Rethink your bowhunting approach

Photo By Windigo Images Used: Oh Mn
(Photo by Windigo Images)

Sometimes just when you think something’s a slam dunk, the ball slips through your hands. The same can be said for bowhunting.

Several years ago, I found a giant set of shed antlers on public ground in mid-March. I scouted the area hard and hung a trail camera in the summertime, located the bedding area, and confirmed the big guy was still hanging around the area in the weeks leading up to archery season.

I was absolutely pumped for opening day and arrived super early so I could get up a tree along the buck’s travel corridor just on the edge of its bedding area.  The only problem was that as I entered the woods with a climbing stand on my back, my headlamp beam landed upon two big eyes shining right back at me. It was the same buck I was hoping to see, not far from the tree I had hoped to climb, but in a flash, he was long gone well before the day even started. It was a hard lesson learned.

With today’s advanced trail camera technology, it’s difficult not to get excited about capturing a mature buck in your hunting area and immediately thinking that harvesting it should be a piece of cake. It almost never is quite that simple.

Whitetails may be somewhat predictable, but they are also built for survival, and their senses are always on high alert. If you get careless in your approach to the stand and don’t take every precaution to stay elusive to their wary ways, you’ll get busted just like I did on that early October morning.

To be successful, you must carefully rethink your approach, doing everything within your physical power to not blow up the area before the hunt even begins. Otherwise, you’ll lose every time.

Stand selection

One of the first tenants of successful bowhunting is finding a stand location that you can reliably access and exit without alerting the deer you intend to hunt of your presence. You can set up on the very best bedding area where a target buck is sure to show up, but if he knows you’re coming before you get there, you’ll either never see him or it’ll be a fleeing white flag that soon changes its ways.

It’s better to set up on lesser quality ambush sites earlier in the season and save aggressive tactics for later in the season. That simple tradeoff can help ensure you have deer to hunt for the long haul, while still having a chance to score early. Instead of sitting right in the bedroom or the kitchen, try setting up in the hallway where deer are passing through, giving you a solid chance of an encounter without getting picked off.

Consider the direction from which you will approach the stand, being sure to avoid field edges where deer may be feeding and thick bedding cover where they may be taking refuge.

Also, pay close attention to the wind on a given day, and where your human scent will be carried both while on stand and while walking to and from it. Try to stay downwind as often as possible.

Quality control

Speaking of scent, do as much as you can to reduce your human odor. Take a shower with scent neutralizing soap, wash garments in unscented detergents, and let them air dry in a location free from trace odors.

Wear rubber boots, store scent reduced clothing in a sealed tote or bag, and dress in the field. If you smell like your dog, the gas station, a pack of cigarettes, a deli sandwich, or the latest fragrance of Axe body wash, the deer will know what’s coming and avoid you.

Also, be sure to control your noise just us much as your scent. Garments like fleece or polyester/nylon blends that are generally quiet are better options than those with a “swishy” shell. When you’re walking, pick up your feet to avoid rustling leaves or stepping on downed branches. Keep audible conversations to a minimum, mute your phone, and dampen any metal parts such as those on a mobile stand that could clank along the way.

If possible, use a red or green headlamp when walking in the dark, and get there early, well before you expect the deer to arrive so you can be settled in your stand and give the area time to calm down before dawn.

Sneak attack

Make every effort to utilize the terrain to the best of your advantage. If hunting near a clearing or field, keep a row of tall screening cover so you can get to your stand undetected without pushing deer off the open space.

If a stream or creek is available, use that low spot in terrain to not only conceal your approach, but your scent as well. If you can scale a steep side hill from a road access to get to a stand or drop into a narrow funnel via a ravine or other land feature, you increase your odds of entering and exiting undetected.

The more you rethink your approach and carefully plan how you’ll get to and from your stand, the better chances you’ll have of spotting a deer that is unaware of your presence as you wait for the perfect chance to score.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Pennsylvania – Tyler Frantz

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