Want to bag trophy buck? Get prepared before the season opens

OUTDOORS

August 01, 1993|By GARY DIAMOND

Harford County bow hunters bagged 943 whitetail deer during the 1992 archery season, a figure that continues to increase despite the county's massive loss of suitable deer habitat during the past decade. Although a small percentage of hunters achieve their goal of bagging a trophy buck, the reasons behind those that were successful begins this time of year.

In just six weeks, whitetail deer season will open for bow hunters throughout Maryland. During this relatively brief period, bow hunters will fine tune their archery skills by spending hours at the range. There's more to hunting success than shooting at stationary targets.

First and foremost, it's imperative to fine tune your bow. Sights must be adjusted for specific distances, rollers and cames inspected, strings

and cables replaced and at that point you can begin practicing.

If you're not sure how to perform these tasks, take your bow to one of the local sporting goods shops that specializes in archery. The shops are owned by professionals who know the art of

fine-tuning bows and, in most instances, can custom make matching arrows to fit your needs.

The next step is practice. It's extremely important to practice with the same arrows you intend to hunt with.

Granted, you're going to dull those broad-heads till they're useless for hunting, but they'll be replaced with new, razor sharp points just before opening day. One of the keys to success is practicing with arrows that are not only matched to the bow, but in addition, shafts that weigh the same as those used during the actual hunt. The end result is consistent trajectories and remarkably accurate shooting skills.

How often should you practice? The most successful archers practice throughout the year, spending at least one or two days a week atshooting ranges specifically designed for hunters. Life-size targets are strategically placed in various woodland settings that simulate actual hunting conditions for a variety of game animals, particularly deer and turkey.

NTC Essentially, the hunter is placed in a situation that mimics every obstacle he or she will encounter during the season.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, in cooperation with several archery clubs, has established archery ranges in state parks throughout Maryland. Locally, Susquehanna and Gunpowder state parks have excellent facilities. The ranges are operated and maintained, however, by the various archery clubs who spend an enormous amount of time making sure targets and trails are kept in excellent condition. Because of this, only bull's-eye target areas are available to the general public while life-size game animal targets areas are open to club members only.

Although fine-tuning your archery skills is a major component of your hunting success, it's equally important to do a little preseason scouting of the area you intend to hunt. Public hunting areas include a small section of Rocks State Park and, in neighboring Cecil County, Elk Neck State Park. Recently, a small portion of Gunpowder State Park was open to a limited number of deer hunters who enjoyed excellent success. If you're thinking about hunting on private land, you'll need written permission from the owner. Although conflicts often arise between firearms hunters and county farmers, it's rare bow hunters are refused permission to hunt. Permission to hunt forms are contained in the guidebook that's issued with your hunting license.

Once permission is granted, ask the farmer where deer are regularly seen and the time of day they're most active. Then, carefully inspect the area, looking for places where the animals are browsing, especially where corn and soy bean fields are situated close to dense stands of hardwoods. Look for well worn trails, droppings and small saplings where big bucks rub velvet from their antlers. Spend a few days observing the deer from a portable tree stand, making mental notes of their feeding habits and locations they frequent on a routine basis.

Your chances of bagging a trophy buck are dramatically enhanced by spending just a few days in the woods prior to the season. Those that don't put forth the effort, often spend a lot of time in their stand watching squirrels instead of deer.

A few days before opening day, install new broad-heads and sharpen the blades with an oil stone or mill file until they're honed to a razor edge. Double check your bow to make sure everything's still in good working condition, the sight pins are tight and the string's not worn from weeks of practice. Then, be sure you have purchased a new hunting license and the appropriate stamps.

For information on archery ranges at Gunpowder State Park, contact Mark Coyle at Wing Bowman (410) 780-3417. Information on Susquehanna State Park's range can be obtained by calling Harford Bowman at (410) 676-5307.

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