3 Things That You Overthink as a Bowhunter
February 21, 2023 by Leigh Hauck
Bowhunting is not an easy activity, and I doubt that few have ever argued that it is. An incredible number of variables go into a successful archery hunt. Your choices in archery equipment, clothing, gear choices, location, the days you choose to go out, your practice regimen, right down to the foolproof breakfast that you eat each morning before hunting that you are sure is a good luck charm are all decisions that must get made.
There are, however, some decisions that we probably put more time into than are worthwhile. I will break down three things that you probably overthink as a bowhunter and tell you where you should put your effort and energy instead to have more successful trips into the backcountry.
Does camo matter?
Cue the controversy bell.
I will start by saying that I firmly believe in the power of camo; in certain situations. When hunting the open country where there isn’t much cover, and your last few dozen yards in closing the distance will likely be well in view of your target's ever-wary eyeballs, yes, camo matters a lot.
Where camo is too often overinvested in both financially and mentally are those hunts where success relies on staying hidden for the entirety of the hunt. When I am hunting out of my whitetail blind each fall, I wear whatever is comfortable and warm for me to sit in for hours on end.
I always wear an oversized black hoodie on top and a black hat with a black face mask to pull up when there are animals around so that I blend right in with the inside of my blind. On the bottom, I will wear pajamas if it is warm enough, but usually, sweatpants with a large wool blanket does the trick.
Sometimes I will bring a nice camo coat for pictures after the kill, but recently I have enjoyed taking pictures just wearing exactly what I was when I made the shot. I want to be comfortable and quiet; that is all that matters on a hunt like this.
When I head into the open country for mule deer or sheep, however, I believe that camo plays a large role.
Animals rely on movement and breakup to see you. If you are wearing good camo for the environment that you are hunting in and sitting still when an animal looks your way, he will be looking ‘through you’, you could say.
If your camo is too dark or does not have a broken enough pattern, then you may stick out from the surroundings simply as a different shape or texture in the environment. I have had many mule deer hunts where the deer look directly at me, or at least in my direction.
I have found that if I sit perfectly still and I am wearing good camo, they will simply scan past you in their analysis of the landscape! Just because they are looking at you doesn’t mean they are looking at you!
There are also some hunts, however, where you will be in the open, and camo also doesn’t matter. I spent a summer guiding black bear hunts in northern Alberta in 2018, and one thing I learned is that the bears always know you are there, and they don’t care.
This may not be the case in other parts of the country where black bears are hunted, but in northern Alberta, we never wore camo because the bears knew we were there anyways and simply didn’t care!
Choosing camo for a hunt will always come on a hunt-by-hunt basis, but if I ever have the option not to wear camo and go with more comfortable or practical clothing (like jeans and a flannel in the case of these black bear hunts), then that is what I will go with.
I shot this black bear in northern Alberta at under 10 yards on the ground. He walked up to me and looked right at me, I even told him to back off, and he just carried on his way before I placed an arrow in him. On a hunt like this, camo's choice would not have mattered whatsoever!
Does scent control matter?
When I was 16, I went whitetail hunting with a good friend of my dad's. If I had ever met one, he was an old-school cowboy, the kind of guy who has forgotten more than I will ever know about deer hunting. Through his Copenhagen-stained teeth, I remember what he said to me when I showed up at his truck with a bottle of scent-killer spray to put on all my clothes before I got in the blind that evening.
“What the hell is that”
“It’s a scent spray, and it gets the scent off my clothing so the deer won’t smell me.”
“The only scent control you need is called wind. It’s all they have been using for centuries.”
I didn’t use the scent spray that night, and I did kill a nice buck with the old cowboy. I’m not saying that my lack of scent spray is why I shot a deer that night, but I have always liked the old cowboy's mindset.
Natives have been hunting for centuries without any scent control other than wind. Using wind to control scent is such a simple concept, and it is for that reason that I believe it gets overthought.
If you are on the right side of the wind, it is simply impossible for an animal to smell you. If you are on the wrong side of the wind, I don’t believe a product exists that is good enough to fool the highly evolved noses of today's North American big game.
Sometimes the wind won’t be in your favor, which is how it is. I believe in those circumstances, it is better to cut your losses and not hunt than to hope that some scent-killing product works well enough to fool a deer and then risk spooking them out of the area. Play the wind, and don’t force a hunt on an unfavorable day.
The buck I killed on that evening hunt with the old cowboy. I have never purchased or used a scent control product since... except the wind.
Is broadhead and vane alignment important?
When it comes to shooting fixed-blade broadheads, I know there are many proponents of vane and insert alignment.
The idea behind this is that if you glue your inserts so that your broadhead's 3 or 4 blades align with your 3 or 4 vanes, your arrows will fly better with broadheads. I have heard people say this is the ‘key’ to getting broadheads to fly like field points.
I am here to save you some time and effort.
Broadhead and vane alignment do not matter.
A couple of years ago, I built a dozen four-fletched arrows. I built half of them with perfect broadhead alignment. Each blade had a perfect line with a vane. I built the other 6 with no regard to this whatsoever.
The ones with aligned inserts had four white vanes, and the ones with random alignment had three white vanes and one blue vane. I spent the summer shooting only these dozen arrows. Once my bow was sighted to 80 yards with field points, I shot broadheads for the rest of the summer. I was shooting a 100gr. V-series XL Tooth of the Arrow at the time and all 12 arrows would fly precisely like my field points out to 80 yards.
There were days during this summer when I was convinced that alignment did matter. I would get so inside my head that I felt like going insane some days.
One day I would shoot the aligned arrows way better than the others. The next day would be the opposite. Most days, there was no tellable difference, but I realized some placebo effect was going on.
When I was on the fence but leaning towards alignment being a crucial factor in broadhead flight, I would shoot those arrows better that day because my mind told me they ‘should’ fly better. The same thing would happen on the days I was convinced that it didn’t matter because it didn’t.
Ultimately, I stripped the blue vane from the misaligned arrows and made them all white. After doing this, I couldn’t easily tell which was which, and I never had a day where my groups were inconsistent again with these arrows. The mind is a wildly powerful tool in archery.
I shot this 14-year-old Gredos Ibex in Spain that year. I had no idea if it was shot with an aligned or misaligned arrow at the time. In the end, it was one of the misaligned arrows which found its mark on this old billy.
What you should be focusing on
Certain things in bowhunting require and deserve all the attention we give them. First and foremost, the quality of our shooting comes to mind.
Your shot execution should demand your highest thought. It needs to become ingrained in you, like tying a shoe is just automatic. You don’t want to have to think about the steps of shot execution when the moment comes to take your big shot.
Shifting your focus from some of the things I discussed above to some of the things which make bowhunting the art it is can reap great benefits on your success and enjoyment as a bowhunter. I believe this somewhat stoic approach has played a great role in my success and my mindset as a bowhunter!
If you have any questions or would like to discuss the topic further, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are always more than happy to talk arrows and broadheads with fellow bowhunters!
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