If you are serious about bowhunting success then you understand that hard work will make you a “lucky” hunter. Being successful (lucky) takes practice, commitment, planning, legwork, and time. These factors will put you where the game is and increase your chances of having a successful hunt. Personally, I start planning for the next year’s hunt during the current season and mid-late winter is a perfect time to get most of the work done. So, with that thought in mind, let’s examine some tips that can help put you in the right place at the right time, make you more comfortable in the field, and give you the skills needed to increase your “luck”!
Private land can be accessed if you plan ahead and visit with landowners.
1. Practice, Practice, Practice There is never enough time to shot your bow. Any time you can spend shooting, working on your form, or improving your gear can and will help. In the winter I set up an indoor bow range in my basement and move it outside in the spring. I try to shoot at least three days a week during the off season and everyday if time allows. Sometimes I only shoot 5 arrows, but I try to focus on specific principals or techniques of my shooting form. In addition, an archery league is also a great place to work on shooting skills. No matter where you practice remember this is one area where there is really no luck, just hard work and time that will eventually turn to skill.
2. Save Money and Buy Gear NowHigh-tech hunting clothing and gear is expensive! However, you can get lucky and find deals at the end of the season. I have picked up new hunting clothes for as much as 70% off at the end of the hunting season through about mid-March. You may have mismatched patterns, which I actually believe is a benefit, but the savings is huge. I believe the more you break up your human outline the better off you will be! These fabrics incorporate the newest thermal, breathable, waterproof, and wind-proof features that make staying out in the elements longer more comfortable and safe. Also, remember that stores like to reduce inventory and increase space so now is a great time to get blinds and stands cheaper as well!
Your local pro shop is a great resource for all archers, use them.
3. Visit Your Local Pro Shop If you are a bowhunter, this is an essential resource for improving your “luck”. Most pro-shop employees have been trained and have the expertise, time, and exposure to help you with any questions you may have. I always take my bow and have the pro-shop guy do a complete examination looking for any issues or problems. In most cases, the shop employees will look over your bow for free; especially if you purchased it there. I practice a lot so I typically take my bow in twice a year. I also take this time to look through new gear and pick the brains of the prostaff and have them critique my shooting form.
4. Spend Some Quality Time with MapsMaps, whether they are paper or digital will give you a place to start without spending excessive amounts on gasoline. I like to look for areas that do not have road access in order to limit human interactions. After I have found an area of interest, I personally switch to digital maps and look for areas that may have food, cover and shelter. If I can find an area like this, I also look for potential pinch points or natural barriers that will typically alter travel routes. I then mark these spots for future scouting. Ever wonder why some hunters have all the luck? This is definitely one way to increase yours.
5. Get Out and Scout While maps give you the starting point, you do actually have to get your boots dirty. And don’t let the weather bother you. If there are trace amounts of snow on the ground it will provide an even better overview of the land. You can observe trails, bedding areas, and get a personal feel of the lay of the land much easier. During winter months, you may also have access to wetlands, swamps, and bogs that may not have been accessible during the warmer seasons. Look for trails, scrape lines, and sheds while scouting. The more familiar you are with the land the better your chances of finding quality stand sites will be. Also, consider bringing trail cameras to check the survivability of bucks from the previous season. In addition, bring all of your maps with you in case your first area does not turn up the findings you had hoped it would. You want to use your time and resources (gas) efficiently, so have several back up areas ready to scout in a moment’s notice.
Setting up an indoor bow range allows a convenient comfortable place to practice during the winter.
6. Visit LandownersPrivate land can offer some of the best hunting in the state. The only way to access it is get out there and knock on doors. Your first impression may be the difference between gaining access or not. Checking with landowners now and immediately asking about special concerns or expectations will show them that you care about their property. Sometimes offering to trade hunting rights for free labor is an option. Helping them hunt predators (coyotes) or varmints may also be an instant way to get your foot in the door for other hunting seasons. When you gain access, don’t be stupid! Remember, this is their land not yours and they have been gracious enough to allow you to use it. Poor choices will not only get you kicked off, but it may also involve a visit from the local law enforcement. Don’t be the reason landowners put their property into the NO HUNTING category. Plan ahead, in most cases luck will not be on your side if you show up in your hunting clothes on opening day asking for permission to hunt.
7. Do A Deer SurveyIt’s getting a little late for this now, but you still may be lucky enough to find a few bucks hanging onto their headgear. After the hunting season is closed, hanging trail cameras to check the survivability of bucks in your scouting/hunting area is a great way to get you pumped up for next year. Situate the camera facing either north or south so the sun does not backlight your subjects. If legal, a couple of bags of shelled corn will give you a great indicator of what bucks have survived. Check your local laws regarding post-season baiting.
8. Contact Your Local Conservation Officer or BiologistWho better to talk to than the people that work in the big bucks’ backyard every day! They are filled with a wealth of knowledge and the very nature of their job is to be observant. In most cases, they are more than happy to help you out. Be polite and ask when the best time to visit with them would be. If you don’t connect on the first call, leave a message and give them a few days before calling again. A visit with them may net some very valuable information. If you’re lucky, you may be the one they share the location of the trophy buck with.
9. Take a Hunter Education CourseIn Minnesota, the DNR offers these classes both on-line and in traditional class form. The culmination of both classes have instructor led hands-on components (field days). These field days fill up fast so sign up early. Check your individual state’s game and fish department for class options, times, and locations. Class requirements are becoming more common place as you head out of state or participate in special metro hunts. Don’t let not having this requirement be the reason you are not able to hunt where you want next year.
Bowhunter education certification not only reconnect you with the fundamentals of bowhunting they qualify you to hunt anywhere in North America.
10. Practice, Practice, and Practice Some MoreFinally, the absolute best way to improve your luck is to revisit point #1….. practice. This is one activity that you can never do enough of. Sometimes luck is just that, luck. However, if you work hard, put in the time, and are open to learning new things, you will be surprised at how much your luck will improve. Best of “luck” during your next hunting season!