Bowhunting Tips FAQ

Last-modified: 6 July 1995


>From Keith Warren:

Enclosed are the following helpful hints that I have picked up along the trail of the Bowhunting world. Use this information as you see fit. Keep in mind that some if not all that follows is personal preference type stuff and therefore eligible for dispute by any number of people!

  1. When tree stand hunting cut and attach branches of the local greenery to the lower areas of your stand. This serves two purposes:
    1. it provides natural Camouflage and
    2. it provides some natural scent to use as cover.

    Be sure to attach in such a way as to not hinder your firing lanes

  2. The preferred shot placement is a heart/lung shot with the animal quartering *away* from you. This area will be behind the shoulder blade and down midway of the body.
  3. If the animal seems extremely cautious then it may have picked up scent or movement coming from the hunter. In this case it may be wise to aim a little lower than normal to counteract the effect of the deer jumping the string.

    Whitetail deer *almost* always crouch prior to springing away from any sudden noise, and many hunters have watched as the perfectly placed arrow flies straight over the animal's back!

  4. If time is not a critical factor then wait to release the shot until the animal is taking a step and one of the front legs is in the air. This will lessen its ability to crouch and jump before the arrow hits.
  5. Always pull to full draw with the bow sighted above your target because it takes less energy to lower the sight to the target than it does to bring it up to the target. This translates into a smoother more powerful pattern with a better ability to hold the pull for long periods of time.
  6. Noise and scent are by far the two worst enemies that a Bowhunter can have. Removing human scent from your clothing and body is much more effective than a cover scent will ever be. This does not imply that cover scents are useless but if you are sweaty or spilled gas on your boots filling up the truck then all the doe pee in the world won't fool that Big Buck! Be sure to bathe thouroughly in a non-scent type soap each time you plan to hit the woods. Other common mistakes are cooking/standing near a the fire/coming into contact with anything that has a strong odor while wearing the gear that you plan to hunt in. Noise is also a bigger factor in Bowhunting than other methods simply because of the effective range. While many people will boast that they have accurate ranges comparable to that of Robin Hood lore, the fact is that most successful kills with a bow are taken with 5-30 yard shots. Take each piece of equipment that you have and do everything possible to eliminate any noise that it makes. Moleskin placed anywhere that may come into contact with an arrow works wonders. String silencers, rubber grommets at accessory mounting points, and loctite on all threads are good noise reducing methods. Don't forget your tree stand or clothing either, imagine that monster buck hightailing it out of sight after you stood up and the stand creaked or your jacket makes a scraping noise against the tree. A good rule of thumb is that if you can hear your fingernail scraping against the clothing then it is too noisy.
  7. Above all else....Practice, Practice, Practice. Know your target, know your abilities and ranges. When preparing for the season the first project is to work on form. Make sure that you are smooth on the draw and that the anchor point and release are consistent. Get your patterns down to as small as possible ( if you can't get consistent patterns under 4" at a certain range then you have no business taking the shot at that range). Others may dispute the 4" size up and down but the bottom line is that any animal that you wound and do not recover is wasted and as such it becomes fuel for the anti-hunting fires! Once you are comfortable at the distances you plan to hunt then start shooting out of the your stand from the height you plan on being opening morning. Practice with as much realism as possible. If you can, simulate real situations with foam targets partially hidden or in tight quarters. Simulate the terrain where you hunt, whether it is wide open plains or thick cover. Last but certianly not least, practice in full gear. It will be very frustrating going for that shot of a lifetime only to find out that the headnet you just bought has a wire that covers your sight line at full draw, or the jacket has buttons that catch the string on release! Judging range also seems to be one of the biggest problems that Bowhunters have in the field. Practice range estimation in terrain like that which you intend to hunt. A good tidbit to consider is to set your sights and learn your ranges based on your personal stride ie set a pin for 10 strides (full leg extension when walking should be ~ 1 yard depending on your body dimensions) this will eliminate the worry of forgetting the old tape measure on scouting trips, etc. because your measuring device will always be your stride.
You can NEVER practice enough.... consistency is the key to success ..... words to live by!

>From Alan Burge:

Whitetail bow hunting tactic

There are as many tactics as there are hunters. I read every thing I can in the hunting magazines. It seems that what one expert says is the opposite of another. I don't have all the answers, but I can give you some of the methods that have worked for me.

Here in central Illinois, the land is basically flat. For the most part it is made up of large tracts of farm land mixed with small timbered lots. The timbered area that I hunt contains a mix of White Oak, Hickory, and Walnut trees. Some of the best places to hunt are water ways. Whitetail deer are creatures of habit. They bed during the day in the timber and feed at night in the open fields. While the crops are high enough to hide them, they may stay in the fields all the time.

By watching the edges of fields, you can determine where the deer are entering and leaving the timber. During the middle of the day go to these spots and find the entrance trail. Follow this back into the timber. Look fordeer sign such as droppings, tracks, bedding areas, and rub marks on trees. Find a spot about fity to one hundred yards from the edge of the field. Pick a tree 15-20 yards off the trail and place a plateform stand 12-18 feet off the ground. Cut as few branches as possible to allow for a clean shot.

In a 40 acre timbered area, I place 2-5 stands. Morning stands are placed along trails that lead from the food source, corn, beans, acorns, to the bedding area. These are placed as close to the bedding area as you can without spooking the deer. Evening stands are placed along trails leading to the food source. These stands are placed closer to the field edges. Deer use different trails to go to and from bedding areas. Only sit a stand when the wind is blowing from the direction you expect the deer to approach. Rotate the use of each stand. I don't like to use a stand more than once a week, two weeks is better. The first time you sit a stand is your best chance for getting a shot.

While on the stand be alert. Try not to move around and keep quiet. If you have to urinate do it in a plastic bottle, a deer's sense of smell is deadly. If you cannot stay in a stand all day try to be there for the first few hours of daylight and for a few hours just before dark.

Whitetail hunting equipment

Basically you need a bow that has a draw weight of at least 45 lbs. and arrows with broadheads. You can use a long bow, recurve or compound. Most Whitetail hunters use some kind of sights, camo clothing, and a portable tree stand. Other equipment includes binoculars, deer scents, and calling devices. My personal preference is a compound. My bow is a Jennings Sonic XL set at 70lbs. It is equiped with pin sights, flipper rest, stabilizer, string silencers, and quiver. This has recurve limbs with a wheel to wheel distance of 43 inches. This allows me to shoot finger style without getting pinched. The wheels are modified cams. they give a good balance between speed and a smooth release. I shoot 31 inch long Easton camo hunters. They have 5 inch plastic fletch. The fletch is off set slightly to rotate the arrow in flight. My broadheads are three bladed Thunderhead 125's. These have three removable vented razor blades and a chisel point.

Clothing consists of head to toe camo. I cover every part of my body including hands and face. The type of camo depends on the surroundings. For timber hunting I use RealTree. When snow is on the ground I wear white coveralls. Most of the hunting in my area is done from tree stands. I use a commercial folding platform stand. I hang it between 12 and 20 feet off the ground. Lower than that and the deer see me, higher and the shot angle gets too steep. My favorite trees are oak with multiple branches at my stand height. I have tried a number of scents and calls with some success. While the equipment is important, it cannot replace good woodsman and hunting skills. Scout your hunting area year around. Practice with your bow and shoot within your range. I have only been hunting for the last four years yet these tactics have enabled me to harvest three whitetail deer.

>From L. Stehr


  1. A shot deer knows that something has happened, but he usually doesn't know what, where or why.
    1. He has nothing to fear or flee from unless you provide the noise or the motion to send him on his way.
    2. An arrow kills by bleeding the animal. You must give it time to die.
      1. Wait at least 1/2 hour on a good hit or longer on poor hits.
      2. As much as 5 hours or over night on a bad hit like a gut shot.
    3. While you wait, try to recall everything that has happened.
      1. Where exactly was your hit?
      2. How much penetration was there?
      3. Where did you last see it?
      4. Did you hear it fall?
  2. When you begin trailing, if you can't find blood, look for your arrow.
    1. Finding your arrow is the only sure way to tell if you got a hit or miss.
    2. Many excited hunters find blood while looking for their arrow that was missed.
    3. The arrow itself can tell you a lot about the hit.
      1. A bright red blood may indicate a heart or artery shot.
      2. A pinkish bubbly blood means a lung shot.
      3. Green and brown matter or food particles means a gut shot.
      4. A greasy tallow on the arrow could mean a brisket shot.
    4. Getting Help
      1. Two or three trackers is an ideal set up. One can stay on the last blood while other search ahead.
      2. ou might want to carry toilet paper or kleenex to mark your last blood.
      3. Don't get so engrossed in the blood trail that you forget to look ahead for a dead deer or one that needs a finishing shot.
      4. NEVER walk right on the blood trail, but along side of it. You might need to back track.
      5. If your deer has laid down and you jump it, STOP TRACKING. You haven't given the animal enough to bleed out.
      6. Try to get your animal when it first lays down. If you don't it will be 10 times harder to track it.
  3. On the trial, you have to know what you are looking for.
    1. Picking up the first blood sign is often the hardest part of the tracking job.
      1. A deer can cover a lot of distance before it starts leaving blood on the ground, especially if the deer is running or if you hit it high or left no exit hole.
      2. Deer hair can also soak up a lot of blood before it drops to the ground. The hair on a bear is thicker and can absorb a lot more.
      3. A deer hit high in the lungs will bleed internally until the blood reaches the arrow hole.
    2. Don't look for blood only on the ground, also check the low brush and trees etc.
      1. Blood dries faster on brush and weeds than it does on the ground and will be darker and harder to detect.
      2. Also blood turns black in hot weather.
      3. Note how high the blood in on the bush.
      4. Is there blood on both sides of the trail or just on one side.
      5. Is the deer bleeding down his leg.
    3. When the blood trail suddenly ends you are apt to find, within a short distance, your animal lying dead. When the heart stops pumping, he won't travel much farther.
      1. He may abandon any trail he has been following and head for heavy brush.
      2. Check out dense thickets and blow downs.
      3. If still no luck, sweep the surrounding terrain.
      4. Sometimes other animals may tell you where your game is. Squirrels, crows, blue jays and other animals may become excited when something moves in their area.
      5. Don't give up the search until there is no hope left.
      6. Deer sometimes bleed internally leaving very little sign but it can be picked up by a careful and determined hunter.
  4. Tracking under adverse conditions can cause some special problems.
    1. Tracking at night is tedious and slow.
      1. Bright gas lanterns are better than flashlights.
      2. A compass is a must for night tracking. It is impossible to keep your bearings once the woods have turned black.
      3. Leave your bow or gun at camp. It is illegal to carry a weapon after dark.
      4. If at all possible, don't track at night. It is a lot better if you can wait until morning.
    2. Sometime you might have to get right after your deer if it is raining or snowing.
  5. What causes good blood trails?
    1. Well placed shots.
      1. Know your limitations and take only shots you know that YOU can make.
    2. The sharper the broadhead the heavier the blood trail.
      1. There is no other piece of equipment that is more important than the broad head. It MUST be as sharp as possible.
      2. Multi-blade broadheads cut bigger holes than single blade models.

The best practice a bowhunter can get is by helping someone else track a deer. You will gain valuable experience and some day, when you need a hand, they just might return the favor.

Something to think about.
The place where you loose the trail is not necessarily the place where it ends. A lost trail always extends beyond the evidence.

>From Bruce Conner

: I've decided to take up Bowhunting.  I was wondering there                
: are quides out there on woodcraft or general stealth 
: techniques for moving around in the woods.  

What you need to do is learn to stand on one foot while walking. Yes, I know it sounds kinda dumb, but hear me out. keep your weight on the BACK foot until the front foot is COMPLETELY in place and down on the ground. This does a couple of things for you. First, it is really important becuase you may need to stop instantly when you see game. Second, and even more important in general, is that when you place your front foot down slowly and carefully, you won't tend to break twigs and put your foot down hard on the ground. Stomping the ground is a GREAT way to alert deer, they do it themselves in fact. So, gentle and soft is the way to go. But it is tricky to get the balance on your back foot, because we tend to walk by pitching our weight forward and striding. Don't do this in the woods! If you find that you can walk slowly across a yard and stop wthout moving when someone yells "stop" you will be OK. Pracitce untill you can do this kind of walk without thinking.

Of course the other thing you want is camouflage of some sort. You can make really good camo from, of all things, burlap bags. Yup! You heard right, burlap. You can dye burlap any color you need and then rip it into strips about 2 inches wide and sew them on to clothing (or make clothing from more burlap to over your regular duds.) Make the strips about 4-6 inches long and instead of putting them on like shingles on a house, attach the BOTTOM end of the strip to the clothes and let the strip sort of flop over in a loop. Attaching these to regular camo clothes works very well and really breaks up your outline. You can also make a blind this way. Be sure not to put any strips that will interfere with your shooting!

This is a section of the FAQ for alt.archery. It is maintained by me at the following e-mail address: Comments, flames, etc. on the FAQ are welcome and should be directed to me. Comments on the specifics of the section can be addressed to either me or the person responsible for this section. If addressed to me, I will forward them to the author of the section. If you wish to see this section cross-posted to another group, please e-mail me a request to do so. If I can access that group, then I will so cross-post whenever I post this section.

Terry Trier

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