Bow season for deer heats up with cooler weather
Frankfort, Kentucky - Cooling weather sends both deer and hunters into their fall patterns. Although many bowhunters haven't climbed into their tree stands yet, as temperatures drop into the 70s and below, it starts to feel more like archery season.
Bachelor groups of bucks are beginning to break up, as shorter days trigger hormone changes in deer. This means that even hunters who scouted during pre-season must do some additional homework now.
"In summer they're keyed in on crops and green fields. As summer progresses into fall, acorns are starting to drop and deer are changing their feeding and bedding patterns," said Chris Garland, assistant director of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources' Wildlife Division. "A lot of patterns you observed in summer have changed. Now is the time to update your stand sites."
Garland recommends hunters search for natural funnels where deer travel, such as a saddle between two ridges, an overgrown fencerow between two forested areas, a power line right-of-way or a river corridor. "Even small changes in topography can create an area where a deer feels comfortable travelling," he said.
Look for rubs where bucks are signposting, or marking their territory. "Lots of early season rubs are found in open areas or along field edges and serve to remove the velvet from antlers," Garland said. "The rubs found this time of year and into October are related to bucks marking their territories and letting does know they are there."
Be careful when you scout this time of year, however. Tina Brunjes, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife's big game program coordinator, cautions that hunters may spook deer if they spend too much time walking in the woods.
"Scouting may consist of glassing fields from your truck, or just sitting in a tree stand with your bow, finding out what's going on," said Brunjes. "This time of year, when you see a deer trail, you shouldn't be walking down it to see where it goes. You should already know where it goes, from doing your pre-season scouting. You're looking to see if it's being used now."
Set up your stand close to areas where you've observed deer sign, but don't put the stand right where you think deer will travel. "Back off of the area about 30-50 yards," Garland advised. "When deer come to scent-check the area, this will still put you in position for a shot instead of being detected by your scent."
Don't put your stand in a place where you will be silhouetted against the sky. To conceal yourself from deer, try to find a tree that provides leaf cover and make sure there is foliage or other cover behind the tree to break up your outline. If you clear shooting lanes near your stand, Garland advises not to alter the landscape too much, as deer may notice the changes and avoid the area. Finally, pay attention to where you set up your stand in relation to nearby hills. You don't want to end up sitting at eye-level to an approaching deer.
There are a wide variety of scent-blocking products available to hunters nowadays. Both Garland and Brunjes emphasize that while these products may help, nothing substitutes for being still and paying attention to the wind.
"With camo and scent protection, how much you need is in direct proportion to your ability to sit still," said Brunjes. "As far as scent, if the wind isn't blowing towards the deer, the deer isn't going to smell you. You've just got to know what the wind is doing."
Scouting, good tree stand placement and hunting according to the wind will all increase your chances in the woods during bow season. Add plenty of practice with your bow, and you'll be ready when the first deer steps out in front of your stand.
Kentucky's archery deer season is open now statewide and continues until January 19, 2009. For complete season regulations, including bag limits, licensing and hunter education requirements, pick up a copy of the 2008-09 Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide, available at fw.ky.gov and wherever hunting licenses are sold.
Author Hayley Lynch is an award-winning writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. She is an avid hunter and shotgun shooter.
(Editors: Photos are available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, has an economic impact to the state of $4.7 billion annually. For more information about the department, visit our web site at fw.ky.gov.
Hayley Lynch (800) 858-1549 ext 4493
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