Archery deer season in Maryland began last week. The season is a long one with ample opportunities to harvest a few whitetails. Whether new to archery hunting or an old pro, remembering the basics will increase your success rate. There are five critical rules that if followed will significantly boost a hunter’s success rate.
1. Hunt where the deer are.
The first key may seem obvious but requires attention. If you do not see deer, you cannot kill them. This means a hunter needs to be where the deer are. Whitetail deer are like any other animal whose main concern is eating and resting while keeping safe from predators. Finding the deer’s main food source should be the first focus point in establishing a stand location. Once the feed is located, look for the primary bedding areas close by.
The distance between the feeding area and the bedding area can vary greatly depending on the terrain and vegetation of the locale. Typically in Carroll County farm country, the deer will be feeding on crops or acorns. On these farms, the bedding area may only be 50 to 200 yards from the food source. Whereas, at Liberty Reservoir for example; the deer may travel a mile or better between food sources and bedding areas.
Hunters, who are consistently successful, hunt where the deer are. I know that seems simple, but it is often over looked. Find the food source, find the bedding area, and set your stand on a trail between the two.
2. Pay attention to the wind and hunt accordingly
There is an old hunter’s saying “Keep the sun on your back and the wind in your face.” Hunters learned long ago the significance of keeping downwind of their quarry. A deer’s nose is his first line of defense. Deer are able to detect differing scents in the same manor we see colors.
The successful deer hunter plans ahead and notes the required wind direction best suited for each of his stand sites. The wind should carry your scent away and not toward the direction you expect the deer to approach. By doing this, the number of deer seen while on stand will increase dramatically.
Not setting your tree stand down wind of where you expect the deer to show is the number one reason hunters fail to see and harvest deer.
3. Cover your hands and face
Today, seldom does a deer hunter venture out for a day of hunting without being dressed head to toe in the latest camouflage fashion. However, especially during warm weather, deer hunters neglect to cover their hands and face. Covering your face and hands is most important when it comes to not being detected by approaching deer.
I once watched a friend sitting in his tree stand one afternoon. I was in a tree stand about a hundred yards away. He was dressed in full camouflage pants and jacket, but was not wearing gloves or a face mask. Each time he moved his hands, or turned his head, the movement drew my attention.
The head and hands are the two things hunters move the most while on stand. The sun reflecting off the bare skin of a hunter’s moving hands and face has alerted many deer to the hunter, either high in a tree or on the ground hiding in a blow-down.
The well-camouflaged hunter remembers to wear a facemask and gloves.
4. Be prepared
Deer hunting was once explained to me as hours of motionless boredom followed by fifteen seconds of total adrenaline rush. I have some friends who seem to have all the luck. They are able to kill deer, it seems, each time they take to the woods. But is it really luck, or are they well prepared both mentally and physically.
Have you checked your equipment thoroughly? Have you practiced with your bow all summer, including shooting with broadheads? Have those squeaky bolts on your stand been lubed? Being prepared to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself is the difference between those hunters who sometimes harvest deer and those who always seem to be the lucky ones.
As an example, when walking into your stand for an afternoon hunt, would you be ready to shoot if a deer presented itself. Stepping slowly and quietly with bow or gun at the ready when traveling to your stand is being prepared to take advantage of the situation. Strolling with your head down and your weapon over your shoulder would result in another missed opportunity.
5. Have fun
The last and most important part of being a successful hunter is to have fun when in the woods. Hunting is a sport, a hobby, a means of escape from the job. Too many hunters take the pursuit of a trophy buck, one with large antlers, too serious. Deer hunting should be about finding the time to relax in the woods renewing our connection with our natural living past.
Good luck this season.