Morken: A few changes for the upcoming bow season
Every summer as the Fourth of July nears, I start feeling the anticipation of another bow season.
We're less than three months away from opening weekend. At this point, most of my stands are hung and ready to hunt out of.
I consider Minnesota a moderately pressured state when it comes to hunting whitetails with archery equipment. Not to the point of a state like Michigan, but these deer are used to hunting pressure and mature bucks will not put up with a lot of it before shifting their patterns.
Because of that, I try to learn from each season and take every precaution necessary to up my odds of catching these deer in daylight.
Last year, I made a few changes to how I hunt. First, I got into the stand during morning sits earlier than I ever had before. At least an hour before the sign of first light, preferably earlier. That can be draining by the third or fourth day in a row, so it basically comes down to a matter of how important this is to a person. I can confidently say that it completely changed my view on morning hunts. I've never had so many early encounters.
The second change I made was hunting tight to bedding, sometimes right in it. For years, I could not get up the courage to do this. I'd do more harm than good, I thought.
Finally, after a few years of not seeing the kind of deer I knew were on the land, I took the plunge. This requires being dedicated to hunting smart. That means staying out until the time is right during late October and early November. No going in on afternoon hunts. Getting in long before first light and being willing to sit all day if it takes that.
These two changes resulted in a lot of awesome encounters.
This year, I am focusing in on a few more details that I hope can better position me to close the deal. Here's a look at what and why I'm tweaking things.
CAMERAS BY STAND LOCATIONS
This is something I have wrestled with for a couple years now.
Game cameras can be excellent scouting tools. I have used them to get a feel for where deer are bedding on specific winds. I've used them to track annual patterns, but not once has a photo I got at a specific stand site directly led me to killing a buck.
So often, I'll pull the memory card and see that 10-pointer staring directly into the camera. He knows something is there. How a buck processes that in his brain, I don't know. Does he associate it with danger? I've gotten to the point where I think maybe they do.
I have listened to podcasts and read articles on the subject of pressure, and the hunting community seems to be split on this issue of placing cameras by stands. Some absolutely won't do it. Some say it doesn't make a difference. I am starting to think that some deer in pressured areas might shy away from them.
I'm choosing not to run cameras at stand locations where I know enough about when bucks move there. Areas where I am still trying to gain some more information, I am taking precautions of where I place the cameras. That means putting them further off the trail and higher in the tree, angled down toward the ground. My hope is this makes them a little less noticeable.
A LITTLE MORE PREPARATION
One new tactic I'm using on a specific site is hunting out of a ground blind.
I've never done it. Mainly because I've always felt they were a little intrusive.
Hunters who succeed on a regular basis will talk about the element of surprise and getting the job done on that first or second sit in a stand.
The four biggest bucks I've ever shot with my bow all came within that time frame at a location—two with the use of a climbing stand, another where I hung a portable stand that afternoon and hunted through the evening.
I always felt ground blinds represented the opposite of a surprise attack, but this location left me no choice. The shelf I need to be on does not have a tree that will hold a portable or climber.
That's why I bought a ground blind this spring and spent hours preparing an area I figure to be the perfect location. It required clearing out enough timber to fit the blind into a spot that already has some decent surrounding cover.
A fallen tree right in front of the stand provides nice structural support for additional foliage. I used that to brace the trees that I moved directly around the blind.
Then with a hand shears, I will clear out enough branches to create shooting lanes through my windows. My goal is to make this as hidden as possible without obstructing shot opportunities.
Getting in and out of the stand without bumping deer is talked about everywhere.
It's important. It's also incredibly difficult. Many areas in this portion of the state have so many does that it's almost impossible to not spook something.
With that in mind, I set out in March to find a spot that would allow me close to perfect access. The piece I targeted is a small finger of trees that runs between a river and an ag field. That field is tucked between timber ridges. Pretty well hidden, so the deer love feeding there in the evenings. I've seen chasing there when the rut nears, but it's also impossible to get out in the evening without spooking deer. Before long, it goes quiet.
I believe I have finally solved that. This location allows me to cross the river in a boat, sneak along the bank and come in the back door to my tree. It took spending an hour trimming a small path through incredibly thick vegetation that lines the river bank, but I can't wait to hunt it.