Plenty of time to practice hunting with bow for coming deer season


It's hard to believe that summer is half over. It seems like it was only a couple of weeks ago when Harford Countians were walking around in golf shoes to avoid slipping on ice-covered sidewalks and driveways.

Last winter, one of the coldest in nearly a century, apparently didn't have any effect on the county's whitetail deer population. In fact, there's a chance their numbers could increase by a third or more.

Despite increased hunting pressure, the state's herd continues to grow at a rapid rate, according to Ed Golden, director of the state Department of Natural Resources' whitetail deer program. The DNR was in the process of examining the possibility of opening additional areas of state parks and other lands to limited-access hunting.

Some areas being considered are not suitable for firearms hunting. They're either relatively close to housing developments or near major highways. These same areas, however, could prove ideal for archery hunting, particularly if the locations are small, fragmented parcels adjacent to population centers.

Stoney Forest, an isolated patch of woods near Bel Air, was recently opened to limited numbers of hunters. This small area holds an enormous number of whitetails and produced several exceptional bucks last season. Most hunters were elated with the number of bucks they saw and more than half said they had several deer well within range. However, having a whitetail close enough for a shot doesn't guarantee success.

The secret to successful deer hunting can be summed up in one word -- practice. With opening day of Maryland's archery season for whitetails just six weeks off, it's suggested that you practice at least three to four days a week until the season opens. Hunters should begin by first having their bow tuned. This means changing the string, adjusting the draw weight and let-down point, setting noc-locks, adjusting pin-sights and in some instances, changing balance weights.

The next step involves selecting the arrows. However, the arrows you use for practice must be identical to those you intend to hunt with. The reason behind this is simple. Arrows of identical weight, length and balance and fitted with matching points will have the same trajectory. Change a single characteristic and you'll alter the arrows' flight dramatically.

Practice in an environment similar to the area where you intend to hunt. For example, if you intend to hunt from a tree stand that's 12 feet above the ground, practice shooting at stationary targets from the same height. If your stand will be in a position overlooking a steep valley, most of your shots will be downhill.

On days when you're not practicing, it's a good idea to thoroughly scout the area where you intend to hunt. Look for tracks in areas of soft soil such as marshy bottom land or along stream edges. In some areas, deer are so plentiful that they wear distinct trails that are obvious, even to the casual observer.

After locating a heavily traveled area, select a location for your tree stand that's no farther than 30 yards away from the trail. If possible, the stand should be uphill of the path, thus eliminating most of the dilemmas associated with human scent. If this is a problem, there are several scent masking products available, which not only mask human odors, but act as attractants to deer.

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