Bowhunting: What To Do In The Off Season
Autumn’s golden hues might be distant memories, but bowhunting also offers plenty of fun during months not ending in “er.”
Scouting, shed hunting, 3-D archery, bowfishing and turkey hunting are fun spring and/or summer activities that fill the void between fall’s hunting seasons. These fun activities will also make you a better bowhunter.
When most hunting seasons end, shed-hunting season is just starting. Deer, elk and moose shed their antlers in late winter as testosterone declines in bucks and bulls. Shed antlers offer hunters another favorite pastime. Finding shed antlers requires some knowledge of deer habits and a little luck.
The best places to look for sheds are winter feeding areas and the edges of bedding areas. Hiking through woods and scouring specific spots for sheds is also a great excuse to get outdoors and scout for deer. Sheds often reveal a buck’s core area, and tell you which bucks survived the hunting season.
You’ll find few better ways to practice shooting in hunting situations than 3-D archery. This sport features life-size animal targets with scoring rings in the kill zone, and they’re shot at varying distances and scenarios. Those features help bowhunters practice shooting and shot placement in realistic situations.
Most 3-D events require competitors to shoot targets at unmarked distances, which makes distance-judging a crucial skill. Estimating distance is also a valuable skill in bowhunting. Those who can quickly and accurately range animals enjoy more success. The pressure of competition makes 3-D tournaments a great way to practice managing the stress of surging adrenaline when shooting at game.
It’s never too early to search the woods for deer sign and check out new hunting spots. Snow makes it easy to identify tracks and deer trails. Mark these areas on maps and return in spring and summer with trail cameras. Travel corridors and feeding areas provide valuable “intel” on deer in your area. Just walking in the woods and observing deer pellets and old rubs also helps you figure out the area’s deer.
Bowfishing is a fun, exciting way to extend your bow season. Bowfishing is bowhunting for fish. Wade the shallows or stand aboard a flat-bottomed boat to spot fish, and then shoot them with a barb-tipped arrow that’s attached to a line and a bow-mounted reel. Whether you miss or score, you retrieve everything with the reel.
Be sure to check with your state’s fish and wildlife agency for bowfishing regulations and license requirements. Laws typically limit bowfishing anglers to “rough fish” and invasive species. Gar, carp, rays and suckers are the typical targets when bowfishing. Invasive species like Asian carp and snakeheads are also common quarry. Asian carp are notorious for leaping from the water when hearing a boat engine. “Flying carp” make exciting targets.
You can convert your hunting bow to a bowfishing rig by adding a bowfishing reel and bowfishing arrow. These reels screw into the stabilizer bushing on the front of the bow’s riser. These arrows have barbed points and weigh far more than regular arrows to ensure they maintain their momentum through the water. The arrows have a slot for attaching the line from your bowfishing reel.
Several manufacturers make bowfishing kits, which make it relatively easy to convert your bow. Local archery shops are the best place to buy bowfishing equipment, get it set up properly, and learn important bowfishing knowledge about your area.
Don’t swap your broadheads for field points just yet! Bowhunting turkeys is an exciting way to enjoy the spring woods. Toms seek hens from March through May, often making thunderous gobbles that give away their location. With help from turkey calls, you can mimic a hen to coax the gobbler into your ambush.
Ground blinds are essential for bowhunting turkeys. The bird’s keen eyesight quickly detects movements, such as when you draw your bow. A ground blind reduces the chances of getting picked off, but you must place it in areas that turkeys visit. Scout potential sites before the season, and use the early-morning hours to listen for gobbling.
As you now know, the offseason never arrives for bowhunters because they always find something in winter, spring and summer to ensure fall success. When your fall hunting seasons end, keep your boots, bow and arrows handy. Get outdoors and enjoy all these awesome activities while they last!