Get a Crash Course in Bowhunting

Get a crash course in bowhunting 

Archery deer season is starting. So here are tips

to get ready before you come to full draw.

By Bob McNally


The weather is so summer-hot it’s hard to believe archery deer hunting season is cranking up, but it is. If you’re a bowman, you best get ready – and fast.

Hot weather bow deer hunting is different from standard whitetail hunting. Archers must scout for places to ambush deer at ranges less than 50 yards. Thus by its nature, scouting for bowhunting is much different than scouting for firearms deer hunting. Further, because most bowhunting is done earlier in the year than firearms hunting, the places deer are concentrated often are different than when modern guns can be used lawfully.

“You got to wear your boots out for bow season, because that’s the best way to pinpoint the hottest spots to ambush a deer early in the year,” says veteran bowhunter Rick Stinson, the archery professional at Jacksonville’s Strike Zone outdoor store. “Walk game trails and look for multiple woods sign that deer are present before setting up a tree stand.

“Locating deer rubs and scrapes is great. But a place where a couple trails cross nearby is even better. If it’s near food sources like acorns dropping from oaks or persimmon trees, with water and cover nearby, so much the better.”

Stinson is a big believer in remote trail cameras that via a motion sensor automatically record images of animals passing across the camera lens. Using such cameras allows bowhunters to spy on a potential hunting spot without being in the woods. Such cameras are so sophisticated today that they automatically send images to smart phones and to email addresses. And the service is cheap, too, says Rick, with some plans with up to 1,000 pictures for only a few dollars per month.

“Cellular woods cameras are a real godsend for deer hunters because once in position, a bowhunter can learn what kind of animals are walking near a stand without ever going near the place until it’s time to hunt the spot,” Stinson says. “This is a big plus because every time a person walks to a stand site it gets contaminated with human scent; and that’s especially so in the early part of the year when it’s so stifling hot.”

Friend and veteran archery deer hunter David Blanton of LaGrange, Georgia advises early bowmen to hunt very dense cover if they want a good buck in hot weather.

“If you want a chance at a nice buck in early bow season, you’ve got to get into cool thickets,” says Blanton a long-time member of the RealTree Camouflage television hunting team. “Water often is a key element in locating deer concentrations for early bowhunting. Places where there are creeks, canals, small lakes and beaver ponds offer deer drinking water, which they need in hot weather, as well as cool areas for comfortable daytime bedding. Also, in most places where it’s wet, vegetation is very thick, and these are places deer – especially bucks – favor.”

Water also can present deer with natural barriers so they “funnel” through areas ideal for placing tree stands for hot-weather bowhunting.

One of the best early-season bow stands Blanton ever hunted was on the edge of a beaver pond. Deer had to walk around the water to filter into a large, nearby oak brush patch. The pond was cool, had lots of thick cover around it, and created a barrier for deer so it funneled all whitetail traffic near a spot where Blanton placed his tree stand.

He arrowed a number of good bucks there.

Hunting around food sources is a common and very effective way of hunting deer for all sportsmen. But bowhunters in the woods a month or more before firearms hunters must locate early-season foods that deer currently are foraging on.

Water oaks, laurel oaks, willow oaks and overcup oaks are among the first trees to drop acorns in the Deep South, and are preferred foods for whitetails living in lowlands. Other prime early-season whitetail foods archers should look for during scouting include: persimmon and apple trees, honeysuckle hedges, honey-locust tree seed pods, and greenbrier plants.

Most good deer hunters know whitetails love acorns. But there are many times in early bow season when acorns aren’t ripe and falling. That’s when an archer’s scouting becomes most important. Still-green grain and clover fields are often favorite deer feeding places in early season, but usually at night. Yet fields still are good places for a bowman to begin a search for a stand site. By walking field edges hunters can locate trails leading into fields from woodlots. By scouting trails from fields back into heavy timber, archers may find an ideal location to place an early-season tree stand.

Deer often don’t start moving around until late afternoon because it’s so hot during archery season. So frequently abundant deer sign in a field during the early bow season is made at night. That’s why getting far back into woodlots off fields is best for bowhunting. An archer has got to be far enough off a field and near a whitetail bedding area that deer walk passed his stand before it gets too dark for lawful hunting.

And don’t forget the trouble with insects during early archery season, especially following abundant rain this summer. Mosquitoes are especially fierce, and repellent is mandatory for bowmen to remain statue-like as a mature deer walks to bow range of less than 30 yards.

ThermaCell products are among the best things ever for hunters trying to ward off mosquitoes, gnats and other biting bugs in bow season.

Rick Stinson can’t imagine bowhunting in hot weather without a Thermacell unit. Nothing, he says, is more effective at keeping bugs at bay than this simple little portable repellent device.

Thermacell units are about twice the size and weight of a smart phone, and are fueled with a small replaceable butane tube. Once ignited, the unit burns a scent pad that gives off invisible, largely scent-free vapors that eliminates bugs.

Thermacell also makes “Earth Scent” repellent pads that smell musky and will not alert deer, hogs or other wild game.

“Using a Thermacell has enabled me to sit motionless for long hours during hot-weather bowhunting, and that’s enabled me to arrow many deer,” says Stinson.