Bowhunting doesn't have to end when firearms season begins.
As we start nearing mid-November, many bowhunters are dreading the end of many regular archery deer hunting seasons and the start of firearms deer season. But who says you can't hunt deer with a bow during gun season?
Today we have some tips for you to keep deer hunting with your archery gear even as the pressure is turned up.
These bowhunting tips should help you put a mature buck on the ground when everyone else is toting a shotgun or rifle.
Can you hunt deer with a bow during gun season?
Before we go any further, you really need to check your local regulations. In most states and provinces, it is perfectly legal to use longbows, recurves, compound bows and crossbows outside archery hunting season. But there are often additional regulations you aren't required to abide by during archery season.
For instance, most states require anyone hunting with archery gear during firearms season to wear blaze orange or another safety color. Some areas only allow the use of crossbows during firearms season.
In some states, it's perfectly legal to take both your compound bow and a rifle if you so desire. That way, you can hope to take that big buck first with your bow, but you have backup in case he's just not going to trot into range.
One last thing: Some states may require deer hunters to have tags specific to firearms season when hunting firearms season, even if they're only bow hunting deer. Check to make sure. It's better to be safe than sorry.
With that out of the way, let's talk tactics.
Go into the thick stuff
Once the hunting pressure is on, whitetail deer act accordingly. Here in my home state of Michigan, the mature bucks go back into the thickest brushy cover they can find, and they'll sometimes stay there until long after the season is over.
My trail cameras confirm this unfortunate truth year after year. When they do get up to move, it's usually only at night.
Again, using Michigan as an example, we have a lot of lowlands and swamps in the southern portion of the state. Game animals like these areas because they can hear other animals and potential predators sloshing through the water. Plus, many humans don't even enter them. Especially on public land.
Identify the spots for your post archery season tree stands or ground blinds well before the season starts and then don't enter them until the pressure kicks in. Firearms season may be the only time of year you can get away with inserting yourself into a tight spot near a bedding area with thick cover on all sides. You may only get one chance, so practice extreme scent control.
Also, be careful about not trimming too much in the way of shooting lanes. Bucks will notice if you clear out a 10-foot swath of limbs and will likely avoid the area. It makes shot placement more critical and a lot tougher. But being subtle here ups the odds of a shooter walking into bow range.
If anything, using a bow in the thick stuff is an advantage since you're not going to get long shots there anyway.
If you're after an especially large buck, it's natural to be anxious as firearms season approaches if you still don't have that target buck on the ground. Don't get too blinded by the antlers. Many bowhunters mess things up by panicking and getting too aggressive right before gun hunters arrive.
You've been careful all through the rut, don't throw all that hard work away because you're worried about the neighbors.
Odds are, if you've been careful about wind direction and you haven't over hunted your area, that big boy is still around. In fact, if you've played your cards right, he should be seeing your hunting area as a sanctuary once the neighbors start shooting at everything in sight.
Remember, big bucks don't get that large by being stupid. Stick to your game plan that you made in the early season. Is there a chance the neighbors could shoot that big buck of your dreams? Absolutely. Anything is possible. Especially if the rut is still on.
But there is no point in worrying about things you can't control. Stick to your game plan and keep your cool. It's your best chance for success as your hunt extends into firearms season.
Push into an urban setting
If the areas you hunt are simply overwhelmed with gun hunters, sometimes there is little you can do to improve your odds bowhunting the firearms season. This is when it's time to change tactics.
Urban areas can be some of the best spots to hunt when pressure is on during firearms season. The great thing about these spots is that most aren't open to hunting with guns. That means you may have many spots all to yourself.
Ever had a buck disappear from trail camera only to re-appear suddenly once firearms season ended? That buck likely has a sanctuary area somewhere you're not expecting. If you're on the outskirts of the city, it's worth doing some scouting closer to people. More and more big bucks are figuring out that the closer they move to humans, the safer they are.
Plenty of these big bucks get displaced by hunting pressure every year. If he's done it once, he's likely going to do it again. Time to think outside the box. We recommend looking near safety zones where hunting isn't allowed. These are usually going to be urban areas.
Remember to keep your broadheads sharp and remember your shot placement. Urban hunting spots are often quite small, and you don't want your big game harvest ending up in someone's back yard.
Additional notes on using a bow during archery season
As we've already noted, most states require blaze orange of archery hunters during gun season. Even if yours does not for some reason, we still recommend wearing it anyway. Both for your own safety and as a common courtesy to other hunters out there.
Speaking of safety, we don't recommend some common bow hunting tactics like using a decoy during firearms season. The chance of someone taking a pot shot at the decoy is much too great. Save it for the stick and string seasons.
The arrival of firearms season doesn't have to mean the end of your fun bowhunting this year. A simple shift in tactics may be all that's required to make this season one of your most memorable every. Good luck to all the bowhunters who take on the challenge of trying to obtain venison with a bow during gun season!