Attention all fellow outdoorsmen!!! Do you realize what time of the year it is ? Some may, some may not, this is November, and the whitetail deer archery season, in most states, is in full swing ! If you are not part of this group of marauders, who are well equipped with totes full of early season, midseason, and late season,scent free, hunting apparel. The ones who must fight perspiration throughout the early season, who tip toe through the freshly fallen oak leaves and acorns of fall in total darkness, or the ones trenching through late season snow, desperately trying to fill their last tag for the season. If your aren’t one of these bow hunt junkies please ask yourself, why not ? What’s holding you back from bow hunting? I have introduced bow hunting to many individuals in my life, and I’ve yet to have a negative remark about the sport. If you truly respect the aspect of the woods, nature, and witnessing the cycle of life, then you should probably give bowhunting a try!
Now, the following information is going to be for an absolute beginner bowhunter, as well as the possible “virgin hunter.” This is going to be basic setups, using the knowledge that I’ve gained, in my pursuit of the sport. I will try to keep things simple, and try not to and break the bank, by any means, but will also give you the best opportunity to get the job done, and get you addicted to the amazing world of archery.
First things first, you will need a tree stand. Now, some will bow hunt out of ground blinds but I wouldn’t recommend that to a beginner because for one, the closer you are to a deer, the more aware the deer will be of you, that twenty extra feet of elevation makes a huge difference. Two, I have never hunted out of a ground blind, and I would never recommend anything to you, that I have not field tested myself. When picking a tree stand there are three factors to consider. The amount of land you are planning on hunting, the types of trees you have in your area, as well as the build of your body, and the comfort area you want to withstand during the duration of your hunt. There are three types of tree stands of which that I have hunted out of. The self climber, the ladder stand, and the hang on treestand.
The self climbing tree stand (climber for short) is a very mobile and comfortable treestand available for all sizes. If you have a large property to hunt, and many different potential spots, this may be the choice for you. Climbers are also very ideal for hunting public land as they link together into a convenient backpack for packing in and out of the field. But when choosing a climber you must think about the trees in your area. If you have a lot of straight trees with no limbs 15-20 ft up, then you are doing great! But, if your trees have a lot of low limbs, then a climber is completely useless.
Next, the ladder stand. These tree stands are typically ideal for novice hunters as they are easier to get into, as well as they are easier to hang. The only down side to ladder stands is there size. They are pretty bulky, so you would not want to pack them in too far. Another negative regarding the size of ladder stands is that they are not as low profile as a hang on or a climber, because you have a metal ladder that runs the length of the tree to the forest floor. Granted, I am not saying you will bust more deer while hunting out of a ladder stand, they are just proven to stick out further on a tree then any of the other tree stand options.
Finally, the tree stand where I got my start in the world of bowhunting, is the hang on stand. These are small, L shape stands, that simply ratchet onto the tree. They are pretty inexpensive, super low profile and easily packed into the field. The disadvantage of hang on treestands is that they are harder, and more dangerous for a novice hunter to hang, as well as get into, compared to the other treestands. Another disadvantage of a hang on treestand is that once you buy the stand, you either have to buy climbing sticks or screw in steps, so you are able to climb the tree to get into the stand. For a novice hunter I would recommend climbing sticks, as they make it easier to get into the stand compared to screw in steps. The lower end brands of climbing sticks are about the same price as screw in steps, and do an adequate job. The advantage of screw in steps is that they are light, easier to pack in, lower profile, and you can remove the bottom pegs each time you leave to protect the rest of your set up in areas where theft could be a problem.
With the purchase of a treestand, you now should own a harness. Now, I know that pretty much all treestands these days will come with a free harness. Which is a great idea, but these harnesses are hard to get on and off, and are very basic and uncomfortable. My best advice that I will give to you today is to go and buy yourself a real harness, like the one I have linked below. You can get a relatively cheap harness online, and the difference will be like night and day from the one that came free with your treestand, I promise.
click picture for details
Another key safety measure in treestand hunting is a pull rope. This is a rope that you tie your bow off too, then you’ll leave your bow at the base of your tree as you climb up. Once you reach the top, you will use the rope to pull your bow to you. About any rope will work great as long as it is strong enough to handle your bow, but a lot of hunting companies produce ropes specifically for this purpose, and have carabiners on each end, so you don’t have to tie and untie knots each time you enter the woods. The nice thing about these is they are about the same price as buying basic paracord at the store! So, if you have a rope lying around your house that’ll work, then great, use that, but if you don’t, your best bet is to buy one that was produced for that specific purpose.
Now, let’s get you outfitted in some apparel! This is a tough topic, everyone has their favorite brands, and anymore a lot of the major clothing brands are producing hunting apparel. So instead of feeding you guys a bunch of brand names, I’m going to give you advice on picking what pattern of camo, and what style of clothing to wear, and refer to the three sets of camo that I wear, which changes from early season to late.
Early season hunting in Ohio, you never know what to expect. In my tote I will carry a short sleeve Under Armor tee shirt, a thin Mossy Oak long sleeve tee shirt, an Under Armor Storm hoody, and a light Mossy Oak Jacket. I will also carry a few pairs of light Mossy Oak pants that match my jacket. It is important to have a few pairs of pants and base layer shirts because sweating in the early season is inevitable, and you’ll want to re- wash every time you sweat. Certain days in the early season, i’ll be wearing everything in my tote. Other days i’ll just be wearing the under armor tee.
Towards the end of October I add another pair of Gore Tek pants and coat to my tote, as well as a few pairs of thicker socks, a Mossy Oak beanie style hat, and a thin pair of Under Armour gloves. The pattern of my coat and pants now resemble the looks of bark. So more shades of browns now, in comparison to the early season, where I wore more shades of green.
Now onto picking out a pair of high quality boots. This is very important as nothing is worse than cold or wet feet during the duration of your hunt. Personally, I have a pair of Danner’s thinsulate boots that I wear all year long, with thin socks in the early season and then warmer socks the later in the season it gets, I could get an uninsulated pair for the early season, or wear a pair of my muck boots, but I don’t. It’s all personal preference.
Picking a quality compound bow these days is not as hard as it used to be. In my honest opinion you get what you pay for, it doesn’t matter the make or model, you simply get what you pay for. Now, taken for granted this doesn’t mean you should go buy a thousand dollar set up of any model and be fine.There are a few points that you need to take into consideration before you make up your mind on a bow. When I purchased my first hunting bow (which is still my current hunting set up to this day) I took three things into consideration. 1) Length of bow from axle to axle, I am predominantly a treestand hunter and enjoy my stands to be very brushed in. Taking this into consideration, I bought an XS bow, because the smaller the bow is limb to limb the less opportunity there is for me to smack a limb while lining up a shot. 2) The adjustability of your draw length and poundage. This will come in handy for younger hunters who expect to grow bigger and stronger, some bows have a vast range of poundage and draw lengths options for this very reason. To give you a good idea of what your current draw length will be, extend both of your arms and measure from one middle finger to the other, then divide this number by 2.5. This will give you a rough estimate of what your draw length will be. The last thing that I took into consideration when choosing my bow was the design of the cams, I had a choice between a single cam bow, or a dual cam bow. There are positives and negatives of both, but the main reason that I chose a single cam bow is they’re typically a quieter shot, and they are easier to tune, and keep tuned. Dual cam bows are typically slightly faster, louder, ad require more tuning maintenance. So, if you would ask me, I would recommend a single cam bow to a novice bowhunter, but that is just my personal opinion.
When shooting a compound bow, you will need a release, which attaches to the string of the bow, and allows you to draw back and shoot. There are two styles of releases, click releases and back tension releases. For a novice hunter who is just looking to get the job done and not spend a lot of money, I would recommend starting out with a wrist strap release. That is what I use now, and will continue to use for a very long time. They are cheap, simple, and very effective. I am currently using a Tru Ball Bandit release with a buckled strap. I would personally stay away from Velcro as they are louder, and I would imagine them to be less durable. When choosing a release I would suggest just to pick one that opens and close smoothly because smoothness and consistency is everything in the world of archery.
Now onto arrows, before I discuss my personal arrows of choice. There are three things I think about when buying an arrow. Weight, length, and spine. When discussing weight, I must think about what I am trying to accomplish. Do I want speed, or do I want penetration, or a little bit of both? Generally speaking, my arrows are a heavier arrow, because penetration is what I seek, as my bow is quiet enough that I’ve yet to have a deer jump the string. If one were to be chasing speed, they’d want to stick to a lighter arrow. Length and spine go hand in hand; the shorter the arrow, the stiffer it is. The longer the arrow, the weaker it is. The numbers you see on the side of an arrow package, such as 300, 350, or 400, correlate to how stiff the arrow is at 29″ (for most manufacturers). The higher poundage and draw length you are shooting, the stiffer the arrow should be. And vice versa; the lower the poundage and draw weight you are shooting, the weaker the arrow should be. For example, if I was shooting 65# with 28″ of draw I would need a 400 spine arrow, according to Gold Tips spine chart. Point weight is also something to consider, I just run a standard 100 grain point, but there is nothing wrong with lighter or heavier. You just have to find what works for you! I find that a stiffer arrow shoots a fixed blade broadhead better than a weaker arrow, so I tend to shoot an arrow that is a little bit on the stiff side, but always check with your arrow manufacturer for spine charts to see what will work best for you.
I have shot three brands of arrows in my entire life. I have shot Carbon Express Maxima , Easton Bloodline, and Gold Tip Kinetic Kaos in that order. First impression of the Carbon Express Maxima arrows was fantastic, they seemed like a great product! But that impression was short lived as after numerous shots, I started to get stress fractures and broken arrows. As a serious bow hunter, I cannot own equipment that can’t withstand numerous shots, because hours of practice is vital. I quickly ditched these arrows and did some reading online, and found Easton Bloodlines to be a very respectable arrow at a great price. I went out and bought a half dozen over the summer leading up to my second season of bowhunting and used them vigorously, they withstood every test I put them up to. Before the season I bought a dozen more and used them religiously ever since. I killed a lot of deer with those arrows, and they did everything I asked them to do. They were very easy to tune and never experienced a stress fracture or broken arrow with them. A very ideal option for a beginner bow hunter who just wants to get the job done. As I began my prep for this season, I realized that I had grown quite a bit from last season. I had to increase my draw length by three inches! Well, you know what that means, NEW ARROWS! As I was about to click “buy now” on a dozen of my old faithful Easton Bloodlines, my buddy asked me to buy an eight pack of his Black Eagle Kinetic Kaos. The offer was too good to pass up, so they were my arrow of choice for this season. Typically, they are far more expensive than my Easton’s, but they are a smaller diameter arrow, but came equipped with a brass collar on the front of the shaft, which looked very appealing. These arrows are just as tough as my Easton Bloodlines, they shoot with persistent accuracy, and extreme velocity, and the extra knockdown power the the brass collar provides is phenomenal!
Next we will discuss broad heads and field points. When choosing a field tip the only thing you have to take into consideration is the weight of the broad heads that you will be using. Any field tip will work, just stay consistent with the grain your broad head will be.
My broad head of choice is a 100 grain muzzy mx-3 broad head. This is a three blade, fixed blade, broad head. When I first started bow hunting, all of the hype was based around muzzy and rage, I went out and bought a pack of both. This was a few months before opening day, and like everything else, I constantly researched both of them online. In my searches I read a few horror stories about rage broad heads, and other mechanical broad heads opening in the flight of the shot, or not even opening at all! Both broad heads shot the same out of my bow, so I went with the more reliable fix blade. Now let’s fast forward to 2013 bow season, my second time bow hunting ever. My dad drops me off on his way into work and I climb up into my stand with excitement running through my veins, as well as a sense of unknowing. What will this day consist of I ask myself. As soon as that last thought rolls through my mind I am suddenly interrupted by the sound of leaves crunching, it’s game time. I look to my immediate right as two antlerless deer make their way out of the corn, and into the woods, the same trail I had been walking down minutes before. I watch patiently as they come across a single apple tree that is about 15 yards from my stand. I get caught up watching them pick apples off the tree then realize I have a job to do. I try to stand slowly and the deer spook, rookie mistake. They circle my tree, trying to make their escape. I draw my bow back as they walk away, then at about 25 yards the deer in the back stops, and turns broadside, slightly quartering towards me as he looks to see what had caused the disturbance on such a peaceful morning. I let the arrow fly. The arrow hits him perfectly, right behind the shoulder, just as my dad had taught me from an extremely young age. He drops on the spot. I cannot believe my eyes, I wouldn’t have to follow a blood trail today! I call my dad in excitement and tell him about my morning. This experience felt like it had taken hours, but in reality it had only taken minutes. My dad hadn’t even made it to his work yet, he abruptly turns around and heads back to help me harvest my first ever bow kill. As I get down to look at my kill, I realize it was not what I thought it was, another rookie mistake, I had thought I had taken a nice doe, but instead it was a button buck. Oh well I thought, I wouldn’t of cared what it was, I was just happy to have my first archery harvest under my belt. As the years have passed after this event, each of the deer that I have harvested I’ve always had a very short blood trail, to the point where tracking has been completely unnecessary. Every deer I have shot I have heard drop from my stand shortly after the arrow has made its impact. To this day I still have that unopened package of rages and continue to buy my mx-3’s each year. Is this a personal choice? Absolutely, many deer get killed with every broadhead in the game, but I have never been done wrong by this particular broadhead, and for the money, they’re unbeatable.
Once you make your kill, you will need a bare minimum of at least a gut knife. If you are processing your own deer, you may need a few more. As a trapper, I have experienced many different brands of knives, and have literally put them all to the test on over thousands of critters. After numerous trials, my favorite brand, by far, is Knives of Alaska. When I began hunting I received the whitetail series gut knife as a Christmas present and I was instantly hooked. After a few years of gutting numerous deer and hardly any upkeep of the blade I was intrigued. I bought a few more of their skinning knives and never looked back. They are by far more superior than any other of the knives that I have ever used.
Now that I have listed all of the bare minimum equipment necessary for a beginner to get in the woods, to start pursuing their first archery kill. In this last paragraph I will throw in a few extra pieces of equipment that I have picked up on the way that have made my life easier as a bowhunter. To start, a bow hook is a very nice thing to have in the trees that you’ll be hunting. No bow hunter wants to hold his or her bow the entire duration of their hunt, so these little hooks come in handy. I have come to find you can never have enough of them, as you typically will misplace one or two, or leave one in another tree you are hunting by accident. I have also included a rattle bag, and a grunt call in my list of bowhunting extras, because during the rut they can be a make or break piece of equipment on a big buck. A rattle bag simply mimics the sound of two bucks fighting, and the grunt call mimics the sound a rutting buck makes as he is chasing does or showing dominance. Both of these calls are essential in getting a buck’s attention, when he is googly eyed over the presence of some does. Finally, the last piece of extra equipment I will add to this list is a Scentlok Enforcer Ozone Generator. I list it last because it is the most expensive out of all the extra equipment, but it is surely not the least effective. This little black box is extremely effective in the field of scent control. Basically you charge it up, turn it on, and place it in your tote of freshly clean scent free clothing and it starts forming a new ozone around them, keeping them smelling like virtually nothing. I had not known about them until this season, until my buddy shot a mature whitetail buck opening morning, that approached his stand directly downwind of him. He finally made the kill shot at 5 yards directly down wind. After this hunt, he went on and shot a mature doe at 25 yards, again, directly down wind. After this strain of events, I went out and purchased one. As soon as I received the Enforcer in the mail, I started religiously using it in my tote. Then my first hunt in the stand after purchasing it, a front was approaching and the wind started to swirl, alright I thought, time to put this thing to the test. Well, the front really did pick up the deer activity, and before I knew it i was surrounded by deer in all directions. For a half hour I had deer circling me, and not one of them ever made it apparent that they thought a human was in the woods. After half hour of waiting, I was able to make a good shot on a mature doe at 5 yards. Without the proper scent control, I would have never been blessed with such an opportunity, and honestly speaking, I believe that the Enforcer had a lot to do with it. The Enforcer also doubles as a portable phone charger, which is very nice for all day sits. So if you planned on buying a portable phone charger, you can get an awesome little scent control gadget, and a portable phone charger, for the same price you would spend on just the phone charger! Now, you’ll need something to carry all of these calls and gadgets in, as well as drinks and snacks for longer hunts. As a very mobile hunter I really enjoy the fanny pack style backpacks, because they are easier to use when packing in climbers.
All and all I hope that this article will help as many young bowhunters out. Hopefully as much as I’ve been helped out by online information banks in my pursuit of the sport! The internet is a great tool for learning, and should always be taken advantage of. Thank you for your reading and please, any further questions or recommendations, feel free to contact me at email@example.com! LIVE THE BRAND! HUNT – FISH- TRAP !