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Get Ready For Archery Deer Season

Learn tips on how to harvest a deer this fall

By: Art Lander, Jr., Kentucky Afield Outdoors

FRANKFORT, Ky. – It’s no mystery why hunting white-tailed deer with bows and arrows has such a dedicated following.

One reason is archery season runs more than four months long.

The 2011-12 season is 136 days, opening on the Labor Day holiday weekend (Sat., Sept. 3), and running through Martin Luther King Day, Mon., Jan. 16, 2012.

Another reason is liberal bag limits.

Archers may take antlerless deer in all 120 counties, throughout the entire archery season, except in Zone 4. In the 25 Zone 4 counties, archers are restricted to antlered deer only on some of the days when muzzleloader and modern firearms seasons overlap with archery season. Read the deer hunting section in the 2011-2012 Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide carefully.

Judging by harvest data, archers experienced good hunting in recent years.

Last season, bow hunters checked in a record 16,650 deer, including records for the month of September (4,407), and January (2,701). In fact, in the last decade, the archery deer harvest steadily rose, up about 33 percent since the 2000-2001 season, when archers checked in 12,478 deer.

The growth and quality of deer herds in semi-rural suburban areas around the state’s largest cities have attracted the attention of bow hunters.

“There are some good hunting opportunities close to home, on small properties where discharging firearms is prohibited by local ordinance,” said Tina Brunjes, deer and elk program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “But be sure to check local laws before hunting since the discharge of bow and arrows may also be prohibited.”

Deer managers applaud the harvest of antlerless deer by archers.

“Last season 62 percent of the archery harvest was does,” said Brunjes. “It’s been at that level for some time.”

The season lengths and bag limits for the various deer seasons in Kentucky are determined in part by the gear used to hunt.

“Archery season is the longest of all our deer seasons because it’s the most challenging way to take a deer,” said David Yancy, senior deer biologist for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “Archery hunters have a success rate of about 14 percent. The success rate for firearms hunters is about three times higher.”

Yancy said based on data gleaned from license sales, telecheck records, and deer hunter attitude surveys, Kentucky has an estimated 110,000 archery hunters. This numbers seems on the upswing.

“Even though we don’t specifically track the number of archers, the increased harvest would suggest that more hunters are taking up the sport,” said Brunjes.

Here are a few pre-season tips for archers:

Make sure your equipment is properly matched and fine tuned.

Visit an archery pro shop when it comes time to select hunting arrows, installing a sight or arrow rest or getting your bow tuned up. This ensures that everything is in proper alignment. Arrows must be the proper length and spine for your bow’s draw length and weight. Even small details, like installing a string loop or peep sight, are absolutely critical to consistently shooting accurately.

Practice with field points, sight in with broadheads.

When practicing pre-season, make sure that the grain weight of your field points is the same weight as your broadheads.

As you get closer to opening day, pick one of your hunting broadheads to start practicing with and sight in your bow with that broadhead on your hunting arrows. Set the broadhead aside for future practice sessions.

Practice, practice, practice.

Try to shoot 10 to 15 arrows a day (pre-season, and throughout the entire season) rather than lots of arrows during long practice sessions. Make every arrow count, as if you were drawing on a deer. You won’t get warm-up shots in the field.

Slow down and concentrate on what you’re doing. The final days of practice are critical to your confidence going into the season.

Practice like you will hunt.

If you are going to hunt from a treestand, practice from an elevated position – a stairwell, roof of the garage, or better yet, your treestand, if there’s a suitable tree in your yard.

If you are planning on hunting from a ground blind, practice shooting from the stool or seat you plan to use in the blind. Shooting from a sitting position is a lot different than shooting while standing. Some archers find it more difficult.

Scout smart.

Pre-season scouting is critical to success. Take it slow and scout smart.

In farm country, deer pay little attention to the sounds of trucks and tractors. It’s easier and less invasive to scout while driving. Use your vehicle when checking out food plots, clover or alfalfa fields, which are typically hunted early in the season. Get the landowner’s permission to drive the perimeter of fields, looking for places where deer come out to feed.

If you’ll be hunting a new area, remember that you must approach your stand undetected to be successful. Look for areas where you can walk in with the prevailing wind in your face. Stay in the shadows on bright days. Ideally, you want the rising or setting sun at your back while on the stand.

Use these tips to increase your chances of bowhunting success this season. For more information on deer regulations, consult the 2011-2012 Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide, available wherever hunting licenses are sold.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. For more information on the department, visit our website at fw.ky.gov.

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