Bow & Arrow Hunting
August 2009

THE GOLDEN RULE
If you fail to follow this important hunting standard, then consider it game over.
By Steve Flores

I recall one season in particular
when I somehow managed to
outfit myself with all of the latest
gear. I had the most popular bow
on the market, the most effective
camo pattern, an ultra—light treestand,
and a truckload of confidence to boot.
Yeah, I was going to be a whitetail-
killing machine. Brimming with
optimism, I set out to do some
extensive pre-season scouting. After
finding a suitable location, I hung my
stand and counted the days until the
start of the season.

Opening morning arrived and it
wasn’t long before I was up to my
fanny pack in action. With a
substantial amount of does and
smaller bucks frequenting the area, I
just knew the approaching rut would
eventually lure an old “mountain
monarch” within easy bow range.
There was little doubt I was going to
fill my tag and be the envy of all my
friends. Or so I thought.

in agriculture settings, pre-season scouting can actually be advantageous, simply because most of the observations are done from long-distances. However, don't dismiss the need for up-close scouting in these areas, which should still occur during the off-season months.


Eager to taste success, I hunted
every day that I could, regardless of
weather conditions or phase of the rut.
As a result, my enthusiastic approach
quickly turned my “dream season” into
a living nightmare. Within a matter of
days, deer sightings dropped off the
map and I unexpectedly found myself
searching for greener grass. However,
any attempt to duplicate that initial
opening-day stand site only brought
about the same result—a promising
location that soon fizzled out, never
really living up to the hype. When the
season finally did come to a close, I
had little to show for my efforts other
than an unfilled tag and a look of
bewilderment on my tired, beaten face.

So, what happened? Where did I
go wrong? I mulled over those
questions for quite some time, deter-
mined to find the answers before
velvet was shed and another season
began. After much deliberation, I
realized the answer lied in one
irrefutable rule—just one. Consequently,
if I considered this rule in
every decision I made in the deer
woods, success would likely beat down
my door instead of darting away like a
flushed rabbit.

So, what is this “golden rule”? The
answer: Never let the deer know they
are being hunted. That°s it! Plain and
simple. Now, that might sound a bit
elementary at first, but it isn’t until
you apply this straightforward idiom
to your current hunting strategy that
you start to get an idea about just how
tricky it can be to live up to. However,
nothing will have a greater affect on
your bowhunting success than learning
how to master this one commandment.
Because, regardless of everything
else you do, the tactics you employ or
the rules you follow, if you break this
one, it`s game over.

POST-SEASON SCOUTING
The first mistake many bowhunters
fall victim to is ill-timed scouting
efforts. Even though intentions are
good, the consequences often lead to a
season that doesn’t quite live up to its
expectations. While the traditional
time frame for scouting seems to be
just prior to the start of the season,
there are many problems associated
with this approach.

First and foremost is the fact that
“pre-season” scouting more or less
sounds the alarm that hunting season
is near. After months of uninterrupted
behavior, deer are unexpectedly
bombarded with human intrusion into
sensitive core areas. This increase in
activity basically kicks them out of
their off season stupor and alerts them
to the fact that it’s that time of year
again. Soon after this initial disruption,
the start of the season brings
a legion of bow-toting predators back
into the area, further increasing the
likelihood that the element of surprise
will be lost. At that point, it won’t take
a very intelligent animal to figure out
it’s being hunted. On top of all of this is the
overwhelming urge to hunt your best stand
(which is usually your only stand)
right off the bat. As described
in the opening paragraphs, this ill-fated
decision will definitely have a
ripple effect on the remainder of your
season, just as it did mine. If you fail
to give yourself adequate time to scout
and prepare separate stands for the
early season, rut and late season, you°ll
be depending on one location to do it
all. The truth is, y0u’ll never pull it
off You will burn out (educate most
of the deer in the area) your one stand
site long before the best hunting even
begins.

Consider also that much of the
sign that is found during late-summer
outings does not accurately represent
the conditions you will face once the
season begins. Though promising at
first, a great deal of it will likely prove
useless as changes in food, available
cover, breeding phases and hunting
pressure all take their natural toll on
deer travel patterns and behaviors-
not to mention your success rate.
Without a doubt, the lion’s share of
scouting should be carried out in the
post-season, well before spring arrives
and everything turns green. Rubs,
scrapes, transition routes, heavy trails,
security cover and bedding areas are
not only much easier to locate, but
more accurately represent the game
conditions you will face once the
season starts. More importantly you
can scout as much as you like,
wherever you like, without fear of
educating/spooking the animals you
will be hunting later in the year—
specifically mature bucks.

COMING AND GOING
Without a doubt, a good stand
location is only as good as the route
you take to get to it. When choosing
your access route, keep one thing in
mind——the path of least resistance
often leads to failure. What I mean is
that we tend to choose the quickest
and easiest route to our tree stands.
The problem with this is that, quite
often, we end up using or crossing
numerous deer trails along the way
essentially announcing our presence.
This happens because, for the most
part, whitetails are lazy If given a
choice, they will usually pick the path
of least resistance when traveling from
point A to point B, as long as it keeps
them out of harm’s way Oddly
humans are much the same.

While some bow hunters might
cringe at the thought of walking
additional 15 to 30 minutes, or an
extra 250 yards to remain unnoticed,
nothing will improve their chances of
success more. Sure, nobody wants to
work harder than they have to, but if
you’re serious about keeping your
quarry ignorant to the fact they are
being hunted, you should strive to
take the best route to your stand—not
the easiest.

For example, even though they can
be rocky and take more time to
traverse, I routinely use erosion
ditches, or stream beds, to access
stands hung near ridge tops or in
valleys below Not only am I less apt
to bump deer in these areas, but also,
the steep bank effectively hides my
slinking human form. And if I happen
to be moving under the cover of
darkness, my headlamp will be less
visible to any deer watching from
nearby.

Even the type of light used to
navigate the pre-dawn hours can have
an affect on educating deer to your a
presence. Like humans who are color-
blind, deer are sensitive to only two
broad bands of light: short-wavelength
light (blue-violet) and middle-wavelength
light (green-yellow). For years, I used a
blue light to make my way through the
early morning darkness, assuming I was moving
covertly Man was I wrong. Nearly
every deer that saw this blue-colored
beam turned inside out; crashing away
at a break-neck pace. I never under-
stood that reaction until I learned
more about the makeup of a whitetails
eye and its sensitivity to certain colors.
Now I use a red-colored headlamp
almost exclusively; employing a
standard “white” light only when
needed.

UNDER THE RADAR
Certainly there are additional
“measures” you can take to ensure you
maintain the element of surprise in the
deer Woods. Although you’ve most
likely never considered these seemingly
insignificant details, they are commonly
to blame for making your presence so
easily felt. For instance, how often do t
you hunt the same stand on the same
day of the week, arriving and departing
at the same time of day -every day?
I’m guilty Like I said, we are creatures
of habit. Therefore, I have little doubt
believing this mannerism makes it easy
for whitetails to figure out what we are
really up to. The trick to preventing
this from happening is to occasionally
be unpredictable.

For instance, arrive late and hunt
the midday hours instead of the
routine morning time frame. You never
know when a big mature buck will
be up roaming around, assuming
everyone has called it quits for the
morning. Imagine his surprise when
the last sound he hears is the dull thud
of your arrow finding its mark.

Or, instead of mindlessly ambling
through the timber toward your
treestand, why not try stalking your
way to it? Quite often I find deer
naturally feeding or moving through
the area adjacent to my stands when I
creep in “real quiet like.” I imagine the
normal haphazard approach, so often
used, would send them running for
cover, alert to the fact that a human is
indeed in the area.

Also, if you happen to be on land
that is heavily hunted, it may be best
to avoid aggressive call tactics. \While
they may seem enticing, some mature
bucks will be hesitant to respond,
likely associating the sounds with a
previous life-threatening encounter
that left them wise to the common
trickery of the bowhunter. You may
think you’re simply not getting a
response to your calling efforts when,
in fact, you have tipped your hand,
made your presence known, and the
deer are reacting accordingly.

Recently though, a number of my
hunting buddies have experienced some
success with the “snort-wheeze” call-
most likely because this particular
sound hasn’t been done to death by the
majority of hunters—yet. While l often
carry a variety of calls with me just in
case, l am always cautious about when
and how I use them.

CONTROLLING ODOR
You may fool a mature buck’s eyes
and ears using the aforementioned
tactics, but l promise you this: If he
gets one whiff of your man stink, the
gig is up. ln a perfect world, the wind
always blows from the deer to the
hunter—always. However, in the real
world -yours and mine—the wind
shifts, air currents drift and thermals
rise and fall. In order to have any
chance of beating the whitetails
legendary sniffer and remaining
undetected, you have to have a solid
odor-control system.

Despite what you’ve previously
heard or read, l believe it is possible to
fool a whitetail’s nose. l have done it
on several occasions. However, it takes
a lot of hard work, and no single item
is responsible for the success or failure
of my-odor control system. Rather, it’s
a culmination of several different
variables working together to form a
perfect odor-fighting team,

One of the biggest misconceptions
surrounding effective odor control is
that activated-carbon suits are a
technological miracle worker. While
they are undoubtedly essential to the
integrity of the overall system, they
can’t make up for many of the
common blunders committed while
using them. For instance, I can’t tell
you how many times I have witnessed
well-meaning hunters wearing their
charcoal-impregnated suits at the gas
station or local restaurant, oblivious to
the fact that they have compromised
its odor-adsorbing capabilities,
rendering it useless for any immediate
hunt. What amazes me even more is
that these same individuals are often
the first to declare the ineffectiveness
of such garments. I totally disagree. I
have been using carbon-lined suits
since their inception and can say
without reservation that when cared
for and used properly they do indeed
work; again, not alone, but as part of
an overall scent-control system.

When I asked his thoughts on the
subject, Scott Shultz, president of
Scent Blocker/ Robinson Outdoors, `
had this to say about controlling
human odor: “During the hunting
season, each of us seems to develop a
routine of scent elimination that
covers everything we do, or don’t do,
to try and eliminate our odor. This
routine, or system, will result in a
certain degree of effectiveness, depending
on how well we understand
and attend to all of the little details, as
well as the obvious stuff.

“Additionally the effectiveness of
our routine is somewhat further
dependant on other varying and
contributing factors, such as diet,
temperature, exertion level, atmospheric
pressure, stand location, etc., etc.
Total or complete scent elimination
is absolutely possible. However, for
most of us, with our hectic lifestyles,
becoming 80 to 90 percent scent-free
seems to work well enough to give us
the extra time and extra yardage needed
to slip a good arrow in there.”

I agree. Although a big buck may
smell me, it has long been my belief
that a proven system will reduce the
severity” of my odor to the point that
he will think I am 200 yards away
when, in fact, I am actually 20 yards
away at full draw. I have routinely
watched this scenario play out as a
buck stands downwind, nose in the
air, trying to determine how close I
really am. With the reassuring flick of
a tail, he usually comes closer, giving
me the opportunity I need to close the
deal.

Without taking anything away
from the importance of post-season
scouting and proper access routes, I
will say that scent control will
definitely make or break your hunt.
While other factors influencing success
or failure seem to have areas of gray
human odor is not one of them.
When it comes to that subject, there’s
only black and White.

If you’re not finding the success
you hoped for or you feel that your
current hunting spot isn’t quite living
up to its expectations, it probably has
little to do with your failure to incorporate
the latest “how to” tactic into
your bag of tricks. Most likely your
unrealized dreams are a direct result of
one thing, and one thing only—you
broke the “Golden Rule.” <–<<

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