TIME TO BEGIN PREPPING FOR BOW SEASON
It’s amazing just how quickly seasons and, to an old hunter, HUNTING seasons, roll around. Whitetail archery season is less than three months away and now is the time to make sure all your equipment is in top-notch working order and that you can place that arrow where it needs to be when the moment of truth comes and that bruiser buck is within bow range.
I shoot a few arrows just about every day throughout the summer months, usually in late afternoon or sometimes when I have the time during the cool of the morning. Now is the perfect time to take your bow into your favorite bow show and get it checked from stem to stern. Today’s bowstrings usually last several years but when they begin to get frayed, it’s time to replace them. Let a qualified bow technician give your bow the once over and replace any worn parts.
Through the years, I’ve packed my bows from the wilds of Canada to Mexico in quest of big bucks. I remember well the highlights from many past hunts, such as the time I was sitting on a bow stand on the edge of a creek in the big buck country of south-central Illinois. I will never forget the sight of that flock of mallards dropping straight down just at dark into the tranquil waters of the little creek, silhouetted by a full moon. Legal shooting time was gone and the big buck I’d been watching spooked just as the mallards hit the water.
I’ll also never forget that first little 7-pointer I harvested near Groveton, Texas years ago while hunting with my longtime friend Mark Balette. The sound of the buck spreading the strands of barbed wire as he entered the little oat patch will be engrained in my memory banks forever; so will just about every other facet of my first successful bow hunt.
I’ll also long remember the big North Dakota buck I watched through binoculars a mile away, that eventually came to within bow range of my little ground blind and stood broadside long enough for me to make a good shot. I’ve taken my share of good bucks and had far more teach me lessons in patience, perseverance and humility. There is absolutely nothing that will humble a person like the challenges of bow hunting.
Back several decades ago when I first took up hunting with a bow, I truly thought a successful bowhunter needed to possess the shooting ability of Robin Hood and hunting skills of Nimrod. Granted, harvesting deer with archery tackle is by nature far more difficult than hunting with a rifle or muzzleloader, but a look at the ever-increasing number of Pope and Young record book entries each year proves that bow hunting success is definitely on the rise, thanks I believe to increased knowledge and much better archery equipment. I go into each bow season fully expecting to put meat in the freezer and possibly a big buck on the ground and, like many modern-day hunters using state of the art archery equipment, I am usually successful.
SOME TIPS I BELIEVE WILL MAKE YOUR NEXT BOWHUNT MORE SUCCESSFUL:
PRACTICE- Make sure your practice includes shooting from positions encountered while hunting, and this includes shooting from elevated positions. Know exactly which sight pin to hold at all distances out to your maximum effective bow range, about 30 yards for most of us. I’ve found that when shooting from elevated stands, I need to hold a bit lower than when shooting from level ground.
SHOT PLACEMENT- Harvesting game with a high-velocity rifle bullet is far different than using an arrow tipped with a fixed or mechanical broadhead. I wait for slam dunk shots that I know that I can make and pass up ‘iffy’ shots. Broadside or slightly quartering away shots offer the best opportunity of a clean harvest.
FIXED BROADHEAD OR MECHANICAL- I shoot a mechanical broadhead but there are many, many quality broadheads, both mechanical and fixed, on the market today. I prefer a mechanical broadhead that begins cutting the instant the point strikes the animal and, with good shot placement a quality broadhead harvests game every bit as quickly as a rifle bullet. Regardless of which type broadhead you choose, make sure and shoot it enough to learn its point of impact at various yardages. My mechanicals fly exactly the same as filed points of the same weight but, I learned that by actually shooting them in practice.
LEARNING ‘WHEN TO DRAW’- The act of actually drawing a bow when deer are close is one of the most challenging aspects of bow hunting. Deer are extremely ‘wired’ and are highly sensitive to sight and sound. Movement is necessary to bring a bow to full draw and the challenge is drawing when undetected. I’ve learned to watch the animal’s body language closely and draw only when the animal is looking away or has its head down feeding. The bow I hunt with offers 80% let off. I have the draw weight set at 55 pounds, but when the cam on the bow breaks over, I’m only holding a bit over 10 pounds, something I’ve done on past hunts for a couple of minutes until the deer presented the right shot angle.
TRACKING- Deer often run out of sight after the shot and learning to follow the trail is a major part of successful bow hunting. Unless you actually see or hear the deer go down, it’s a good idea to wait at least 30 minutes before taking up the trail, longer if you know the shot was less than perfect.