(a.k.a. 10, (more), practice tips for new Bow Hunters
Last weekend I had the first chance ever to take my bow out into the bush for a long hike on 160 acres of farmland interspersed with forests and tree stands on some private property owned by my family, where I have permission to hunt.
I didn’t actually hunt on the property this time, (not being licensed to hunt in Ontario yet, (anymore)), I was however there to get some practice and experience in getting up early in the morning, (5 AM – 1/2 hr before sunrise), gearing up with all my camo and archery gear and going for a long stalk through the fields, as well as spending some time shooting from a tree stand, (pre-existing), in full gear just to see what it was like. Lucky for me one of the neighbours came by with a big old Tom Turkey (20+ lb’s), that he shot on the first morning with a 10 Guage shotgun, (nice looking bird) we shared an after the hunt drink on my father in law’s back porch while he told me the story. He called out this old Tom with a box call, and put two rounds into him, (which may explain why I’d heard lots of them clucking on the first morning and none on the second).
First thing that I did on the first morning was set up a distance string that I’d prepared with trail tape marker measurements on it the night before. I marked the 20, 40 and 60 meter intervals on it so that I could tune my sights for some longer distances than the usual 20 to 30 meter shots I practice at home. I set my pins for 20, 30, 40 and 60 meters, I won’t take a shot any longer that at this point, maybe later with practice.
I’m very glad that I did take the time to go out get the practice like this because as I’ve been reading the articles on this site and a few others like it, I’ve come to the conclusion that no amount of archery practice and hiking can get one ready to be a bow hunter and after this weekend I think I’m beginning to understand why.
I actually had a big old Tom walk right out of the bush towards where I was practicing from in the tree stand on the first morning out, he came out of the woods about 120 meters away from the stand and came closer until I think I moved and spooked him at when he got to around 80 meters away from me, he was gone in a flash not to be seen or heard from again by me.
Top things I learned on this weekends excursion into the world of bow hunting training & preparation:
1.) Be prepared, although it was early May, the mornings were cold, I forgot to pack gloves and my hands were quite unexpectedly cold on the second morning. Make sure to get all your gear together the night before, check it and double check it, triple check it, (the first morning out I forgot my field glasses even though I’d packed them with my gear, I left them in the truck, doh!).
2.) Humans are very noisy, Walking through the forest in boots it’s very difficult to be stealthy, hunt from a stand or blind and learn to call your prey, the chance of you sneaking up on an animal on it’s own turf are slim in most cases.
3.) Be patient, what better way to spend the morning than sitting out in nature, being silent, scanning for animals with field glasses, (which I did remember to bring on the 2nd morning).
4.) Practice shooting from your treestand in all directions and distances, I could shoot quite easily some in some areas but really had to shift my position and harness to shoot in other directions and distances, practice and be prepared for all scenarios.
5.) Shooting unmarked distances in the wild is very difficult, (it’s critical and quite difficult to judge distances properly this is probably why so many hunters use range finders), shooting from a tree stand is also very difficult, (due to the angles involved), until you get used to it, (I was much more accurate by the end of the 2nd day).
6.) Experience is the best teacher, reading about and watching videos on a topic is not the same as doing something, if you thing you want to be a bow hunter, get out into the woods and actually spend a few damp chilly mornings in the bush doing stuff for real.
7.) Always carry a compass or GPS device, even though I was on familiar land, it would have been easy to get lost at certain points, forests can be deceptive at times and it’s easy to walk the wrong way and become lost, (it happens).
8.) Hunters who get up early, (before sunrise), dress up in Camoflaged clothing, (I was wearing Real Tree HD head to toe), and spend hours in the woods being as quiet as possible see all kinds of wildlife, (during my 2 mornings out I saw: 2 raccoons, 2 groundhogs, lots of Canada Geese, (2 Canada Geese in particular at waters edge of a pond with a nest of 5 eggs), 3 or 4 Mallards, a Great Egret, a wild Turkey, a pair of yellow bellied sap suckers, lots of crows, red winged blackbirds, sparrows and yellow warblers, (although I spotted some droppings and tracks I didn’t see any deer this time out).
9.) Talk about Bow Hunting and your desire to be a hunter with others, (I was slightly surprised by the reception that my interest received from my family and friends), I’ve been invited out hunting with a few different groups now, to hunt for various game and I’ve got permission to hunt about 1000 acres of privately owned land if you totalled up the various offers from kind folks who I’ve talked to about my interest in the sport.
10.) Being out in the bush with the Bow is like nothing else, what a great feeling, memories in the field are irreplaceable. I can only imagine the high that comes with bagging big game with a bow after my brief taste of the sport and the tiniest bit of experience that practice in full gear could provide me with, I’m more eager than ever now.
I figure that I’ll spend a few more weekends this summer up at the same spot practicing and getting used to full camo hiking, stalking and tree stand shooting before next years season, at which time I’ll be licensed for small game and hopefully pull a ticket for turkey and who knows what else. In the meantime, practice, practice, practice.