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How To/Pro-Tips

Deer Knowledge Zones

Deer best know the areas they frequent most. This means they are quicker to spot a change and react more strongly to it in areas where they spend much time. Keep that in mind both for stand site selection and for hunting later on.
This is the reason it is not usually a good idea to invade a buck's core refuge area or sanctuary while hunting him. He'll pick up on your intrusion very quickly and become super wary or perhaps abandon that area altogether. Bucks are almost as sensitive about their primary breeding scrapes. Too much disturbance there will cause them to look for does elsewhere. In both cases, hunt the fringes of such areas rather than sticking up a stand right in them.
Hunting the trails connecting bedding, breeding and feeding areas isn't taken as such a "personal" affront although don't think you can get away with sloppy technique even there. Rather than putting up a stand right on the trail, stay a reasonable distance away.

Bow Basics

By now you should have started your archery practice routine to get ready for bow season. Start out with frequent but short sessions. You have to get your muscles re-toned just like your reflexes. Some archers reduce their bows draw weight for early practice sessions but I try to avoid that because it means at some point I will have bring it back to full hunting weight, re-sight and re-adjust my thinking
Just a few shots a day, several days a week is the best approach. Don't be too quick to re-tune or re-sight your bow unless something is obviously wrong. Minor flaws may indicate that it's your shooting form that's off. Wait until you are back in form before re-sighting or fine-tuning your bow.
Remember to finish off by shooting from realistic hunting positions and angles, preferably at 3-D targets. If you hunt from tree stands, you should certainly practice your down-angle shooting. Your final practice sessions should match real hunting situations as accurately as possible.

Top Cover

Top cover for your blind can be very annoying. It restricts your vision and can be difficult to swing and shoot through. Nevertheless, it is necessary for wary ducks. The more wary they become, the more top cover you need. Circling ducks can look straight down at you, which is a view deer and turkeys seldom get.
You still need to wear your personal camouflage and make sure all items in the blind are camouflaged. This includes coolers, blind bags, gun cases and other gear. Often well-camouflaged hunters will sit brightly colored shotshell boxes out in the open, forgetting that ducks can see them and may flare.
I think a facemask and gloves are very helpful. In particular, the camo mask allows you to look up and keep track of circling birds. I use two types of masks. For early season or mild weather shooting I use mesh masks and gloves. In cold weather, I wear a warm full-coverage facemask and insulated camo gloves.

Sighted-In and Staying That Way

A good sighting-in session requires three things besides your rifle and ammo: a solid shooting platform, an adequate range and a solid, safe backstop.

A real benchrest is best but a solid table with a shooting rest or sandbags will do. Shooting from prone or over a vehicle hood resting on a rolled up sleeping bag is less precise but may be necessary to check your zero in the field.

There are a lot of theories about sighting in at short range and using trajectory tables to extrapolate results out at real hunting ranges. However, a small mistake in measurement at short range can be a big error at long range. Also, all rifles are individuals and their actual performance may vary from published tables.

A solid backstop is a must. You must be absolutely sure that your bullets aren't ricocheting around the countryside.
You should periodically check your zero during the season. Sights that got "knocked off" and not corrected have cost many hunters big bucks.

Rubs For Results

I feel that rubs are the most reliable form of buck sign. The buck uses his rubs to define his territory. Glands in the buck's forehead produce an oily substance that contains a scent peculiar to that buck - a "signature scent" if you will. Buck often pick out resinous tree species, such as cedar, to rub, apparently because it holds the scent the longest.

Bucks rub the most where they spend the most time. The rub is primarily a signal to other bucks, advising that a particular area is a "taken territory." He rubs trees around his core area, he leaves lines of rubs along favored travel corridors and in preferred breeding areas, he mixes his rubs with scrapes.

Rubs tell me both where and where not to hunt. I prefer not to put too much pressure on bucks by invading their key areas. I let the pattern of rubs tell me how to get between his core area and prime breeding area rather than in them.

Camo Pattern by Realtree
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