Bowhunting whitetail deer… the most common questions

This is a partial list of the questions most commonly asked over the years at the conclusion of my deer scouting and bowhunting seminars.

Q: Can you move at all on a treestand?

A: Definitely, but it has to be controlled. This is the only way you can remain on stand several hours without getting tired muscles.

If you need/want to move, first check the area all around you. Turn your head from side to side, moving slowly, checking where you think the animals will approach

That’s another benefit from scouting – you get practice at seeing bits and pieces of animals, even when they aren’t moving. You pick out ears, a backline, an antler beam and tine, an ear, the flicker of a tail, the movement of a leg.

You’d be surprised – or maybe you wouldn’t – at the number of times you spot deer when you’re slowly turning your head.

This is a good reason to have a seat on your stand, especially if you’ll be there several hours. Sitting for a short interval gives your hips, legs, feet and back a rest.

Q: What about standing up and sitting down?

A: Basically, for all shooting, standing is best. Sitting down is a hard way to shoot. It seems tougher to come to full draw, and it definitely reduces your flexibility.

You need as much body flexibility as practical, simply because deer don’t always approach where you expect them to. This is a time to be wearing a good safety harness.

Standing might help you stay alert, too. When you sit, it’s too easy to doze and miss deer. A safety harness is very important here.

Q: What do you do with your bow? Can you hang it up without hurting your chances?

A: Many stands come equipped with brackets to hold your bow, but I’d rather hang it in the tree on an overhanging branch so it is within easy reach at the right height to reach with little movement when I’m standing.

Then I can just reach out a little bit, unhook the bow and begin coming to full draw. This seems to be mostly a downward movement, which is much less noticeable in the woods than an upward movement. An upward movement usually is an indication of alarm, such as a bird taking flight or a squirrel dashing up a tree.

When I’m scouting and clearing stands, I’ll often nail a Y branch horizontally to a main branch, nailing through both tips of the Y. I’ll fasten it in a position that will let me turn without the bow, then pick it up and draw.

Turning just your body is much less noticeable, if noticed at all, than turning with bow in hand.

For instance, rather than try to move the bow out around a tree or through a big crotch, I’ll hang the bow on the back side, then lean around or through with my body, pick up the bow and draw.

The best position to hang your stand dictates, to a large degree, where you hang your bow. I don’t make much movement that can be detected. Seems like the bow with a quiverful of arrows gets unconsciously waved around a lot, and that can be easy to see.

Another thing you definitely want – small pockets on the fronts of your pants legs, just above the knee. Rest the lower limb tip in one of them. This takes the weight off your arms and shoulders, and it keeps the bow in almost a ready position.
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Q: How high should a tree stand be positioned?

A: As a rule, I like it 15 feet off the ground. I’d rather be a little bit lower than too high. If it’s too high, you’re starting to have too many overhanging branches in the way. Also, the higher you are, the poorer the shot angle and the smaller the target area.

The deer’s spine will look nearly in the middle of the target area because you’re also seeing much of the off-side rib cage. It also will be more difficult, maybe even impossible, to get a double-lung hit. A deer can go a long distance with only one lung hit.

Q: When during the season do you usually see and kill your trophy bucks?

A: During the rut and the late (December) season. They are more active and visible then.

Q: Does smoking bother deer in the woods?

A: I think it does. It’s a foreign odor that carries a long distance and has staying power. Smell your clothes some morning after you spent a couple of hours in a bar the night before. They reek!

That said, I think your arm motion with cigarette in hand, to and from your mouth, is more noticeable and thus potentially more alarming than the smoke.

How much do you want the buck? If you want it enough, you’ll keep yourself and your clothes clean, and you’ll forget about smoking in the woods.

Q: Are there some things you ALWAYS do?

A: I always scout an area before I hunt it. (90% of my time in the woods is scouting; only 10% is spent hunting.)

I always shower before I go into the woods and make sure my clothes are clean.

I always wear rubber boots.

I always am dressed right so I can stand comfortably and be well camouflaged.

Q: Does noise in the distance bother deer?

A: No. Those are natural sounds; deer hear them every day and are accustomed to them. They seem to know when they’re threatened. If the noise is from something coming toward them, then they will pay attention until they either take off or dismiss it.

Gunshots don’t bother them, other than maybe getting their attention a moment. The noise is made and then it is gone; no movement occurs.

By Bob Fratzke


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