Posted on Jul 20, 2021 by Chad Sylvester
I asked a friend for a topic on what to write about. He suggested bowhunting tips I wish I knew 10 years sooner. I have bow hunted for the past 24 years and never had a mentor. I read a lot of magazine articles and went to several deer shows every year looking forward to each hour-long seminar. Almost everything I learned was through trial and error. Emphasis on the error part. Here are my tips and what I wish I knew earlier in my hunting career.
1. You are not going to kill a big buck every year
This is my #1 bow hunting regret. I have passed on numerous 125”+ bucks because I believed a bigger buck was minutes away. The reality was I set my expectations too high. Many seasons came and went with unfilled tags. It is okay to be selective, but scout to know the biggest core buck in the area you hunt and make that buck your target.
2. Stand entrance and exit strategies
Early on, I took the path of least resistance to get to my stands. That undoubtedly meant walking on trails bucks frequented. My buck sightings began to decline as the season wore on. I began cutting my own paths to get to my stands establishing smart entrance and exit strategies. While bucks would use those paths, my buck sightings increased significantly. It was an incredible amount of work, but easily one of the smartest hunting decisions I made.
3. Historical trail cam data
A few years ago, I started hearing about “historical trail cam data”. At first, I dismissed it because all I needed to know was which bucks were on the properties I hunted. I catalogued bucks that did not frequent my area, but my cataloguing had no consistency. When I looked at photos from previous years, I was surprised to see the frequency at which non-core bucks came through during the last two weeks of November on an annual basis. Bucks are creatures of habit and it is scary accurate how they repeat their pattern.
4. Do not be afraid to be aggressive
Decades back, I read an article by Andre D’acquisto detailing how aggressive he was while hunting particular bucks. Too risky for me. I had my set stands which did well for me. A few years back, my then brother-in-law and I were hunting the same deer. During the rut, he spotted that buck in an area that we did not hunt. He hung and hunted there that same evening. He killed that buck a few hours into his sit. He forever changed my mind about being aggressive when the moment is right and that the reward far exceeds the risk.
5. The little things often make the biggest difference
Hunting a mature buck is a chess match and 100s of hours can be spent in preparation for your one-minute moment of truth. Do not leave anything to chance. If you have three shooting lanes, cut a fourth. Use Stealth Strips and hockey tape to silence your gear. Figure out ways to eliminate the use of zippers. Take 20 minutes to walk to your stand when it only takes 10. Wear silent clothing. Oil areas on your stand that move. Have everything you plan on using in the perfect position. Be methodical and visualize various mental hunting scenarios. Have OCD tendencies in your preparation.
6. Use modern day technology
I was slow to embrace technology into my hunting arsenal and I do not know why I fought it so hard. Trail cameras are amazing. I plan on purchasing my first cell camera this season. A rangefinder is a must, and they automatically compensate for downward trajectories. I am a big fan of most ozone platforms. OnX, HuntCast and Huntstand are phenomenal cell phone-based hunting apps. Use the resources that are available to you. You are not a better hunter for not using them. You are a hunter that does not have all the information to make the best decision when the intersection of preparation and opportunity align.
7. Devise a system
My bow gear used to stay in a tote in the back of my truck. While I did kill deer, I desired to be more consistent, so I began to devise a system. Use scent and UV free laundry detergent. Hang dry your hunting gear outside. Shower scent free and use a scent free towel. Keep your clothes in an air-tight container with a carbon filter on the bottom of the lid. Use science backed Scent Lok Base Slayers and a portable ozone generator. Get dressed away from your vehicle or at the base of your stand. At the end of your hunt, dry wash your clothing in an ozone closet and return them to your air-tight container. Create a system that works for you and greater success will soon follow.
8. Hunt the way that works for you
I started hunting at 11 years old and wanted to be like my dad or Uncle Mikey. Chuck Adams or Tom Miranda were my hunting idols. Watching TV personalities routinely kill giant whitetails is what I wanted to do. I quickly realized a $15,000 hunt or $400,000 of prime whitetail acres was not my reality. I hunt by handshake access and developing friendships. I do not wait for perfect weather conditions. I believe in the motto “you can’t kill one sitting on the couch”. Hunting early October, the rut, or late season offer similar levels of excitement: there is always going to be a chance. Stand, blind, saddle or still hunting are all methods I deploy, and you should consider.
9. Have a hunting buddy
For a long time, I saw myself as a bowhunter which meant I was a recluse loner. As I have gotten older, comradery is something I desire. Find someone that shares your level of enthusiasm. Strategies can be dissected, stands can be hung, blood trails can be followed, memories can be shared, and lifelong bonds form.
10. Set a seasonal objective for yourself
As I went through my shooting and limiting out phases of development, if it was brown, it was down. I learned how to hunt this way. As I entered the sportsman stage, setting a seasonal objective kept me focused on an achievement. Set a goal and stay the course to accomplish it, whether it is filling your freezer or hunting the biggest buck in your area.
Hunting is an activity where different levels of commitment can be dedicated. Whether you are a 24/7 365 or a weekend warrior, your ultimate goal should be to make hunting enjoyable. There are about three months before bow seasons open. Hunters kill big bucks every year, but there are not many hunters willing to put in the work to do it consistently. Enjoy the preparation as much as the season. Decide what you want to achieve this season and use these tips to create a plan of action.
Author: Exodus Black Hat Team Member Geoff Guzinski