Editor’s Note: The week before bow season in Pennsylvania, longtime Hunter’s Specialties Pro, Matt Morrett of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is as anxious as a 6-year-old the night before Christmas. His number-one key to bowhunting success is to get away from the crowds.
I’m still young enough that I don’t mind hiking 45 minutes to an hour to get away from the crowds to find a place to hunt. A typical public-land hunter generally will only hike 5- to 15-minutes away from his vehicle before he starts hunting. Usually, most public-land hunters only will walk a quarter of a mile or less from their vehicles before they start hunting. Therefore, if you’re willing to go a half-mile or more to find a place to hunt, you’ll usually be way out in front of most other public-land hunters.
However, when I have to hike that far, I’ll use a hang-on stand or a climbing stand. In Pennsylvania, it’s illegal to use screw-in steps, so I’ll either use stick ladders or climbing tree stands. Fortunately, here in the Northeast, we have a lot of trees that from the ground up to 20 feet there are no branches, so climbing tree stands are very effective up here.
During the early season, especially on opening day, I’ll hunt during the mornings. But after opening weekend, most of my hunting will be in the afternoons. I’ve learned that during the early season your best chance to take a buck usually will be in the evenings when the deer are leaving their bedding areas and going to feed.
If I’m hunting a region that I don’t know, I’ll use a hand-held GPS receiver and mark where I’ve decided to locate my stand site. I can use the GPS to navigate back to that spot before daylight. If I’m planning to stay on my stand until dark, I’ll often use a GPS or a compass to guide me from my tree stand back to my vehicle.
In the warmer weather of the early season, I’ve found that deer may be closer to their beds at first light or even in their beds at first light, making them harder to hunt. But in the afternoons, they’ll be leaving their bedding sites before dark, and you’ll have a better chance at a shot. Too, by only hunting in the afternoons, I’m not putting nearly as much scent in these places as I will if I hunt mornings and afternoons during those first few weeks of bow season. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I key in on food. I’ll usually set up on travel routes the deer will take to their food sources, or I’ll be setting up close to the food.
This year, I will be shooting a Drenalin Bow from Mathews with a Carbon Express Terminator Hunter Shaft and the Sniper Broadhead or G5 Montec broadhead. Another tip that will help you, especially in the early season: don’t wear all of your clothes that you’ll hunt in when you leave the truck. Thanks to camouflaged base layers (underwear) you can just wear that base layer to walk to your tree stand site. Then, you’ll be much cooler after a strenuous hike.
I don’t put my outer garments on until just before I climb the tree, and I’m constantly using Hunter’s Specialties’ Scent-A-Way products. The Medalist clothing that I wear (which has SilverMax technology to stop bacteria from growing on your skin) gives me the best technology available to help me stay as scent-free as possible.
I’ll carry my clothes in a backpack. I’ll put a Scent-Safe bag inside my backpack or tie it to the back of my pack to take it to my tree stand. Then, those clothes are 12-inches away from my body to keep any odor from getting even on the outside of the Scent-Safe bag. I believe if you’re not hunting scent-free and with a favorable wind, you don’t have the best opportunity you can have for taking that buck of a lifetime.