Depending on where you are Mississippi, bow season for whitetail deer is either open — after Sept. 30 in the Delta, North East, East Central, or South West Zones — or coming soon, on Oct. 14 in the Southeast Zone.
In Columbia, Waldo’s Sports Center is where a lot of south Mississippi hunters get ready for the season.
O.C. Broome is one of the folks you’re likely to meet in Waldo’s, especially if you spend time in the archery department. He’s a longtime bowhunter who provides some pretty good advice, regardless of whether you are new to the sport of stick-and-string deer hunting or have been doing it a long time.
Broome’s expertise is in such demand, his free time is scarce.
What little he has, Broome spends looking for food sources that appeal to deer. He said the best thing about getting into the woods early with bow and arrow is that deer are not pressured as much as they will be — especially on some of the available public lands around the state — once gun season opens.
“Right now you need to be looking for acorn trees that are dropping or will soon be dropping acorns,” Broome said. “Other things I’ll be looking for are crab apple trees and believe it or not, patches of kudzu. Deer love to eat kudzu early in the season.”
Once he’s found a food source, Broome looks for the trails deer are using to get to that area. He said it isn’t hard to find the well-worn paths because the rest of the growth is still so high from the growing season. Once he’s located the one or two most-used trails between the feeding areas, he’s going to look due north for a good place to hang his stand.
“During our early seasons here in Mississippi, the predominant winds will be out of the south, so you need to locate your stands to the north of where the deer will be traveling to keep your scent downwind,” Broome said. “It’s best to do both your scouting and your stand hanging during the middle of the day when deer are most likely to be tucked into bedding areas.”
Broome’s stand of choice is a lock-on. He uses those with climbing steps so when it’s time to hunt he can get in the stand quickly and quietly without spooking deer, especially if he decides to hunt in the morning.
“I’d rather bowhunt in the afternoon because I can get in the stand mid-afternoon and let things settle down,” he said. “Sometimes, deer start feeding before daylight, and even if you slip in there as quiet as possible, you might end up bumping them.”
To pattern a big buck, Broome will set up a trail camera in an area he’s thinking about hunting and see if he can figure out when the buck is visiting that spot. Again he’s going to be in and out during the mid-day when checking the camera so he doesn’t alert the buck to his presence.
“Most times, they bed real close to a favorite feeding area,” he said, “so be real quiet and wear the same boots you’d use while hunting, the kind that don’t leave a scent trail. The best time to kill a big buck around here is either early bow season before a big buck gets his guard up or during the rut when he’s got other things on his mind.”
Broome’s final tip is to make sure you are prepared for the insects that you definitely will find hanging out in the woods this time of year. They are some of the biggest nuisances, especially if you can’t remain still for slapping at insects all day in the stand. Broome recommends having a Thermacell insect-repelling device that will create a 15-foot radius of mosquito and tick protection for hunters in a stand.
“We sell those here in the store, and we’ve also got some good spray-on bug repellent if that’s more your style,” Broome said.
Behind the archery desk at Waldo’s, Steven Disbrow, a Matthews-certified technician, said once you get a couple of areas picked out to hunt, it makes good sense to have your archery equipment checked out before the season starts.
While a lot of hunters are very familiar with their equipment and don’t mind tinkering a bit with the variety of adjustments required by modern compound bows, an ounce of prevention early is worth a pound of cure later when the season is in and you’re stuck with broken equipment.
“You are better off to fix small stuff now rather than wait until it becomes a major problem,” Disbrow said. “Getting your servings redone and checking to see that your bow is still in tune are two that come to mind.”
Disbrow said fraying of the serving, the outer layer of material where the arrow knocks onto the string, is pretty common. If that fraying is left unattended too long, it can result in a broken or damaged string.
“Replacing the serving is cheap compared to replacing a string or repairing damage to limbs if the string breaks when the bow is being drawn,” he said. “Even if it’s just a string, there’s a lot of field work to be done to break that string in before you can be sure of the accuracy.”
Just like the belts on your automobile, the timing of a compound bow makes all the difference in the world of accurate shooting. Tuning issues are easily fixed at your local bow shop.
Arrows are other components that are regularly replaced. Far too many novice hunters buy new arrows based on the brand name or even the camo pattern or colors on the arrow without regard for the weight. Matching the settings on their bows with the weight of the arrows is a major component of accuracy.
“It’s not always about speed,” Disbrow said. “I compare it to a motorcycle and a Mack truck. A motorcycle going 100 miles an hour may bounce off a brick wall, but a Mack truck might plow through that same wall and keep going at just 50 miles an hour. That’s the heavier weight factor.”
He also said another frequent problem is using an arrow too light in weight for a heavy draw bow is the possibility of dry-firing the weapon.
“Most people think of dry firing as shooting the bow with no arrow in it, but using too light of an arrow can cause the same damage,” Disbrow said.
Having your bow properly fitted to your body size and strength is a top priority for both accuracy and enjoyment.
Disbrow frequently sees customers who want to have their old bow set up for their child, wife or another archer, and sometimes, it simply doesn’t work that way.
“We measure a person’s draw length and set the bow to that length, but that draw length has to fit within the tolerance of that bow,” he said. “Each model may have a few inches of adjustment, but outside that, it might be impossible for a smaller or younger archer to even draw the bow back if it doesn’t fit.”
Disbrow’s final advice fits within shooting sports parameters across the board, and that is practice shooting the same way you’re going to be hunting. Standing flat-footed in the back yard wearing shorts and a T-shirt shooting at a target at a known distance helps a little with muscle memory and technique, but it doesn’t complete the whole picture.
“I tell people to set up the same kind of stand they’re going to be hunting in the field,” he said. “You also need to practice wearing your hunting clothes.
“A deer is not going to stand still, broadside, while you draw and stick an arrow in him. You’ll have to practice bending and stretching to get in position for the right shot. You might have to draw quick and shoot quick or draw slow and hold for a while before you get that shot. The more you practice hunting-type situations, the better you’ll be when it comes game time.”