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How To/Pro-Tips

Luck Favors The Well-Informed

Scouting is nothing more than gathering good information that helps us make good hunting decisions. Making good decisions about the best places to hunt is much easier when you have the facts.

A key component in scouting and hunting whitetails is understanding the lay of the land. You can scout much smarter and save a lot of effort and time if you have a good overview of your hunting area. Topographic maps and aerial photos are a great first step toward smart scouting.

Both maps and photos can help you identify key terrain features that translate into the locations of travel corridors, bottlenecks, funnels, bedding areas, sanctuary areas and even food sources. A buck knows his ground intimately and so should you. Topographic maps and aerial photos may give you that "missing link" of information, often invisible on the ground, that ties key terrain features together for your quarry.

Topographic maps and aerial photos are available from the U.S. Geological Survey. Call 1-800-USA-MAPS.

Getting Geared Up

The end of the season is the best time to get your gear in shape for next season. This is when you are most familiar with everything that needs fixing, cleaning and tuning up before next year. Sit down and make lists of what needs to be shipshape before the new hunting opener. What needs to be completely replaced? Various scents and lures lose their potency after being opened. Toss out the old and make a list of what you'll need new. For bowhunters, you need to check out your bows, arrows and stands. Note bent pins, stretched and frayed strings, bent shafts, broken heads, missing bolts or anything that is severely worn. Again make a list. Do a wish list too. What gear did you really wish you had had available last season -- gear that might have made you more successful. If you get your act together early you won't be scurrying around just before opening day trying to remember what critical gear you need for a fresh start.

Defeating Deer Vision

The whitetail's senses of smell and hearing receive so much attention that we often forget its vision. Indeed, a big buck's nose for trouble is incredible and its ears are keen. However, deer see very well and vision is basic to a trophy buck's defenses.

To defeat deer eyes probing for danger, be still and move slowly only when you must. A deer will notice an out of place movement almost instantly. Good camouflage aids greatly. Good cover or a blind adds further concealment.

If "hunter orange" is required, wear it as a vest on the trunk of your body. Avoid wearing orange on parts of your body most prone to movement, particularly hands and arms. Where legal, basic hunter orange broken up by other colors, creating a camouflage pattern, is very effective.

A treestand with a camouflage covering is a great aid in concealment. It lets you get away with careful movement to make your wait more comfortable or to make a critical shot.

Shooting Lane Savvy

Bowhunters have to have a clear shot. Not that gun hunters should try to shoot through heavy brush either, but what a small twig can do to the best aimed arrow is really devastating.

Clearing shooting lanes, and how much you clear them, in a prime stand location is a tough call. You want to disturb the area as little as possible but you have to have the openings, at the right places, to make the successful shot.

When preparing a new stand site, try to minimize disturbance and the amount of human scent you spread around. Drag all cut brush well away from the stand and the lane. Remember, you're not building a road but an open path along the arrow's trajectory. Cut the brush low out where the deer is likely to be, but going back to your stand, cut higher. Head-high and even taller trimming right around your stand will make the area look more natural and not "spotlight" your location.

Bow Check

A thorough check of your critical archery outfit is essential to your bowhunting success. Cover the basics so your gear won't let you down.

Inspect your bow. Look for bent bow-sight pins, broken arrow rests, frayed cables, a frayed bow string or any cracks in the handle, wheels or limbs. Check limb bolts and sight attachment screws for tightness. Lubricate wheel axles to prevent creaking and groaning.

Two or three twists will shorten a stretched bow string by about 1/8-inch. Wax the string at least once a month throughout the season. Replace excessively stretched or frayed strings or strings with broken strands. Look for frayed or broken strands under the serving at the nocking point. It's a good idea to replace bow strings every two or three seasons.

Check all arrows, points and nocks for straightness. Replace or straighten bent shafts and square up heads and nocks. Any of these arrow elements that is more than a few thousandths off perfectly straight can greatly diminish accuracy.

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