September 28, 2010
After bowhunting almost three decades for a variety of game species, I've found that targeting mature whitetail bucks requires more attention to detail than any other game animal.
1. USE DECOYS
Take your deer hunting to the next level by using a decoy, or better yet, two decoys.
Once the rut is on, I seldom hunt without a decoy and have killed bucks that would never have come into bow range had they not seen the decoy. A rutting buck can seldom resist the lure of a decoy, as long as he can see it and that goes double when using two decoys.
If you pay attention to the details the only surprise you'll have is the bill from the taxidermist!
2. DON'T OVERBOW
Too much draw weight can cost you a shot. That 70-pound bow that was easy to draw back in September can be a tough draw on a frigid evening in November. Today's bows with 60- or even 50-pound draw weights generate plenty of arrow speed for most deer hunting. An easier-to-draw bow would be worth its weight in gold at that point.
3. REAL PRACTICE
Get into the habit of shooting at least one arrow before leaving for your stand in the evening or after you return to your vehicle following a morning hunt. Keep a target in your vehicle, throw it out in the grass and shoot a practice arrow with your hunting clothes and safety harness on. Not only will this tell you if you still can shoot your arrows well, but it'll expose any noises that may have cropped up.
4. POINT OF NO RETURN
One detail in calling that's so important is to make yourself heard before a buck reaches what I call the "point of no return."
Once he gets past the point of no return, it's much more likely he'll ignore you and keep going.
If you're calling blind, this isn't as much of a factor until you make visual contact with a responding buck. Even then you have to assume control by calling when he's not looking at you and then going silent the moment he's hooked.
Don't let them just walk on by, talk to them before they reach the point of no return.
5. PRE-SHOT NOISE
Hunters put far too much focus on how much noise a bow makes when an arrow is released. Noise reduction measures can be helpful, but no matter how hard you work to silence your bow, a deer is still going to hear it go off unless there's a stiff wind.
What's truly important is eliminating pre-shot noise. From the time you attach your release, or fingers, to the bowstring until the arrow is gone, make sure your bow, your feet and your stand are totally silent.
6. DEADLY BROADHEADS
There's no such thing as a broadhead that's too sharp.
Bowhunters make a big mistake when they think they can get multiple use out of their blades. The edges of your broadhead blades should touch nothing prior to hitting an animal. Don't shoot a broadhead into a foam target and expect it to be sharp enough to hunt with. Don't kill a deer with a broadhead and then shoot the same head into another animal without changing the blades or sharpening the head.
Prove it to yourself by doing a necropsy. Try to slice the bronchial tubes that enter the lungs on your next deer. You'll find that they are extremely tough.
7. APPROACH, DEPARTURE
Walk in a dry creek bed or ditch, the silent path of a two-track trail or even a shallow stream to help you get to and from your stand without being busted.
As you approach your tree stand or blind, anticipate where incoming deer will walk and don't enter those zones.
A young 3x3 may not care about your scent trail, but a wary buck or cagey old doe might.