This isn’t your typical how-to article for bowhunting success. You won’t find any major tips on how to seal the deal or get it done. In fact, you’ll find quite the opposite. Because more often than we’re successful in our hunts, we blow it.
Making mistakes is part of the game. Screw-ups are going to happen, but there are some major deal breakers every bowhunter should avoid if they don’t want to spoil their time in the stand. After all, the point is to kill a deer, not kill the deer hunt.
Here are the top five mistakes to avoid this archery season:
1. Over hunting a Location
Think of your best deer stand as a fine wine. If you drink it all the time, it will lose its luster. Likewise, it can improve with age if left alone, and it often needs time to breathe to achieve its fullest flavor.
Overhunting a specific area makes you predictable in a world where prey relies on its predators to foolishly reveal their motives. If whitetails come to expect you, they most assuredly will change their patterns. Instead, hunt various locations throughout the season, and save your best stands for special occasions, such as when surrounding food sources are prime, when you can catch a big buck going to bed, or when the rut has cruising studs moving in broad daylight.
Early to mid-October are generally considered low probability times for killing a mature buck. Although it certainly can happen during this time, chances are relatively low compared to later in October and November. For this reason it’s often wise to avoid your best spots until later in October. Use the early season to explore new areas or hunt stands that you typically ignore. Doing this will let your best spots rest until the time is right, while also allowing you to gather intel on new locations. Who knows, you just may luck into a hot spot you never knew existed.
The first time in can often be the best time to kill a buck. Then you’ll really have a reason to pop the cork and celebrate.
2. Blowing the Shot
There are many ways to blow a shot, and if it’s possible, hunters will find a way to do it. But the most likely culprit is not putting in enough time on the practice range prior the hunt and throughout the duration of the season. It is imperative to form good habits by practicing regularly to become as competent and accurate as possible. This includes shooting from a variety of positions in hunting – like scenarios and wearing similar clothing to what you would typically wear in the field.
Tip: Keep a target in your truck and take a few practice shots before or after each hunt.
And even if you shoot for three months leading up to the season, you are essentially shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t practice during the season as well. You lose some of that muscle memory you’ve established, and if you aren’t staying sharp, old bad habits tend to resurface. I know it takes precious time and effort to hit the range, but if you make it a priority to swap some stand time for target time a few days each week, you’ll be a better hunter for it.
Other factors that cause hunters to miss include a lack of composure during the time of the shot, equipment failure and guessing incorrect yardage. All of these can be remedied by shooting more regularly. If you shoot early and often, the rest becomes second nature.
3. Not Maximizing Time on Task
It’s easy to skip a hunt because of having other things to do. Sure, hunting isn’t the only life responsibility, and it’s sometimes necessary to make sacrifices to keep the delicate balance flowing smoothly at home. But when it comes to deer hunting, participants must be present to win.
If that means roughing it through less than ideal weather, sneaking in a few hours before or after work, or even hunting mid-day after your kid’s soccer game on the last Saturday in October, it just might be worth your efforts. You never know when that buck of a lifetime might walk through, but you have to be there to see it.
Additionally, when you are on stand, pay attention and don’t become complacent. Don’t dismiss rustling leaves as just another squirrel. Keep scanning the terrain, looking for a flicker of tail, a glimmer of antler, or the lateral line of a deer’s back. Resist the urge to stare at your phone more than you’re assessing the situation. That way you won’t be caught off guard when a big buck decides to make an appearance.
4. Something Stinks
In the short yard game of archery, scent control is essential. Now, I’m not saying people can’t kill deer without it as long as they hunt the right wind. But their odds of success greatly improve, in my opinion, if they are conscious of their own human body odor.
Most bowhunters utilize some form of scent control. They take showers using anti-microbial body soaps, they launder their clothing in special detergents, and they spray down with odor-reducing field sprays. But all of that does you no good if you get dressed in your house, pet your dog on the way out the door, and stop for gas on the drive to your hunting location. All of these actions absorb foreign odors that can alert deer on their home turf.
Likewise, it might seem obvious, but don’t wear scented deodorants into the field. A few years ago, I enlisted my non-hunting brother-in-law to accompany and film me a few times during archery season.
One morning after I made him take a scent-free shower, I walked into the bathroom to quickly grab my face paint and watched in disbelief as my sister’s husband naively picked up a stick of Old Spice antiperspirant and all but rubbed it on his underarms before I slapped it out of his hand.
He thought he was controlling his own human odor by reducing sweat, but he didn’t realize the deer wouldn’t particularly like the fresh scent of “Pure Sport” either. But how was he to know without me telling him? No wonder we didn’t see much during the previous two times we hunted together!
5. Poor Planning
A poorly laid plan is the bane of bowhunting. Countless hunters find a really good stand location, throw up a platform, and try to hunt it. But they fail to seal the deal. Why? Because they failed to adequately plan for success. Many archers neglect to plan for access and exit strategies, and end up spooking deer before they even get to the stand, or they blow the place out when exiting, therefore educating all the deer in the vicinity.
If one has any intention of hunting a stand, they need to consider preparations for getting to and from that stand undetected. They also need to trim adequate shooting lanes, and become familiar with marked yardages so they aren’t screwing around with the rangefinder when a deer comes marching in. Too many hunters fail to plan sufficiently, and they also fail to fill their tag because of it.
Don’t become another member of the fail army this season. Avoid the common mistakes mentioned in this article to avoid spoiling your hunt. Even if you find a way to still blow it, you can’t say I didn’t warn you!