Soon after Lakeisha Woodard spotted a group of does coming toward her stand on a hunt last year, things got crazy.
“We saw a buck chasing does back and forth through the bottom, and just like clockwork, he came walking right behind the does,” Woodard said. “He circled around with the does in front and I thought, “This is the moment of truth.’”
Woodard took the 30-yard shot and killed the trophy buck, the kind many hunters would describe as a “buck of a lifetime.”
“She took the shot and nailed him,” said Henry Woodard, Lakeisha’s husband. “That was the moment of a lifetime, and we were all really excited. She’s the big hunter in our family.”
The Woodard family of Olive Branch forms the nucleus of “HALO Chronicles Hunting,” an acronym for Henry and Lakeisha Outdoors, an online product which follows their outdoor hunting pursuits. They are pro staff members for Vanguard Hunting and Easton Archery, and they represent many outdoor products companies.
“Henry’s been hunting since he was 12 years old, and I’ve been hunting for 12 years,” Lakeisha Woodard said. “I started out filming him, eventually got an opportunity to hunt, and I’ve been hooked ever since.”
Said Henry: “Bowhunting is very special to us, whether we use a compound bow or crossbow. I think it’s really special because it makes you a better hunter. You have to get much closer to the deer, and you can’t make a mistake or the game’s over.”
When it comes to bowhunting basics, the Woodards start out with the end game in mind, and that’s beating that old buck’s nose when he comes into range.
“We view scent control a little differently, and we begin our preparations before the season starts,” Henry Woodard said. “We begin taking supplements to help control our odor before the season even starts. We take Scent Shield chlorophyll tablets that have chlorophyll, alfalfa and parsley. It’s an internal deodorant that reduces your scent.
“It’s very important to keep your scent down. You want to fool a deer’s senses, and that means taking every precaution in keeping your scent to a minimum while also using cover scents or attractants in the area you hunt.”
Creating deer sign
Another important Woodard tactic is creating deer sign to attract deer.
“We form mock scrapes and licking branches by applying scent in the mock scrape and on overhanging branches that make good licking branches,” Henry Woodard said. “Deer leave their scent on the licking branches, which are actually sign posts for other deer. The does know that bucks will be coming back, and other bucks do as well.”
The Woodards start applying the scent on the licking branches well before the rut begins so that other deer will know it’s a sign post and keep coming back.
“During the seek stage, deer start working the licking branches and working scrapes,” Henry Woodard said. “We’ll do six to eight mock scrapes and form a scent barrier as well. We’re not against playing the wind, but if we’re just hunting a certain stand with a south wind, that might limit us if we don’t get the wind direction we need. By using a good scent, we’re able to cover our scent and attract deer within bow range when they might not otherwise come so close.”
When the rut starts kicking in, bucks are on the prowl seeking a doe coming into estrous. Bucks are naturally ready, and the Woodards set a scent trap.
“We’re going to have the scent on both sides and out in front, not behind,” said Henry Woodard. “We want to get that deer within 25 yards; that’s the killing range we want to concentrate on.”
The Woodard’s have a friend who works for the Hunt Journal; he has calculated the dates when does go into estrous, according to Woodard.
“The rut begins earlier in Canada and just follows all the way down here,” he said. “The first stage in our state is in the north and then the central and finally in the southern part of the state. By using his calculations, we’re able to find out when the does come into estrous and take advantage of the situation.”
Before the rut
But the Woodards don’t wait for the rut to arrive to begin hunting. They just approach it differently.
“A buck wants food and security, so that’s on our mind when we start planning early season (archery) hunts,” Henry Woodard said. “We’ll pull up a map and check out likely looking spots and bedding areas.”
They also pinpoint likely ambush spots.
“We’re looking for pinch points and bottlenecks ... areas that make a natural funnel where the deer travel undetected,” Lakeisha Woodard said. “Game cameras come in handy to see where the deer are coming from and where they’re going.”
During the preseason, they put out minerals to check on deer coming through the area. By using minerals, they can get trail-camera photos of deer without attracting a lot of different animals.
“Most of the time, a mature buck is not going to come to the green fields and food sources during the day in heavily hunted areas,” she said. “If a buck is coming in at night, we’ll just back up our cameras and catch him coming or going on the trail cam, and we’ll determine the times they like to come through and then try to cut them off before they get to the food, or attractants.”
The Woodards do as much preparation as is possible well in advance of the season and then limit their intrusion as it approaches and actually opens.
“On our home properties and hunting areas, we put our stands up way in advance of bow season,” Henry Woodard said. “We don’t want to leave any more scent in the area than we have to when we’re going in to hunt, and the best way to keep your scent down is to stay out of the area until we’re ready to hunt.
“We’ll cut grass and make paths to our stands, raking leaves and picking up sticks and cutting overhanging branches and moving things out so we can access our stands with little disturbance while eliminating our scent.”
The Woodards also believe that rubber boots give hunters an edge during bow season when deer are coming by in close quarters. Wearing rubber boots will keep your scent down to a minimum, and you won’t leave a scent trail for the deer to smell and possibly miss another opportunity as a result.
The Woodards’ hunting areas are loaded with food sources early in the season, so instead of guessing where deer will feed, they concentrate on the paths deer take to reach feeding areas.
“The woods in the area that we hunt have nothing but acorn trees, so it’s hard to pinpoint a particular tree to hunt, as they’re all dropping acorns at the same time,” Henry Woodard said. “We have a lot of bean fields in the areas around small woodlots here in the Delta, and the deer really hit those hard during bow season. So we’re going to hunt somewhere in between their bedding areas and food sources.”
When it comes to hunting morning or afternoon, they have mixed feelings.
“I’ve actually been more successful killing deer in the evening, but I prefer hunting early in the morning when it’s easier to handle a deer after the kill in the daylight and usually not as cold,” Henry Woodard said. “But it really depends upon the property, as some areas have food sources that the deer prefer in the afternoon. If that’s the case, I’ll concentrate hunting during the late-afternoon areas, but we really let our area determine where and when we’re going to hunt.
“We have a place in Tennessee where we hunt the bedding areas. We try to catch them coming back to their bedding area after a night of feeding, and we’ve been quite successful. On the flip side, in the Mississippi Delta we try to catch them coming to the food sources in the late afternoon, so it all really depends on the food availability and when they prefer to travel in the area that you hunt.”
When it comes to hunting in tree stands or elevated stands safety should be the first order of business, and it is for the Woodards.
“We believe in the Hunter Safety System, 100 percent, including the Lifeline,” Henry Woodard said. “Everyone needs to take advantage and wear a safety harness as well as a Lifeline. You can actually be covered while climbing up the tree or ladder stand. If you miss a step or slip before you attach the stand to the tree the Lifeline could save your life, or at the very least, save you from a severe injury and a lot of pain.”