Art Lander’s Outdoors: If it’s August, it must be time to prepare for a new archery deer season

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When August arrives, it’s time to start getting ready for the upcoming archery deer season.

Kentucky’s 2017-18 deer season starts with the opening of archery hunting on Saturday, Sept. 2. Last season archery hunters checked in 19,571 deer they harvested, which is about 3 percent below the five-year average archery deer harvest of 20,162.

Here’s a checklist, with some tips that will improve your hunting success this season:

• Don’t forget annual bow maintenance.

Take your bow to a certified archery technician and have it checked out to ensure that everything is in good working order. Replace the string if there is evidence of stretching, and the string loop, if overly worn. Make sure your peep sight is functioning properly.

Use trail cameras to monitor deer movement on your property. (Photo by Art Lander Jr.)

Equipment issues, including damaged arrows, can make you shoot inconsistently. If you are planning on replacing your bow’s sight, arrow rest or mechanical releases, do it now. Don’t wait. It will take some time to get used to new gear and sight in your bow.

• Begin daily practice.

Start out slow, just shooting a few arrows a day, while you build up arm and shoulder muscles, and get back into the rhythm of drawing the bow, aiming and squeezing the release. Don’t rush your shots. Concentrate and make every arrow count. Archery is all about consistency and muscle memory — holding the bow the same way every shot, with a solid anchor point and relaxing when you make the shot.

Make sure the practice points are the same grain weight as a broadheads you will hunt with this season. If you are going to be standing up while hunting, practice that way. If you will be hunting from a ground blind, and shooting from a chair, practice from a chair.

• Evaluate last season’s “not so perfect” shots to try to determine what went wrong. Why did I shoot low or to the right?

Misses happen when hunting deer with a bow and arrow. Last season I had a 25-yard broadside shot at an adult doe. I was hunting from a ground blind. When I released the arrow the deer wheeled back to her left, causing the arrow, that was headed right for her chest behind the shoulder, to hit her forward of the shoulder in the brisket.

I knew the shot was iffy, so I gave it an hour and a half, before blood trailing. Sure enough it was a hit to a non-vital area. The blood trail dried up, the deer recovered quickly and when I eventually jumped her far away from where I was hunting, she ran off without bleeding anymore.

Not all misses or bad hits are due to a deer “jumping the string.” Expert bow hunter, target archer and archery coach Randy Ulmer offered some advice in a recent article in Bowhunting magazine.

“Many archers are prone to peeking — dropping their bow arms immediately upon release — in an attempt to better view their arrow in flight. Peeking often results in a low miss. Instead, focus on maintaining your form until you see or hear the arrow hit the target,” wrote Ulmer.

Take your bow to a certified archery technician and have it checked out to ensure that everything is in good working order. Begin practice on a daily basis. Concentrate on consistent form. (Photo by Art Lander Jr.)

Another reason for a low miss is punching, instead of squeezing, the trigger of your release.

Inconsistent pressure on the bow’s handle can also produce a low hit.

“If you vary the pressure point from one shot to the next, the bow will shoot differently. The ideal pressure point eliminates tension in the bow hand. Bend your left wrist (for a right-hander) and push your right index finger into your left palm at various locations. There is only one spot — located right below the pad of your thumb on your lifeline — where the force won’t cause any movement in your bow hand. That is your ideal pressure point,” wrote Ulmer.

Misses to the left or right are usually caused by leaning (canting) the bow. “Ideally, you should hold the bow straight up and down on every shot,” wrote Ulmer.

• Mow, till, and plant.

By the first week or two of August most deer fawns, even the ones born later in the spring, are on their feet and at their mother’s side. There’s less risk on running over a fawn bedded down, hiding in tall grass or weeds, so it’s okay to begin seasonal mowing.

Mow forage plots and wildlife openings so they will freshen up with new greenery when fall rains commence. Mow fields that you hunt over, and access trails to ground blinds or treestands at field edges, for easy, quiet and fast access.

For more outdoors news and information, see Art Lander’s Outdoors on KyForward.

If your plan is to put in some winter wheat plots, begin tilling up the ground as soon as possible. Add agricultural lime and fertilizer at recommended rates, and re-till or disk as needed, before planting with a broadcast seeder in late August or September. When the wheat comes up broadcast clover seed, ahead of a rain. The wheat will act as a nurse crop to ensure the clover sprouts. A green, growing plot of wheat and clover will attract deer and wild turkeys all fall, and is a great place to bow hunt from a ground blind.

• Organize your hunting clothes and other gear.

Wash your hunting clothes in a scent-free detergent and hang them out on a clothes line to dry. I like to store my hunting clothes in plastic, snap top box, along with some fresh cut chunks of cedar so my clothes will smell like the woods.

• Check your trail cameras.

As opening day of the season nears, move your cameras to get a better overall look at deer movement on your hunting property. If you have hunted the same property for many years you may already have a good idea where deer will be during different times of late summer and fall. Trail cameras can verify that, giving you an added sense of confidence.

Changes in habitat, such as a cedar harvest, may drastically change deer movement on your hunting area. Trail cameras can help you figure out what’s happening.

• Set practical deer harvest goals for the season.

If your hunting area is in a Zone 1 county, where deer populations are above target densities, your priority should be to harvest as many antlerless deer as possible to lower the herd’s reproductive potential. Adult does get first priority because they often produce twins. Never pass up a close shot at an older female deer.

Any buck taken with a bow is a trophy, but the management philosophy on our hunting property has always been that a “shooter” buck is defined as a buck with antlers out beyond his ears, regardless of estimated age. That way we have steady supply of bucks growing up in the herd, and a few older bucks each season.

Hunt hard and hunt safe this bow season. Be ready for one of the most anticipated opening days on the fall hunting calendar.

1Art Lander Jr.

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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