Bowhunting whitetails successfully take much more than just shooting a bow. There's a lot that goes into preparing yourself, the hunting ground, hunting equipment, and learning the ways of deer to set yourself up for success.
Since killing a whitetail for venison is such a fulfilling accomplishment, you want to ensure that you do your best in both preparation and the actual hunting sessions. But how do you do that when you know very little about hunting whitetails using bows?
In this guide, you will find handy bow hunting whitetail tips that will set you up for huge success during the deer hunting season, even if you are so green in this type of hunting and haven't killed your first deer yet.
Want to learn from the experts? Be sure to follow our trail carefully!
What to Know About Whitetail Deer
Whitetail deer get their name from their long tail, whose underside is white. Some people refer to them as white-tailed deer or just whitetails. They are curious animals with super smell, sight, and hearing abilities.
Male whitetail deer have solid, forward-arching, deciduous antlers. Adult whitetails have a reddish-brown coat in the summer and grayish-brown during the winter. Geographically, they are common in many areas across South America and southern Canada.
Whitetail deer are not your easiest North American deer family member to kill with a bow, especially in close ranges of 50 yards or less, thanks to their unique traits for survival against predation by other animals and hunting by humans.
Firstly, deer have highly effective olfactory senses due to the many olfactory receptors in their nose. They also have Jacobson's organ in their mouth for sorting out smells, including the faintest human odors.
Secondly, although they can't hear so well, their ears are large and can swivel, allowing them to capture sounds from different directions.
Their eyes are also excellent in low light and are great at detecting movement, better than human eyes.
Bow Hunting Whitetails Tips
Whether you are a beginner or an accomplished whitetail deer bowhunter, our tips below will help you drop your first or next deer every whitetail hunting season when you find the time for a hunt.
Tips for Hunting Whitetails With a Bow
Here are some detailed tips for hunting white-tailed deer using bows.
Know When to Hunt Whitetails
You can hunt whitetails any time you get in the woods, but there are times when you stand better chances of killing one. On the first day of the hunting season, you stand better chances because the whitetails are unaware of the new development of lurking hunters.
Once they get wind of the many hunters, they get scared and keep running around for their safety. You can easily kill a deer on this day if you are keen enough and stay put in your blind.
Your chances of killing a deer are also very high in the rut, the breeding time when the bucks are carefree as they mate with the does. At this time, the bucks are aggressive as they seek out the does and fight amongst themselves for territory protection.
During the rut, you should hunt in the travel corridors. After the mating period is over, the bucks retire to their shelter areas, making hunting challenging once again. At this time, you should resume ambushing the deer around the food sources.
Early Season Scouting Pays Off
Begin scouting early to learn the ways of the deer, their movement patterns, feeding places, shelter or bedding places, and water points. Scouting involves careful observation of the habitat and the behavior of the deer in it.
Unlike with their bedding areas, deer usually change their feeding spots quite often as they find a new favorite food now and then. Take care not to frequent the bedding and feeding areas too much since whitetails can detect your repeated presence there.
The bedding places are a significant place you don't want to disturb. If you keep spooking deer from their sleeping and resting spots, you are highly likely to drive them away from that hunting ground for the longest time.
You should also avoid actively hunting in bedding places.
Whenever possible, use some modern technology like hunting apps, trail cameras with motion-activated sensors, and optics like binoculars to help you study the habitat and the deer better.
Mapping Out Deer Trails
When you have done successful scouting and established that the area has high whitetail deer traffic, it's time to map out their trails. At this point, you are trying to establish the paths or trails used by the deer and when and why they use them.
The mapping also involves determining the direction of travel of the deer along the trails. You may find either single deer trails or more expansive corridors. For the former, trailing is easy, but you might sweat things out for the latter.
Wide corridors mean that you must do more scouting and trailing to pinpoint the exact locations where deer traffic is heavy and when it is so. With all this information at hand, you can set up in the travel corridors for better chances at a big kill.
Prepare Yourself; Practice Shooting
Your deer hunting expeditions will bear no fruit if you don't practice shooting your bow well before the actual hunts. One of the critical aspects of bowhunting you should learn and practice hard is drawing.
Hold a drawn bow for a long time because you don't always get to shoot your bow immediately after you draw in the actual hunting session. Sometimes the deer looks at you, and you should avoid any movement to avoid spooking it.
You may also draw your bow ready to shoot, but the deer changes its "presentation" and ruins your initial target. If that happens, you should hold your draw and wait for the quarry to present itself better in a way that you can hit a vital organ.
When practicing drawing your bow, ensure you use the correct bow draw weight. The legal and expert-recommended minimum for killing a whitetail deer fast and humanely is 40 pounds. Be sure you can hold the draw a little longer at this weight.
During practice, you should mimic real hunting situations to set yourself up for a good kill. Mimicked real-life bowhunting may include using life-size deer models, shooting from different distances and positions, and using some obstructions.
Changing the shooting distances helps you practice hunting from both short and long ranges, improving your short-range shots.
Bowhunting requires a hunter to be as close to the quarry as possible, even about 30 yards away, for precision and due to bow shooting distance limits.
When you practice with obstacles between you and the target, you prepare yourself better for real-life hunting sessions where deer usually move about from clearings to less direct spots where they are partially hidden from the arrow's trajectory by obstacles like trees.
Setting Up in Travel Corridors
As mentioned, it's not a wise thing to go disturbing deer in the bedding areas. As such, you should set up to hunt them in the travel corridors or feeding places.
Travel corridors are the paths the whitetails take to and from the three most significant places in their habitat — the feeding spots, bedding or shelter area, and water points. Avoid going too close or too far away from these points.
If you set up your blinds along the travel corridors, you can be sure to kill some deer because they are highly likely to pass through there as they journey between the three places. They do this by following the least-resistance paths, the road less traveled by.
Scent Control is Crucial
Scent control when hunting refers to trying not to scare away deer with your natural or other odor. As noted earlier, deer have excellent smell detection. They can even sort out different smells, including human scent.
Contrary to common belief, scent control is not only for the day of the relentless hunt. It starts as soon as you begin scouting the woods to study the deer and their feeding, watering, movement, and bedding patterns.
During scouting, you should leave very little or no scent behind. Deer will pick up your scents and know that you frequent their habitat more often, which alerts them that there is a potential danger or threat to their humble life.
At such times and also during the actual hunt, you should wear rubber boots and clothes washed with scent-free detergent or soap to ensure minimal scent lingers where you pass.
Some hunters take the affair a notch higher by using ozone generators to help with scent management. There are also scent-killing sprays you could soak your clothes in, but unfortunately, not all such sprays remove scents thoroughly. They might even add some!
Another unique way to control your scent is to consider the direction of wind such that you position yourself in places where it carries your odor away from the deer rather than towards them.
Wind indicators prove helpful in telling wind direction. Mostly, they are squeezable plastic bottles filled with a white powder that you blow into the air to show you which direction the wind is blowing.
Treestands and ground blinds are also good options for scent management on the hunt. However, treestands do this better since the elevation takes you off the deer's smell line.
A blind, on the other hand, confines your odor within it, but it might escape through the open viewing window and reach the whitetail's smell line.
Treestand vs Ground Blind: Which Is More Effective for Bowhunting Whitetail?
Ideally, the choice you go with between a treestand or a ground blind for bowhunting whitetails should not be a question of which one is more effective. But why? Each option has its fair share of advantages and disadvantages.
Pros of Using a Treestand for Bowhunting Whitetails
- Variable height from ground level as per your preference for adequate concealment
- Your scent travels upward, away from nearby deer
- Almost 300-degree view, coupled with the ability to see farther
- Thermals work for you due to the elevation
- You stay out of a whitetail's normal line of sight
Cons of Using a Treestand for Bowhunting Whitetails
- Not suitable in areas with weak or no trees
- The shot angle is steep, making the kill zone smaller
- Poor protection from the wind, sun, and precipitation
- High risk of falls that may lead to severe injury or even death
Pros of Using a Ground Blind for Bowhunting Whitetails
- Stealing your way to a ground blind is easy, and nearby deer might not detect you
- Higher mobility and suitability for less mobile hunters like the older people or those with health complications or injuries
- Better concealment from the highly perceptive whitetails
- Excellent protection from the wind, sun, and precipitation
- Reduced risk of injury or death
- Blinds offer more room for movement within them
- Larger kill zones since you are at ground level
Cons of Using a Ground Blind for Bowhunting Whitetail
- Thermals may work against you since you are within the deer's receptive range
- Scent control might be a challenge due to the opened window
- Vision is reduced in terms of distance and angle of view to 90 degrees because only one window is open
- Not suitable for hunting soon after placement in the hunting grounds
- You are within the deer's line of sight
- Not practical where ground cover is thick
Tips for Bow Hunting from the Ground
If you choose to bow-hunt whitetail from the ground, it's crucial to ensure you and your blind are well concealed. If there is little vegetation or cover around the blind, consider brushing it up using branches.
You should conceal yourself further by painting your face black or wearing a black face mask and black gloves. You can also spray-paint your bow black. Closing all windows except the viewing and shooting one also adds to the dark situation for better concealment.
Remember that as much as a ground blind is excellent for its comfort, ideally, you can't shoot from it for two to four weeks after installation. The highly cautious deer you so badly want to kill must get used to the new aspect in their habitat to feel free near it.
Tips for Bow Hunting from the Stand
Since most bow hunting accidents, injuries, or even tragic deaths usually result from falling from a faulty treestand, you must buy a high-quality stand and harness and pick a sturdy tree that can stomach the added weight. Your safety comes first!
It's worth noting that it's harder to climb a tree than to sneak into a ground blind. As such, you want an easy-to-climb tree and stand. A ladder treestand works great here, but there are other incredible options as well.
The kill zone here is smaller due to the elevation. You should consider not being too high up the tree to diminish your prospects for a good kill.
Other Tips When Bow Hunting Whitetail
Besides what we have discussed so far, there are other handy tips for bowhunting whitetails. We will keep these restricted to personal safety and legal concerns.
Personal Safety Tips
Regardless of the concealment gear you use between ground blinds and treestands, your safety in the hunting area comes first. Ensure that your preferred gear protects you well from adverse weather. Unfortunately, treestands fail miserably in this aspect.
If you are in a public hunting ground, especially on the first day of the hunting season, you should be extra careful and mindful of your surroundings. The high number of beginner and amateur bowhunters means you are in greater danger of carelessly shot arrows.
You must first do adequate research to find out if you can shoot your bow or use it for hunting whitetails in your area. The state, county, city, or town might have specific laws regarding bowhunting.
It's also important to ensure that you only hunt when the law allows in the hunting season. You may hunt in public and private lands as well, but for the latter, you must seek the landowner's permission (best if written) to hunt on their grounds.
You should also note when your area's legal light for bowhunting begins and ends to avoid falling prey to the law.
Note that elevated hunting platforms are illegal in some areas, leaving hunting from the ground as your only option.
When you are armed with handy whitetail bowhunting tips, you are a highly informed marksman, and felling your next or first-ever deer will be a walk in the park. The underlying idea is that you should start implementing the tips long before the hunting season.
There are many tips for bowhunting whitetails successfully. They include scouting early, knowing when to hunt deer, mapping out deer trails, controlling your scent, watching thermals, and making proper setups in deer travel corridors. And oh, practice shooting early!
People Also Ask
Let's now look at some of the burning questions you may still have concerning how to best set yourself up for success during the whitetail deer hunting season.
What is the Minimum Draw Weight on a Bow to Kill A Deer?
The legal minimum bow draw weight for killing a deer is 40 pounds in most states across the country. Such weight effectively and humanely kills a whitetail in the shortest time possible, provided you hit the deer's vital organs like the heart or lungs.
What Attracts Whitetail Deer the Best?
Whitetail deer love crops, with their favorite food sources being acorns, apple trees, pecan from mast trees, peas, alfalfa, kale, corn, soybeans, sorghum, hickory nuts, berry bushes, turnips, plant shoots, and chestnuts. Corn is particularly an all-time favorite for them.
While such foods will typically attract whitetails, you might have to use other methods to draw them out.
You can call whitetails by rattling antlers to mimic the sounds of fighting bucks. Grunt calls also work, and there are commercial grant tubes you can buy. However, you'll likely ace it best with real antlers since they produce more realistic sounds.