which tool they use - to them, "One kill is one kill". They will often choose the easier tool to master, which is the firearm.
Folks that want to follow long-held traditions (held by their own ancestors or by people they admire/respect) will choose one tool or the other, based on the tradition followed.
As for managing game populations, both tools can be utilized to maximum benefit. Hunting with a rifle can be easier, provided the hunter has educated him/herself on the use of the weapon and has practiced enough to become proficient. Rifle seasons are typically short for this reason.
Hunting with a bow and arrow, on the other hand, normally requires much more knowledge of the animals, much more practice with the tool (bow), and much more knowledge and practice in woodsmanship. The hunter must get much closer to his quarry. Wild animals are very wary and usually notice a nearby hunter first, even when he wears camouflage, and sneak away without ever being seen by the hunter. Thus, success rates in archery seasons are typically much lower than firearm seasons. Therefore, game departments, using both firearm and archery seasons as management tools, usually lengthen archery seasons. Also, to give archery hunters a little extra help in areas where extra harvest will not hurt game populations (and to help hunters put meat in their freezers), archery seasons are often scheduled to coincide with the target animal's rut (breeding season), when the male animal is less wary.
As far as safety goes, many jurisdictions require the hunter to graduate a hunter safety class before hunting (in some cases, such as in Oregon, this only applies to hunters under a certain age), and/or participate in a mentoring program. Many, but not all, require the hunter to wear "hunter" orange during firearm seasons (again, this may be correlated with age, e.g. in Oregon). In Idaho, the safety class is required for all hunters (except first-timers that hunt with a mentor), and bowhunters may hunt during "any weapon" season, which is the only season you can hunt with a rifle, and are not required to wear orange.