Author: Kevin A. Gardner
Being the bow hunters edition of DeerFever’s update, and the accompanying expertise available from our staff pro’s on bow hunting theory, I feel the best course of action for me to take in this issue is passing on some tricks of the trade for bringing big game animals up close and personal. Those close encounters that are a necessity for bow hunting success are obtained through knowledge and skill, and occasionally a little trickery. Here are a brief, few, tricks you may never have thought of that could mean closing those few crucial feet to success.
Whitetail deer seem to be one of the most highstrung critters on the planet. Relaxing them and pulling them into bow range can be a huge challenge. Unlike the Bull elk who makes his presence known through vocalization, the whitetail is a stealthy creature that prefers to sneak quietly through the woods hesitating at every juncture on the game trail. This is an advantage when you can locate a well used game trail and position yourself at an obstacle requiring the animal to maneuver around or over it
When the animal pauses and contemplates it’s next step his senses dull as he processes the move. The window of opportunity can be narrow but it is in your favor as opposed to an open spot on the trail that would require no natural reason to stop moving. The rattling and snorting techniques are wonderful attractants but seem to be of little use in the area of South Western Pennsylvania where I harvested my whitetails. However a predator call does seem to arouse their curiosity. They will however be more reluctant to come close to a predator call. I have seen them stop on a dead run at the bleat of a rabbit in distress call. One other little trick that seems to pan out for them is the use of vanilla extract as a scent cover.
One of the more exciting animals to bring in close is the rutting Bull Elk. His nature will not let him pass up a lone cow elk that may need a frisky boyfriend. He will however want proof that you are just that big brown eyed beauty he wants to blow elk-snot all over. When an elk starts his approach to you, God only knows what he is thinking. They react so differently to every situation. They may come crashing in on you with a fury if you are bugling or may move away from you if you sound like too big of a bull that may be a threat
The first time I ever got to speak to a real professional elk caller I learned that my calling was way too intense and therefore very intimidating and loud. I learned that a softer higher pitched bugle, like one made by an obviously inferior bull was the ticket to a rodeo. If that bull thinks you are another bull like him, he would rather move away from you and save his strength and harem. If he thinks he may be able to snatch a few cows from you he may come to get you.
Two persons tag-team calling a bull will yield the best results. One being the immature bull elk and the other being the sexy cow. Always let him come to the cow first, as he will not feel threatened by her. If he does pull back and hesitate, he will likely begin to circle you to catch your scent. The moment you need to convince him you are a cow is right then. The neatest method I found that closes the deal is to pour some water from your water bottle on the ground to simulate a urinating cow. This coupled with a good scent cover and a properly used cow call will make it all happen.
The very best tricks or tactics work only to get an animal into close range. Being proficient with your weapon is the real success story. Changing weather conditions and obstacles in the forest that aren’t on the shooting range can alter the way you will perform the most important aspect of the whole hunt.
When I used to bow hunt in the late 80’s, I spent more time practicing in the forest than on a range and under many different conditions to ensure how I would react when the moment of truth arrived. Today, with the life size silhouette targets, you would be in error not to move that thing into the woods and practice from many different locations and under various conditions.
These are all small tips to give you something to think about, maybe help you put down some game, but really to just get you a little pumped up for the seasons that are just around the corner. No secret technique or really cool piece of equipment can ever really take the place of outdoor knowledge. The best part of the whole thing is the classroom is huge and the textbook is beautiful.