Archery season is certainly upon us and some may have already arrowed this winter’s meat. However, with a few months left of seasons in many areas, it is not too late to avoid making mistakes while in the field that will cost you.
1. Lack of awareness
I made the first of the two mistakes that I am about to detail here and I am so grateful I never made the second one. The first mistake I made was not being aware of where the cam was on my compound bow while releasing an arrow from my position in a climbing treestand. I was wearing an old pair of my USMC fatigues and I had to twist, draw and let my arrow fly at a deer.
What I was not paying attention to was the location of the bottom cam. It was resting against a fold in the fatigues. When the cam rolled upon arrow release, the cam sucked in my fatigues and that caused the string to jump out of the groove on the cam while rolling my pants right into the whole mess. I had to cut that chunk out of my fatigues to disengage from the bow while up in the tree. Oh, yeah, I missed the deer as a result. (Nothing was injured except my pride and pants.)
Another very important thing to be very aware of is where you are putting your fingers when using a crossbow. There are a number of people out there reading this that are nodding vigorously and some may have the nickname “Stubs.”
A crossbow is very powerful and parking fingers up in the release zone of the string might just get them mangled. Pay attention and keep your fingers below the plane the string travels on!
2. Dropping your arm
Experienced archery hunters know this, but those who pick up a bow and hurriedly sight-in a week before the season tend to forget and make this mistake. Bending at the waist keeps your form and your arm perpendicular to your torso, which is how you practiced while on the ground. Dropping your arm to compensate or make things seem easier as you shoot from above in your treestand will usually result in a high shot and a miss. To avoid dropping your arm, practice is recommended—as it can feel odd to bend your whole upper torso while shooting. This brings me to the next topic…
3. Not enough practice shooting from your blind or stand
Shooting at the range or in your back yard is usually pleasant and hassle-free, minus the bugs or sun in your eyes. Shooting from inside a blind or up in a treestand is a whole other game if you are not used to doing so. Keeping your balance while in a treestand (ALWAYS wear your fall arrest system/safety harness), and knowing where the limbs are located around the tree you are shooting from, will keep you busy enough. Then you have to focus on the angle you are shooting from and the range.
The same goes for shooting from a ground blind. You need to know where all your gear is—out of the way, hopefully—and what you are going to do if you need to adjust and shoot through a different window of the blind.
Taking a few shots from the blind or stand before the hunt will greatly aid you in filling a tag successfully.
4. Not knowing the various ranges for your possible shots
This may sound like a no-brainer, but so many people use the excuse, “I thought I knew the range,” when explaining why they missed a shot. If you use a rangefinder you can prop up sticks or even put them in the ground at various ranges around your stand well before your hunt so you know how far your target is upon a glance. Two sticks stuck in the ground could mean 20 yards; two big ones and a little one could be 25, and so on.
If your stand offers enough concealment or is high enough to allow you to just range the animal without getting caught, invest in a rangefinder and save yourself a tracking job or lost animal! Knowing the range and your point of impact for your arrows at that range is key to an ethical harvest.
5. Sticking out like a sore thumb
I often hunt on the ground with my crossbow, so I have learned that concealment is super important to getting an animal in range and being able to make the shot. Even if you are in a treestand, you need concealment. Consider putting a camo material skirting around the stand and even up high behind you if necessary. Deer and elk or turkey see movement more than they see “you.” If you go to draw your bow or move your crossbow, they will pick you right out if you are sky lined.
Be sure to cover any bright white socks and shiny faces too. When we sit down, our pants ride up and socks peek out over the boot or shoe tops. I wear a mask while archery hunting to cover my face—it helps keep bugs off my face, too. I mismatch my camo so I am not a big bundle of the same color camo 6 feet tall sitting against a tree. My pants are more brown camo and my shirt or jacket is more green to break things up even further. I definitely blend in, particularly from a distance, better than wearing nice new camo that is the same head to toe.
This archery season, keep in mind these mistakes and don’t let them ruin your success in the field. Good hunting!