Air temperatures will soon be cooler and hunting fever will soar. The days become shorter and whitetail deer are triggered to rut. Many choose this beautiful time to bow hunt.
Chances are the hunter, male or female, will remain in their tree stand until dark when deer are illegal to hunt. A deer may not have walked by, but you likely had a great evening watching other wildlife while feeling fall’s cool air. Hunters almost always return to their tree stand for another round of peace and quiet.
Many types of wildlife go on with their daily life, totally unaware of the camouflaged hunter overhead in a tree stand. You would be amazed how many species will pass by on any given afternoon. We have watched coyote, bobcats, fox and many other critters passing by. The majority only realize you are there if wind currents deliver your human scent.
Some bowhunters are sorry to fill their tags. Their time in the tree stand is a time of absolute peace and quiet except for sights and sounds of nature. Bowhunters live for the time of cool autumn breezes and colored leaves. This is their time when anything can happen. Camouflage blends in hunters to become invisible components of a woodlot. Wildlife seldom realizes there is a human close by.
Last fall a hunter reported watching a young bobcat sniffing doe scent under his stand. The bobcat smelled doe urine the hunter poured from a bottle to attract bucks, and then it cautiously walked in a circle around the smelly spot, occasionally making a curious cat-like sound.
The ornery hunter shot an arrow close to the curious feline to frighten it away. This sudden intrusion of the cat’s concentration made it panic and then jump up and down three times in the same spot before hightailing it to safety. The hunter admitted ruining his chances for deer that evening by laughing out loud. But what entertainment! This type of wildlife sighting is not an uncommon sight from a tree stand.
Bowhunters occasionally find a flock of wild turkeys under their tree stand. Some purposely use a turkey call to draw gobblers, hens or young birds in close. Many states allow both wild turkeys and deer to be harvested on the same archery tag.
The best rifle deer hunters are likely bow hunters too. Deer habits change with the seasons making the need to learn important for bow hunters. The need for stealth and scouting is constant. Binoculars are important because they allow viewing long distances without actually walking around and scaring deer.
Bowhunters partake of a tradition that traces its roots back
thousands of years. Though most modern archers use high-tech equipment, the essentials of the challenge are the same whether your bow features aluminum pulleys or wooden limbs. Arrow release and where the arrow strikes is the same as it was a thousand years ago.
The gist of bowhunting is that you must get within a few paces of a quarry that possesses superb senses. Then you have to place an arrow in an area the size of a dinner plate or a tennis ball on turkeys. A wary whitetail will melt into the forest if you forget to check wind direction or breathe a little too loud. Turkeys disappear even faster.
GETTING STARTED: The good news is that practicing with a bow and arrow is fun and relaxing. The bad news: You should have started practicing months ago to be capable of killing a deer or turkey now. Hunters owe the one-shot kill to their chosen game species. Anything else is either a complete miss, or worst, a wounded creature to suffer.
Start by practicing with a simple target, then move on to harder targets. Beginning hunters should try shooting from tree stands or awkward positions like sitting on the ground or leaning around a tree. Try hitting a small target while occasionally off balance. Deer normally don’t provide easy, standing in the middle of a field type shots. Normally they are surrounded by brush and you have to find an opening to slip an arrow through.
EQUIPMENT: You can only find out if you like shooting a bow and arrow by doing it. Find a friend that owns a bow. Then talk him into a target range trip. This will give you the chance to try bow shooting and you might even like their style of bow. Buying a bow can bring on problems if you don’t know what to look for.
For example, start out light on pull. Many say, you are going to hunt with a bow that pulls back 70 pounds, so practice with this weight. But even if you can bench press 200 pounds before breakfast, learn how to shoot with a lighter draw weight for better control. Then, when you are hitting your target, look into heavier draw weights that will kill deer.
Most who sell bows will tell you, “You might as well buy the best now, because you will eventually anyway.” I can’t deny this, but many have spent several hundred dollars to find bow hunting was not their sport. Then the expensive bow is either sold at a garage sale or stashed in the closet.
Some bow shops that have shooting ranges will allow you to try a bow. This allows the opportunity to comfortably shoot from different distances. Some shop owners or employees even give instructions.
Be prepared to invest in numerous additions to your bow, a deer stand and adequate camouflage. I prefer Realtree or Mossy Oak brand camouflage. Both break up a hunter’s outline to the point where a sharp-eyed turkey or deer can’t see you.
Bow hunting is not easy. But it is one of the most satisfying sports to pursue. Man once shot a bow to survive and now many survive to shoot their bow.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.