I wish good training could be the remedy for a busted opportunity, but I think it's a mental game. It's staying calm and trying to stay one step ahead of the deer. If there's any part of bow hunting that I can say that my mistakes have taught me valuable lessons and made me a better bow hunter, it's here.
I think the first lesson I learned, probably back 20 years ago, was soundproofing my bow. There I was, ready for action, with my finger holding my arrow gently on my old TM Hunter-style flipper rest, and, whoa, there's a deer over there. The old heart is beating, and I'm not as cool and collected anymore. My finger slips, the arrow bounces - ting, ting, ting - off the riser.
No more deer.
Lesson: The old mole-skin-on-the-bow trick.
Of course nowadays the capture rests take this problem away from us, but you get the picture. It's hard to learn lessons like that until they happen. Bump your bow on the stand, busted! Shift your weight, stand up or turn around for the shot – stand creaks, busted! Rush the shot and whack the ground behind the deer, busted.
So here are a few things I like to do to improve my success:
Hunt 'em high
Not too high, as that can make for a tough shot. I like to be around 22 feet to the bottom of my stand. For the most part, I'm trying to get out of the peripheral vision of the deer. I'm also further away from where a deer might look (or listen) for his enemy – me.
Location, location, location
Positioning your stand adjacent to a travel route, rather than right down his path can also help you remain outside of his peripheral vision.
Kill the nose
Oh, and his nose, that's the killer. You can't control nature, but you can do your best to hang your stand on the downwind side of where you think the buck may be, or for the prevailing winds of that time of year. Early season might be for a south wind. Later on, a north or northwest wind
For every slight bit of breeze change I think I feel as the hunt goes on, I squeeze out a little wind-check powder. I want to know what the wind is doing. I want to know that if he comes from point A, I better shoot him before he gets to point B, because that's where my scent is.
Moment of truth
The moment of truth: I hear something! Now this is a good one. What is it? If you pay enough attention, you can begin to decipher the probability of whether that sound is a deer or not. Pitter patter, hop, hop, hop, probably a squirrel. Crisp, step – step. Might be a deer.
Is it worth getting ready just in case? Only if you want to have a better chance to kill him.
When I was younger, I sat like a statue and barely moved my head. Now, my head is on a swivel. I want to find him with as much advanced notice as I can. I need time to stand up and get ready.
Easy does it
Everything is done slowly and intentionally. Look at your bow, watch it as you lift and move it to avoid hitting something. Watch the deer. Move only when you suspect his peripheral vision isn't on you. Move NOW!
The first thing I do is turn my body and feet in the direction I expect to get the shot. I know my stand might squeak, I don't want to have to move as he nears me unless I have to.
If he has a rack, "what rack?" There'll be time enough for counting when the dealings done. Watch his eyes, and then focus behind that shoulder as you get ready to shoot. Most of the time I only know he's a shooter before the shot: I have no idea how many points he has - because my heart can't take it! I'll count 'em later.
I think the biggest thing to overcome is the tendency to rush the shot; you see brown behind the pin and let it go.
You have to concentrate and slow down. Aim as long as you do on the target in the yard.
We've all heard it: "Stay calm, pick a spot." Aim at an exact spot, and take that extra second to hold it. Aim small, miss small – but it's still a kill.
I hope this helps a few bow hunters out there. Maybe in the next couple of weeks I'll make a few more mistakes and have some more to talk about.
Best of luck. Kill a big one, and when you do be sure to post it on our Deer Hunting forum!
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