Any hunters vs hunter talk in my eyes, is unacceptable. Which weapon a person shoots a deer with one of the largest categories of debate. That being said, I love the challenge of shooting a giant old buck with a bow! However, is it really more of a challenge to shoot a mature buck with a bow or gun? If you haven't already, try picking up a bow if you would like to create a run-in with your target buck. And if you are a die hard bowhunter, mabye you will appreciate just how good you have it, compared to gun hunters, after this article. Follow along as I provide several reasons why shooting a mature buck with a bow, may be the easiest way to shoot a mature buck.
Where I am located in WI, we can hunt with a high powered rifle during the gun season. That makes gun hunting pretty easy, right? Although I am an avid hunter of all seasons, my personal statistics do not reveal that notion! Only 1 out of my top 10 bucks has been shot with a gun. This isn't for a lack of effort, instead, it is the fact that during the bowseason, hunting for a specific target buck can be an incredibly defined endeavor. Here are the top 5 reasons that I would choose bow season over gun season, for finding a run-in with a target buck:
1. PEACEFUL BOW SEASON OPPORTUNITIES
When a mature buck is relaxed and at peace with his surroundings, he can be extremely predictable. You've scouted him, you've narrowed down his patterns and you've set up a collection of treestands to hone in on his movements for any weather pattern, any wind direction, during either a morning or evening hunt. If you have done your homework, he will most likely give you an opportunity, before the stress of the gun season.
2. HIGHLY DEFINED BUCK MOVEMENTS
Do you like shots of 30 yards or less? Bowseason is the best time for an up close and personal look at your target buck, while he is withing his highly defined daily patterns of food, cover and breeding. In fact, I have experienced that the older he becomes, the easier it is to pattern him, within his ever-tightening circle of predictable, annual movements.
3. GUN VS BOW SEASON DAYTIME SANCTUARIES
A mature buck has already survived a few gun seasons and what I have found is that the older he becomes, the greater the chance that he makes it another year. In fact I have taken a little comfort in the idea that as long as he wasn't shot during bow season, I will most likely get another chance at him if, even if he completely disappears. A buck's gun season hideouts are sacred and have kept him alive for a few seasons. However, those same gun season sanctuaries are most likely not within his typical, highly defined, daily Fall movement patterns. Even a buck that has a high liklihood of returning the following season, doesn't automatically give you opportunities to harvest him, once the army of gunhunters enters the neighborhood.
4. QUALITY OF BOWHUNTING SHOT OPPORTUNITIES
Unless you have highly attractive Fall food plots and nearby Fall bedding cover, your gun season mature buck opportunities may be moving and through thick, security cover. While the majority of my bowhunting shots have been on bucks that are 25 yards or less, broadside, stopped and without obstruction; my gun season opportunities have involved a much higher level of timing and stress. Sure, those bow shots would have been incredible easy with a gun however, those same opportunities on those same bucks would not so easily have been created during the gun season. In fact, they most likely would not have taken place in the same manner nearly every single time.
5. TARGET BUCK BOW HUNT TIMING
Is the buck you are after a core buck that lives on or near the land that you hunt? Then you should be able to hunt him predictably, during the entire early season, October lull, Pre Rut, Rut and Late Bow Season. Is the buck you are after a non core buck, that lives a 1/2 mile away or more? Then, you should be able to find quality opportunities during the entire Primary Rut and Post rut. However, when it comes to gun season, all bets are off. For example the public land buck that I shot in OH was shot on a cruising bench between major bedding areas, during the tail end of the rut. Where would he have been during gun season? Who knows, but there would have been very little reason for him to be using a rut cruising funnel during the stress of gun season. The shear amount of time is highly on your side, when bowhunitng a mature, target buck.
In the end, does it really matter whether a bow or gun offers the tougher hunt? To me, it really doesn't. A great arguement can be made either way, that one creates a more challenging hunt, than the other. However, the distance the weapon can shoot has nothing to do with it. Why? Because having the ability to shoot 300 yards at a buck that isn't there, doesn't really help you in any way.
The buck below I shot on the 9th day of WI's gun season, with a bow. Sure, the 34 yard opportunity would have been a chip shot with a gun. However, I can honestly say that I most likely wouldn't have even been sitting in the same stand had I been using a gun, because the shot was too limiting. I certainly wouldn't have been sitting in the stand on opening day of gun, when the herd and herd movements, were stressed to the max! I highly doubt he would have been there. Instead, I had to let the herd settle down a bit to sneak into more of a bow-friendly timeframe to shoot him with a bow. Was he more of a "trophy" because he was shot with a bow? Absolutely not and I as I teach my kids, any way you can harvest your target bucks is a good way; but always remember that your best option is probably with a bow.