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Ready or not...: guided deer bowhunts aren't cheap and money doesn't guarantee success. To assure good memories, follow the advice of these professional outfitters. (Whitetail 2002 Special).

YOU'VE PICTURED THIS SPECIAL MOMENT for months. The huge buck standing broadside within the trimmed shooting lane under your treestand is one of the biggest whitetails you've ever seen -- or dreamed of. Best of all, he has absolutely no idea you're there. Heart drumming, you hold your breath and somehow manage to draw your bow without alerting the deer. Switching to mental autopilot, you concentrate on that specific ribcage aiming point. Almost magically, your arrow is gone. And so is the grant buck. Only the arrow, angled half-buried in the fallen leaves beyond where the deer had stood offers proof that the deer was real and not another day-dream. Sitting back, trembling, you replay each detail of the shot in your mind's eye. Again and again.

Euphoric elation or gut-grinding disappointment. No matter which emotion washes over you as you wait in your treestand, you must accept this hard bowhunting truth: Absolutely nothing you can do now will ever change the outcome of this autumn encounter with your dream buck. It is what you do before any woodland moment of truth that most often means the difference between bowhunting success and failure.

To help all readers better prepare for their dream hunt, I asked a handful of veteran whitetail guides I've hunted with to share their professional observations and personal advice. These men, all successful bowhunters themselves, have witnessed hundreds of killing shots -- and mysterious misses. In short, they've heard and seen it all satisfied clientele, they gladly agreed to offer their candid comments.

Following is a frank discussion of common bowhunting problems and how to overcome them. The helpful suggestions are intended to benefit bowbunters who have hopes of returning home with great memories and braggin' size antlers:

Common Problems

Although a majority of bowhunters who hunt with deer guides are experienced hunters who shoot their bows well, several common problems were mentioned again and again. Surprisingly, poorly tuned equipment ranked near, the top of the complaint list compiled by the veteran guides we interviewed. Even in this age when expert tuning advice and assistance are readily available, some people remain too busy, too lazy, or too uninformed to ensure that their bows, arrows, and broadheads are finely tuned and ready to perform flawlessly in hunting situation. Such basic oversight is typically a surefire recipe for failure.

"Someone in almost every group of guys we get needs to work on his bow before heading to the woods," notes Kent Hippen, co-owner of Nebraska Trophy Whitetails. "We watch everyone shoot at our practice range and offer what assistance we can to those who need it, but the tuning responsibility rests with the hunter. A few guys even show up with mismatched arrows, and there's absolutely no excuse for that."

"Some hunters' bows aren't sighted in," adds Mississippian Jimmy Riley, Giles Island relations manager, who also requires all hunters to shoot their bows before hunting. "Others obviously haven't practiced as much as they should. They miss their buck and wonder why. Everyone needs to prepare by practicing properly before arrival."

"Most of the equipment problems we see are found with rookie hunters," says Hank Hearn, hunting operations manager for Mississippi's Tara/Willow Point. "Loose sights and arrow rests. Peep sights not served in. Things like that. Some clients dont't even know there's anything wrong with their gear. We require everyone to shoot before they go deer hunting. That's when we discover that some guys have never shot arrows tipped with the broadheads they'll be using. They've shot practice points but have no idea where their hunting heads hit or how they fly. Some claim their broadheads will hit 'close enough' but that's not necessarily true. That's not good enough."

"It's always a good idea to check out hunting tackle after you've driven or flown to any hunting camp," states Fred Law, deer hunting manager for Alabama's Enon Plantation. "Even the best tuned bows can be affected. We frequently hear guys at the practice range saying their bows 'aren't shooting like they did at home?' Some clients can't shoot accurately from elevated stands at only 15 to 20 yards. It's obvious they haven't practiced. How they expect to hit a live deer once a case of buck fever sets in is anyone's guess.

"Another mistake I see some hunters make is tinkering with their bows and changing to a new sight or rest just before the hunt. Being completely familiar and totally comfortable with your hunting tackle is important."

Kentuckian Tim Stull, who heads Deer Creek Outfitters, adds his two cents' worth. "I'd say that maybe 2 out of 10 bowhunters aren't really physically or mentally prepared to take a trophy class buck. As ridiculous as it sounds, a few can't consistently hit a deer target's kill area at very short ranges. It's foolish for them to pay us or anyone good money for the chance at a Pope and Young buck and then fail to prepare themselves. Inevitably, these guys blow the opportunity because they just can't shoot straight. They've got a problem they can't recognize or won't admit, and they have false expectations about the outcome of their guided hunt. There's only so much we can do. The rest is up to the hunter.

"Another problem we see is 70 to 80 percent of our clients aren't really mentally prepared to make a killing shot on a trophy buck. When the opportunity arises, they get so excited at the sight of big antlers they simply blow the shot. Of course, big whitetails can shake up anyone, even veteran hunters. And I know there's nothing 100 percent effective in curing that particular problem. Regardless, everyone needs to practice, practice, practice...and then practice some more. It helps to make the shot almost automatically when Mr. Big finally appears. Experience teaches a hunter to remain cool and perform flawlessly under pressure. Next best to the real thing is practicing on 3-D targets under simulated hunting conditions."

Another frequent guide complaint centers on the clients' scent control or, rather, lack of it.

"It's a big problem," admits Kent Hippen. "We have guys who smoke in their vehicles and stands. Others wear their camo hunting clothes in the lodge while eating dinner or sitting around talking. We encourage hunters to always keep their camo separate, preferably in a sealed bag, and to wear it only in the field. Scent-containment clothing is a plus."

Fred Law adds this admonition: "Don't show up to hunt wearing leather boots or shoes, and don't wear your hunting footwear around camp. I urge my hunters to wear rubber high tops or at least boots with rubber bottoms. Deer wise up in a hurry when they can smell where you've walked to and from your stand. Scent control in footwear and clothing is essential."

Solutions & Advice

"We advise our hunters to practice shooting at unknown distances from heights of 20 to 25 feet," says Hank Hearn. "Some don't know when to draw their bow, or whether to try to stand up or remain seated to make the shot. That comes with experience, but you have to be prepared and be ready for anything. Each situation is different."

"If you have to struggle to draw your bow, you're pulling too much weight," observes Tim Stull. "Any good modern bow has enough kinetic energy to punch through a broadside deer and put him down fast. Most shots are 20 yards or less. You simply don't need a bow pulling 75 to 80 pounds or more. Unless you can draw smoothly with a minimum amount of movement, whether seated or standing, you're likely over-bowed and need to switch to a setup you can "handle."

"You've gotta learn to remain still for long periods of time," adds Jimmy Riley. "Deer are quick to pick up movements. You need to be prepared to sit in a fixed position for hours. Bowhunting is a waiting game. Shots are made at close range. I tell my hunters they have to be patient. They'll normally see a lot of game, including some shooter bucks. All it takes is time and patience."

"To be successful it's usually important to put in lots of time in a treestand," says Kent Hippen. "Some guys want to sit 2 hours in the morning and another 2 in the evening. That's not enough. Sure, at certain times of the year it isn't necessary to kill yourself by hunting all or most of the day. But I know some of my clients would do better if they simply spent more time in their stands."

"Practice shooting in the hunting clothes you'll be wearing to hunt deer," suggests Fred Law. "In the early season, lightweight clothes are fine; later it's best to dress in layers and be prepared for cold temps. And don't forget to always carry quality raingear in your pack. No one can sit still for long if he's cold or wet and miserable. Just be sure you can make the shot no matter what clothing you're wearing."

Kent Hippen likely speaks for all professional guides and outfitters when he offers this concluding bit of wisdom: "Listen to your guide and outfitter. You'll find your hunt will be 10 times better if you'll heed the advice you're offered. We want you to succeed and will do our part. It's a downright shame to see people spend good money on a guided hunt and then not follow through and do what's asked of them."

A Word about Mechanical Broadheads

There's no doubt that mechanical hunting heads have become the broadhead of choice with many bowhunters. But it's also a fact that many guides and outfitters have strong feelings about these open-on-impact points. Before arriving for your hunt it's always wise to ask your guide or outfitter exactly what the camp policy is regarding mechanical heads.

"We've had some bad experiences and don't allow expandable heads at Tara/Willow Point," states Hank Hearn. "The common myth is that these heads hit exactly where field points hit. Some do and some don't Hunters need to know how their heads fly and the exact point of impact. Some guys switch from target points to mechanical heads without checking them out. We discovered that some mechanical heads are well built and work well, but others are pure junk. Since we can't very well say it's okay to use some while turning thumbs down on others, we simply ban all mechanical broadheads."

Fred Law adds this negative reaction: "Expandable heads aren't allowed at Enon. We learned that if hunters take only good, high percentage shots, they work well -- as will any good hunting head. But marginal shots have caused headaches for us and so we implemented the ban."

"I killed my best buck with an expandable broadhead," reports Jimmy Riley. "But I know it's critical to wait for a broadside shot. Some of our hunters who've taken quartering shots with mechanicals have had penetration problems. While we allow them on Giles Island, we stress the need to wait for the perfect broadside shot."

"Most of the problems we had at Nebraska Trophy Whitetails last season could be traced to mechanical heads," states Kent Hippen. "We found they don't get consistently good penetration and tend to pull out much easier than conventional broadheads. While we haven't banned them entirely, we suggest that our clients don't use expandables. We also urge caution and the importance of taking only good broadside shots."

Tim Stull reports a different perspective: "Personally, we haven't seen any problems with mechanical heads and generally our hunters have gotten good results using them. I believe it has a lot to do with the individual broadhead and the ability of the shooter."

Guides & Outfitters

To contact the guides interviewed for this feature and to obtain complete information about the deer hunting services they provide, write or call:

Deer Creek Outfitters

Tim Stull

P. O. Box 39 (WTBH)

Sebree, KY 42455

(888) 875-3000

Enon Plantation

Fred Law

1442 St. Mark Church Rd. (WTBH)

Hurtsboro, AL 36860

(334) 253-2400

Giles Island

Jimmy Riley

449 Old River Boat Camp Rd. (WTBH)

Ferriday, LA 71224

(877) 944-5374


Nebraska Trophy Whitetails

Kent Hippen

Rt. 1, Box 47 (WTBH)

Virginia, NE 68458

(888) 470-5615

Tara Wildife, Inc.

Hank Hearn

6791 Eagle Lake Shore Rd. (WTBH)

Vicksburg, MS 39183

(601) 279-4261

And don't forget to check out the other fine guides and outfitters whose ads are listed in the back of each Bowhunter issue.
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Author:James, M.R.
Date:Sep 1, 2002
Previous Article:Rhode Island buck.
Next Article:The DOE hunter: big bucks get all the publicity, but does are the bread-and-butter deer for bowhunters. (Whitetail 2002 Special).

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