If you watch outdoor TV, you’ve seen it a hundred times: the show host is in a treestand and here comes a buck. The host needs to stop it for the shot so he or she lets out an “Uuuurp!” and the buck does one of three things, all of which are bad. Either the buck takes off, keeps walking, or slams on the brakes and stands there all tensed up, ready to take flight at the slightest sign of danger or the noise of a bowstring.
That deer just went from relaxed to alert with the sound the hunter made. Usually it means your arrow is about to fly right over the buck’s back.
There must be a better way. Can we stop deer in our shooting lane, right where we want them, without putting them on edge? There are five better ways that I can think of. Try one of these.
1. Scented key wick
Hanging a key wick with some deer urine on it is the best way I know of to stop a deer without alarming it. I like to hang it about five feet high and right in the trail if possible. Every buck will stop and smell it, if only momentarily, but they will pause just long enough for you to get your shot off on a standing, relaxed deer.
I like the key wick because you can pull it off the branch and drop it into a sealed plastic bag; you don’t want it there when you are not.
2. Visual distraction
Just about anything sitting in the trail that’s out of the ordinary may cause a deer to pause for a moment. I know someone who uses a small orange surveyor’s flag. He claims a small bucket works, too. Deer are curious animals, and any small, man-made object free of human scent can work.
3. An apple core
This is not legal in all areas because some conservation officers might consider it baiting, so check your state and local laws before trying it. Eat an apple and drop the core on the ground where you want deer to stop. It works every time. I’ve never had a deer walk right on by an apple core.
I usually eat the apple on the way to the stand and then drop the core before I climb the tree. You could eat the apple in the stand and then toss the core, but that has never worked for me—I guess I’m not that good at tossing it accurately because it usually rolls to a stop a few feet from where I would really like it to be.
A piece of black sewing thread stretched across a trail can be just what is needed to stop a deer. They feel the pressure, and although they usually push through after a moment, they will often pause just long enough for a shot because they feel something they cannot see, which momentarily confuses them. While this technique works, it has its shortcomings, which I found out the first time I used it. A buck came following a doe, which paused perfectly when she hit the string, then moved on through, breaking the string. Needless to say, the buck didn’t pause in my shooting lane.
5. Some deer hair
This is one of the best ways I have found to stop a deer, second only to the key wick. A handful of hair from a previously-shot deer can be dropped right in the trail. Any deer that comes by can’t help itself—it just has to stop and sniff. Their head is down, they are stopped in your shooting lane, and they are distracted while you draw your bow or raise your gun, settle your sights, and shoot. Perfect.
The “Uuuurp!” might work, but don’t chance it. A grunt call in your mouth can work too, but then you have a grunt call in your mouth when you need to shoot. Use one of these much more effective ways to stop a deer and you will be shooting at a relaxed deer that is less likely to evade you. That significantly increases the chances you will be eating that deer instead of talking about it.
Follow Bernie’s bowhunting adventures on his blog, bowhuntingroad.com.