With whitetail archery season quickly approaching, we bow hunters are making plans to arrow that mossy horn old buck or fat whitetail doe.

   I plan to begin the archery whitetail season in a ladder stand strapped to an isolated oak tree situated on a little spot of whitetail heaven at Squaw Mountain Ranch in Jack County. But before the white tail season opens, I’ll already have spent a few weeks in Colorado’s high country hunting elk and hopefully have a wild hog arrowed for BBQ at upcoming archery deer hunts here in Texas.

   A couple of trail cameras strapped to trees tell the story.

   There are some bruiser bucks in the area and they are still running in bachelor groups; they should begin making rubs about now, and be hard horned by the middle of the month. This fall, when the hormones begin to flow and rut begins, these good old boy bucks will break away and actively pursue does in estrus. When this annual breeding ritual begins, the whitetail herd (especially the bucks) can be likened to dominoes being shuffled. The bucks abandon their pre-rut patterns that were so easy for bow hunters to decipher a few weeks earlier.

   For the first few weeks of archery season, bucks will be in pre-rut and much easier to pattern.

   Their daily habit of traveling from bedding areas to staging areas to feeding areas will remain almost as constant as the Polar Star. I like hunting bucks during the rut, but I love the pre-rut when things are a whole lot more predictable.

   The invention of the trail camera has revolutionized the way many of us hunt whitetail and educated a bunch of us old hunters as to when deer truly are up and moving.

The moon plays a big part in predicting when to be on stand. I’ve learned this, through osmosis if nothing else, after hunting deer more than four decades. When the moon is shining brightly, it’s a good bet deer hunting will be best during the first 30-45 minutes of daylight; when the deer are heading back to their staging and bedding areas to digest the food they spent the night eating. Scores of studies on the way deer react to moon phase have been published and most of them vary greatly in their findings. I go by what I’ve personally observed: full moon, deer move best early morning and again midday. On dark nights, expect deer to be up feeding early; plan on sticking with that stand through at least mid-morning. Hunters that remain on stand during midday often harvest the biggest bucks.

   I have a real problem with sitting all day in a deer stand. I can stay put until around mid-morning, but by 10:30 a.m., I’m ready to head back to camp and enjoy a cup of coffee. I just have to be on stand well before first light, regardless of the moon phase.

   When hunting during a full moon, I am convinced hunters like myself would do better to sleep in and get in their stand around 10 a.m. and stay put until early afternoon, then head back to camp, relax and get back on the stand in time to catch the deer when they get up to feed during late afternoon.

   We that love to hunt deer with archery tackle are sticklers for practice.

    All aspects of good shooting form are perfected through practice. It’s one thing to pick up a center fire rifle that’s been properly sighted in once every month or so and achieve accuracy; shooting a bow is different. The muscles in the back and arms used to draw a bow are usually not used in other endeavors. Shooting regularly is the only way to keep these muscles strong and to perfect the skills of settling the sight pin on the proper spot and releasing the arrow.

    Even if you have not had time to practice much lately, you have plenty of time to get ready for the opener.

   Shoot as often as possible and make sure to practice from positions you will encounter under actual hunting conditions. If you will be hunting from a tree stand, make sure to spend plenty of time shooting from elevated positions. Know where to place that sight pin under every conceivable angle and distance that’s practical.

   Whether to hunt with mechanical or fixed broad heads is a personal decision.

   Through many years of searching, I’ve found a fixed broad head that flies to exactly the same point of impact as my field points. Innerloc Broad heads offers The Carbon Tuner broad head which, with a tiny Allen wrench, can be adjusted so the blades are in perfect alignment with the vanes on the arrow. I’ve done a great deal of shooting with these broad heads and found them to be my favorite, hands down. I also carry Innerloc’s EXP mechanicals in my quiver. These mechanicals come razor sharp out of the box and employ a ClipLoc system rather than O rings. I’ve taken several game animals with these ruggedly built mechanicals and plan to use them in Colorado in late August for elk. There are many fine broadheads on the market today. I suggest you do as I did and experiment until you find the brand that works best for you.

   A good friend and I own a small archery elk outfitting operation in northern Colorado and I guide deer and hog hunters on the 6,000 acre Clay Hill Ranch in Freestone County. I’ve personally taken a good number of big game animals through the years and been present when many clients were successful. Here’s some bow hunting tips that should make your season more successful this year.

  • Make sure you know which pin to use at every distance from 5 yards out to your maximum shooting range (usually around 40 yards, sometimes 50 yards when mountain hunting). These extended shots should be made only by veteran archers that know exactly where their arrow will fly at distances over 30 yards, this knowledge in gleaned only through lots of shooting.
  • Practice shooting from ground level and elevated positions.
  • Consider setting one sight pin dead on at 25 yards. On most modern bows this setting will suffice for a center of shoulder hold on game from point blank out to 30 yards. Make sure to check your point of impact at all distances.
  • Wait 30 minutes before taking up the trail. This can be tough to do, but it’s the best policy to avoid spooking game.

Luke Clayton is on the pro staff at Mathews Bows, Innerloc Broadheads and Carbon Express Arrows. Listen to Luke’s radio show at: wwwcatfishradio.com.