Six Tips for Better Bowhunting

Posted: 08/02/2012 in Archery, Hunting, News, Scouting
Tags: , ,

From IPO (Illinois Periodicals Online)

There’s a lot more to deer hunting than just sitting in a deer stand all day.


in Hancock County in 1998.

Willow Springs bowhunter Dan Babich arrowed this big whitetail in Hancock County in 1998.

There was no need to worry about the cold. It wasn’t a bone-chilling cold, but rather the kind of cold that wraps itself around you. Smarter folks were still at home in warm beds. But not me. I was 30 feet up in an oak tree, facing the wind, sitting on a hard, cold metal tree stand.

Many people consider me a bit crazy for enduring the weather that accompanies fall and early winter. But my quest for large bucks is a driving force and if I wasn’t having fun, I wouldn’t be doing it. Bowhunting is a passion.

On this day, that buck was coming in parallel to the trail and about 30 yards downwind of it. I had positioned my stand for exactly this move. I knew the does and yearlings would use the trail. I had bet the buck wouldn’t. His path would take him behind my tree. I slowly turned my back to the buck and methodically raised my bow. I listened as he made his way toward me. He passed my tree at about 15 yards. It had been very windy that morning, and I had been grunting loudly. I now used the grunt call to stop the buck. One short, soft grunt planted him like a block of granite.

Many things cross your mind as you anchor, aim and release an arrow at a mature buck. Many things must be right. A few more must be perfect. This split second culminates many months of preparation and planning. As the arrow left the bow string, all the time and effort that it took to get to that point paid off.

Let’s look at some ways to help make your hunt successful.


Bowhunting for deer requires quite a bit of preparation time. Few are lucky enough to step into the timber for the first time and stick a big buck. Pre-season scouting is essential, and I don’t mean in September. Walks in the woods in September can cause more harm than good. You’ll probably alert the buck to your presence and make him nervous even before the season starts.

Scouting should begin during the previous season and be completed by midsummer. Your stand location should be chosen and your stand in place by July. Deer are creatures of habit. Seldom do I find new trails where I hunt. Rubs are often in the same locations and quite often on the same trees. Scrape lines are usually consistent year after year.

Bucks are much easier to pattern early in the season, before the rut begins. When scouting for buck sign, especially in the spring and early summer, don’t look for lots of tracks. An area that has an abundance of tracks and droppings probably holds mature does and their offspring. This time of year, bucks are not likely to be with the females. Places with a high density of deer sign are not likely to include the sign of a mature buck.

It is a good idea, however, to remember where those spots are located. According to noted white-tailed deer biologist C.J. Winand, “Areas of concentrated deer droppings indicate either a bedding or feeding area. Knowing where does live can come in handy.”

As the rut begins, bucks alter their patterns to find does. If you plan to hunt the rut, move into an area that holds numerous female deer. The bucks will come.

Another good piece of scouting advice is to keep in mind the agricultural status of your hunting area. Deer movement will change markedly if an area that was standing corn last year is planted in soybeans this year. We all know the advantage that deer have in standing corn. Their routes and the level of their nocturnal behavior will change if this advantage is eliminated by the planting of a shorter crop. Be aware in the spring of what crops are present. This will help you predict how the deer might adapt to them.

Finally, keep in mind that scouting is never done. Every trip you make into the woods should give you more information about the deer. Physical traits of the land itself can change between seasons. Scouting gives you better awareness of your area. This is the deer’s home. You should try to know it as well as he does.


The grunt call is the most effective method of calling a deer to your hunting stand.

Much has been written in recent years about attracting deer with sound. Antler rattling and deer calling are not new tactics. They are, however, relatively new to the general public.

The grunt call is a universal, year-round sound that puts deer at ease and triggers their curiosity. Some grunts are merely contact calls. They are a form of vocal communication between deer. Other grunts may be in a more challenging form, like when two dominant bucks meet. Still other grunt sounds are made by deer who are in a breeding mood.

Grunting is, by far, the most effective method of calling deer into your archery shooting radius, but it is not the only audible tool the bowhunter has at his disposal.

Antler rattling has taken its place in the deer hunting history books. Native American paintings depict antler rattling long before the Europeans arrived. Antlers are not the only rattling devices that have been used to imitate a buck fight. Synthetic materials such as plastic and fiberglass have been made into antler rattles. Dowel rods in cloth bags are available and now small plastic “rattle boxes” are being produced.

The key to rattling is timing. Let’s use some logic. If dominant bucks are with estrogen-laden females during the peak rut, will they lead those prime does to a fight between two other males? Probably not. On the other hand, would a buck seek out other fighting males during the pre-rut when the order of dominance is being established? Probably so. Bottom line: rattle during the pre-rut. During the actual rut, leave your rattling tools at home and depend on your grunt call.

Read the rest of the tips HERE

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