Trying to draw up a master plan for doing a deer drive with a bow? Here are five tips to enhance your chances at success.
Many people who know me know I spend 90% of my hunting season with a bow in my hand. Often times, I will join my buddies for our annual month-and-a-half-long hunting trip, and we will always end up wanting to do deer drives at the end of our long weeks.
We began doing deer drives with a bow several years ago, often times failing. We did the drives in much the same way you'd drive deer during shotgun and rifle season, only with a much lower success rate. As we tried each year, we eventually developed a list of strategies that can be used just about anywhere.
1. Find the right location.
I, for one, am not about doing deer drives all that often anyway. Anyone who knows me knows I am a big advocate of the QDMA and sneaking in and out of the stand as discreetly as possible. So, I often spend time doing deer drives where we either don't hunt, or where everyone and their neighbor hunts. When doing a deer drive with a bow, I keep my eye out for a lot of opportunities within the terrain.
Anything that will force deer to have to travel through a limited number of "emergency exits," as we call them, makes for a better deer drive with a bow. Often times, we have used bodies of water, although that failed on us once as one of our flank drivers watched and filmed a 140" buck and five does take a swim across a river instead of heading toward the watchers.
Keep an eye out for natural funnels, pinch points, heavily used game trails and anything that really looks as those the deer should or must travel that way in order to escape the drive.
2. Drivers need to walk slow.
Unlike a deer drive with a firearm, the drivers need to move slow. They should almost move slowly enough that they, too, are hunting. If you have ever stalked a deer or moved quietly to your stand, this is similar to how you should be moving through the drive.
The reason for moving slow is to allow ethical shot opportunities for the watchers. Many people will opt not to do deer drives with a bow, because they don't like to take running shots with their bow. This is how you prevent anyone from taking a running shot at a deer with a bow and allow the watcher opportunities at a deer slowly moving through.
3. Set watchers downwind first, then set up drivers upwind.
This is one of the most important factors when it comes to being successful with a bow deer drive. Many times, before you even begin a deer drive with a bow, if the watchers are upwind of the deer, the deer will sneak out before the drive even begins. I sat and watched a bedded 130" buck for four hours in a rain storm patiently waiting for it to get up for a shot opportunity. The opportunity never happened, because my buddy was walking to his stand 300 yards up wind of the deer and the deer winded him and left. Deer have the ability to smell like no other and that is their best defense at staying alive. Always be sure to put your watchers downwind, set them first, then have the drivers get set up wind of the drive for better chances at success.
4. The "Driver, Watcher: Watcher, Driver" Deer Drive
Ok, so the names of this drive as well as the "pinwheel" deer drive began as jokes among a few guys on my hunting team. Nonetheless, they actually work. "Driver, Watcher: Watcher, Driver" is another way of saying "flanks."
Often, when doing a deer drive with a bow, you will find deer can sneak out the sides or head back into the drive. By setting up flanks and having them slightly ahead of you, you can have them both be a watcher and a driver. As they move along they can pause and wait for the other drivers to catch up, then continue forward while the drivers pause. If they don't pause and wait, you can have them either ahead of the main drivers or behind. It's always a good idea to have one or two drivers about 150 yards behind the main drivers as well in case anything decides to stay put or sneak back into the drive.
5. The "Pinwheel" Deer Drive
This started as a group text with the team as a joke and ended up with success for more than one guy. We did a pinwheel drive then the inverted pin wheel drive as my buddy Joe Spaziani calls it.
Here, after sitting a morning watch one hunter will remain in his or her stand. The other hunters will begin to set up around him and form somewhat of a circle. When everyone is in place, they all begin moving around the hunter in a circular direction, while moving towards him as well.
You see how it started as a joke now? The end result is the drivers make their way to the hunter around the same time. Remember to take your time doing this as often times you may find the drivers can find shot opportunities.
The "inverted pinwheel" also started as a joke, when we were were already set up in a sort of circle with one hunter in the middle. The hunter got down from his stand and just walked around in between all of the hunters trying to push any deer that may have made it's way in between them during the watch.
If you can't take the last one seriously, I don't blame you. But some people can't take me seriously when I tell them that we have a very high success rate with deer drives with a bow. More times than not, it is a mixture of luck and a plot of land that actually has deer on them. When it works, we think we are geniuses, but low and behold there are actually strategies that can increase your chances to getting it done, these are just some that I have found to work.