Quick Bowhunting Tips

trophy buck
Put an emphasis on little stuff and you'll kill big 8-pointers like this Montana buck. Hunter shown wearing Lost Camo.

In the intricate and short-range archery game, those who sweat the details are most often rewarded with the biggest racks and the most venison. To wit:

  1. If the cover and approach angle of a buck allow it, ease up your range finder and laser the exact spot where you plan to kill him. You’ll pick the right pin for sure, doubling the odds of a double-lung hit.

  2. Screw broadheads (fixed or mechanical) into the 6 arrows you’ll tote in your quiver. Shoot every one into a broadhead target. Two or three will undoubtedly fly smoother and more accurately than the rest. Mark those arrow shafts 1, 2 and 3 with a Sharpie, hone or replace blades as necessary and hunt with them first.

  3. bowhunting tips
    Play the wind, but don't forget to monitor the vertical thermals too. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

    To quiet your bow and keep fewer bucks from doing the “dip and whirl,” tighten all screws; tie on string silencers; use fork tamers or heat shrink on an arrow rest; and pad areas around the rest with moleskin. Also, arrows should weigh at least 6 grains for every pound of bow weight to keep them from making a little cracking sound when they leave the string.

  4. Pack a journal and jot down everything you see, hear and find: a giant rack bobbing through honeysuckle, the splash of a heavy deer in a creek, a thrashed pine the size of your calf…Cross-reference days, weeks, months and seasons of field data against an aerial photo of your bow area and you’ll be amazed at how deer patterns jump out at you.

  5. “In many woods the first deer scrapes pop up in and on the edges of old logging roads,” says Jim Crumley, Virginia archer and creator of Trebark camouflage. “Slip along and scout those roads first in late October.”

  6. bow adjustments
    Keep tweaking and making little adjustments until you can shot tight groups.

    If a 4 1/2- or 5 1/2-year-old doe (one of the wisest, spookiest critters in the woods, by the way) walks downwind of your tree stand and smells a rat (you) she’s liable to stamp and blow for 5 minutes, bringing your blood to a boil and hollering “scram” to every deer within a half-mile. To keep her quiet, set up where your scent will float back and over a spot where deer probably won’t or can’t walk—i.e. a pasture, fallow field, rocky gully or deep creek or river.

  7. Terry Drury, the buck hunting machine from Missouri, says to hang your tree stands between 17 to 20 feet. “At that height, when a deer is broadside 15 to 25 yards away you’ll see plenty of lungs and have a good shooting angle.”

  8. Look around for logs or brushy tops that would block a buck from walking within 30 yards of your tree stand. Drag big stuff away and stash it downwind. Some deer hunters end up sitting and watching deerafter deer skirt a log or treetop and veer 10 to 20 yards out of bow range.

  9. News flash: It’s foolish to sit in a tree stand you can’t shoot out of! Don’t cut pulpwood, but trim at least 3 or 4 arrow lanes. Drag away limbs and brushy tops so they won’t block deer, and so the animals won’t smell your scent on them.

  10. For the best visibility and the most shooting light at dawn and dusk, point a morning tree stand west and an evening tree stand east. With the rising or setting sun at your back you’ll be shaded and hidden. A buck’s antlers and hide will shine, making him easy to pick up a long way out.

  11. If you scout near a stream or river, don’t let the sandy soil fool you. Tracks and deer scrapes in sand are generally fresher than they look.

  12. If heavy rains swell a creek or river into a food plot or oak bottom deer will hop over to the next closest feed until the water recedes. Move to crops or clover 100 yards away, or hang a tree standon high and dry oak ridge and try to surprise a buck at dinnertime.

  13. broadheads
    Whether you shoot a mechanical or fixed-blade, know how it flies! Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

    Boots with hard soles and deep lugs or bobs grate, thud and bang on a steel platform. A buck that hears such a noise as you stand or turn to draw will look up, get bug-eyed and bolt. Boots with soft, quiet soles and shallow lugs are the ticket for a tree stand.

  14. If the wind is calm to 10 mph, pay close attention to thermals, those vertical air currents that generally rise in the morning and sink in late afternoon and carry your scent snaking through the woods with them. You might not like hunting in steady 15 to 20 mph breeze, but the upside is that it will shoot your scent in a narrow stream behind your tree stand take thermals pretty much out of play. Vertical currents are most unpredictable and toughest to deal with in hill-and-valley terrain.

  15. Though they haven’t been hunted in a year, many whitetails are super-sensitive in early October. Get sloppy entering or leaving a tree stand and you might clear a field or woodlot of deer and contaminate the spot for a week. Morph to stealth mode. Sneak in from downwind, hide behind structure and cover, don’t crack a stick, don’t squeak a wire fence, don’t bang a boot on an aluminum ladder…got the idea?

  16. Deer sure tend to move well when the barometric pressure is moving either up or down. Try to hunt those 1 or 2 high-pressure days after a cold front blows through, though you’ll often have to deal with moderate to high winds.
  17. You know to grunt at every buck that cruises just out of bow range. Who knows when one will turn and march toward your tree stand? Well, pack a bleat call too. “A lot of times deer can hear sassy, high-pitched bleats farther than grunts, especially if it’s windy,” notes Will Primos, honcho of the call company that bears his name.

  18. Leave your horns home prior to October 25. You won’t get the urge to rattle and spook deer that aren’t yet ready to respond. Start cracking and grinding around Halloween and keep it up for the next 3 weeks, when bucks go on the prowl and spoil to watch or join a fight.

  19. Big buck rubs generally tell you a trophy buck is working a ridge or draw. Read a bunch of snapped, mangled pines or cedars nearby to mean the dude is pretty darn aggressive. That is the kind of beast you want to hunt because he’s apt to move quite a bit and he might make a mistake in daylight hours.

  20. Remember to draw and be ready to fire an arrow before you meaak or ecck with your voice to stop a buck. Sounds obvious, but it’s easy to get pumped and put the cart before the horse when a big-racked bruiser is 20 yards below and trotting away. If you stop him first and then go “oh-oh” and try to draw, only a miracle from the deer gods will keep you from getting busted.



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