While I am a seasoned duck, turkey and rifle (whitetail) hunter, I am relatively new to the bow hunting (whitetail) scene. In fact this is truly my first year to actually have a place where I am concentrating my entire energy on establishing good bow stands and food plots. Season began last Saturday morning and I have already spent more time in a tree than I have in the past 5 years combined rifle hunting. So I thought it would be fitting to give you a few tidbits of things I have already learned in my first full week of bow hunting that I never worried about as much while rifle hunting.
As I carefully surveyed the acreage, I am blessed to hunt, there were certain key factors I knew would be important to bow hunting. For example, I didn’t want to set up anywhere near the area where the deer might bed; this is essential! You want your deer to feel at home on your property and if you move into their bedroom, you have invaded the most private of spaces for them, therefore it was detrimentally important for me to identify the areas where the deer feel most safe and to stay away from them. This also means I should not pick a location to hunt where I would travel through their bedroom. Another piece of important information I was looking for was food source; were their acorns, planted vegetation, even other hunters food sources within close proximity of my property (I didn’t have to trespass to find this out, I simply walked the borders of my property). A good rule of thumb is to find these two areas and then determine the “hall-way” being traveled between the two. Think of it as the deer’s home. They get out of bed and head to the kitchen down the hall way for breakfast. Of course all of these things change over the course of the season with the rut and moon phases, but you get the general idea. Looking for these clues will help you to place your stand in the right area for your best shot at that shooter buck. So, with all this in mind, the first lesson I learned opening week of Oklahoma Bow Season, is that tree choice is vital to seeing the deer you are hunting! You can find out more about choosing the right tree for a stand in this article by Okie Boys Outdoors Co-Owner Chris Carlisle: Early Season Deer Hunting Success Tip #2.
The second important lesson I have already learned in my first week of real bow hunting, is that shooting from a tree stand is not the same as shooting at your target in the back yard! The elevation from the tree stand changes the actual distance an arrow must fly in order to strike the target, meaning that if your deer is standing at 10 yards from the base of your tree, you will need to aim as if it were actually less than 10 yards from your tree. If you are no math whiz, and trust me I am not, these calculations could be a nightmare! So my conclusion was a bit simpler, why do the math when there are geniuses out there who have created tools for helping do it for you? If you are able to afford one, there are a great number of range finder products on the market ranging from $90 to as much as you would like to spend. Personally I use a Nikon Laser 550, while this model does not offer the adjustment for angels it still gives me the exact distance in my stand from my shooting point to the designated target. When I first place a stand I measure every possible shooting lane using a tree or an unmovable object to determine the exact distances for every possible shooting situation I may encounter. This saves me time and gives me confidence for when, as happened this week, that deer steps into my shooting lanes. I want to be certain I have the best chance of honoring the sport and the game by making a clean kill on the animal, knowing my distances does this for me. A general rule: if you are in a tree aim lower than your kill shot target, the arrow will rise to the occasion because gravity has less effect on the arrows trajectory.
Lastly, harness up! Be wise and safe outdoors this season. What does it profit to have the chance of a lifetime at the big buck but give up your life trying to get him because you fell out of a stand? Find a harness you are comfortable in. The more comfortable it is to wear, the better the chance that you will use it. Another great reason to wear the harness is it will help you to make a great shot. If that deer is right under your stand and you are comfortable in your harness you will have more confidence to get into a better shooting position to take that deer. The harness is actually a confidence builder. Falling out of a stand is not fun, trust me I know, and that is a story for another blog at a later date!
Be smart, be safe, use great judgement before you draw the bow back and have a great season learning. Every experience should be a learning one, and every learning one bring you closer to the biggest buck of your life! Happy hunting and God Bless!