Bow Hunting Tips and Information


Bow hunting for white tailed deer here in Kentucky has been a passion of ours for many years. It began about forty years ago with recurve bows and cedar arrows. Today we use the latest compound bows with carbon arrows and mechanical broad heads. We are not professional or expert hunters by any means, just hunters like you. We will try to pass on some of the things that have worked for us as well as tips from other hunters we know. Our goal is to help new hunters as well as seasoned hunters with this information.


Fall Protection For Tree Stand Use:

Since most if not all of our bow hunting is done from tree stands we will cover the use of a fall protection system first. Falling from a tree stand can cause serious injury or even death. Each year there are to many injuries to hunters due to falling from a tree stand. Most of these injuries could have been prevented by the use of fall protection. We believe in using fall protection and will not hunt without using one. There are three types of fall restraints commonly used by bow hunters today.  

Safety Belt:

The safety belt system has been probably the most common fall protection used over the years. They give the hunter the most freedom of movement while hunting of the three types. They are light in weight and the most compact. In addition they are the least expensive to buy. 

The problem with them is that if you fall they will inflect the most stress on your body and therefore can cause the most serious injury. It is possible to fall and become inverted while hanging from your tree. Test I have read indicate that you only have 1 1/2 to 3 minutes to free yourself before you could suffocate from the belt sliding up to your diaphragm. 

Half Harness:

The half harness goes over your shoulders and attaches to your normal waist belt. The restraint strap attaches in the middle of the shoulder area. If you fall you will not invert like with the safety belt, the stress is spread out more causing less injury. There is a little less freedom of movement than with the belt but still no problem in most cases. They work best if the restraint strap is a little longer allowing for the strap to be attached to the tree above your head. If you position the strap as high as possible above you head this will allow you to pivot in the stand while standing without much of a problem. If the strap is to short or adjusted to low on the tree it will tend to limit your ability to pivot

Full Body Harness:

We prefer using a full body harness over the half harness and a safety belt. It has become the most popular fall protection over the last several years. This provides to highest level of protection of the three types of fall protection available. This harness has straps that go over your shoulders with the restraint strap attaching in the middle of the shoulder like the half harness. The difference is that straps also go around your waist and extend down and around your legs. This evens out the stress in the event of a fall to your legs and shoulders. If you would fall out of your tree stand, the full body harness will allow you to climb back up into the stand without much discomfort while hanging. That is not to say you would not be injured in a fall, hitting the side of a tree could still cause injuries to you. What the full body harness will do is allow you time to regain yourself without causing more injuries from the harness its self. You can hang in a full body harness for an extended period of time without much discomfort. They are by far the best system in our opinion. 

They like the half harness can limit movement a little if not set up correctly. They work best if the restraint strap is a little longer allowing for the strap to be attached to the tree above your head. If you position the strap as high as possible above you head this will allow you to pivot in the stand while standing without much of a problem. If the strap is to short or adjusted to low on the tree it will tend to limit your ability to pivot. It will also allow a greater distance to fall before the slack is out of the strap.

Hunting from a tree stand can be very dangerous so please use a fall restraint of some kind. Regardless which one you choose, be sure you have one and use it while hunting from a tree stand. Every year, hunters are killed or seriously injured when they fall from tree stands.


Back Packs:

Over the years bow hunting has become much more advanced. This has in turned created more equipment to be used by today's bow hunter. Today many of us carry a lot of equipment into the woods in addition to our basic bow. A small back pack can be a great addition to your hunting equipment. We carry all of our equipment in back packs now. They come in all of the most popular camouflage patterns. To give you an idea of what we have in ours here is just some of the things that come to mind. We carry a small 1/8" rope 20' long to pull up our bow, small folding saw, laser range finder, GPS, hand warmers, binoculars, head net, gloves, release, arm guard, several types of cover scents, predator call, grunt call, rattle bag, extra mini-mag flashlight, full body harness and so on. This gives you an idea of all the junk you can stuff into a small pack.

We like a small pack that has several compartments so we can organize our equipment. This allows us to find the equipment much easier without having to dig around to much. 

backpack.JPG (115438 bytes)backpack1.JPG (120171 bytes)We also install a 1" nylon belt with a plastic buckle to allow us to attach the pack to the tree once we are in the stand. Added to the belt are several snaps that can have accessories hung from them like range finders and grunt calls. Another item we attach to the strap is an extra bracket for a quiver. I don't like shooting with the quiver on the bow so it makes it easy to access it when it's attached to the tree. I install the bracket on the strap so it will slide on the strap, I slide the bracket around to the back side of the tree so it will not be in my way once the pack is strapped to the tree. 

We hunt from climbing tree stands so we like the smaller type back packs that can be attached to the back of our stands with bungee cords to allow us to carry the stand and pack at the same time. Once we get to our tree we put the pack on and climb the tree, we then strap the pack to the tree next to the stand for handy access.

One of the good things about using a pack is that it allows you to keep all of your equipment packed in one place and makes it harder to misplace things. If I can find my pack I know I have all of the things I need to go hunting. You can just grab your pack and go. If you are finding it hard to get all of your equipment in your pockets, try a small back pack. I don't think you will be sorry. The only down side to using a pack is that before you know it you will have it full.

Predator Calls:

We like to carry a predator call with us while we are bow hunting. In most parts of the country there are good numbers of predators. The most common predator here in Kentucky is the coyote and they do the most damage to the deer and turkey populations. The coyote population is growing in most places due to a lack of hunting and trapping. Because of this do your part by killing any coyote you can. They are also a great challenge to take with a bow. We like a small call made by Knight & Hale called a rodent squealer. It has two different calls made in one. It has a squealer on one side and a whiner on the other. It's common for us to hear or see coyotes while in a tree stand, sometimes all it takes is a little squeal to get ones attention. 

We also carry a mouth diaphragm with us, it can also be used to make a rabbit squeal. We also have a fall turkey season here so it's a dual purpose call. 

Wind Direction Indicators:

In order to bow hunt for deer a hunter must get within bow range of the deer. Each hunter has their limitations based on skills and confidence in themselves. With that said, the only way to get close enough to a deer to kill it with a bow is by staying downwind of the deer. We like to use two methods of keeping tabs on wind direction while hunting. The first one is a simple piece of thread attached to the end of our stabilizer. We take a piece of nylon thread like what is used to install eyes on a fishing rod, we separate the strands and use a single strand about 6" long. We then fray it so the fibers are separated, the more you fray it the less wind it takes to make it move. With any air movement the fibers will move with the wind currents.  

The other is using a small fiber that can be pulled off and allowed to float in the wind currents away from your stand. You can use milk weed pods or cattails if you have access to them. There are several manufactures that produce them for hunting. We use Wind Floaters by Knight & Hale, they come in a little plastic container with a small hole in the top that allows you to pull a small piece out at a time. The good thing about Wind Floaters is that they allow you to see how the wind currents are away from your stand. Sometimes the wind appears to blowing in one direction at the tree only to find out it changes out away from the tree.

Tree Stand Location: 

We will attempt to give a few pointers on where to place your tree stand in the field.    There are several things you must first understand about bow hunting.  In order to kill a deer with a bow you must first get within bow range.  Only you can define what your effective bow range is, by practice you will be able to establish your maximum range.  The average range of deer taken by bow is approximately 20 yards.   

Tree stand placement has become more of a challenge over the years due to the education of whitetail deer due to hunting pressure.  Years ago few deer looked up in the treetops; they had no natural enemies to fear from trees.  Over the years hunting pressure has taught deer to fear danger from above.  For that reason, stand placement is a critical part of your hunt.  You canít just pick out a tree and hang a stand if you plan to be successful.  

After you have scouted your area, find a tree that will accept the type of stand you will be using.  The stand must be down wind from where the deer will be.  Check prevailing winds and take into account the thermal currents for the time of day you will be hunting.  When traveling to your stand, donít cross the deer trails you will be hunting. Try not to touch any brush as you walk by. 

 Place your stand in an area that allows for shooting lanes.  Donít put your stand to close to the trail, 15 to 20 yards is about what we try to set up.  If you get to close to the trail, deer are more likely to see you move while drawing your bow.  Try to place your stand where you have a few limbs close to the stand that will help break up your outline if possible.  The height of the stand is somewhat up to you, based on your comfort with heights.  We try to go 15 to 25 feet high based on the lay of the land with 18 to 20 foot our average.  The rope we use to pull our bow up is cut to 20 foot so we can get a good feel for the height.  Make sure you pull your rope up, donít leave it hanging down, this only allows more of your scent to be blown around.

 Donít place your stand too close to bedding areas, the deer will hear you as you are approaching or leaving your stand.  Try to place your stand about half way between the bedding and feeding areas.  This will allow you to set up with out spooking the deer and you will be more likely to see the deer during daylight hours.  If your hunting a field that is being used to feed and the deer reach the field to late for a shot in the afternoon, try placing your stand back up the trail in the woods.  Deer often stage in an area back in the woods to wait for it to get dark before they come out in the field.

 If possible always take advantage of heavy cover; use the cover to help you blend in with your surroundings.  Again make sure you have good shooting lanes, donít set up in cover so thick you canít get clear shots.  One small branch can deflect your arrow costing you a deer.  Placing a stand where there is a transition in the cover from clear woods to thick woods is a good place to set up.  Whitetails like to travel the edges of woods and thickets.

 Scent control is the last thing we will cover, always use a good cover scent on your boots while walking to and from your stand.  Try not to touch anything you donít have to, deer will smell your scent where you have touched a bush or tree.  We like to use a scent that is good regardless of the time of the year for cover scents, coon or fox urine works good.  Donít use doe estrus if youíre hunting early season or late season when the rut is not on.  We have had good success using several scents together as a cover scent.  We use an earth scent on our clothes and a skunk scent on a pad attached to our stand, a scent holder called a Scent Vent works good, it can be opened and closed as needed.  Hunting from the same stand every day can educate the deer, try hunting two or three days then give it a rest, hunt another area if possible.  You leave scent in the woods every time you travel through, so hunting several areas will help minimize the scent you leave.

 The information covered here has worked for us over the years, we hope it can help you.  We are not implying itís the best or only way to bow hunt, but what we feel will help beginners keep from making the same mistakes we made over the years.  

Scent Control: 

In order to get close enough to a whitetail deer to kill with a bow controlling your scent is a must.  Whitetails have an extremely good sense of smell; they have no problem detecting human scent.  You will get a variety of opinions as to how far they can detect human scent, so lets just say they will get alarmed by your scent far enough away to keep them way out of your bow range.  Therefore, you must always take the wind into consideration while hunting and traveling to and from your stand.  We will cover three ways scent is spread through the woods while hunting and how to combat it. 

First, lets cover the most common way your scent becomes a problem, prevailing winds. You must place your stand in an area that is down wind from where you think the deer will be traveling. By scouting the area before you hunt you will be able to determine where the deer trails are and what direction the deer are traveling. Even very light wind will blow your scent to the deer if you donít keep down wind. We use scent eliminator on our clothes as well as an earth cover scent. We also use a skunk scent in a Scent Vent once we get in our stand. Even with that, once they smell your scent, itís all over. We do feel it does help to use the scent eliminators and cover scents if the wind shifts a little now and then.  No amount of cover scent will take the place of a bad set up.

 The next thing you need to take care in is controlling your scent while walking to your stand. Do not walk close to the deer trails in the area and by all means do not cross them. While you are walking through the area be careful not to touch the brush with your bare skin and try to even keep from touching your clothes to anything if possible.  Wearing rubber boots will help reduce your scent. We like to spray a little coon or fox urine on the bottoms of our boots before entering the area.

 The last scent control we will cover is not talked about as much as prevailing winds and is often overlooked. Thermal currents move your scent when there does not seem to be any wind at all. In the evening hours as the air gets cooler it falls, pushing down into low spots. This cool air falls from the ridge tops into the hollows and will push your scent down with it. If you place your stand above the deer trail you are hunting in the evening, chances will be good they will pick up your scent due to the thermal currents pushing your scent downhill. In the morning hours the earth is warmer than the air and the thermal currents will be rising. In the morning hours you need to place your stand above the trail, the thermal currents will carry your scent above you and away from the trail.

  Use Of Scents And Cover Scents: 

The use of scents and cover scents can help if the wind shifts while you are in your stand. They will not however replace good hunting techniques allowing you to ignore prevailing winds and thermal currents. Today there are many types of scents from a variety of manufactures. For over thirty years we have experimented with many types of scents and combinations of scents. We will cover what has worked best for us over the years.

 We start with washing our clothes with a scent free detergent. Next we shower with scent free bath soap before we go hunting. This eliminates most of the scents associated with normal soaps.

 Before we leave the truck we spray our boot soles with coon urine. Fox urine will also work if there are foxes in the area you are hunting. Raccoons are found in most wooded areas so we normally stick with coon urine. We spray our clothes with a scent eliminator and then use a cover scent like earth. There are pine, acorn and cedar scents also available; make sure there is the type of scent you choose in the area you will be hunting. Earth is good because it is found everywhere.  

The last scent we use is Skunk Screen by Tex Isbell. We put a little Skunk Screen in a container and attach it to our tree stand. We use a scent holder called a Scent Vent that works very good; it can be opened and closed as needed. You can also use a 35mm film container. One word of caution, if you have a weak stomach you may not like using skunk scents. This combination of scent eliminators and cover scents has worked well for us over the last several years. Like stated earlier, no amount of scents will fool the nose of a mature whitetail deer. What we have outlined here will help keep you from being detected if the wind shifts or the deer catches a small amount of your scent.

 The last scent we will cover are the so-called deer lures. This type of scent can do more harm than good if used incorrectly. Doe in estrus scents are the most common scent used and the scent that is most misused. It is common to hear hunters talk about putting out estrus scents all over the place and having deer snort and blow only to run the other way. Using estrus scents before the rut and when deer are not actually in heat will only alarm deer when they encounter it in the woods. Do not use estrus type scents until you are sure the rut is on and doe are coming in heat.

 There are also buck and doe urine scents available that are non-estrus based. We use non-estrus doe urine a little but do not use the buck urine. If you use buck urine and a buck that is not dominant smells it, he may leave rather than taking a chance of getting into a fight. We are not saying not to use it, but if you do you need to know what the outcome could be. We have not used this type of scent because of that concern.  Of course if you are hunting the dominant buck, then that buck urine would work well for that.

Log Your Results:

One of the things that will help you become a better bow hunter is keeping a log of hunting activities. By keeping a log you can look for patterns that develop over time. I like to record things like stand location, weather conditions, moon phase, wind speed and direction, deer seen and the time and so on. Today I have gone to the next level, I keep all of my information in a database on my PC and have all of my stand locations on my GPS. I keep a list of stand locations and what wind direction is needed to hunt that stand. Before I go hunting I check the weather conditions for that area by checking the internet. Then I can decide which stand location I can hunt based on the wind direction.

By using a database I can check to see what stand is the most productive in a matter of seconds. I hunt a lot of different stand locations so it helps to keep track of stands. After hunting a lot of different stands it's can be hard to remember if a certain stand is as good as others.

Keeping Track Of Time:

To support my hunting log I keep track of time spent on the stand. I record the time that I get in and out of the stand. I also try to keep track of the time I see deer so I can pattern movements. To do this you obviously need a watch. I shoot a wrist type release so I don't like to wear a watch. It can be hard to get a look at a watch under your clothes without making noise and a lot of movement. For that reason I started attaching a small watch to the limb of my bow with heavy two sided tape. I take a small LCD watch and remove the band, then file the brackets off where the band attached to the watch. With two sided tape I attach the watch to the inside of the top bow limb as close to the riser as possible. Now with very little movement I can check the time without making noise or a lot of movement. I have been doing this for several years and have yet to loose a watch. I can't say how well it will work on all bows, it will depend on how much vibration there is at the shot. 


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