Little Gal and I are putting our efforts into becoming more efficient bowhunters. While it’s on my mind, I feel the need to share some thoughts on bowhunting obstacles to be aware of. These are five things that can ruin an archery hunt.
1. Lack of preparation.
My friend, competitive archer and fellow bowhunter Shannon Gillett, practices shooting her bow even in the off season at local 3-D events. “Competitions help keep you mentally and physically prepared for hunting season,” she says. Shoots help her stay in tune with her equipment.
I mentioned preparing for the hunt last time, but that’s only half the battle. Some things you can only learn through experience in the field.
2. Not knowing where the animals are.
Practicing your shot and getting your gear organized is only the start of your hunt prep. If you don’t do your scouting, you may not find any animals. “Use trail cameras to learn the animals in the area you are hunting,” Shannon suggests. “Pattern them as best you can, so you know when and where they are moving.”
3. The weather.
In Colorado, we do a lot of spot-and-stalk hunting. The key to this hunting method is always to play the wind. “Most game animals have an incredible sense of smell,” says Shannon, who does some spot-and-stalk as well as tree-stand hunting. “Playing the wind is the key to every hunt.”
Melissa Bachman, host of Winchester’s Deadly Passion, also mentioned Old Man Weather as a hunt spoiler. “When I’m doing a spot-and-stalk hunt, the wind is key,” she says. “I continually check it along the way, and accommodate for any wind change. I can alter my plan of attack for a direction change, but the hardest is when it goes from a steady breeze to dead calm in the middle of a stalk This can be a game changer; it creates a lot of difficulty for both smell and sound, as you try to get inside archery range.”
Melissa has also had hunts ruined by excessive temperatures. “Nobody can control the weather, but high-heat conditions can be extremely difficult,” she says, noting that archery hunting bull elk in hot weather is challenging because they don’t want to bugle, which makes it difficult to call them in. “You need to change your tactics and try not to let the heat spoil your hunt. Try wallows or waterholes during this time. Do everything you can to keep hydrated, so you’re at the top of your game should the situation work out.”
4. Other animals.
I’ve had a variety of animals spoil numerous hunts. It doesn’t happen every time, but I’ve seen more than a coyote or two on just about every hunt. “If I’m bowhunting and I see a coyote, or pack of coyotes, coming my way it’s usually not good news for my hunt,” says Melissa. “They tend to spook most of the game away. At times they’ll continue to circle the area.” On the plus side, she may still get to release an arrow…at them.
The Little Gal and I have also had trouble with cattle. Herds have busted through the middle of our turkey hunt, or come in to check out our antelope decoy. The curious buggers wanted to know what we were up to, and the turkeys and ‘lopes skedaddled when the herd surrounded us.
Melissa has a cattle story of her own. “Recently I was on an elk hunt,” she says. “We were a couple of hours into a stalk on a big bull. Everything was working perfectly. We got closer and closer. Then, suddenly, this loud blow horn [of a heifer] began to sound. Every elk in the herd got up, looked around and took off in the other direction ”
5. Other people.
I love hunting on public land, but I guide hunts on private land. One plus about hunting on private property is that you should be the only one hunting there. I can attest, however, that that is not always the case. I’ve had to run trespassers off. I’ve also had to remind the landowner’s teenagers that we’re elk hunting, so they can’t be riding their four-wheelers there during the season.
On public land, dealing with other hunters can be even more challenging. “I can’t count the number of times I’ve been cow calling to an elk and then heard one bugle after another,” says Melissa. “The bugle doesn’t sound real hot…and sure enough, I called in another hunter.” Calling another hunter, or being called in, is pretty disappointing.
Part of the reason Shannon, Melissa, the Little Gal and I enjoy archery hunting is the challenge. Plan on changing plans, and always learn from the obstacles in your way. The more diverse you become in the field, the more successful you’ll be at archery hunting.