It's as old as time itself. The bow and arrow continue to be a tool to harvest animals year after year. Our equipment may have been upgraded for power and speed, but the objective remains the same—keep your scent trail downwind of your prey's highly sensitive nose, produce enough power to penetrate the hide of that animal for a quick and clean kill, and, when necessary, track it to recover the animal. Pretty basic stuff, right? But what about the before process? I’m talking about the time leading up to the beginning of the season when you should be checking your equipment, scouting your hunting grounds and perfecting your form.
Crack Open That Case
I hear so many stories of people who finish up their whitetail season and simply put their bow away in its case for the year until a month before the next season kicks off. Then, it’s a mad scramble to replace parts and re-establish a proper form. In the midst of it all, they venture out into the field with less-than-acceptable equipment and wonder why that buck they eyed at 17 yards is bounding away unscathed. What we do to prepare is just as important, maybe even more important, than being out in the field. When you draw back and anchor, is your confidence going to be at 100% because you’ve put your time in? Are you even going to be able to draw back at all?
If you don’t put time into field scouting, you’ve lost before you even step foot out the door.
If you’ve read some of my other articles, you probably know what I’m about to say! It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about dove, duck, deer, turkey or hogs. If you don’t put time into field scouting, you’ve lost before you even step foot out the door on opening morning. Just because you “know” there’s deer in the area doesn’t mean you know where they’re traveling to or from or even why. Locate those game trails or use cameras (where allowed by law) to figure out the highest activity periods in the area. Then, set your stands and blinds accordingly. Never set up directly on the trail. Provide yourself enough of a vantage point to observe a large portion of the trail and the surrounding area. Brush your ground blinds in, don't just assume a camouflaged fabric dome is going to fool that old bruiser. Check your tree stands for stability. Replace any worn or broken straps, and clear your shooting lanes. There’s no reason why all of this can’t be performed at least a month before the season kicks off. And it keeps your scent out of the woods as well.
Choosing Your Instrument
If you are new to bow hunting or if you realize that your current bow is not as durable as you'd like, it might be time to purchase yourself a new bow. Purchasing a bow may seem like a simple task, but the amount of options to consider can be overwhelming. All that said, the two main types of bows that hunters use are compound and recurve bows.
For a bow that is both accurate and simple to use, the compound bow is a great choice. If you want to step up your game, the recurve bow is your best bet. Typically, whenever I make large purchases, I look at product reviews and product blogs for information. An extremely useful and informative source is Outside Pursuits - a product review website that caters to outdoor and hunting enthusiasts. Check out their product review blog to help narrow down your options.
How many times have you visited the archery range this off-season?
We spend hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars on our archery equipment so that it can perform at its absolute best. And when the time comes to perform, that arrow is going to fly exactly where you put it. Or, so you think. If we’re not continually working to improve ourselves and properly maintaining our equipment, we can't really expect to be in top archer shape when the moment presents itself. How many times have you visited the archery range this off-season? When was the last time you replaced those frayed bowstrings? Is your setup properly tuned? I like to drop my bow off at my local shop and let them tune everything every off-season. Is it overkill to do it every year? Maybe. But the peace of mind it provides to me is priceless.
From there, I start at the bottom and work my way up. Even though it comes from the shop already paper-tuned, I put it to paper myself just to make sure it’s flight is exactly the way I like it. Next, I check and recheck all of my pins and make any necessary adjustments for my field points. In the terrain I hunt, I’ll never see a shot longer than 40 yards, but you might be pushing 60 or 70 yards. So work at those distances. Make them a priority for those just-in-case moments. When adjusting your sight and pins, it's very important to remember that you "follow the arrow." If you're hitting high and to the left, adjust your sight high and to the left. Again, this method is only for adjusting your pins!
Fine Tune Your Instrument
Once you have your field points dialed in, work with your broadheads. Yes, they’re going to tear up your target faster. But, the difference in flight patterns between field points and broadheads can be very large. And the difference is not just with a fixed blade. It can affect mechanicals too. Just because mechanicals are advertised to fly like field points doesn't mean that they actually will fly like field points. The last set of mechanicals that I used were 3” too low and 2” to the left. It was a far cry from a field point flight. When tuning for broadheads, remember that you’re adjusting your rest, not your sight. And in so doing, you're adjusting in the opposite direction of where your broadheads are striking. If you're hitting low and to the right, you're going to move your rest higher and to the left. It's always the opposite for rest adjustment. And whenever you are adjusting your arrow rest, whether left, right, up or down, less is more. It does not take a lot of adjustment to a modern arrow rest to change an arrow's flight path considerably. Work in small increments, you’ll be amazed at how much you accomplish with very fine tuning.
...And Stay Safe
I don’t like wearing a harness! But I also know that if anything were to ever happen, it would save my life. There is no doubt in my mind.
Finally, let’s talk about safety. I know it’s an issue that gets mentioned often. However, from my own observation, I rarely see it practiced in the field. Our goal (more so than tagging that buck we’ve had our eye on the last 3 seasons) is to ultimately come home safely to our families and friends. We owe it to them to take every precaution necessary to ensure we leave our hunting area in exactly the same condition that we entered it in. I’ll be the first one to say this. I don't like wearing a harness! But I also know that if anything were to ever happen, it would save my life. There is no doubt about that in my mind. So, familiarize yourself with your harness and tree strap, know what to do in the event of a fall and know how to recover from it. Use a lifeline when you climb, every time. If you’re using a climbing tree stand, take the extra time to work your tree strap up the tree as you climb and never let it take on too much slack. If you’re worried about how long it will take to maneuver up the tree with how many adjustments you’ll have to make to your strap, arrive earlier to allow yourself that extra time. There really is no excuse for disregarding your own safety.
For us bowhunters, it all comes down to just a few short seconds. Those seconds may seem like minutes or even hours as you sit there waiting for that big, mature buck to clear that brush or step past that scraggly oak. The adrenaline will be full on, your muscles will quiver and your heart will beat as though you’ve run 10 miles in record time. But all the time you’ve put in at the range and into the land and the money you spent on preparing your equipment comes down to just a few ticks of the clock. You’ve done it right up to this point, so seal the deal. Let that arrow fly and take in that beautiful “SCHWACK!” as it echoes through the woods.