Archery season is fast approaching and, if you are anything like me, you have procrastinated the past couple months and just realized you need to shoot your bow and check your gear. The first day is just four short weeks away - Oct.18.
Well, I finally got around to getting arrows fletched and other necessities done a couple days ago. Once the bow and arrows are in good shape it is time to check the rest of the gear and fix or replace what needs it. One of the most important pieces of gear for most bow hunters is a tree stand. These need to be checked for squeaks and rattles then fixed, lubricated or taped to provide silent entry and exit as well as quiet the normal movements of a hunter waiting patiently for deer to come into view.
It is a good idea to select stand locations and hang stands soon, if you haven't already, to avoid spooking deer right before the season. Hauling gear into a hunting areas and putting up a stand can spread your scent around and keep deer away from the area for days. I like to put stands in a month or more prior to the season for a couple reasons. It gives the deer a chance to get used to something new in their environment and I like to put out a mineral block or other attractant to get the deer frequenting my stand locations. With all the available foods for game this year it is a good idea to give them something different. I think deer like variety and will often stop by the attractants if just for a few minutes, time enough for a shot.
When putting in stands, either ground blinds or tree stands, you should also cut shooting lanes and trim branches to provide a clear shot where deer will approach the stand. Get into the stand and make sure there is a clear arrow path where you think game will approach and where you expect them to stop. An apple or oak trees, corn or anything else may get their attention. Of course, you want to leave some foliage for concealment but you want to have a good shot in at least a few places along trails and at any food sources.
After a stand is situated, I like to put a couple of screw-in bow and gear hangers at convenient positions around my stand to hang my pack and bow within easy reach. A rope to hoist up your bow and gear is another thing I like to have ready to go on opening day and the most important thing is a safety harness or belt of some sort. Many hunters are injured or killed each year falling from tree stands. Another addition you may want to consider, especially if hunting on public land, is some kind of lock for your stand. It has never happened to me but I know of several people who have had stands stolen by unscrupulous people.
However, the most important thing to prepare for archery season is the archer. To be a good shot you need to practice shooting. Consistent form that comes from practice will help with those jitters that always seem to arise when a buck is approaching a stand. If you are like me and put off shooting until a month or so before the season, it helps to make the most of your practice. Work on getting consistent form by having the same anchor point with your release hand. A relaxed grip on the bow helps with follow through and breathing correctly, just like shooting a rifle, will increase accuracy. When I am certain my sights are aligned and my form is good, I like to start shooting the broad heads I will be hunting with. Arrows fly differently with field points than with broadheads and that little bit of confidence you gain shooting your hunting points during practice will increase your odds for a good clean shot. I shoot at a target in my backyard from different angles and distances attempting to simulate a shot in the field. Unfortunately deer rarely present you with a perfect broadside shot at 20 yards. I also like to shoot from an elevated position, a ladder, roof or other lofty point will help simulate shooting from a tree stand. This is important because you still need to maintain proper form when shooting from height, but remember to bend at the waist. This keeps your anchor point and sight plane level while looking through your sights when shooting down. You should practice until you feel comfortable shooting at any reasonable angle or distance. This will eliminate any second-guessing or doubts when a big one steps into range.
All this may seem unnecessary or tedious but I like to remove any surprises that can arise from gear malfunction or unfamiliar shots. Having everything set up and ready, I know I can hunt without worry and know everything is within reach with no need for adjustments when the season arrives. By practicing different shots, I know I will be ready wherever a deer appears. The only surprise I like when hunting is a big buck I have not seen before, and when he steps into range, I want to know my equipment is sound and that I have the confidence to make a good clean shot.