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How Archery Makes You a Better Hunter

By Francisco Garcia
Deer hunting with archery equipment can be a humbling experience. You can see bucks all day and all season long but it doesn’t mean you will slap your tag on one. There are too many variables involved in this game. Almost everything has to go right for you kill a buck with archery gear. Your margin for error is minute compared to rifle hunting.

When you rifle hunt things like wind, shooting angle and distance, while still important, aren’t as critical as they are in bow hunting. I have missed more game due to distance judgment errors than I care to remember. Hunting with a gun gives you a tremendous advantage in that you have a huge kill radius that’s in the hundreds of yards compared to thirty to sixty yards on average with a bow. Also slight miscalculations in distance aren’t as critical. On average it takes a lot more effort to harvest a buck with a bow than it does with a gun.

Harvesting a buck, of any size, is a feat. If you are up for a challenge take up the sport of bow hunting. Hunting with a bow will make you a better hunter, period. It will force you to slow down and pay more attention. When bow hunting, you have to get up close and personal with your quarry. Here they have all the advantages. When you are thirty yards from a buck any slight noise or movement will have him swapping ends and heading for the nearest cover. Their sense of smell will probably spoil more hunts for you than the other two senses combined. If you don’t play the wind right there is a good chance you may not even see a deer. Deer will smell you coming and quietly evade you without you even knowing he was there. Hunt with the wind in your face and limit the amount of scent you leave behind. Use scent killer sprays and wash your hunting clothes with scent killer detergents. This isn’t a foolproof method but it does buy you some time before the deer catch on. There isn’t anything you can do to completely eliminate your scent. Your body is always producing more. You can only try to control it.

Steve Kensett, Francisco Garcia, B-Zone Buck, How Archery Makes You a Better Hunter
Bow hunter Steve Kensett and author with Steve’s hard-earned public land B-zone buck -- photo by author.

My good friend Steve Kensett and I bow hunted opening week in an undisclosed location in zone B-2. This area has been good to us over the years producing nice bucks and bears. The area has great habitat and an abundant variety of game. It is not uncommon to see bucks or bears every day. This year turned out to be one of the toughest years. We just weren’t seeing much game. Normally we spot and stalk or sit over water. This year the open areas were void of game so we decided to look for them in the timber. We placed tree stands over springs and seeps. On my first sit I had four does and two spike bucks come in to drink. The second day I had seven does and a bear cub come in. That cub was so cute, all thirty pounds of him. I never did see its mother but could hear it tearing into a log nearby. All the deer that came in offered me a perfect fourteen yard broadside shot. Hunting out of a tree stand provides you with the advantage of getting above the deer so they don’t see you or smell you. Also the deer are very relaxed and present great shot opportunities. The hardest part is finding a good spot. I look for terrain features that concentrate deer movement. These funnels usually consist of saddles, ridges, fence crossings, creek crossings and trails leading to water. Look for deer sign that indicates they are using these areas on a regular basis.

Hunting from a tree stand is exhilarating. You get to see deer and other game go about their business without a care in the world. It feels like you are spying on them. It's like being a fly on the wall, listening and watching without you being noticed. The deer that came to my stand behaved naturally. Not aware that they were being watched. I even had some walk directly below the tree I sat in. They were so close I could hear them slurping the water as they drank. In the end I did not have any legal bucks show at my stand. The weather was cooler than normal. If it was hotter maybe more deer would have come in for a drink.
My hunting partner Steve K. also hunted out of a tree stand but ended up harvesting a forked horn buck from the ground while still hunting. The deer were not moving much that morning so Steve decided to do a little still hunting in some bedding cover near his stand. He hadn't gone far before he jumped a buck from its bed. Steve recalls walking over to inspect the deer bed and then spotting the buck further up the hill staring back at him. Having an arrow already knocked Steve drew aimed and fired. The buck was standing broadside thirty yards away and took a well-placed arrow in the chest. Steve found the buck piled up about sixty yards away from where it was shot. It is not a monster but any bow killed buck can be considered a trophy.

Taking a black tail buck of any size on public land is definitely something of which the hunter can be very proud. Bow hunting can be very challenging and will make anyone a better hunter overall. You will definitely have your work cut out for you but there is nothing more satisfying than harvesting a buck with your bow. It is a feeling of accomplishment that is addictive. Give bow hunting a shot you will either give up because it's too challenging or become a bow hunter for life.

[Editor's Note: Please share with our readers what you know that will enhance the experience of hunting or wetting a line in Northern California or Southern Oregon.. What have you learned? Your expertise, no matter where you fish (fresh or saltwater) or what species you target, could be invaluable to other anglers. What not to do is just as important as what to do. Please send your strategies, ideas, tips, techniques and personal experiences to Please include your name and hometown.]

Francisco Garcia lives in Tehama County and is a passionate outdoorsman. His free time is spent in the woods either hunting fishing or camping. He fishes local rivers, streams and lakes for trout, salmon, steelhead, stripers, largemouths and shad regularly. He also hunts birds and big game with a rifle or a bow. He holds a BA degree in Recreation Administration with emphasis in Outdoor Education and is a proud father of two.

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