On the east and west coasts, some bowhunters have pretty robust egos because "bowhunting is harder." I disagree.
You might be thinking, clearly, this guy hasn't ever bowhunted!
Let's put that to rest. Growing up in Michigan, my hunting life begin with early generation single-cam compound bows. Despite practicing nearly every day of the week, I ultimately shot over the back of my share of whitetail deer from a treestand on the edge of a cornfield. Now, for the last ten years, I've rifle hunted blacktail and mule deer in the west.
Suffice it to say, I understand the difficulties facing both rifle and bow hunters, and I don't find one to be harder than the other. These are the reasons.
1. The shooting distances are often similar.
This is likely the most-used "bowhunting is harder" talking point. The truth is, with a few exceptions, the distance bowhunters and rifle hunters shoot animals at is not that much different.
Bowhunter: Many bowhunters are able to sit in a treestand waiting for deer to come to them. Shooting distances for treestands typically range from 15 - 45 yards, and a good spot-and-stalk bowhunter may reach out to 70 yards with effective shot placement.
Rifle Hunter: A lot of terrain in the west is thick, steep, and deep. You don't have the luxury of seeing deer at long distances. Frequently, you're stalking slowly and as quietly as possible surprising deer at 50-75 yards or less.
2. Wind doesn't discriminate.
One of the best defenses for a deer is its nose, and it doesn't discriminate based on the weapon.
A treestand bowhunter has the advantage here. Hunting from an elevated position helps keep human scent out of the wind away from a deer's nose. However, a spot and stalk bowhunter has an equal amount of concern as a rifle hunter. If you fail to keep the wind in your favor, you can easily get busted, no matter your weapon.
3. A bad shot is a bad shot.
It doesn't matter if you shoot an ultra mag or 300+ FPS compound bow. If you make a bad shot on a deer, you may not recover it. No weapon can compensate for a meat or gut shot. Therefore, both weapons require good shot placement for quick kills and good blood trails.
Ultimately, bowhunting and rifle hunting require a mix of skill, patience, and luck. Rifle hunting and bowhunting each have their positives and negatives.