Some archers love their sport so much that they keep bowhunting during gun season. We applaud these full-time bowhunters, and encourage all stick-and-string shooters to keep bowhunting during gun season if it’s legal.
If you accept that challenge, review these tips, rules and benefits before heading to the stand.
– Hunt thick areas: Many gun-hunters like hunting big, open areas where they can shoot far, such as fields and clearings. If you bowhunt such areas on public lands, a firearms hunter might shoot a deer you were eyeing before it’s within your bow range.
Therefore, hunt areas with a thick understory. Many gun-hunters avoid these habitats, but most deer prefer them for bedding cover because they feel safe and hidden. Position yourself to shoot as deer move into or out of their bedding area. You might be able to arrow a deer before anyone else sees it. Climbing treestands help you easily and quickly move from one hunting spot to the next.
– Beat others to the woods: Hunting pressure usually increases during gun season. To secure the best hunting spot, you must beat others to it. Arrive long before sunrise to get settled, and use hunting pressure to your advantage. As other hunters arrive, they might push deer your way. If you can sit until noon, or all day, you might arrow a deer spooked by less patient, less prepared hunters. Patience pays.
– Make sure it’s legal: Each state has its own laws for bowhunting during gun season. Some allow it, some don’t, and some govern it with special regulations. Maryland, for example, allows archery equipment for all deer hunting seasons. Still, those using archery equipment during the muzzleloader season must buy a muzzleloading stamp, according to the Maryland Guide to Hunting & Trapping.
Further, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife doesn’t allow crossbows to be used to hunt deer during the expanded archery, regular October archery, and muzzleloader seasons. And the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources lets hunters shoot a buck with archery equipment but register it with a gun-buck license during the gun season. Bowhunters, however, cannot use the gun-buck license outside of the gun season.
– Wear blaze orange: States that allow bowhunting during gun season usually require bowhunters to wear blaze orange. If it’s not required, wear it anyway to stay safe. Blaze orange helps other hunters see you at great distances, which prevents accidental shootings. Some states also let hunters wear chartreuse or fluorescent pink clothing.
Visit the agency’s website to read all game laws before hunting. Also note that some wildlife refuges, wildlife management areas, or other state or federally owned parks and forests have area-specific rules you must follow when bowhunting.
— More places to hunt: Many states hold special bowhunting seasons in urban areas for small woodlots within city limits. Arrows don’t travel as far as bullets, so bowhunting is often acceptable in populated areas. Some states also designate bow-only zones or counties to protect a deer herd from overhunting. That lets bucks grow older, and produce thick, heavy racks with lots of tines, assuming the land has enough nutrients to grow big antlers. Either way, bowhunters often have more access than gun-hunters to bigger, more mature bucks.
— Increase your proficiency: To become the best bowhunter possible, you must stick with it. Bowhunting during gun season gives you more time and opportunities to arrow whitetails.
— Bragging rights: Bowhunting requires skill and knowledge. Archers must accurately judge their shot distance, use the appropriate sight-pin, and fully draw their bow without spooking their quarry. They must also know more about a deer’s habitat, behaviors and food sources to get within bow range. Given bowhunting’s many challenges, each success is very rewarding.
If you prefer shooting a bow, own it and honor it. You’ll likely inspire other archers, and help create a stronger bowhunting community.