So far this season, I’ve regaled you with a collection of stories about my outdoors experiences… most of those have been singular in nature – meaning, each story has been about one topic, i.e., turkey hunting, or growing up in the outdoors, or chasing public-land bucks. I thought I’d change it up this time and throw out a hodgepodge of tips and tricks for you guys to consider. Take them or leave them as you need!
Tips and Tricks for Bowhunters
Author: Greg Staggs
As a long-time moderator on one of the most popular bowhunting forums on the internet, I consistently see two questions come across the screen from beginning bowhunters: How many pins should I use, and what colors should they be? Given that the large majority of bowhunters harvest their quarry at a distance of around 20 yards, I offer up a system that has worked extremely well for me chasing whitetails across the Midwest...
With today’s flatter-shooting bows producing realistic hunting speeds in excess of 300 fps, the majority of hunters can get away with a configuration of 20, 30 and 40 for their pin setting. With a 20-yard pin, most bowhunters can hold dead-on at anything inside that number and expect to make a quick, clean kill. Even by today’s standards of speed bows which reach IBO speeds of close to 350 fps, a 30-yard-shot is still considered a lengthy shot. The 40-yard-pin gives you that little extra reach if you’re set up over a field edge where you can see longer distances.
Most bowhunters notice that the pins within their sights often come in different colors, but haven’t given much thought about manipulating their order to take full advantage of the benefits of each color.
After much experimentation with my own setups, I concluded that the color red was the dimmest for me out in the woods; in other words, I lost visibility of it the quickest as the sun began to set. Next to disappear on the color spectrum was yellow. This color lasts almost as long as any other to me – with the exception of green. A good, long green fiber optic can stay visible until legal shooting hours end in almost every case.
Given that knowledge, I devised a pin configuration for chasing whitetails in the Midwest that has served me extremely well, allowing me to minimize clutter while simultaneously maximizing all the inherent advantages each pin color offered. I concluded that my 40-yard pin would be red, my 30-yard pin would be yellow, and my top pin would be green.
This system offers two important benefits: One, this is the reverse order that my pins “wink” out in the fading light of day. As it gets darker, I lose visibility of my 40-yard pin first. This serves to keep me from taking an ill-advised shot in dimming light at longer distances. Next to go is my yellow pin set at 30 yards, and when it’s all but too dark to see around my stand, I can still see my green 20-yard pin.
It’s also a great visual reminder of careful shot placement. If I have to use my 40-yard pin, the color signals to me “Stop! Is this really the best shot opportunity you’ll get at this animal?” When I place my yellow 30-yard pin on my quarry’s vitals, I ask myself “Let’s slow down and be careful and really concentrate on this shot.” A green pin is synonymous with a green light… “Full steam ahead!”
Deer are crepuscular creatures. That’s a fancy way of saying they are more active around dawn and dusk. As a bowhunter, I’ve learned my best chance to shoot one is probably going to come around those time frames. Learning how to maximize your chances to make a clean kill as light fades can be a very important attribute to acquire. I’m not saying shoot past legal hunting hours, but the following tips will allow you to possibly squeeze a few more minutes of shooting light into your day – ethically.
* Turn your hat around backwards. Almost all of us wear a baseball-style cap into the hunting woods. One of its primary purposes should be to shield the sun out of your eyes if it becomes a hindrance to making a good shot. When you realize that your ambient light comes from the sun, you’ll be amazed to see how much your field of vision brightens up at the end of the day simply by turning your hat around backwards.
* Use a bigger peep. Target shooters gravitate toward peep sights as small as 1/16” shooting in controlled environments with full lighting. Shifting to a large ¼” peep will allow more natural light in and still allow great accuracy at distances most animals are taken at.
* Use a bigger pin. Those same target archers who like to pound Xs at the range are usually sporting a .10 fiber optic pin for ultra-fine aiming. At least on your 20-yard pin, replace that fiber with a larger .19 or even a .29 pin, and you’ll be amazed at how much light it will gather and how much longer it stays visible. Where legal, a sight light is a great addition too, especially if it comes with a rheostat which allows the intensity of the light to be dialed down.
* Put the phone away. Almost all of us these days are guilty of sitting on stand with our ubiquitous Smartphones pulled out, either texting buddies across the country who are hunting as well, or playing on Facebook or Instagram. But when you pull your phone out that you’ve been playing on throughout the day as the sun begins to go down, that screen is more than likely still set to its brightest setting. There goes your night vision as it had adjusted to the lengthening shadows. Either leave your phone in your pocket, or be sure to adjust the screen to dim before pulling it out.
* Watch your arrow. One of my favorite products these days to help in low-light shooting actually has nothing to do with helping me shoot in low light – but rather it helps me process the information of what just happened and assists with decision-making immediately thereafter. All of my arrows are tipped on the rear end these days with Nockturnals. Lighted nocks are a tremendous advantage in helping determine the location of the shot on the animal. It’s hard enough to tell exactly where an arrow speeding through a deer at nearly 300 fps hit even in the brightest of sunlight, so being able to track that arrow in flight and assess the shot location can be a critical part of assessing other factors such as examining the arrow and first blood in determining when to take up the trail to go after your trophy.