By JON MAGEE
For The Inter-Mountain
For the hunter, archery hunting is probably the biggest challenge out there. Being in the right spot and having a deer or bear come within bow range and getting a lethal shot is one of the toughest things for a hunter to pull off.
A long shot is 40 yards. Most archers like a target within 30 yards to avoid wounding the animal.
When most people think of bow hunting, tree stand hunting is the first thing that comes to mind and with good reason. Being in an elevated stand helps get your scent off the ground and your movements out of the line of sight of most animals that look for danger from the ground.
You can also see a much larger area and the animals as they approach, which allows you to prepare for a shot.
There is also the advantage of being able to draw a bow undetected with better-shot opportunities from a lofty position. Most hunters like to choose stand locations near food sources, bedding areas or trails that connect the two.
Depending on the time of day, you can see many deer at these locations. Morning sites near thickets, ridge tops and travel corridors can be good bets as deer leave feeding areas to rest during the day.
Good stand sites for the evening are on trails leading into cornfields, apple orchards, oak flats and other preferred food sources. There is also a good chance of encountering a bear near these food sources, as bear will be feeding heavily to prepare for hibernation in winter. In the mountains where I like to hunt, it is not uncommon to see several bears throughout the season while sitting on a stand. People who are deer hunting harvest many bears each year when one just happens to come by their stand location.
It is hard to set up a stand specifically for bear because they travel such a large area in search of food. Without bait, it is hard to predict when or where a bear will pay a visit.
Another tactic commonly overlooked by bow hunters is still-hunting. It is hard to sneak up on a nice buck, but if you are just looking to get a shot at a deer and fill the freezer, this can be an exciting way to hunt.
Early in the season when the vegetation is still thick, you can slip quietly around heavy cover such as clear cuts or field edges looking for deer or other game. When the weather is nasty and it is uncomfortable to sit in a stand, stalking deer can be a rewarding venture.
Taking advantage of available cover and sneaking through feeding areas you can sometimes get close enough for a shot at a deer. Being patient is the key. By stopping and using natural cover as camouflage and by keeping the wind at a favorable angle, you are sometimes able to catch deer off guard as they browse around in these overgrown areas. It also pays to carry a deer call in this pursuit.?A fawn bleat or soft grunt call can bring a curious deer within bow range.
I like to hunt this way when there is a soft rain — which muffles footsteps — and the woods are quiet.
I like to hunt along steep ridges with some laurel for concealment and look for deer coming onto an oak flat to feed on acorns or bedding on the edge. This is also a good way to find rubs, scraps and other buck signs either to hunt later from a stand or to come back with a rifle during buck season.
There is always a chance at other game as well when hunting this way. You may well run upon a flock of turkeys or a bear in certain areas.
Last year on a drizzling, foggy morning, I was still-hunting along a nice white oak flat and slipped over a small rise and there was a flock of turkey 20 yards away. They spotted me so I ran in and busted up the flock and they scattered in several different directions. I normally carry a turkey call with me when hunting this way for just such an encounter.
I found a nice place to call from and brought several birds back to within bow range, but missed the shot.
My first chance at a turkey with a bow and I blew it, but that is hunting and I had a great time.
That is what makes this type of bow hunting so exciting, you never know what you may see and you are on the animal’s level making it much more challenging to get a shot. But it is often a nice change of pace from hunting in a tree stand.