Bowhunting during a rifle, shotgun or muzzleloader season may seem unusual because stand placements are so different. Generally, a firearm hunter wants to maximize his range and may select a clear cut, field edge or timbered area with extensive shooting lanes. Because a modern firearm will accurately shoot more than 200 yards, it only makes sense to tap this extensive range to cover more ground and conceivably see more deer.
Conversely, bowhunters have a much shorter maximum range and seek stand placements and ambush points where deer are lured or forced into close proximity, making shorter shots more likely. Ideal places are bottlenecks, narrow timber lines and distinct terrain features such as ravines and creek beds.
Think Thick And Close
If you have a rifle zeroed at 100 yards, why hunt a place where you can only see half that distance? Many firearm hunters think this way, but bucks don’t. Mature bucks seek out the thickest bedding and travel areas they can find, and posting up in locations with limited visibility often allows you to see more deer. Plus, if you’re hunting with a crossbow during the rifle season, you will often get a crack at a buck before the guns begin to sing out.
When hunting dense bedding areas, you want to replicate a full page from the archers’ playbook. Approach your stand with as little disturbance as possible. Since firearm hunters typically climb into stands in the dark, you will want to be extra early and allow their movements to bump deer toward you. Be sure your boots are scent-free and pull a scent rag with estrous lure or put rutting-type scents directly onto your boots. In addition, keep your trail cameras up. You will be hunting small concentrations of movement, and you want to know what’s going on in your area 24/7.
Don’t be afraid to call. When hunting tight corridors where visibility is limited, blind calling (rattling, grunting and tipping over an estrous can) can pull a wandering buck into your lap.
Finally, take extra scent precautions. I once hunted in a Texas deer camp full of rifle hunters. I was the only archer. Arriving at the breakfast table on the first morning before the hunt I noticed I was the only one not cloaked in my hunting gear. One of the hunters asked me if I was going to head out midday. I replied, “No, I dress in the field so my clothes aren’t contaminated with scent.” After bagging a very respectable 10-point, I noticed fewer hunters were dressed in their camo duds at breakfast the next morning. One fellow commented, “There must be something to this scent-elimination business.”
Maintain Your Ethics
Bagging a buck with archery gear in a firearm season is thrilling and quite an accomplishment, but you must remember to be modest about success. Take the same quality, ethical shots that you would in archery season. Should you wound a deer, you can legally trail it with a rifle, but that’s not how you want a hunt to end. Simulated practice sessions prior to the hunt should determine your maximum range, and don’t let the seduction of a rifle follow-up compromise your principles. Many firearm hunters believe that a crossbow is much like a rifle, and such attitudes threaten the extended seasons we enjoy.
When you do succeed, you won’t have to tell your buddies that you took the deer with a crossbow. In most camps the word will spread like wildfire. You know how to bowhunt, so “stick to your guns” and you’ll soon understand how little the game changes in firearm seasons.