Bowhunting has a language all its own. Therefore, those who don’t bowhunt can get confused during bowhunting conversations. Don’t despair. We’ve compiled a list of common and misunderstood terms to translate bowhunting’s language. In no particular order …
The Rut: The breeding season of big-game animals.
Shed: An antler dropped annually from the head of male deer, elk or moose. Antlers typically fall off in mid- to late winter.
Shed Hunting: Searching for shed antlers.
Bedding Area: A place where deer usually bed to rest, sleep and chew their cud. These sites are usually in thick brush and/or tall grasses to ensure security.
Glassing: Scanning the landscape with binoculars and/or a spotting scope to locate game animals.
Trail Camera: A motion-activated camera that’s placed in woods or along fields to take photos of game animals. Bowhunters use trail cameras to learn how, when and where the animals use the area.
Tree Stand: An elevated platform hunters use to improve their vantage point and avoid detection.
Climbing Sticks: A narrow ladder or ladder sections that strap to tree trunks to help bowhunters ascend and descend to and from treestands.
Hang-on Treestand: This portable treestand consists of a platform and seat. It straps or chains to the tree trunk independently of steps or a ladder.
Climbing Stand: A portable treestand that consists of a climbing platform and seat/climbing aid. Both pieces use an adjustable cable or rigid chain that encircles the tree trunk. When used together, the climbing platforms help bowhunters ascend and descend the tree to a suitable height for hunting.
Ladder Stand: This stationary treestand includes a platform, seat and ladder that straps to the tree trunk.
Scrape: A piece of ground generally covering 2 square feet or more that white-tailed bucks clear with their hoofs. They’ll often urinate into the bare dirt, especially as rutting activity increases. Scrapes serve as communication “signposts” for other deer, possibly to establish dominance and broadcast their presence during the rut. Female deer will also visit and sniff scrapes, and sometimes urinate into them.
Rub: A scarred section on saplings or small trees made by bucks or bull elk vigorously rubbing their antlers on the trunk and peeling off the bark.
Food Plot: A small crop field planted to attract and feed game animals. Food plots are seldom harvested for human consumption. Food plots are often designed and planted in specific areas so they can be strategically bowhunted.
Bag Limit: The daily or annual number of animals that bowhunters can legally arrow. These regulations are enacted and enforced by state wildlife agencies.
Back Strap: The loin of meat that parallels both sides of the game animal’s spine. These are some of the best cuts on wild game.
Field Dressing: Slicing open a game animal after it’s down and removing its organs, intestines, stomachs, diaphragm and connective tissues.
Rattling: Mimicking the sounds of two white-tailed bucks fighting and crashing their antlers together. Bowhunters imitate these sounds with antlers or rattling devices in attempts to lure bucks into range. Rattling is usually tried just before or during the rut.
Grunt Call: A device consisting of a tube, mouthpiece and inner reed that mimics the sounds of a grunting white-tailed buck, generally during the rut.
Scouting: Studying a hunting area while walking slowly in the field, and/or with aerial photos and topographical maps at home.
Buck Sign: Physical evidence that a white-tailed buck is in the area. These signs include rubs, scrapes and large tracks.
Vitals: This generally means the animal’s chest area, which includes the rib cage and the heart, lungs and liver within.
Estrus: The time during a female elk or deer’s reproductive cycle when they’re ready and willing to breed.
Cape: The animal’s flesh, hide and fur.
Shoulder Mount: A taxidermy mount that displays an animal’s shoulders, neck, head and antlers. It’s made by tanning the animal’s cape, fitting it over a sculpted foam-plastic form, and attaching the antlers/skull plate atop the form’s head.
Venison: Meat yielded from a deer.
Ground Blind: A portable hiding place bowhunters use to conceal themselves from game. These blinds usually look like small camouflage tents, and include a door and adjustable windows to shoot through.
Safety Harness: An essential item when bowhunting from elevated treestands. Choose a full-body harness that secures a hunter’s waist, torso, shoulders and upper legs. The harness attaches to the tree trunk with a cord that extends from atop the harness. Should the bowhunter fall from the treestand, the harness prevents a tragic plummet to the ground.
Broadhead: An arrow tip wielding razor-sharp blades that inflict massive hemorrhaging when striking a game animal.
Buck Fever: A feeling of extreme excitement when spotting a white-tailed deer or other quarry. Symptoms include a rapid heartbeat, physical shaking, blurred focus and shortness of breath.
Blood Trail: A trail of blood the animal leaves after being arrowed.
Draw Weight: The amount of physical resistance, measured in pounds, bowhunters feel in the bow’s limbs when drawing a bow. The greater the resistance, the heavier the draw weight.
Downwind: The direction the wind is blowing to from the bowhunter. For instance, if the wind is blowing from the bowhunter to a buck, the buck is downwind of the bowhunter. Likewise, the bowhunter in that scenario is upwind from the buck.
Shot Angle: The angle at which a game animal stands in relation to a bowhunter and the arrow.
Shooting Lane: A natural or manmade opening through branches, leaves, tall grass and other foliage that allows bowhunters to fire an arrow unimpeded to their target.
Shot Placement: The spot where a bowhunter’s arrow strikes a game animal. Proper shot placement typically means hitting the animal’s vitals.
If you read or hear other bowhunting terms you don’t understand, or you’re ready to give bowhunting a try, visit a local archery shop for more help and advice.