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How To/Pro-Tips

Hit Where It Counts

My preferred aiming points on deer depend on whether I'm hunting with a bow or a gun. With a bow, it's an easy call. I shoot for the chest area behind the shoulder. Straight down shots into the spine worry me. Today's powerful bows and strong broadheads can make this shot into the spine or through the three inches or so of loin muscle. But when I can, I avoid bone, including shoulder bones, with bows. With rifles it's a very different deal. I actually aim for bone to maximize expanding bullet performance, produce more shock and get a quicker kill. Square on the shoulder is hard to beat. If I'm in a rock-solid stand, particularly with a shooting rail, and the deer presents the right shot, I'll go for the neck. I don't like head shots because a slight miss is a major wound on a deer I am unlikely to recover. Spine shots mess up the best meat and rear-end shots can go wrong too easily. -- Joe Drake

Bleat For Early Action

In the early part of bow season, deer society is segregated by sex and age. Adult bucks of all ages hang out together in loose bachelor groups feeding and loafing. The adult does are attending to the serious business of rearing the fawns and often hang out in groups. Older, dominant does frequently drive bucks away from prime food sources at this time These doe and fawn groups often include does that have lost their fawns. All these does have strong maternal instincts and the fawn bleat call arouses the does' protective mode. All does will respond to a fawn bleat, but the most dramatic response usually comes from a fawn-less doe or the group

Take Your Best Shot

Whether you hunt with gun or bow, there is usually a time when the animal presents the optimum shooting opportunity. This "best chance shot" is a combination of range and animal position. While making our hunting videos, I have learned a lot about waiting for the best time to shoot. We want to get as much tape as possible of the deer coming in, so we try not to shoot too quickly. While waiting for the best shot, both literally and on tape, I watch the deer carefully for signs of nervousness. Flicking the tail, upright ears and a suddenly rigid body posture all tell me that the deer suspects something is wrong and is probably about to flee. Does often hang around and become highly agitated. Bucks, particularly big ones, are much more subtle and usually sidle away at the first hint of suspicion. Watching hunting videos can help you learn to pick up on this same deer body language and know when to take your best shot. -- Bill Jordan

String Jump

Bowhunting is all about close encounters with deer. Most archers think the closer the better. That's not always the case. Literature from the National Bowhunter Education Foundation indicates that one can actually be too close to a deer for good shooting results. My own experience verifies this, especially in regard to "jumping the string," where the animal literally dodges the arrow in reaction to the sound and movement of it's being released. My detailed notes on the bow harvest of 496 animals from 5 to 50 yards show animals inside of 20 yards were four times more likely to whirl, jump or duck before the arrow arrived. Animals farther away tended to pause or freeze, allowing the arrow to get there. The reason is that most game animals, including deer, are prey species. They are conditioned by natural predators to react more quickly and more violently when the threat is close. I'm not advocating long-range bow shooting, just reporting that up-close game takes a nearby threat very personally. -- Chuck Adams

Hot-Weather Bowhunting

Often the last of the dog days and the first days of bow season don't feel very different -- to you or the deer. The deer don't seem to move as much when the mercury is high. The trick is to be there when and where they do move. Hunt around water when it's hot and dry. The deer use the water to slake their thirst and cool off. In extended droughts, more succulent foliage and other foods will be found near water. Focus on early-season deer food. Late agricultural crops or hay fields that are still succulent are attractive. Soft mast foods, such as persimmon, honey locust, dogwood berries and other wild fruits, are a brief seasonal treat that deer relish. Even green acorns and other nuts that fall prematurely due to squirrels feeding are good bets. In hot weather, controlling your scent requires more attention. Bathe and wash your clothes more frequently with unscented soap. Liberally use unscented foot powder and odor-neutralizing spray products.

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