The title of this article may seem a little strange, especially to experienced bowhunters. As a responsible archery hunter, I hope you are putting in the time to shoot consistently and know your effective range. But the fact is a deer is not an archery target. Not only do you have to shoot well, you have to shoot well under pressure and avoid being spotted by an animal that is always on the lookout for danger. Here are some tips to help you be more effective in the woods.
Well, everyone knows you should practice. But it’s how you practice that counts. When shooting at the range make a bet with yourself. Your first shot is the most important since you will probably only get one shot at a deer. If you can’t place your first arrow inside the x-ring on the first shot maybe you give up beer for a week… whatever will put pressure on you to make the shot is what you’re looking for in a bet.
Practice In The Field Too
I make it a point, especially early in the season, to draw on just about every deer that passes by my stand. This way I learn what I can get away with and what I can’t. If you can’t legally shoot a doe, don’t actually put your sight pins on her. But see if you can draw without being detected. This exercise will either boost your confidence or educate you.
Speaking of does, there are a lot of hunters who will wait for years before firing an arrow at a deer because they are waiting for the perfect buck. Then, when the moment of truth arrives they fizzle. If you have some doe tags, don’t be afraid to put a few on the ground. Killing a doe is great practice for killing a buck.
On The Approach
The moment I see a deer, I slowly ease into a standing position. Even if the deer walking in isn’t a deer you’re interested in shooting, you never know what is walking behind it. If you wait to stand until you see a big boy, you may have does all around you. Try getting up with four or five sets of eyes and ears surrounding you. It won’t be easy.
If the deer is walking towards you, let it get past you before drawing. This will help you stay undetected and give you a good opportunity at a quartering away shot. If the deer is walking from right to left or left to right, draw when it is looking away or has an obstructed view.
So everything has worked perfectly and you’re about to let an arrow go. Wait! Some hunters bring their bow from above the target and work their way down. Most of the time a deer is going to duck the string. If you release a little too early, your arrow will fling right over the top of the deer. Start from below the deer and work your way up to the target arrow. Float the pin and let the arrow go. This will help you avoid missing due to the deer ducking the string.
Your limitations are another factor to consider before releasing. If you’re comfortable at the range at 30 yards, don’t shoot at a deer at 40 yards. Hitting a deer poorly doesn’t do you or the deer any favors. Lastly, don’t follow what you see on TV. If a deer is walking and you have to give them the “mehhhh” to stop them, fine. But if the deer is feeding and taking it’s time, don’t make a sound before shooting. If the deer is relaxed, it is less likely to duck when the arrow is released. Grunting or bleating at them only puts them on alert.
My best advice is this: If you practice like you’re hunting, you will hunt like it is practice. Take your time at the range and don’t get caught up in how many arrows you shoot. Quality is more important than quality.
Draw Without Being Spotted
As the season progresses, bowhunters find themselves out in the open. Leaves have fallen off the trees and the cover hunters depended on in September is suddenly gone. This makes it easier to send arrows into tight spots but it also exposes hunters to prying eyes below. But getting drawn on a wary buck is more difficult than it was on opening day. There are a few things you can do to make pulling back undetected easier.
Hunters are the only predators from above that deer have to deal with. Most deer won’t be looking up unless they catch something in their periphery. If you can get above their periphery you can hunt without being spotted unless you’re moving around like you have fleas in your shorts. If you’re comfortable hunting at 25 to 30 feet off the ground, you can draw without fear. Another advantage to high setups is your scent will also be well above deer level.
Bring Cover With You
If cover is in short supply, make your own. Bring along an extra rope and tie a few branches before you climb. Once you’re secured, pull the branches up and tie them up behind you. The idea is to create a screen to break up your silhouette. Some hunters like to attach them to the bottom of their treestand. Not only does this add stress to your stand, it can create extra movement. Keep those branches behind you for best results.
Use Sky Camo
I like to hunt with a friend. It makes successes more fun and defeats more bearable when you have someone to share it with. My long time hunting partner showed up wearing a snow camo hat one October morning a few years ago. Snowflakes had yet to fall that year and temperatures were expected to be in the upper 40s during the day’s hunt. I gave him a funny look and he knew exactly what I was going to say. But if you’ve ever looked up when sitting in your stand, what you see is essentially snow camo. Think of it as sky camo and you’ll feel much more comfortable wearing it.
Adjust Your Stand
Most hunters set their treestands overlooking a major trail or food plot. This gives hunters a good look and a clear shot at what they are hunting. But it also gives deer a front row look at you, especially when the leaves fall off the trees. For better concealment, right handed hunters should move their stand 120 degrees(not quite on the opposite side) to the right, left handed hunters to the left. This allows you to hide behind the tree when drawing while still giving you the opportunity to get your bow hand on the target. The only downside is that you’ll have a more difficult time spotting deer. If you like to stand up in the stand, hug your tree. You’ll be surprised how comfortable it is to rest your body up against the tree.
Some hunters simply draw earlier to prevent being spotted. If you’re strong enough to do that, it may be an option. But you never know just how slow an approaching buck will be. In my opinion, drawing early opens up the possibility of having to let down with a deer heading toward your stand. If you think it’s tough to draw without being spotted, try letting down undetected.