Bow and Arrow Hunting

Preseason scouting and keeping high standards led the author to this mature mule deer buck that he took with his bow and arrow.

Bow and arrow hunting is considered one of the biggest challenges of hunting.  To get into bow range of any big game animal can be a challenge, with taking a mature animal such as a buck deer or bull elk being the pinnacle of all hunting.  How to increase your odds and becoming a better bow hunter is what we will talk about here.

Scouting:

The single thing that can increase your odds of scoring a mature animal the most is scouting.  It is incredible the amount of advantage you give yourself over most other hunters and the game itself by knowing where the animals will be come the first day of bow and arrow hunting season.   This means you will have to get out early in the mornings throughout the season; time consuming but fun and productive.  Evening scouting trips are typically easier to do, but do offer less prime time.

The more mature animals you can find before the season, the better.  Try to get pictures or video of them if you can.  Before the season starts, have them numbered in the order that you want the most and focus on number one opening morning.  You can choose to focus on him the rest of the season, or try the next one in the lineup if you can’t turn #1 up.

Scouting can mean different things for different areas.  If you plan to be hunting out of a tree stand, then your best scouting weapon will undoubtedly be trail cameras.  Put these up where you think the animals will be.  Not only will you figure out how many deer, elk, or whatever you are hunting are in the area, but you will also be able to get a good idea of the quality.  That way you can pass up a nice buck if you know there is a bigger one in the area.  Take time to pick the best location possible for a tree stand and put it up at least a month before opening day of bow and arrow hunting season so the animals will have time to get use to it.  It may be wise to have more than one tree stand up in different locations that you can hunt depending on weather conditions; mainly wind.

For areas that are more prone to spot and stalk or ambush hunting, then good optics will be your best scouting tool; namely binoculars and a spotting scope (click link to see a list of the best of each in order by price).  Try to find the animals from a distance, and then observe.  Do not try to get to close; you do not want to spook them.  When the season opens you will know right where to go.

By putting in your time scouting preseason you will get the most efficient use of your hunting time, especially if you plan to spot and stalk.  With bow and arrow hunting you need to waste as little time as possible.

Hunting Season:

Tree Stand or Blind Hunting: If you have done your preseason scouting, opening day will find you in the spot you have located your first pick animal.  Pick your tree stand depending on the wind.  Even if you think one of your stands is in a better location than the others, if the wind is wrong, leave it alone.  With big bucks or bulls, one false move may be the end of it and they will go elsewhere.

Get in your stand early; well before light.  This will give things time to settle down.  Make sure you can get to and from your stand silently and as quickly as possible.  Then it is a waiting game.  Be patient and stick it out.  If you have done good scouting, then you have already increased your odds.

Bow and Arrow Hunting

Waiting for the conditons to become right all day long resulted in taking this nice white tail buck with bow and arrow right before dark as he got up to feed.

Spot and Stalk Hunting: Opening day should find you doing one of two things.  If you have done your scouting and have a good pattern established on the buck you are focusing on, then your best bet might be to intercept him at some point in his daily routine.  This can be at a water hole, at his bedding area, feeding area, or anywhere in between; it will mostly depend on the individual animal and where you can slip into without being detected.

If you think spot and stalk is your best bet for your area, then opening morning should begin just like a scouting morning, except you will have your bow and arrows with you.  The goal is to find the animal first, and then decide on when and how to go about getting within bow and arrow hunting range.

The right time to make the stalk may be right away if you determine the wind is blowing right and you feel you have a shot at getting within range undetected.  Other times you might have to just watch them until conditions improve, they bed down, and or the wind changes or gets stronger.

One of the hardest things to do while spot and stalk bow and arrow hunting is to be patient and hold off on a stalk if conditions are not right or if the target animal is in a bad position.  If you choose to stalk a buck and fail do to getting winded, heard, or seen, then there is a chance you will have a much harder time finding that deer again then if you just wait until things change.  More times than not, the animal will change location or conditions will change throughout the day making the likely hood of getting to within bow and arrow range of the buck much better.  It is not uncommon to watch a deer all day and not have the opportunity presented to make a probable stalk.  At least there is a good chance you will be able to find that deer the next day if you do not spook it.

Do Not Get Discouraged:

One of the main reasons for hunters to give up on bow and arrow hunting is the many times you will get close, but not get a shot off.  Some people are lucky enough to get a shot their first time out, but this is unlikely.  Most people have their fair share of close calls before they get off a shot.

Tree Stand Bow and Arrow Hunting: You will undoubtedly see more deer out of range than in range, unless you set up your stand in an area where you can only see 40 yards.  Many times a nice buck will pass by just out of range.  It is frustrating, but at least you know the animals are in the area.  If this happens repeatedly, then you might want to consider a quick stand placement change to get closer to where the deer are coming through.

Spot and Stalk Bow and Arrow Hunting: After many years of hunting with a bow and arrow, I have had more than my fair share of close calls.  In fact, I have found that it is not all that hard to stalk within 50 yards of a mature buck or bull.  The hardest part is getting a shot opportunity.  I have found that about one out of six stalks results in a shot opportunity, even if you get within shooting range every time.  So if a stalk is unsuccessful, then go find another buck to stalk on.  It is largely a numbers game.  If you can average at least one stalk per day, then you can expect to have the chance to kill an animal in a week hunt. Sometimes it will take longer though and others it might happen on day one.

Bow and Arrow Practice:

You cannot shoot your bow enough to prepare for an upcoming season.  If you plan to begin bow and arrow hunting, then it is suggested that you get your bow and arrows early and practice a long time before the season opens.  Some people buy a bow and arrows and then expect to shoot an animal in as little as a couple of weeks.  This is not acceptable as it takes time and lots of practice to become consistent with archery.

Practice in the field: If you are hunting out of a tree stand, then you need to practice shooting like you will be hunting.  Practice shooting from an elevated position, as it is much different than shooting on the ground.  Same goes for spot and stalk; you might find yourself shooting from a number of positions: on a side hill, up or down hill, crouching, off a cliff, or any other angle you can think of.  It is best to be prepared, so practice all different ways.  You do not want to miss the buck of a life time due to a miss; I speak from personal experience.

Having the Right Setup Tuned Properly

It is pointless to do anything that has to do with archery without having a bow and arrow setup that is tuned correctly.  Even the most expensive bow on the market will not shoot a good group if it is not tuned correctly.  Make sure you have an experienced archery technician take a look at your set up.

There are things that need to be lined up correctly in order to get consistency.  Likewise, your arrows will need to have the correct specs in accordance with the amount of draw weight and arrow length you are shooting.  The biggest factor is arrow spine with most arrows having a spine of 340–400, with the smaller the number meaning the stiffer the arrow/spine.  When in doubt, go with a stiffer spine.

If you are experiencing difficulties in consistent accuracy, you should have things checked out by an experienced technician.  Even if your bow and arrows are dialed in, then the tech might be able to point out problems in your shooting form.

Determine Your Own Luck:

Sure, there is a part of hunting that is luck, but with the information above you will be able to put that luck on your side.  Why do some people consistently get mature animals?  It is because they know what they are doing and have learned from the mistakes they have made in the past.

To get you started in the right direction as far as equipment, check out these links: Best Arrows for Hunting and Best Broadheads for Hunting. Of course the right equipment will only get you started.  It is up to you to do the practice and scouting that result in trophy animals.

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