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How To/Pro-Tips

Shooting Lane Savvy

Bowhunters have to have a clear shot. Not that gun hunters should try to shoot through heavy brush either, but what a small twig can do to the best aimed arrow is really devastating.

Clearing shooting lanes, and how much you clear them, in a prime stand location is a tough call. You want to disturb the area as little as possible but you have to have the openings, at the right places, to make the successful shot.

When preparing a new stand site, try to minimize disturbance and the amount of human scent you spread around. Drag all cut brush well away from the stand and the lane. Remember, you're not building a road but an open path along the arrow's trajectory. Cut the brush low out where the deer is likely to be, but going back to your stand, cut higher. Head-high and even taller trimming right around your stand will make the area look more natural and not "spotlight" your location.

Winter Predators

Wintertime predator stalking and calling is a real challenge and at this time of year the pelts are in prime condition. In areas where snow is common, tracking foxes is considered winter sport at its finest. Simply cut a fox track and follow it carefully, keeping your eyes open for the fox out ahead. Snow camo and binoculars are great help when doing this. Coyotes and bobcats can also be hunted this way but the coyote is very cunning and the bobcat is more nocturnal. Both are very challenging for the tracker/stalker. Calling predators is a better bet in snowless areas. Good camouflage and patience are the keys to success. Always check local regulations regarding legal hunting for predator species and any firearms and hunting restrictions. Both rifles and shotguns are used for predator hunting but if saving the pelt is important to you, use small-caliber rifles with either solid or controlled expansion bullets to avoid excessive pelt damage.

Scout For Next Season

A lot of Team Realtree Pros prefer to do their deer scouting for the next season immediately after the current season's end. This is a particularly good time to find bucks and to identify individual trophies. Post-season scouting is easy and effective. The woods are open and old scrapes and rub lines are easy to see. Even if the resident buck was harvested, a prime breeding territory won't stay vacant for long when the next rut starts. Later on, they can find sheds. These are proof positive that the buck survived the season. And if the cast antlers are big, they have a trophy buck's home address! The other great advantage is that they can really see a buck's home-range pattern without disturbing the area just prior to hunting. Just before the next season, he or she will lightly scout the general area to make sure "big boy" is still around. Since they already know where he spends the late season, this additional pre-season look completes their knowledge of his season-long pattern.

Getting Geared Up

The end of the season is the best time to get your gear in shape for next season. This is when you are most familiar with everything that needs fixing, cleaning and tuning up before next year. Sit down and make lists of what needs to be shipshape before the new hunting opener. What needs to be completely replaced? Various scents and lures lose their potency after being opened. Toss out the old and make a list of what you'll need new. For bowhunters, you need to check out your bows, arrows and stands. Note bent pins, stretched and frayed strings, bent shafts, broken heads, missing bolts or anything that is severely worn. Again make a list. Do a wish list too. What gear did you really wish you had had available last season -- gear that might have made you more successful. If you get your act together early you won't be scurrying around just before opening day trying to remember what critical gear you need for a fresh start.

Defeating Deer Vision

The whitetail's senses of smell and hearing receive so much attention that we often forget its vision. Indeed, a big buck's nose for trouble is incredible and its ears are keen. However, deer see very well and vision is basic to a trophy buck's defenses.

To defeat deer eyes probing for danger, be still and move slowly only when you must. A deer will notice an out of place movement almost instantly. Good camouflage aids greatly. Good cover or a blind adds further concealment.

If "hunter orange" is required, wear it as a vest on the trunk of your body. Avoid wearing orange on parts of your body most prone to movement, particularly hands and arms. Where legal, basic hunter orange broken up by other colors, creating a camouflage pattern, is very effective.

A treestand with a camouflage covering is a great aid in concealment. It lets you get away with careful movement to make your wait more comfortable or to make a critical shot.

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