For Mitch Albers, a bowhunter who lives in the western suburbs of the Twin Cities, bow hunting is a whole lot more than harvesting a deer.
For Albers, who has been bow hunting most of his life, hunting with a bow is the chance to spend quality time in the woods when other hunters are not usually around. He often hunts until the last week of bow season and that can mean hunting in pretty harsh conditions, but he has the gear for staying long hours in the stand and has the patience to wait for just the right shot at the right deer.
The area Albers hunts is full of wildlife: turkeys, coyotes, badgers, eagles and skunks to name a few.
“I just enjoy being in the woods and watching all the animals that walk by,” he said, “and also the large number of deer that move through the area especially during the rut. The biggest thrill is waiting for that big buck, knowing that everything has to be just right in order to even get a shot off.”
Most hunters will agree that bow hunting is often done by the best deer hunters. It is much more difficult to get a shot at a deer at 15-25 yards than it is to see one and shoot it at 100-150 yards with a rifle.
Albers feels that bow hunting success is often determined by the number of days spent in the woods. He usually hunts about 25 days a year.
“The occasional bow hunter can get lucky,” he said, “but is not likely to have as much success as the hunter who spends more quality time in the woods.”
Albers starts his bow-hunting preparation in the spring. He goes to the areas where he will hang his stands and makes sure his shooting lanes are brushed out and clean. He establishes a walking trail for approaching his stands and tries not to ever disturb the rest of the area.
During the hunt, he showers every morning before going to his stand, uses scent-free soap – his clothes are all unscented – and he runs his gear through an ozone processor that eliminates odor. He doesn’t use any deer scent attractants of any kind, believing that leaving the woods with natural smells is better than using commercial attractants.
He rarely shoots at deer over 35 yards. He doesn’t like taking longer shots because of the greater risk of wounding the deer. His favorite time of the day to hunt is early morning, but many days he will stay on his stand for an entire day.
He feels the most important element in bow hunting is the wind. The very best bow hunters learn how to use the wind to their advantage and learn when to stay out of a stand if the wind is not right.
Albers is not a true trophy hunter, but he is selective – preferring to harvest bigger bucks and passing up on the smaller ones to let them grow. That patience paid off this year with a nice 11-point buck.
Ray Gildow is a northern Minnesota fishing guide and outdoor writer.