What to expect when you bow hunt

It’s the little things that make a big difference with bow hunting, having to many of the little things can lead to opportunities lost.

With 25 years of bowhunting and over 30 as a hunting guide I’d call myself experienced, I may even go as far as saying I’m good at what I do, what I’m not is an expert.Nor can I read the hunters mind. That stag, Fallow buck or Tahr I can predict with a fare amount of certainty.

The big question mark is always the hunter.

I’m going to attempt to explain as gently as I can what your guide is hoping you can do once we have the wind tamed ,the terrain in our favour and our target animal on short finals. The latter may have taken 3hrs or 3 days ,either way it represents an opportunity and opportunities in bow hunting don’t come easily . When they do arrive they need to be taken with efficiency and effectiveness. Sure stuff goes wrong and the seconds count big time and it may seem out of your control, here in lies what I see as the major difference between a really good hunter and the average hunter.

Really good hunters have it under control, all the time, in  any circumstance, they are  nimble. Nimble? You ask, yes nimble, they are quick to understand, think and devise. Granted the more experience you have the more nimble you become and this is what you want your guide to be so why should or guide not expect the same of his hunter.

I often recall a cartoon” Zits” where  the adult and teenager are in discussion along the lines of (adult) “why don’t you listen to me when I’m talking to you” teenager

Reply” why do you talk to me when you know I’m not listening”.

The number of times we go over the do’s and do nots, get acknowledged and then watch in agony when the “moment” arrives and everything we have stressed to our hunters is forgotten and the animal is spooked at 30 yds followed by “what did I do wrong” or worse “I didn’t expect that”. Well you may not have expected it but we did, that’s why we explained in detail and hopefully as clearly as necessary exactly what to do ,when and why.

So that’s chance 1 gone, how many more are we and it’s very much “we” going to get in the next 3-5 days. Let’s look at this and the situation most likely to be happening on our lease in terms of number of opportunities. Early season, late February and through March and into the prime rut dates of late March until 15th April, I’d like to think once or twice a day you should be at full draw on an animal. After the rut and on into winter when stags in particular are solitary it’s one or 2 opportunities a week. They are still full draw opportunities, its simply a matter of how many opportunities does  or should the hunter need. We would all like to say ONE, reality tells a different story.

The main things to consider are ,we hunt spot and stalk, no tree stands, we use ambush tactics a lot, the majority of our Stags and Fallow are taken with this method

We also have ground blinds, these work well .

So your bow set up is different to that used commonly out of a tree stand, you have to be quick to get “target lock” and release your arrow, no point in coming to draw with the animal in front of you, he will be gone before you find your peep, they see you draw and bolt. Hence our ground blinds are set up to have points 30-100 yds out from “the zone” where you get to come to full draw and hold with the animal out of sight. Note you don’t need to be watching the animal, you are watching the “zone” that small area where you have the animal EXACTLY where it needs to be for you to kill it. Your guide will be watching the animal, your guide will stop the animal in the zone(we hope)you are at full draw locked and set, you have 3-4 seconds to pick the spot and release the arrow ,3-4 seconds tops, because once we have cow called or done what ever it takes to stop that animal it is locked on to us, if we are dead still and we mean dead still and at full draw at a predetermined range the arrow needs to be  on its way.

Sounds easy, well in theory it can be but here comes reality and the nimble thing, remember Rule 1 of bow hunting , expect the unexpected.

Example, one of our hunters has been positioned on a hill side 30 above a trail crossing, visibility to his right was a couple of 100 yds, left maybe 30yds, the wind was good, the position stable but not flat or level, we had ranged 3-4 zones. A stag came from the left walking steadily L-R ,the hunter was taken by surprise and had no time to do anything so wisely froze ( be like a tree) on the spot. Stag wandered on by, and was all but out of sight at 200 yds when he encountered another stag, he turned and came back towards our position, at 60 yards he disappeared out of sight, this was the que to come to full draw, the stag walked through zone 1 and 2 and at 3 hesitated and turned ¼ on and locked onto the exact spot the hunter was in, why? Call it instinct but something wasn’t right, not scary bad but not right, hunter is pinned at full draw with NO shot and has no option but to hold and hold and hold right to the quivering arm stage when the stag turns and decides he’ll try his luck with that other stag and heads back right. Damn, but wait, several minute later its ground hog day and here he comes again, same routine, only this time said hunter has wisely(nimble) repositioned 3 yds to the L of his previous position, full draw as per instruction, into zone 1 ,through zone 2 into 3 stag hits the anchors broadside on and locks onto the exact and I mean exact spot where the hunter had been on the last occasion, problem for the stag was our hunter had anticipated this and if the stag even realized its mistake it was to late as the arrow passed through both lungs. 20 minute wait and after a100yd blood trail out Hunter is standing over huge very dead stag. No guide at the clients side, just a good briefing and solid understanding between guide and hunter but more importantly a hunter that perfectly evaluated the situation. That is how you make your guide happy and it how you have to be thinking if you want to kill a stag with a bow.

We did it more than a dozen times this year and experienced all the dramas of bow hunting and here is rule number 2 of bow hunting ,expect drama.

So please, tune your set up to our spot and stalk tactics, practice practice and more practice with your shooting, end of the day you have to put that arrow in the right place, be ready all the time and we mean all the time. When we position you for an ambush the very first thing you do is nock an arrow, you don’t set your bow down and start fussing about ,you nock an arrow and keep that bow very close, in your hand preferably, quickly range a handful of “zones” and you shouldn’t

need to find the perfect spot to sit your pack down or hang your range finders. The number of times hunters have looked up from digging in there packs for something to find a stag at 30 yards boring holes into them with big wide eye in no longer funny.

Oh and when we say keep still we mean still, remember the “be like a tree” thing well we mean it, this isn’t an Eastern Whitetail nor is an arrogant Elk , this is a wired up Stag who despite our lack of natural predators has an uncanny survival instinct to live for another day. Sure there are some not so bright ones but the odds are someone else already has them on the salt.

We love the challenge of archery hunting, let’s leave the unpredictably to the stags.