Successful deer hunters will tell you that what they do during the offseason is the foundation of their consistent success each deer season.
It's a beautiful summer day, and most likely your thoughts are awash with great summer activities. You could fish, swim, play a ball game with your buddies, or since hunting season is just two short months away, you could practice your archery skills and get ready for the upcoming deer season.
Just one of the many awesome things about living in the Midwest is the fact that there is always a sporting season anxiously sitting on the sidelines, patiently waiting its turn for the previous season to come to a close. While you are cramming all that you can do into your summer vacation, deer season sits quietly in wait for your entrance into the autumn woods.
The simple fact of life is that being an outdoorsman is a year-round adventure that keeps you busy from season to season. While you are in the midst of one season, another has just come to an end, and yet another paces in anticipation of your participation.
Outdoor recreation is no different than school sports programs. If you are playing a fall sport, you are practicing during the summer months to get ready for that sport. The practice that you are going through is your key to success in that particular sport, be it football, cross-country, soccer or deer hunting.
Do not wait until school starts to begin your archery deer season preparation. By early September, school will have begun, which will be followed in the day by after school activities, dinner, homework and night fall. Practice now while you have the time.
Every successful, seasoned deer hunter will tell you, without any hesitation, that what they do during the offseason is the foundation of their consistent success each deer season.
So, here are Jonny's Pre-Season Archery Tips:
Step 1: Check Your Gear
Make sure that you have all the necessary items you need now and that each is in good condition. If your bow needs an adjustment or repair, don't wait one minute longer to get this work done. By September, the archery shops will be jammed up by every other hunter who waited until the last minute to get their bow repaired. You will notice that these last-minute hunters are mostly adults that still have not learned their lesson in pre-season preparation.
Make sure you have enough straight arrows for practice. Make sure you keep aside a couple perfectly straight arrows for hunting. Make sure that the weight of your broadheads matches the weight of the field tips that you are using for practice. If you are shooting 100 grain field tips, you should be shooting 100 grain broadheads. Make sure your broadheads are good and sharp. Make sure your clothes still fit from last season as kids are never the exact same size from one year to the next.
Just before the season starts, wash all of your hunting clothes in odor free detergent and place them in a plastic bag so that you keep your personal smell to a minimum when you enter the woods. (You don't want to smell like a dangerous human.) Pick yourself up a bar of scent-free soap for yourself so you enter the woods as odor-free as possible.
MOST IMPORTANT -- DO NOT IGNORE YOUR OWN PERSONAL SAFETY.
Make for darn sure that all of your safety equipment is in perfect condition and still fits you well. Try on your full-body safety harness over all the clothes that you will be wearing when you are hunting. If you have outgrown your safety harness, now is the time to get a new safety harness while the stores still have your size in stock. Follow the directions to the letter in the use of your safety harness and take no short cuts in its proper wear or attachment to the tree.
Look over your treestand, specifically at the straps, cables or chains and where they attach to the treestand. Look for any wear or tear on these. If you see signs of the straps beginning to fray or damage to the cables or chains, replace them before the season opens.
If you do not have a full-body safety harness or your treestand is in questionable shape, keep an eye on the pre-season sales to buy or replace both. In fact, if you are in need of any equipment, the pre-season sales will begin in August and they are a great time to buy necessary items at a reasonable price. Otherwise, think about hunting from the ground this upcoming season and then take advantage of season-ending clearance sales to fill any of your bow-hunting equipment needs.
Step 2: Practice, Practice, Practice
Did I make my point? If you think you are just going to pick up the bow the day before the season, fling a few arrows and go out hunting the next day, please do the animals and your fellow hunters a favor and stay home.
Let's not mince words here. In order to bring a deer home from the field, you have to kill it. It is our role as responsible hunters to make sure that we do everything possible to minimize the time from shot to death (arrow entry to expiration). Practicing your archery skills is the number one thing that you can do to keep this time as short as possible.
The best thing you could do is to take an archery lesson or two, and then practice the right way, with proper form and technique. Learn to FOCUS, not just on the target, but at a very, very specific spot on the target without concentrating on the sight. Learn the proper way to shoot a bow when you enter the sport. Once you learn the wrong way to shoot, it is more difficult to break those bad habits and to learn how to shoot properly. A couple of lessons at this point in your life will quickly make you a more accurate archer.
Practice at different distances. If you will be hunting from a treestand, practice from an elevated stand. Practice bending at the waist when shooting from an elevated position and not just lowering your bow arm. Practice with all of your hunting gear on to make sure it does not get in the way of your shot. Practice in low light conditions as this is when deer are most active. Practice shooting a 3-D target so that you learn how to aim at a deer's vital organs. Practice with the broadheads that you will use when you are hunting as they can fly differently than your field tip and, if necessary, adjust your sight accordingly. Practice throughout the season and don't stop practicing once the season has started. Practice for the fun of it and enjoy the time with your bow in hand. Be creative with your practice and include other family members in friendly competitions. Its fun to shoot with others, and you will get more practice as a result.
Step 3: Know What You're Up Against
The whitetail deer is one of the most amazing, agile, adjustable, sneaky, wily, unpredictable, cunning, strong, durable and magnificent creatures that roams the woodlands. You will be thoroughly tested in your pursuit of such a brilliant animal.
A deer's primary defense mechanism is to know about danger before danger knows about the deer. When you are hunting, you are the danger and they will pick up on you by calling upon their razor-sharp senses. The three things you need to overcome to get within shot range of a deer is its phenomenal sense of smell, extremely sensitive hearing and very perceptive eye sight.
Beyond this, the more you know about a whitetail deer, the better your odds for success this hunting season. Learn about what they like to eat and where they feel comfortable living. These are the areas that you need to focus upon when you are looking for a spot to hunt. Most deer that you will be hunting are adolescents with the same needs as you --food and sleep. Focus on these areas to hunt.
As odd as this may sound, take a trip with your family to a zoo that has whitetail deer. Get used to seeing the animal and take note of how it moves around and most notably, study the vital area, the kill zone on the deer. Take note that when the deer moves its front leg forward, it more openly exposes the kill zone. Learn which position of the deer's body gives you the highest percentage shot at their vital area. Look at the area just above and behind a deer's front shoulder and burn this image into your mind. This is where your arrow must pass for you to bring home your deer. Learn it. Know it. Shoot it.
Step 4: Pick Your Spot, Set Your Stand
If your parents came into your room and moved a few things around, would you notice this change? Darn right you would. If the changes they made stayed the same for the next few months, would you get used to it? Absolutely! (Unless they painted your walls a really ugly color.)
Keep in mind that when you enter the woods you are entering a deer's home. Change it, and they will notice. Change it early enough and they will get used to it.
As best you can, figure out the lay of the land and where the deer are travelling. Set your ground blind or treestand in a good hiding spot and really think about what this spot will look like in the fall once all the leaves are gone. Will it stand out like a sore thumb?
If so, look for another spot. How about a big, strong pine tree? No leaves to lose so it will look the same in the fall as it does in the summer.
Measure the distance from your ground blind or treestand to the area(s) where you will have your shot. Become deadly accurate at these distances and do not shoot at an animal that is beyond your effective kill range (EKR). (This is a great tip that I have borrowed from Mr. Tom Nelson, host of American Archer.)
Clear your shooting lanes and your travel lanes now and try to keep the changes to a minimum. Mark your trail to and from your stand using reflective tacks as you will likely be entering and exiting the woods in the dark.
One huge mistake so many archers continue to make year after year is that they enter the woods just before the season, tear it to pieces, and are then surprised when a deer does not come within 100 yards of their stand. Duh?!?
There is an incredible, emotional high that one gets when they experience success while bow hunting for deer. Somewhere out in the autumn woods, this feeling is waiting for you. It is a life changing experience that you will never forget and it will be savored every time it comes to mind for the rest of your life. What you do now will help you capture that feeling.
So, get ready. Get set. Hunt!
My name is Jonny, and this is my Awesome, Pre-Season Archery Adventure!