Your time in the woods is precious, so the bowhunting tactics you use and the time you spend must be well-planned.
Being prepared prior to heading into the woods is the key to successful hunting. Personally, I easily check ScoutLook's app (scoutlookweather.com) about 100 times each week during the hunting season. That may seem obsessive, but I've come to learn that if I have only enough time to hunt two afternoons, I want them to be the best possible ones.
While it stands to reason you should hunt whenever you can, you should also plan your days around the highest likelihood of experiencing serious deer action. For most of us, this means circling a few days on the calendar near the end of October or during the first two weeks of November.
Obviously, the rut is a good time to be in the woods, but the secret is out on that one. If you're hunting public ground, you'll be spending time in the woods with lots of other like-minded hunters in November. The added pressure can diminish some of the activity that should be happening.
Special Bow Tactics Coverage
This month, Game & Fish contributor Tony J. Peterson takes a look at effective tactics while bowhunting for deer. Previous posts:
This means that if you're going to plan some PTO around the rut, consider when the fewest other hunters will be out to share the woods with you. In many cases, this may mean showing up on Monday morning and leaving on Friday afternoon. Most hunters are stuck in weekend-warrior status.
Naturally, this also means that the better the conditions are for deer hunting, the more people you'll have to compete with in the woods.
Don't be afraid to check out the ScoutLook app and hunt when it looks like things won't be so great.
Two years ago, I hung a tree stand on public land in Nebraska when the temperature was 75 degrees. It was the first week of November, and absolutely miserable for all of the critters in the woods. The only thing I had going for me was the nearby creek gurgling away, the timing of my hunt, and the fact that the Indian summer weather had reduced the hunting pressure.
My entire sit lasted 15 minutes before I arrowed a cruising 10-pointer that, despite the heat wave, was on the hunt for an amenable lady friend.
GEAR UP & BRING YOUR A-GAME
Of course, it's not enough just to try to figure out when you can have the woods mostly to yourself. The limited-time bowhunter needs to bring his A-game every time. This involves a lot of things, but at the top of the list is scent control.
My go-to strategy is to play the wind and to use an Ozonics unit. I treat my clothing before hunts with ozone as well, but an Ozonics unit is the only active, ongoing scent control option out there. It works to kill your scent as you create it.
A lot of people don't believe that ozone can work the way it's advertised, but it can and does. Humans have used ozone technology since the 1800s to disinfect and treat water, and the science is well-founded. It's the only way I've ever found to beat a dog's nose.
Additionally, there are other ways to maximize your hunting time as well. For instance, if you're going to employ decoys, scents, calls or whatever, wait until the moment is right. Deer can be responsive to our whole bag of tricks, but location and timing are key.
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If you grunt at a passing buck and he pays you no mind, or worse, turns tail and bolts, take the cue. If, on the other hand, he walks in stiff-legged while rolling his eyes moose-style in preparation for a fight, don't be afraid to keep making some noise.
Success rates for all whitetail bowhunters across the country hover at around 20 percent. That means roughly four out of every five bowhunters slurps a bowl of tag soup instead of noshing on some fresh backstraps. Develop a plan to take advantage of your limited time in the deer woods and to work around the demands of life, and prepare to entrench yourself in that 20 percent of hunters who just plain get it done season after season.