It’s fairly common to hear stories of bowhunters who stick it out to the last few days of the season only to struggle to get their bow drawn when a deer finally offers a shot. I’ve never had this problem, but I’ve had plenty of other problems during frigid hunts.
I recall with regret a young 8-pointer poking his way through the snow toward my treestand when I was a teenager. That December buck would have scored about 75 inches, but he was a giant to me. When he closed to 10 yards, I drew and aimed. As soon as I released I simultaneously listened to a loud “thwack” and watched my arrow bury into the ground at least 2 feet in front of the buck. The layers I had piled on underneath my jacket had accumulated to the point that they interfered with my draw cycle, which resulted in a horrible shot and a poignant lesson learned.
Still another late-season deer taught me a valuable lesson during a brutal northern Wisconsin hunt a few years ago. The lone doe – a tasty looking, season-redeeming deer – walked in on a string during an evening hunt. I was making plans to butcher her when she busted me drawing. The still, frozen air amplified the sound of my arrow slipping across my rest’s launcher arm and she spooked. When she settled down and walked in again, the same song was playing and we went through a second chorus. By the time I sent an arrow on the way to that doe I was so rattled I was off my mark by an embarrassing distance and she was on her way back into the swamp to wait for darkness.
Those lessons and others have forced me into a late-season routine. Before any hunt I take my bow out and shoot it while wearing the layers and jacket I plan to wear while hunting. I also make sure to wear my binoculars in their harness as well, to make sure they don’t interfere with my ability to shoot. Lastly, I don my hunting gloves. This goes for my bow and release hand. On my bow hand I sometimes wear a heavier glove because it usually gets colder holding onto my bow’s grip. This hand is also the one responsible for a proper grip, so I want to make sure I don’t unintentionally torque my bow during the shot no matter what size glove I’m wearing.
On my release hand I simply make sure my release fastens tightly over the glove and gives me the chance to shoot without punching the trigger. If I can stand outside with my outdoor garb on and shoot tight groups, I know my system is working and this builds confidence for when I actually have to shoot at a deer. That is invaluable.
To take it a step further, I also leave my cased bow out on my deck all night before I plan to shoot. I want that bow as cold it would be if I had been sitting on a treestand for three or four hours. This gives me a good chance to see that all of the parts will function perfectly when they are cold, and exposes any extra noises that may crop up. Extra noise is uncommon, but I’ve had it happen enough to know that I need to check just to make sure. If after all of this everything is working as it should be, I know I won’t run into any issues while actually hunting and I’ve given myself a chance to get comfortable shooting with the changes I’ve made in order to deal with the cold.
It’s a pain in the neck, but I’ve never regretted it once I’ve climbed into stand and settled in to watch for movement in a wintery landscape.