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Although deer is the most popular game animal, the numbers will surprise you. Reports show that over 8.1 million people hunt deer annually in the US.
Deer hunting is a national passion and tradition that has been around for countless generations. Thanks to great conservation efforts by authorities and hunters, the sharp decline in deer populations in the 20th due to overhunting was reversed.
Currently, there are over 200,000 harvested deer in each state per year and a significant percentage is by bowhunting. If you are planning to hunt deer with a bow, this is the article for you. We have tried to compile years of deer hunting with bows into these chapters:
- Basics of deer hunting
- Best hunting methods for bowhunting deer
- Best bows for deer hunting
- Best arrows for deer hunting
- Where to aim when bowhunting deer
- Legislations for deer bowhunting
Basics of Deer Hunting
Hunting of deer is an exciting sport. It is perhaps the holy grail of hunting as it requires some level of skill and knowledge. You may grab your perfect bow but still end up empty-handed if you do not know where to hunt for instance. The commonly hunted types are whitetails and mule deer. Their distribution makes bow hunting whitetail deer the most popular of the two. You may, however, be an area where bow hunting mule deer is the more prevalent activity due to their availability in your area.
Why We Hunt Deer
One of the most popular questions among new hunters is, why hunt deer? Here are some of the reasons:
- You get fresh, organic lean meat
- Improves marksmanship as they are a challenging target
- Cultivates your survival skills
- It’s a great tradition that needs to be kept alive
- An excellent way to spend time in nature away from the office
It is evident therefore that hunting deer is for both food and trophy. It is an incredible sport that you will love once you start doing it regularly. But if you have been hunting deer using other methods, you already know how incredible it is when compared to hunting any other game animal.
Why Hunt Deer with a Bow
The main reason for hunting with a bow is for you to gain access to deer during the archery season and the added challenge. Now that firearms and muzzleloaders are not allowed in this season you will need to find your way around bowhunting.
In other seasons, a bow presents the unique advantage of allowing you to be stealthy while hunting. If you make a shot and miss, the chances of the deer being spooked are lower than when using a firearm. That means you are better placed to have another shot. You are thus more likely to bring some great deer meat home with you.
Thirdly, you may just be more comfortable with a bow than a normal rifle and you think that bowhunting gives you more of a challenge.
Where to Hunt Deer
Choosing the right hunting spot is a crucial determinant of your success during the hunt. It is easy to find deer on both private lands and public lands in most of the states. During the deer season, you can opt for either once you have permission from the landowner in case its private land or authorities for public lands.
You may have to choose between hunting in a wooded area or on the edge of an open field. If you are good at long shots, open fields are your best bet. You will need to opt for the wood areas if you are more comfortable at close range.
Scouting of the area in which you will be bowhunting is crucial as it helps you identify the perfect hunting spot. Choose a hunting spot that is:
- Along a path that the deer use
- Next to their regular feeding ground
- Comfortable for your shot range
Best Hunting Methods for Bowhunting Deer
Stand hunting, still hunting and stalking are used in hunting deer. Stand hunting is the most popular option currently and in fact veteran hunters have been complaining about the vanishing art of stalking and still hunting. Although bow hunting deer from the ground is recommended, it needs a lot of skill especially moving stealthily which may be a challenge for beginners.
Bowhunting from a Stand
A stand gives you a better shot. It gives you the ultimate vantage point. Another advantage withstand hunting is that it will be harder for the deer to see you because you not at eye level with it. Expert hunters also believe it reduces the amount of your scent reaching the deer in case the wind direction changes. It, of course, remains debatable because deer have a great sense of smell. You may need to use a bow hunting deer blind in combination with your stand for the best results.
Ensure your tree stand is stable and easy to climb. You can buy a tripod stand or other readymade stands from a local outdoor store. It will, however, increase your cost of hunting which makes building a stand the best option.
Treestands for Deer Hunting
Treestands are amazing for Deer Hunting with a Bow. You can easily get a very good vantage point almost anywhere. All you need is a tree, the know-how, and a good and safe Treestand and you’re good to go almost anywhere.
What I’d really like you to do before trying this in action is to make sure you have practiced using it on low height first while shooting. It is easy to lose your balance when shooting arrows, especially when your heart is pumping like crazy and you have this magnificent deer right in front of you.
So go for a good quality tree stand like any of the ones from Summit Treestands which I have been using the last few years. Really robust and cozy to sit on for an entire day of hunting. I use the Summit Treestand 180 Max SD Climbing Treestand, Mossy Oak. But they have several other cheaper ones as well. Here was the cheapest one I could find right now on Amazon.
How to Build a Deer Stand for Bow Hunting
It’s quite easy to build a stand. All you need is to build a platform and a ladder for climbing. You will need the following materials for a simple 20 feet stand:
- Two wood beams: 2 inches thick, 4 inches wide and 20feet tall
- Extra 2” by 4” wood beams
- Plywood measuring 55” by 46”
- Screws and nails
- Screwdriver and hammer
Once you have the requirements ready, build a tree stand in the following three easy steps.
- Build the ladder
Start building your ladder by laying the two wood beams next to each other with the 2” thickness facing up. Next, cut 14 pieces measuring 2 feet each from the extra wood beams. Place these rungs on the two wooden beams at 20 inches apart and fasten them with screws using a screwdriver.
- Build the platform
Find the perfect tree in your hunting spot for your platform basing on the following characteristics:
- Tall and straight without too many branches
- Proper width and has enough leaves that provide good cover
- Perpendicularly downwind from the deer travel direction
- About 20 feet from the hunting area
Once you have the perfect tree, look for two strong branches that are parallel to each other. From the extra beams, cut two pieces measuring 2.5 feet long. Use your hammer to nail them to the branches. Onto these wood beams, nail the plywood. The addition of two or more beams diagonally under your platform makes it stronger.
- Connect Platform to Ladder
Get two pieces from the extra beams and nail them perpendicularly to the top of your ladder. Now connect these beams to the wood beams underneath your platform using screws. Once you fasten the ladder to the platform, your stand is ready for testing and use afterward.
Best Bow for Deer Hunting
Choosing the right bow is pivotal to your hunting success. Before looking at the list of the best bows to buy, it is important to understand the types of bows. You can use a recurve bow, compound bow, or a crossbow in deer hunting. However, their suitability in deer hunting varies greatly.
Deer Hunting Compound Bow
The compound bow is the best choice when it comes to deer hunting. It is easy to draw, easy to aim, much more powerful than recurve bows, and great for beginners. You will, therefore, find it as the most popular bow used by hunters of deer and other big game today. Reports show that around 70% of hunters use this type of bow. Experienced hunters love it for its accuracy and power.
Its design features a pulley system that allows you to effortlessly get the maximum draw length. You can also customize its draw weight depending on your target size besides the ability to use accessories to improve your accuracy.
Crossbow Deer Hunting
Crossbows have also been gaining popularity in the recent past in deer hunting. A crossbow is a combination of a compound bow or a recurve bow and a gun. It has a trigger that does release the arrow towards the deer. Being easy to direct and shoot, it allows better accuracy and firing range than pure bows. It can also be accessorized. They, however, cost a lot more and until recently, their use in hunting was restricted.
Deer Hunting with a Recurve Bow
The third option is a recurve bow whose design gives you more speed with less effort. It thus allows you to fire at a distant target. Its name comes from its design where it curves towards you at the center and away from you at the tips. This recurves at both tips is the reason for more speed with less effort. This type of bow is also great for novice hunters.
With that out of the way, here is a list of the three best deer hunting bows that you can buy.
1. The Southland Archery Supply Outrage 70 Lbs 30′
As a beginner, you will find this SAS Rage 70 the ultimate choice as you need no accessories to use it. The bow has a draw weight range of 55-70lbs. With a 70% let off, even the 70lbs draw weight will feel like 21pounds. It also has a speed of 270 Feet Per Second (FPS) which is pretty decent and will let you drop a deer at 25 yards easily. Here is the cheapest one right now on Amazon.
- Can be equipped with gear
- 70% let-off which makes aiming easy at full draw length
- Strong enough to hunt big game like deer
- Doesn’t have accessories like sight and stabilizer
- Not ready for use because it’s not fully equipped at purchase
2. Leader Accessories Compound Bow
If you want a bow that is ready for use, the Leader Accessories Compound Bow is your best bet. The bow is equipped with the best bow sight for deer hunting, bow releaser, drop-away arrow rest, stabilizer, soft transporting case, 12 carbon arrows, and other accessories. Here is a link to the cheapest one I could find on Amazon.
- Equipped with a lot of great gear and is ready to use
- Has a lower draw weight (30-55lbs) which is great for beginners or younger hunters
- Max speed of 296FPS and a 70% let-off
- May need some tuning first
- Only available for right-handed people
3. Bear Archery BR33 Hybrid Cam Compound Bow
The ultimate high-end bow is the B33 Hybrid Bow by Bear Archery who are industry leaders. With a maximum FPS of 330 and an 80% let-off, it gives you the most powerful shot while making it easy to hold till you get the perfect shot. It is more stable due to its over 33 inches axle length and comes with great accessories like whisker biscuit, bow stabilizer, 4 pin bow sight, and sound dampener.
- Extremely fast with a high FPS of 330
- Very lightweight as it measures 4.2lbs
- 80% let-off
- Stable with an axle length of 33.25”
- Longer axle length that makes it difficult to carry while moving through a forest
Best Arrows for Deer Hunting
Another critical determinant of your deer hunting fortunes is the quality of your arrows. A poor quality arrow will make the best bow and marksmanship look like a joke. You will, therefore, need to carefully select the arrows to accompany your bow.
Although you have a wide range of choices when it comes to arrowheads, only look for arrows with broadhead arrow tips. Bullet point and Blunt point arrowheads can be used in target practice and small game while grab point and bowfishing point arrowheads can be used in fishing. There are three different types of broadhead arrow tips:
- Fixed blade broadhead which glues directly to the arrow shaft and is irremovable
- Removable blades which can easily be attached or detached from the arrow shaft
- Exchangeable broadheads expand upon impact
If you are looking to buy arrows for deer hunting, the following are the best choices based on material, speed, and precision.
1. Carbon Express Maxima Hunter Arrow 6 Pack
The Maxima Hunter Arrows (Blazer Vanes) are built for precision and incredibly stronger endurance. Carbon Express, being industry leaders, never disappoints when it comes to quality. A dual spine weight technology where there are two spines in a single arrow made of double diverse carbon materials gives this arrow unparalleled energy efficiency. It will regain a faster spin when it is about 20% close to the target which allows it to maintain its momentum giving you excellent precision and a powerful shot. Here are the cheapest ones right now on Amazon.
- Regulated arrow discharge
- Launchpad precision nock set for amazing precision
- One of the speediest arrows
- Consistent precision from arrow to arrow
- Needs a lot more maintenance
2. Easton FMJ N-Fused Arrows 6 Pack
What makes this Easton FMJ arrows stand out is their strong wall carbon and significantly little breath shafts and sharp penetrating jackets completely made of steel. The arrow offers superior piercing power which is great for hunting deer. Here are the cheapest ones I could find on Amazon.
- Impressive weight and staying length
- Quality body parts
- Multi-color- red and white or black and white color options
- Offers great value for money
- More weighty than other arrows
3.Gold Tip Velocity XT Shafts 12 Pack (Best Budget)
Many hunters have come to love the smoothness and durability of the Velocity XT Shafts. With a tolerance of the arrow’s straightness about +/- 0.003 inches, you are assured of great quality. It comes with separate inserts. They, however, don’t come with x-nocks. You will need to note that their nock orientation is 246. Here are the cheapest ones I could find on Amazon.
- Swift and pierces well
- Offers great value for money
- 12 pack
- Usable at night
- Not suitable for beginners
Besides the above three, the following are other great options that you can choose from while shopping for arrows for deer hunting:
- Carbon Express Maxima RED
- Carbon Express Maxima BLU RZ
- Carbon Express Pile Driver
- Gold Tip Hunter Pro
- Easton 420789-tf Aftermath Arrows
I will try to write a more extensive guide into deer hunting arrows in the future but here i’m only listing the ones I have tried with good results but I know there are many other choices aswell.
Where to Aim When Bowhunting Deer
Understanding the deer anatomy is central to making effective shots. A deadly shot is one that hits the vital organs and passes through the deer.
The vital organs you are targeting are the lungs and the heart, although the heart is fairly small leaving you with the lungs as the best organs to hit. Luckily, the lungs of a deer are big which gives you a fairly large target. The lungs are located in the ribcage behind and below the shoulders. Lodging your arrow into the lungs offers a quick humane death of the deer and additionally saves you from strenuous tracking of a wounded deer. You can also aim lower where you may hit the heart but chances are quite slim.
You will also need to shoot the deer at an ideal angle for you to go through the lungs. Here are the shooting positions and their results:
- Broadside- the deer is perpendicular to your arrow and is the best position as it exposes the vitals well
- Quartering toward- the deer slightly faces you but is not head-on, avoid severe angles as you may miss
- Quartering away- favorable as it exposes vital organs while the deer faces slightly to moderately away
- Hitting from behind and from directly in front offers the least chances of killing the deer
In case you hit your target but the deer runs away, note the direction and wait for between 15 to 30 minutes. That is enough time for it to die without you causing it undue stress by chasing after it. Chasing makes its body release adrenaline which will make it run further. The release of hormones and chemicals during the chase after wounding will make its meat taste gamey. You, of course, don’t want an undesirable flavor and so its best that you give it time.
After the time elapses, you can track it using your hunting dog or let others help you if you are hunting in a group. Follow the trail of blood and you will get to it in no time. In case you need to cross property lines to retrieve your catch, ensure you have permission by the owner so that it doesn’t turn out to be trespassing. Ensure you have a way of contacting the owners of the neighboring properties in case you are going hunting on private property.
Legislation for Deer Bowhunting
Finally, you need to understand the laws and regulations governing deer bowhunting before you head out. First, you can’t hunt deer at whatever time you please like you would with hogs.
There are specific deer hunting seasons whose dates vary from state to state. You will need to confirm with the local wildlife and conservancy department offices about the open season dates.
Secondly, there are archery seasons that allow you to hunt using bows. You can make use of these seasons to sharpen your skills and learn from expert hunters because every hunter will be using archery equipment during this season.
A hunting license or deer hunting permit is a prerequisite in virtually all states for you to hunt deer. Some states have deer archery permits which are given after you undergo bowhunting courses. You may also need written permission from a landowner in case you are hunting on private lands in some states. Ensure you comply with the requirements of your state before going hunting. Luckily, most licenses and permits can be purchased online which makes it easier for you.
The compound, recurve and traditional bows are allowed for deer bowhunting in all states. Removal of restrictions in the recent past has allowed the use of crossbows in most states for the hunting of deer. Confirm with your state’s wildlife or conservation department to ensure crossbows are allowed before you head out with one.
You can attach accessories like a lighted pin, dot or holographic sights, rangefinders, illuminated nocks, radiofrequency location devices, and cameras to your arrow. You are however not allowed to use chemical dispensing devices or drug, tranquilizer, or poison coatings on your arrows.
Baiting regulations also vary from state to state. You may need to stop using attractants in your hunting spot at least 10 days before the beginning of the season. You can, however, use lures, decoys, and calls that are non-electric during deer hunting.
It is always safer to check that you are complying with all the deer hunting regulations before the deer season begins. The information is readily available on the official websites of the wildlife or conservancy departments of your state.
Now you are ready to be part of one of the greatest American passions and traditions. Being successful at deer bowhunting is not as complicated as you may have thought. Find the perfect hunting spot, get a powerful and precise bow and arrow, and get hunting. Always ensure you comply with the hunting regulations in place within your area. All the best as you enjoy the deer hunting thrill and harvest some great tasting meat.
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36 years old, been hunting and fishing my entire life – love the outdoors, family, and all kinds of hunting and fishing! I have spent thousands of hours hunting hogs and training hunting dogs, but I’m always learning new stuff and really happy to be sharing them with you! hit me up with an email in the contact form if you have any questions.