7 Simple Off-Season Tips for Bowhunting Success
This is the time of year for resolution-making. For those of us who are passionate about bowhunting, resolutions can help us jumpstart our archery game.
Goals vary among bowhunters. Some center on the antler size of our quarry, on achieving personal bests, and on getting more hunting opportunities. For others, they’re much more rudimentary – more time in the stand, accurate shooting, and developing confidence. Good habits make time your ally. This couldn’t be truer for bowhunting success, regardless of how you measure it.
Here are some suggested bowhunting resolutions that will go a long way toward upping your game in the field in 2020.
Shoot More Broadheads
Do you practice with broadheads? It’s essential to widen your practice regimen to replicate as many hunting scenarios as possible for that moment of truth. There is no better way than practicing with the actual gear you will use in your stand. Many missed, or poorly placed bow shots are due to poor arrow flight. We all know that broadheads fly much differently than more aerodynamic field tips. So it is important to use the broadhead you hunt with when you practice. Also, use them with the same arrows (and bow of course) that you’ll be utilizing in the deer woods.
Today’s broadheads have more consistent flight than ever. However, bow speeds are a ton faster too. Practicing with your broadhead of choice ensures that they consistently fly straight (this is an even bigger issue with fixed ones). You don’t want wonky-shooting arrows at showtime, so regularly verify this during the offseason.
The bowhunting offseason is long. Amid work and family obligations, bowhunting prep usually has to take a back seat. Want to maximize your preparation in between actual shooting sessions and other activities? Take every opportunity to educate yourself. Today, there are numerous outlets at your disposal. By tapping into these channels, you can immerse yourself in helpful bowhunting and archery information from the sofa, desk, or vehicle.
Assume the Hunting Position
You’ve likely never walked up on a shooter buck in your yard. And even if you have, you probably weren’t able to stand there and shoot him in your flip flops and t-shirt. It’s easy to limit archery practice to standing situations on the lawn or in the pro shop. But it’s not enough. Take the time to simulate the shooting positions and conditions you’ll likely encounter during the deer hunting season. Account for different shooting angles by shooting from elevated positions. Likewise, shoot from chairs to simulate ground blind sits if applicable. Additionally, consider practicing while wearing bulkier hunting clothing (yes, even in warm weather). Sure, these practices take more time and effort, but they pay off.
Every time I step out to randomly shoot at my bag target, I again remind myself that I need to add a life-sized deer target to my practice approach – and take better care of my targets. As always, it’s important to pick a spot on your target. “Aim small and miss small” is the key, and realistic-looking deer targets feature correctly-sized vitals to aim for during practice. This makes for increased comfort when shooting at a live deer during the season.
Even better, consider shooting in 3D tournaments. Not only are they fun, but they also provide a realistic way to polish your shooting (and hunting) proficiency. Rising to the occasion in a competitive situation is a reasonable replication of shooting live animals.
Do you have a difficult time making shots when flooded with adrenaline? For most of us, the answer is “yes.” Simulate game time at a local shooting event. For that matter, marry friendly wagering with 3D shooting in the yard or at the ranch – and challenge yourself.
Inspect Your Gear
First, you want to take care of your gear to make sure it is in perfect shape. Regularly check the reliability of your bow during the offseason (and before each practice session). Check the limbs and cams for cracks, dings, and dents. Further, pay close attention to your strings and cables. At a minimum, worn strings and cables affect accuracy, and nobody wants them to break when shooting at a deer. Thoroughly lubricate your strings with wax ensuring that it penetrates the fibers.
Similarly, check your arrows for damage or wear. This includes not only the fletching but the shafts themselves. Use a quality protective case and avoid storing your bow in overly hot or cold places.
Improve Hunting Property
One of the most overlooked offseason items for bow hunters is tending to hunting property. There is so much you can do to have a positive effect on your hunting digs: tweaking stand locations, hinge-cutting, and (starting in the summer) inventorying deer with mineral stations and game cameras. We often think to do these things during the season only to put them off until the dog days of summer (or ignore them altogether). Strike quickly after the season ends and use that momentum to your advantage.
Discover New Property
“I’m tired of seeing the same trees.”
“There are just no mature bucks around here.”
“I wish I had a place closer to the house.”
Any of these statements sound familiar? Another task often lost in the shuffle is seeking out new areas to bow hunt. If you want to hunt new grounds for any reason, land shopping needs to start earlier rather than later. The best time to look for new hunting grounds is directly following the season. That way, if you score a property, you’ll have several months for scouting and planning for the early whitetail bow season.
If you have the means, be on the lookout for paid leases. Look for those seeking out one or more new members. Or, solicit a landowner and negotiate a price to recruit fellow hunters willing to come along for the ride. A little asking around at the local taxidermy shop, feed store, or internet hunting forum can go a long way.
Better yet, solicit landowners willing to let you hunt for free. Absentee owners are good possibilities, as they often find it desirable for their vacant property to be used. Luckily, bowhunting doesn’t require large chunks of land, and you might be able to find local parcels with adequate habitat to hold deer. The amount of big buck success bowhunters are enjoying these days (even in suburban areas) is fantastic. One good strategy is to inquire on a rural property for sale. The land is usually just sitting there unused – it’s worth the ask.
Remember that these preparatory activities don’t have to be considered work, but rather a means of maximizing future success. Get started on your checklist early. By starting in the early weeks of the offseason, you will build the necessary momentum that will result in more fruitful and enjoyable hunts come the fall.
Based in Texas, Jerald Kopp is President of 1st Light Hunting Journal. His articles cover a variety of topics about hunting and the outdoor lifestyle. Jerald is an avid outdoorsman with deer hunting and whitetails being by far his greatest passion. He was introduced to hunting and fishing at an early age and has been enjoying it for 40+ years. In 2005, he established the Empowerment Outfitter Network (EON) – a faith-based non-profit organization that provides hunting opportunities for disabled and terminally-ill children and youth. When not hunting, he spends his time traveling and enjoying life with Amy, his wife of over 30 years. Jerald and Amy have two adult daughters and a son-in-law.