On the opening day of archery season in Pennsylvania this year, Christian’s teenage son took his first deer with a compound bow. Up until this point he had been using a crossbow, but he was able to tag an opening day deer. While some hunters may lament that the excitement is over so quickly when you fill your tag immediately, the reality is that opening day often presents the highest percentage chance of shooting a deer all season. From the end of the previous season up until the eve of opening day, the deer have been unpressured and only after opening day do they begin to realize what is happening and adapt accordingly. For that reason, deer may be the most vulnerable at this point. However, opening day isn’t an automatic slam dunk for hunters, it’s the homework that is done in advance that helps to exponentially increase your odds of success. In his son’s case, Christian says he put him in a stand location that he had been monitoring regularly with trail cameras, a location he knew had a good trail and an area that many deer were using frequently. In addition, he set up that stand with wind direction in mind, a crucial part of any hunt. The combination of low pressure and doing all his homework prior to putting his son in that stand paid off in a big way, presenting a good shot opportunity. This situation highlights the value of first time sits for any hunter. A first-time sit does not mean that you will always shoot a deer, Christian says, however you can maximize your opportunity to do so. The more you go into an area, day after day, the more scent you leave behind and the more you risk being seen and spooking the deer. Striking early and selectively picking where you hunt is important, he says. When you can’t do the groundwork or homework yourself, a good outfitter can fill the void. People often think they are paying outfitters for the animal they take; however, Christian says the value of an outfitter is in their intelligence. The fee you pay to an outfitter is for their time and experience, doing the homework, scouting, setting stands and putting you in a prime and unpressured location. That kind of insight, whether you gather the information yourself, or rely on someone else, can be indispensable come hunting season.
Mornings or evenings - when is your hunting happy hour? Different people have different takes on this subject, but Christian says for the first half of the season he focuses his efforts in the field much more on afternoon/evening hunts. Deer tend to go to the fields in the evening to feed and in the morning, they head back to the timber to bed. For that reason, when hunting in the morning it can make it much more difficult to get to your stand without bumping deer. In addition, earlier in the season, Christian notes that he doesn’t anticipate bigger bucks to be on the move during the early daylight hours. Using patience and understanding when to go in and when to stay out is important. The time for all day sits is coming, he says. Deer will be more active in late October and early November. Older bucks will be on the move and that activity can happen any time of day so long sits in the stand can pay off during that time frame.
Finally, Christian talks safety. Hunting from a treestand comes with risk and it’s important for hunters to take it seriously. Wearing a harness is crucial. Christian says every treestand hunter must invest in a good full body safety harness that is approved by the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association and they need to wear them every single time they hunt from a treestand. In addition, as an extra line of defense against accidents he recommends picking up lifelines and attaching them to the tree where your stand is. Lifelines are safety ropes that, once installed, allow hunters to hook into the system before they ever leave the ground and stay connected until they get back on the ground. It helps to diminish the risk hunters take when hunting from an elevated position.
Be sure to pick up a subscription of Petersen’s Bowhunting Magazine, a great resource for archery hunters. Check it out at www.bowhuntingmag.com.