With precious little time left before Ohio’s archery season for white-tailed deer opens 30 minutes before sunrise Saturday, hunters are taking inventory of their equipment, washing the scent out of their hunting clothing, and checking their trail cameras for the most recent movement.
“Preparation — that’s the big thing. Anyone who plans to hunt the archery season should have been out shooting and practicing a long time ago,” said Rock Vetell, owner of Rock Solid Archery in Haskins. “When it comes to being successful with archery hunting, the preparation part is so much more important than it is in the gun season.”
Vetell said he hopes most hunters have gone over their equipment in detail in recent weeks, and in their final rounds of target practice have made the switch from field points to the broadheads they will be hunting with in a few days. Target arrows have a narrow aerodynamic tip or field point that is bullet-shaped. Broadheads come in a variety of shapes and configurations and are heavier, razor-sharp, and often less aerodynamic.
“They don’t fly the same, so it’s essential to dial in your final setup using broadheads,” Vetell said.
Michigan’s archery season opens Monday, and thousands of hunters in both states are expected to be in a tree stand or a ground blind to take advantage of their first opportunity to harvest a deer in many months. Ohio’s archery season spans more than four months, while the Michigan archery season, broken into two segments, is about two-and-a-half months in duration.
Chad Andrus, manager of the new Fin Feather Fur Outfitters in Rossford, said there has been a lot of activity at the store in recent days as archery hunters stock up on supplies and make final adjustments as they sight-in their bows. He also emphasized just how critical the final few sessions of target practice are as we approach the start of the season.
“We’re seeing a lot of those last-minute purchases, and letting people know how important it is to be practicing with your full hunting setup,” Andrus said. “Guys have been shooting field tips all summer and they’re used to how those react, but the biggest thing right now is to shoot those broadheads. They give you a different reaction, so you need to know how they are flying and make any final adjustments.”
Andrus also reminds early-season archery hunters to take precautions so they are prepared to deal with mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects waiting in the woods to greet them. He recommends using Thermacell, a compact fuel-powered device that uses repellent mats to create an insect barrier, minus the mess and strong scent of lotions or sprays.
“When the bugs are still around, those devices are worth their weight in gold,” he said. Andrus also stressed the importance of tucking pant legs inside boots to ward off ticks looking for access to exposed skin.
“All across the board we’re seeing more people who want to get out early and extend their hunting season, so all of these little things on the preparation end are very important right now,” he said. “The interest in archery and archery hunting is really high. We’re selling crossbows for youth hunters, and we’ve talked to a lot of guys who haven’t hunted in a while and just want to get back out there.”
Vetell said recent trail camera images have shown most of the whitetail bucks are out of velvet and hard-horned as the season approaches. He cautions against hunters getting too anxious about tagging that buck and potentially fouling a hunting area for the long term.
“You want to wash your hunting clothes and hang them outside and get them scent-free,” he said. “You don’t want to be in a hurry and miss something and then burn out a good spot because a mistake now can mess things up for months. Those deer pattern you just like we try and pattern them. The big ones got that way for a reason — by being super cautious.”
He added the hunter who has done the research, conducted scouting forays, catalogued trail camera images, practiced religiously, and fine-tuned their hunting setup will be in a position for success on opening day, and at other opportunities during the lengthy archery season.
“You have to have confidence in your equipment, and that comes with practice,” he said. “Also, it is always important to be as quiet as possible, as scent-free as possible, and to put in your time in the woods.”
Vetell said regardless of the investment in equipment, it is a solid foundation and a sensible, practical approach that most often rewards the archery hunter.
“There are a lot of gimmicks out there, but it’s the basics that will have a lot to do with your success this archery season,” he said. “There is always some element of luck involved, but archery hunting is no different from any other sport in that, if you put the work in, it will eventually pay off.”
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