Becoming a proficient bowhunter is incredibly rewarding. With the amount of effort it takes to hone in on your craft and perfect the little things, it’s easy to see how people could become obsessed. But the truth is, we all make mistakes. And if you’re truthful with yourself, you probably make mistakes fairly often. I know I do.
There is a high margin of error when it comes to being a successful bowhunter. Renowned bowhunter Jim Hole Jr. said it best in regards to bowhunting. “A thousand things have to go right and virtually nothing can go wrong.” While the quote by this whitetail legend might be a slight reach, it is true that in order to be successful, a bowhunter must avoid every mistake possible.
When I was growing up learning to bow hunt, it seemed like every hunt I went on I would make a new mistake that would ruin my opportunity, and I had to quickly learn which adjustments needed to be made.
Unfortunately for me, the internet wasn’t exactly what it is today, and there were no websites that could explain what I needed to avoid to achieve success. But fortunately, after years and years of failure, I have been able to build my own list of things bowhunters should avoid, in hopes of helping new hunters, or even well experienced ones that are still looking for guidance.
Here are 10 things that Bowhunters should never do, based on my own personal experience.
Getting Lazy With Practice
This one seems obvious, but it’s often one of the most common mistakes made by hunters. The season ends, and we hang our bow up, put our targets in the garage, and wait until a week before the opener to break them back out.
The truth is, the work you put in the offseason is what will make the greatest difference on your success throughout the season. There’s no need to dust off your bow. Just never let it get dusty in the first place.
Underutilizing Trail Cameras
Trail cameras are quite possibly the greatest innovation that has impacted hunters. When used effectively, we now have the technology to accurately pattern a buck or any big game animal, their movement, and create a strategy around that intel.
What has been even more impactful is the development of cellular cameras, which allow us to monitor big game activity without disturbing the property to check SD cards. If you aren’t utilizing trail cameras, now is the time to start. From taking post-season inventory, images of summer velvet bucks, and putting together a fall hit-list, the trail camera proves priceless every season.
Ignoring The Wind
Any avid whitetail hunter knows that a whitetail’s greatest defense is their sense of smell. Researchers at Mississippi State found that a whitetail’s sense of smell can be upwards of a thousand times more acute than humans.
In order to use this incredible sense to their advantage, whitetail’s rely heavily on the wind. Simply put, you want to ensure that your setup is at all times downwind of a whitetail’s travel route.
Always monitor your wind before getting in the stand or blind. If your wind isn’t perfect, hunt a different spot.
I’d rather hunt a bad location with great wind, than a great location with bad wind. Pay attention to the wind in your off-season scouting as well. Choose to check trail cameras and other chores when the wind is optimal for the least amount of human scent dispersal on your property.
Poor Entry and Exit Routes
I hunted a giant whitetail that I nicknamed, “Yardstick,” for years. I had his pattern down to the minute. I waited until conditions were perfect, however, every time I went after him, it was as if he vanished.
It took several seasons to realize that I was bumping him on my way into the stand. The importance of having clean entry and exit routes into your setup cannot be stressed enough.
Every time you hunt a spot with a less than ideal entry and exit route, you’re alerting every deer in that area about what you’re doing.
The next time you hang a stand or place a blind, pay attention to how clean and quiet you can get in and out without the risk of spooking deer. This will make a huge difference in your success as a bowhunter.
Overhunting a Stand
Sometimes we get too attached to a specific setup, and we let our pride compromise our judgment. I’ve been there. Heck, I made this mistake just last season. But I’m here to tell you, hunting a stand too often will almost always do more harm than good.
Regardless of how well you spray down, or how careful you are on the walk in, or how much you pay attention to the wind, it’s impossible to consistently hunt a stand without educating the deer in the area.
This is one of the reasons climbers and saddles have become so popular over the years. Allow yourself to be a mobile hunter at times. This will keep the deer guessing and give you the edge you need to ambush that trophy buck.
Not Layering Correctly
There’s nothing worse then sitting in a stand on a November morning, shivering, while you feel your hands and feet go numb, as you count down the minutes until you can get back into the truck.
Honestly, nothing can ruin a hunt quicker. The simple fix to this is to layer properly, and shed as you need to. Hunting apparel has become so advanced.
Now you can get by with a few merino layers and insulation pieces, while keeping a packable outer layer in your hunting bag that you can put on and take off when needed.
I always dress with the mindset that I’ll be in the stand all day. You don’t want to miss out on your target buck just because the mercury took a drop.
Poor Treestand Management
It has always amazed me when I see hunters climbing into a treestand that has been unmoved for the past several years. Not only is it a poor hunting strategy, but it’s also just plain dangerous.
Treestand management is something that cannot go overlooked. I make it a point to take down every treestand at the end of each season to ensure the straps are in good shape, no bolts or nuts need tightened or replaced, or anything else that could jeopardize my safety.
Not only that, but it also helps you create a more updated game plan when you take down your stands. Maybe that tree doesn’t have as much cover anymore. Maybe the deer are moving in a different area more consistently.
The maximum that I would advise any hunter to keep their stand hung without maintenance is two years.
Missing the Rut
The rut, and the phases surrounding the rut, gives hunters the only chance for a mature whitetail to ignore all survival instincts for the sole purpose of finding a doe in estrus. This is the time that all avid bowhunters live for.
However, every year I see hunters pouring all of their energy into the early season. They either get burned out or maxed out on vacation days and can’t get in the stand hours when the buck parade begins.
Don’t get me wrong. The early season can be great, but the real action begins at the end of October and the beginning of November. Plan for as many stand hours as possible during that time. That’s when the sits really count.
During every phase of the rut, you never know when a mature buck is going to break away from a doe and begin his next search for a new one. We get stuck in this mindset that the only time worth being in a stand is early morning and late evening.
While those are promising times in the early and late season, when the bucks start getting aggressive, midday can be the most exciting time window of the entire season. Grind out those mid-day sits! You wont regret it.
Shooting An Unfitted Bow
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen my friends hunting with a bow that doesn’t fit them properly. Most of the time, they’re using a bow they bought off Craigslist or a bowhunting forum, and just assumed that it will be good enough as is.
Nothing causes more inconsistent shooting like a poor fitting bow. Make it a point to visit your local archery shop before every season to ensure that everything on your bow is lined up properly with your form.
Your bow is the most essential piece of gear, and it should be tailored for you specifically. From draw length, to peep placement, to kisser button, if you prefer one, it should all be individually mapped to you specifically.
The truth is, without failure, it would be impossible to learn and develop as a bowhunter. Every season I make mistakes that I have to learn from, and that allows me to become a better archer and increase my skill set. While mistakes are inevitable, it doesn’t hurt to have some sort of guide to go off of to improve your odds.
Bowhunting is an art that requires constant adjustments and redevelopment. But you can use these 10 mistakes that I have made over the years as a guide on what to avoid. That will help you gain the upper hand and will ultimately increase your success as a bowhunter. Good luck!