It’s only about two months until bowhunting season for deer opens. The way time seems to fly anymore, that’s not long and now’s the time to get into the planning and preparation part of the pre-season. Not only do we need to be shooting our bows, there are a lot of other things we need to be doing as well.
Early season bowhunting can be a real challenge, but it can also be an extremely rewarding sport to a serious bowhunter. Diehard bowhunters leave little to chance or luck. Preparation is their key to success and it usually is the difference between consistently getting shots at deer and wondering where all the deer seen in pre-season went.
There seems to be an unwritten but steadfast rule regarding my hunting success, or lack thereof. It is simply that most of my lessons learned in the world of hunting come about the hard way. I can’t seem to get it right until I do it wrong a few times. My first efforts at bowhunting fit the pattern perfectly. I tried, but I missed the big picture of what preparation meant.
I spent a lot of practice time in eager anticipation of bowhunting season. I found out quickly that the key to success is much more than simply being able to put the arrow where you want it to go. I did scout for early season deer movements and actually got in the right “area,” but not the right “spot.” Big difference.
Having been strictly a gun hunter previously, I had a different mental process of approaching the sport. For gun hunting, I’d learned a pattern that worked well for me. I’d scout, find where deer were using and set up a stand, high in a tree from 80-200 yards from what I expected ground zero for the kill to be. I’d plan it so I could also visually cover as much territory outside that centrally targeted area as possible. Simply, it was get really high in a tree, view as much area as possible in good deer country and be able to make a long shot.
This theory works well when you have a 30-06 in your hand. My mistaken belief was that to bowhunt successfully, you did the same thing except get 25-30 yards from ground zero.
Unless you get really lucky, all this will accomplish is get you within 25- 30 yards of deer that you’ll never get the opportunity to shoot.
A perfect example occurred that first season. I found a place loaded with deer sign. There were several heavily used trails in the area plus an active scrape line. I selected a tree for the stand that would be easy to get to and climb and then retreated from the area, being careful not to leave any more scent in the area than necessary. I waited a full day before returning to the site and I slipped in early the next afternoon.
As the sun began to set, I heard deer moving all around me. In fact, I saw the feet or pieces of deer bodies moving through the thick growth around me. No less than a half dozen, (probably more) different deer were very close to me. In fact, all of these were within 25 yards of my stand. I had a scent suit on, the wind was in my favor and to my knowledge, none of the deer smelled me. Despite having so many deer so close, I never had the opportunity to draw the bow. I was simply in the wrong tree. I had miscalculated where to put my stand. In fact, the lesson was I had not really “calculated” at all. I picked a handy tree that would be easy to climb quietly and figured that was the game plan.
I learned a crucial lesson that day. A primary key to success for bowhunting will always be your stand location. I understand now why my bowhunting buddy is so successful with the bow. He takes setting up the stand site to a level I had never considered.
The early part of the season can be a great opportunity for bowhunters if they plan the strategy properly. One item that must be addressed is the food sources and the bedding areas. This is where you can learn a lot during the preseason, which means right now. Now is the time to get out and learn where the deer are bedding and seek out various food sources.
When you determine the food sources and the bedding areas, the key to your stand location is getting between these two areas and hopefully catch the deer in route from point A to point B. Look for areas of fairly dense vegetation that leads from the bedding area to the food source.
In this instance, you’ll need to find the primary routes deer are taking to these food sources. Actually, you don’t need to have your stand within sight of the food, just along the route the deer typically take. After considerations of the obvious “rules” for bowhunters regarding wind direction and the position of the sun (whether rising or setting} you’re ready to select a stand site.
Based on the experience of some buddies who are very successful in bowhunting, set up both permanent stands and have trees selected for a bow climber. Get the permanent stands up as early as possible and only hunt them when the wind is favorable. The climbers give you the ability to move with the deer as their habits change, or as the wind changes.
The key for early season success is to get the planning work done now.