Sep 10, 2015

What To Look For This Bow Season

TO HELP HARVEST YOUR TROPHY!

By: Pat Kalmerton

Trophy – it can be described many different ways. What I consider to be a trophy can change from year to year. Actually, it can change every day or even every minute. Many times, a trophy is considered to be the biggest and baddest animal roaming the land you hunt – the animal that has been the focus of your preparation and scouting. It all comes down to the time and dedication you invest in hopes of a clean harvest of that trophy.

In the past I thought of bowhunting as this: Go out and find a field edge, set a treestand and sit waiting for a deer to walk under me…and hope I’m lucky enough to have bragging rights with my buddies.

Times have changed and my passion has grown. Even though bow season doesn’t open until September, my season starts in early spring when the snow melts. This is when I put in my prep time. I add water sources. I cut tree limbs to provide a security canopy for deer as they eat the Evolve food plots that I have planted. I set Wildgame Innovations trail cameras to track all the movements. I set different Ameristep tree stands in different areas for different winds so the deer won’t detect me. Some of these stands are cling-ons, some are ladder stands, some are quad pods with ground blinds on top offering total concealment. Actually, I even have a few regular ground blinds set around the property as well. A lot of preparation has gone into my desire to understand the quarry that I chase.

Opening Weekend
The bow season is long, but here’s what I recommend for opening weekend, especially if you’re hunting public land. Look for low-lying areas away from the high hardwoods because of these three reasons:

  1. It will also be opening weekend of squirrel hunting. Squirrels tend to stick to higher lands and there will be hunters tromping through the woods in pursuit.
  2. Field crops are not ready for harvest, so find early-season food sources. Deer are browsing animals, not grazers. Look for wild berries, persimmon trees, grapevines, jasmine, honeysuckle, and poison ivy. Yes, that’s right, deer love to eat poison ivy. There are also two oak varieties that can be an important food source: water oak and overcup oak. Both thrive in wet, thick areas that deer prefer to inhabit in the pre-rut, especially in drought years. These trees drop acorns much earlier than many other oaks.
  3. In early September it can be hot! Look for a water source and low-lying areas where deer can escape the heat. But along with wet comes bugs. Make sure you have a Thermacell when scouting and hunting or you may not ever want to do either again after the mosquitoes find you!

Fruit Trees

It’s illegal to bait where I live (southwest Wisconsin) but I do love the fact that deer like apples in early season because I have apple trees on my property. Here is the kicker though: I will not hunt them a lot during early season. Why? Deer prefer cover. Apples grow best in open areas like field edges and open grassy areas. Bucks will most likely hit them at night and all you will see are does – that is until the rut comes. Ladies bring men when the time is right! The big bad boys who strut their stuff will be shortly behind the ladies who have been eating the apples all day. Watch your trail camera because you will see it starting to happen. And when it does, get ready for a show!

One more thing to note about food. I get sick of eating one thing over and over. Deer get sick of it too! Just because you are in a stand and that deer does not come, it doesn’t mean that the stand is no good. Give it a few tries – he will be back!

Hunt their habits

In early September, deer still have their summer patterns and routines established. It is crucial to hunt their habits. Know their bedding area and their water source and you will be on track for early success. Look at your cameras and have a time frame. If you are hunting public land, be ready to adjust along with the deer.

After a few weeks, the season will be in full swing and deer will be hiding better. After the youth gun hunt (October 10-11) and the gun hunt for hunters with disabilities (October 3-11), you will need to start adjusting your hunting. You may not be seeing the animals as often as you were. Walk and put cameras on different areas with scrapes and rubs on the way to and from the food source. The farmers will start to harvest crops offering fresh food, but the trophy you are after will not come out during daylight hours. Get on the active trails in the woods or swamps and get ready. This is also the time I start using my hanging deer attractants on a regular basis to lure these deer in. I also make sure my Flextone bleat and grunt call is in my arsenal as well. The deer will be chasing. Remember to wait for the perfect shot.

Safety

Tree safety and hunting is always top-of-mind. I am a bigger boy so I will always hunt out of a wide platform stand with heavy-duty straps. I will always have a treestand harness on and so should you – it’s not only for when you are up in the tree; it’s important from the minute you start climbing. Also have a pull rope to get your bow/crossbow up to you safely. There may be a time when that trophy buck of a lifetime walks out in front of you, especially when you put your time in scouting. Be prepared for that moment when your entire body starts to shake uncontrollably.

Good luck scouting, hunting, and be safe!