Sunday, August 23, 2015

Practice from your stand!

An amazing August sight, arrows, target, and treestand in the background!
August is dwindling; you’ll hear no complaints from me! To put it plainly the heat and humidity make me sad. I enjoy the warm times of year, but I’m always chomping at the bit for autumn. You’d be hard pressed to find a hunter from the north east who has an issue with the crisp air and changing leaves. Jeeze, I even opened one of my hunting packs yesterday and was hit with the smell of my year old doe urine scented candles, some people might have gagged, I reveled in the moment! …then again I just might be weird.

Having put a little more effort into property I have permission to hunt I moved a stand to a different location last weekend. One trail cam showed a lot of traffic; Spike bucks, 6 pointers, fawns, yearlings, and most important, multiple Doe. For a meat hunter like me there was no contesting the fact I needed to put the stand closer to that cam.

I felt it was important to actually shoot from the new stand location. The night after I moved the stand I was overcome by worries of shooting lanes and misjudged distances. I had put all the labor in of hauling 90 lbs. of awkward metal through the brush but failed to consider the all-important details of shooting from the dang thing! I think this is something we all should consider. And much to consider there be.

As mentioned it is late August, hunting season is getting closer and closer. My personal strategy is to regularly scope things out through the summer but then not disturb the stand area for the few weeks prior to the season. If I wanted to practice from the stand it was this weekend or not at all.
Today’s high temps being only mid 80’s the morning was a little cooler. The first thing I considered was NOT beating the heat and going in too early. This was not a stealth mission so I wanted to make sure the deer weren’t on the move while I was there. Whether checking cams or looking for sign make sure if you’re going on the deer’s turf this time of year it is during a time of day you can safely assume they are bedded down somewhere.

Number two, scent control. Even though hunting season is still weeks away you don’t want to risk them being aware of your presence, so “de-stink” yourself the same as you would in October. This morning it was particularly important as I was going to be touching a lot of cover in the area, and though my clothes were treated I couldn’t stop the sweat, so I tried not to get to grabby with limbs and brush. (As I understand it a deer can smell dead human skin cells that flaked of us 24-36 hours later!)

Now on to the fun part, the Shootin’!

If you’re not aware by now, suspending your target is a great way to extend its life. Whether a $32 bag target or a $150 one, hang it and it’ll last longer. My practice session today would be no exception. I used a spare haul line to suspend the bag between trees. Just a little off the ground to represent the area a deer’s vitals would be. There are 5 possible places I can shoot a deer from this stand, so I moved the target to each one and put multiple rounds in each time, some standing, and some while sitting.

Using a rangefinder helped today, just for reference though. I use a single pin sight and leave it locked in at 25 yards for any shot up to 30 yards. I find when shooting from an elevation the true accuracy of your shot comes from knowing how low to aim at varying distances. Some people invest a ton of money into range finders that account for the angle and stand elevation…that still doesn’t mean I have time to fiddle with my pin setting when a deer is moving through my effective range, so not too unlike a recurve shooter I’m just going to get to know my bow and arrow and what they do.

This post is not going to give you the magic code for pushing tacks from an elevated position at varying distances, rather I am just trying to impart on you that being able to do it requires practice. At 20 yards I need to aim 2 inches low, at 23 yards it was 3 inches low, at my 16 yards bag it was probably 4 inches low, mind you this was all with my pin set to 25 yards. If you want to Google this topic you will find a ton of neat little drawings with triangles and grids and arcs and all of that. You can try wrapping your brain around it or you can simply get in a tree and see for yourself. I don't recommend shooting at a deer until you do.

No two hunters set up is exactly the same. Me shooting my bow from 18 feet up at a 22 yard target means I need to aim 2-3 inches low, this doesn’t mean you will too, so this is an exercise that EACH and EVERY hunter needs to practice on their own. Additionally anytime something about your rig changes, ie. draw weight, arrow weight, tip weight, you can be sure your trajectory will too!

Shooting from the stand also helped me understand any pruning I had to do to clear shooting lanes. Most of the little stuff will be dead or dying come hunting season, but any branch I could see while shooting that was even 3/16” was getting eliminated. Brush still has time to grow so I wasn’t taking any chances.

Consider this exercise a dress rehearsal. You are after all getting up there with some of your gear and you darn well better be wearing your harness too. Any stand maintenance or necessary adjustments will become evident while shooting out of it, so make sure you take an extra ratchet strap and some tools in case you need to do a little work while you’re there.

Elevated shooting can be tricky; it’s probably the most intimidating part of bow hunting for me to be honest. The true distance given elevation, the arc of the arrow, it’s enough to make my head hurt. In the end the best shots I made on the bag where the ones where it just felt right to let the arrow lose, overthinking can be detrimental to your experience afield.  The closest range I practiced actually didn’t require aiming terribly low, how’s that for confusing? My guess is between my pin being set to 25 yards and the bag only being at 12 yards (half the distance) the arc of the arrow got to its peak at that range…or not, trigonometry was never my strong suit anyways. Point is I know where to aim at that range now.

I hope some of my experiences from today help you all too, especially if you’re using a single pin like me. I love the adjustable HHA for 3D shoots, but in the field it’s locked in and the rest is on me.

A few pointers-
  • Even though we’re trying to be scent free, bug spray isn’t a bad idea!
  • Don’t do this exercise from your actual hunting stand unless it’s a time of day when the deer aren’t coming through, even if that means dealing with August heat.
  • Bring plenty of arrows, it's no fun having to climb down from your tree every time you make a few shots.
  • When pruning and trimming shooting lanes don’t radically change the landscape, just take off what you need and leave the area still appealing for deer.
  • Your first shot at each target location should be lower than you think it needs to be, this helps you understand the shot better and will cost you fewer arrows sailing through the woods.

Be safe out there and keep shooting, the season isn’t too far off!

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