Kentucky's archery season for deer opens one month from today, on Sept. 3, 2016. Now is the time for landowners and hunters to finalize preparations.
The 136-day season extends for parts of five months, through Jan. 16, 2017.
Pre-season preparations include: getting archery equipment checked out by a trusted archery technician, zeroing in on quality practice, seasonal mowing of hunting areas, setting out trail cameras, and trimming vegetation around treestands and ground blinds.
It takes a lot of work and attention to detail to be successful when hunting with a bow and arrow. Here's some tips:
Take your hunting bow to a trusted technician and have it checked out, top to bottom, especially the bow string. Your bow string may look okay, but it could be weakened under the center serving, where the arrow is attached to a nock or string loop. Bow strings stretch over time and hundreds of shots. That gets your bow out of tune, so that it shoots erratically and inconsistently.
If you plan to change vital equipment, don't wait, do it now.
For most people it takes several weeks to adjust to a new arrow rest or bow sight. It takes longer than you would think to sight in your bow when there's been a change in equipment.
Inspect carbon arrows carefully. Make sure they are free of cracks. Replace damaged fletching or nocks and be certain that the weight of your field points (practice points) are the same weight as your hunting broadheads. Set aside one broadhead for practice. As opening day of archery deer season approaches, sight in your bow with your practice broadhead.
Practice As If You Were Hunting
When you start practicing, take it slow. Don't shoot too many arrows at first. Ease into it. Shoot a few arrows a day to build muscles back up.
Sloppy practice is bad practice, even in the beginning. Concentrate. Get back into the rhythm of archery. Make every arrow count. Get your draw routine and anchor point imprinted in your brain.
Practice as if you were hunting. If you are going to hunt from a ground blind, practice shooting from the chair or stool you will be sitting on in the blind.
If you are going to be hunting from a treestand, try to practice from an elevated position. Shoot from different distances so you'll know your range limit.
When the season opens and you draw on a deer, your mind and body should be on auto-pilot. Archery is part mental, part muscle memory. Be ready.
By the first week of August deer fawns are old enough to run at their mother's side to escape danger, there's no risk of running over them with a tractor in high weeds.
Pre-season mowing should concentrate on opening up clearings where you will be hunting and creating access. Mowed trails through tall grass or weeds make it easy to quickly and quietly move in and out of your hunting area without being detected.
Deer are creatures of habit and will usually take the easy way through thick cover. They will walk down mowed trails, and mowed gaps in fences, which makes them easier to ambush.
In recent years, trail cameras have come into wide use because they help hunters "scout" deer in their hunting area around the clock by taking digital images or video. The images and video are stored on SD memory cards and viewed on a computer by the use of a card reader.
The small cameras are strapped on trees or fence posts, to monitor trails, funnels in the cover, entrances to bedding and feeding areas. Most hunters use trail cameras to find and study the daily patterns of a target deer, usually a mature, antlered buck.
During the late summer deer are segregated by sex, does with their fawns, and bucks in bachelor groups. It's easy to get good photographs and video of deer feeding in open fields at dusk. Summer deer are relaxed and easy to find, and you can drive up to your camera during the midday in a truck or tractor, without fear of running off these deer.
But after bucks shed the velvet on their antlers and testosterone levels rise, bachelor groups tend to disperse, bucks change their daily patterns and will not tolerate human presence. Trail cameras help hunters understand the changing habits of bucks as they shift from their summer patterns to pre-rut, rut and then winter patterns.
When hunting season opens, trail camera deployment and exchanging memory cards, takes a great deal of care and thought. One strategy is to place a camera in the area being hunted so that you can see what's going on there when you are away from your treestand or ground blind. When you leave the area after hunting for the day, exchange the memory card in the camera.
As the rut approaches, trail cameras can help hunters find out when bucks start moving during daylight hours, in search of does coming into heat.
Treestand/Ground Blind Placement
Picking the right entry and exit route to your treestand or ground blind might be more important to success in deer hunting than where you actually hunt. Traveling undetected, when entering and exiting a hunting area, is a key to hunting success.
Get in fast and quiet, using gullies, creeks, standing corn, fencerows and mowed paths to shield movement. When hunting in the morning, don't go in the woods in total darkness. Wait until there is enough light see your feet so you won't step on sticks and make too much noise.
If a route is cluttered with downed timber or brush go in before the season and clear the way with a chainsaw. Stands should be approached from down wind, or cross wind, as long as the hunter's scent is not being blown in the direction deer are expected to approach.
Stay away from your best stands on calm days. Deer can hear you approach from a long way off when it's quiet in the woods.
Preseason, resist the temptation to sneak around your hunting area. Driving tractors and trucks around a hunting area mimics normal farm traffic, and doesn't alert deer to danger, like a human on foot does.
Set your treestands and ground blinds well in advance of the season opening day. When trimming shooting lanes, be sure to pile up limbs away from deer trails or remove them from the area. Drape small, leafy branches over ground blinds for added camouflage.
At the beginning of archery season Kentucky deer are focused on fields of clover, alfalfa, or sprouting wheat, until the acorns ripen in September. Pick a tree which provides good cover in a fence line for your treestand, or a brushy area in the corner of the field, for a ground blind. Early in the season the wind predominately blows from the west, southwest, but frequently shifts to the northwest, with the advance of cool fronts.
The ideal positioning for hunting cool fronts is facing northwest. That way you'll have the sun set over your left shoulder, and the wind in your face. Deer approaching from upwind won't be able to smell you, and you'll be hidden in the shadows as the sun moves to the western horizon.
Early in the season, concentrate on hunting in the late afternoons, especially during the first and last quarter moon periods, when the moon is a thin crescent, and positioned at 12 o'clock in the sky at dusk. That's when deer are most likely to converge on feeding areas before dark.
Get ready now. Archery season for deer will be here in the blink of an eye.
Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.
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