A Few Tips to Consider For a More Successful Archery Season
By: Todd D. Larson
With the “Dog Days” of summer upon us here in Wisconsin, I can’t help but let my mind wander a bit and think of the cooler days to come. More specifically, I look forward to when archery season opens up in the middle of September and carries us through the first part of January. For those of us with a passion for shooting bows and letting arrows fly, September 17th, 2016 can’t get here soon enough. And, when January 8th, 2017 comes to a close, it will find many people dragging their feet and just plain wore out from pursuing the most commonly hunted big game species in North America, the whitetail deer. Some hunters will find success early because they will have done their homework and others, well, they’ll be the ones eating their tags walking around like zombies.
In my 41 seasons of chasing these smart and crafty creatures with a bow, I’ve come to understand a few things that I thought I might share to help others be more successful. Here’s the short list…
Purchase what you can afford. Buy a quality bow within your budget that feels good each and every time you shoot it. Spend a little more money if you need to in order to get the right fit and don’t buy a particular bow just because of the brand name on it. Remember that this is an investment and something that you will have to enjoy for many years to come. The first step is to decide on the type of bow you are wanting to shoot, (longbow, recurve or compound). Take your time and shoot as many different styles of bows as possible from the various manufacturers. You can narrow it down pretty quickly once the shooting starts. Go to a quality archery shop that is more interested in fitting you with the proper bow rather than how much money they can talk you out of. Most reputable places will spend as much time with you as needed during the selection process. These are the guys that will take care of you when it comes to tuning your bow, cutting arrows, finding the correct release, arrow rest and quiver and any other accessories that you will need. Their job is to get you set up for success and take care of you quickly if something should happen to any piece of your archery equipment.
This is as important, if not more important than the bow you purchase. Shoot regularly and consistently; especially when first getting your bow. Many archery shops now have indoor and/or outdoor ranges which allow you to shoot at different distances and at many different types of targets. It’s a blast and challenging all at the same time. Not only that, but you will meet some great people, all with a common interest who are more than willing to help you out. Remember that proper form is key and having a seasoned archer help you get everything dialed in is really important. It certainly will help take away the frustration associated with learning something new.
Another tip; don’t overshoot. What I mean is simply this: Don’t shoot a hundred arrows the first night in your excitement of getting your new bow. You’ll be too sore to even shoot your bow anytime soon after that, thus making the experience less than enjoyable. Keep in mind that you will be using muscles in your arms, neck and back that will need time to strengthen. As those muscles get stronger, shooting more arrows becomes easier. Your draw weight will increase as well, but keep in mind that you don’t need to shoot heavy poundage.
Shoot a draw weight that is comfortable for you. The way that bows are designed today, the arrow will still get there quickly enough. And, a smoother and quicker draw is the one that will increase your chances of success. When I was younger, I shot a draw weight of 70 lbs. or more. Today it’s around 63 to 65 lbs. It makes sense to me to shoot an arrow more comfortably and more consistently. I’ve also come to realize that a faster arrow is not necessarily a better killing arrow. I don’t shoot as many arrows each night as I use to. I would rather shoot fewer arrows and leave on a good note than shoot too many arrows and have them hit all over the target.
Having confidence in your ability and in your shooting distances is key. Be patient, be consistent and have fun. Each and every shot needs to be your best shot. There have been very few times that I have ever had a second chance at killing a deer that I may have missed with my first shot or have made a poor shot on to begin with. Take your time, breathe, relax and visualize the shot before you release the arrow. Make each and every shot count as you only get one first shot.
Practice shooting in various positions. Standing, sitting and kneeling are the most popular. Keep in mind the type of hunting you will be doing, but practice shooting in different positions and situations. If you are hunting from a ground blind, practice sitting on a chair, inside the blind. If you’re going to be hunting from a tree stand, be sure to practice at the height that your stand will be and always, always, always, wear your safety harness. Be certain to clip into a guide rope as you climb up and down from your tree stand. Learn how different angles affect arrow placement when shooting from above and don’t forget to enjoy the view. Hunting from a tree stand is my favorite type of hunting and has been the most productive for me in Northern Wisconsin. Now that we have your bow picked out and you’re shooting like Fred Bear, let’s take a look at your hunting property.
You have two choices, public land or private land. If you’re fortunate to have a piece of property that you own or have been able to lease, fantastic! I prefer hunting private land or a lease for a good number of reasons. Here are just a couple.
The first and most important reason is safety. You know (for the most part) that you and/or others you may have given permission to should be the only ones on that property. I’ve had some great leases over the years that I shared with my family and friends. It’s fun, comfortable and safe. I have to say that getting these leases wasn’t very easy. I did acquire most simply by calling on a piece of property that was for sale or by knocking on doors in areas that were of interest to me. Always be kind and courteous, thanking them for their time. Be sure to leave your name and number with them. They may not want to lease this property to you this season but that may change down the road. Be able to face rejection when they tell you “no,” but keep in mind that’s all part of the process and all it takes is that one person to say “yes” to your request and you’ll be on top of the world. Hunting property is getting harder and harder to come by so be patient and put in your time.
The second reason is deer management. You will have a direct impact on the deer that reside there. I’m a firm believer in the Quality Deer Management program that more and more property owners and their neighbors are embracing. If you give these deer a chance to grow and keep a healthy buck to doe ratio in the mix you’ll experience hunting like you’ve never seen. The key to making this work is to get your neighbors involved. Experiment with food plots that will hold deer and create bedding areas for the deer, if space allows. For ten months out of the year, all a whitetail thinks about is a place to eat and sleep that is relatively safe. The other two months are spent chasing or being chased around because of the rut. This is certainly the best and most productive time of the year to hunt. And, when it’s kicked into full gear these are my two favorite weeks of the year. Be sure to put your time in on the stand to increase your chances of success. I guarantee that you will see more than at any other time of the season.
Public land is always a gamble. I will say that a good number of deer are harvested on public land. The key to success here is to get off the beaten path and go find those places that other hunters have no desire to be in. You’ll be farther away from your competition and be closer to where these big deer like to hang out. They like solitude, safety and comfort next to a feeding area. Find that place and you’ll find success. Check the laws for using and hanging stands or putting up ground blinds on public property. Know that you are not going to be the only hunter out there and be willing to accept the fact that others may wander in what you like to think is “your area.” Remember that it is public land and that’s just part of the deal. I’ve been there and done that and yes, it is frustrating, but make the best of it.
There is certainly a lot more that I could talk about in regards to increasing the odds of being successful bowhunting this fall and winter. Trail cameras, stand placement and cover scent are just a few more things to consider. Do your homework and prepare yourself to the best of your ability. Read as much as you can and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I have learned, however, that the best lessons come from just taking that first step and getting out and into the woods. Enjoy each and every moment that you’re there and I promise that you will be amazed at what you will learn and see.
One other thing to remember…don’t base your success as a hunter on the size of the deer, the harvest or lack thereof. Enjoy the hunt and the people you share it with. The harvest is just the icing on the cake.
Good Luck this season, be safe and have fun!