Don’t Screw Up the Opening Day of Bow Season!
Derrek Sigler 09.24.20
For most of us, the opening day of bow season is just days away. This means we should all be pretty much ready to go and are having a hard time sleeping at night due to the anticipation of another bow season enjoying the time spent in the woods. There are ways that can screw up your opening day experience (they can happen throughout the season, too). However, you can avoid the added drama of making one of these opening day archery season blunders with a few simple precautions. My father-in-law, from whom I’ve learned a lot from especially when it comes to bow season, has always reminded me that bowhunting is supposed to be fun and relaxing. Stupid stuff is going to happen, but you move on and learn from it. Hopefully it doesn’t screw up your opening day of bow season.
Don’t forget your safety harness!
Anyone out there ever forget a safety harness? The number one cause of hunter deaths in North America is falling out of a treestand. Let that sink in. How many of you have heard a report on the news about a hunter being found under a tree in the autumn after bow season? Every year we hear it multiple times, and even once is too many. Never, ever go up a tree without a safety harness. Period. It’s a screw up that can cost you your life.
We don’t care if you’re sick and tired of hearing this, too. We’d rather have you make it home safe. It’s a good idea to have a back-up harness, too, that you keep in the truck just in case you forget. I just got a new one from Hawk along with the safety line, which is equally important. I already have my old harness in a compartment under the seat in my truck in case I have a bonehead moment and forget my new one. A fall from any height can be deadly, and I want to come home to my family at night.
Forgetting your release/cocking rope
My buddy Trent announced on social media the other day that he’d already lost his release before the bow season, making it easier to not be able to find it opening morning. Man, have I been there, too. Nothing sucks more than to get out to the woods and realize you don’t have your release, or, for crossbow hunters, your cocking rope. That’s it; game over – no hunt for you. Sure, you can go fingers, but then your aiming point is off. And, I’m a big, strong guy, and I can’t cock a crossbow by hand. Not even close.
The easiest solution is to have two identical releases, and keep one in your archery case at all times, or, of course, the truck. Another way around it is to find a way to attach the release or cocking rope to the bow. For a long time, I have been in the habit of wrapping my strap release back around the handle of my bow when I’m done shooting, or hunting. It is a practice that has come in handy for remembering where I put it.
Getting down too early
A few years ago, I was hunting the opening day of bow season on a chunk of private land between two huge leases in La Crosse county in Wisconsin. It had been a great morning, and I passed on several smaller bucks that would have been shooters just about anywhere else, but the trail camera photos off the land had me charged up for a bigger buck. I had the bright idea that I would hop down for a lunch break and to answer the call of the wild. I should have stayed put. I was halfway down the ladder when I heard the twig snap behind me. Twenty five yards away was a 170 class buck with a drop tine that would have walked right by my stand. I’m still sick to my stomach thinking about it. A drop tine!!!
Opening day, even during bow season, has more people in the woods than normal. This makes the deer move a little differently, so if you can, try sitting longer than you normally would. Make every move with caution and if you have to get down, try doing so after normal peak movement hours. Take a late lunch, or have food and drink with you. Stand up and move around a little to keep the blood flowing. I bought a new Yeti thermos with a magnetic cap just so I can sit a little longer and make a little less movement this season. The magnetic cap, I hope, will make it easier to NOT drop the cap out of the stand.
Have a scent-control plan
I normally wash all my clothing with scent-free detergent, store them in a sealed plastic tote and get mostly dressed in the field for bow season. I’ve had great luck with Dead Down Wind spray, but there are other scent-control sprays out there that work great, too. I may try one of those ozone generators this year, too. When it comes down to it, though, there are two big factors that you can run afoul of for your season openers. You need to avoid the excessive sweat and body odor issues that can be a factor with the warmer weather you may encounter. Try to not get into your hunting clothes until you get to your stand. Not only does it create a bit of the B.O., but when the temperature starts cooling off, you can wind up very cold.
The other thing is the wind. I always hear about guys who just wear whatever they want and then they go out and shoot a big buck during bow season. I like to try to control my scent as much as I can, but really, it all comes down to the wind. You can’t block 100% of your odor, so you’d better play the wind. Have multiple stands you can sit in, if at all possible. This will give you a backup plan if the weather report for the day is wrong.
Don’t push the deer
This isn’t just a bow season opening day issue, it’s an every hunt foul up that can give you nightmares. After you take the shot, give the animal time to expire. It’s so very hard to do, too, especially if you’ve shot a big buck. Pushing the deer too soon and too hard can make it really hard to find later.
My cousin is about a hard core hunter as you’d ever meet. He was with me in Wisconsin on the hunt I mentioned earlier. He came strolling into the camp area while I was sitting there beating myself up over getting down too soon. When asked if he had seen anything, he cooly said he’d shot one about an hour beforehand. After we ate lunch, we went and looked for his deer, which we found with ease. No, it wasn’t the same buck I had met earlier, but it was a dandy. He was pretty sure it had laid down about 45 yards away. He told me he didn’t push it because years earlier, he had shot a nice one in North Dakota and went after it right away. After he kicked it up a few yards from where he’d shot it, it ran him for miles including crossing a river. We all know not to push the deer, but sometimes we get reminded as to why. You can avoid this screw up by taking a deep breath and waiting it out.
Beating yourself up
Two seasons ago, I was trying to fill my doe tag from a wooden ground blind. I had a mature doe come in by itself and I drew back. I focused solely on my pin and her vitals, just as I would have from my treestands. At the release, there was a horrible, loud thud that seemed to echo around me. Anyone want to guess what happened? Yeah, I was so focused on making the shot that I wasn’t watching everything that I should have and I clipped the inside of the window in the blind. Here’s where it got odd. The doe heard the noise, but had no idea what it was or where it came from. She stood there looking around for a source, which let me nock a new arrow, draw back and shoot again. I missed on the second shot cleanly because I was too busy mentally kicking myself from the first one to make the second one. Laugh all you want, I know I do now.
Some screw ups are bound to happen. You can either recover and move on, or beat yourself up and possibly miss out on a second chance. Hopefully you have more than one day to hunt, but as a wise hunter once told me, make the very best out of every day you get to hunt, because you’re not guaranteed of a tomorrow.
Cover photo: Shutterstock/Winterman