Whitetails 365: Questions about Archery Gear/Tactics

By Tom Peplinski

This month, I am responding to multiple questions I’ve been saving up from numerous hunters writing in with similar questions about gear and tactics. I’ve been saving them up because they are all archery related questions and season opener is coming up.

A Single or Multiple Pins
I’ve received several questions regarding my opinion on using several pins compared to one pin with my archery setup. I don’t know that there is a right or wrong answer here but I do know what has and has not worked for me. When I started out with archery hunting some 35 years ago, I shot a low poundage and slow bow. I practiced almost every day and was actually a pretty good shot. Because of the equipment I used back then the only way to be target accurate was to have a bunch of pins for predetermined yardages. I knew the exact distance while practicing so I could become very proficient at picking the right pin and laying the arrows right in. If I remember, I had a 15, 20, 25, and 30-yard pin. This strategy all fell apart for me though once I entered the field. Not only did I have to be accurate in my field judging of distance at the moment of truth, I then had to use the right pin…which pin do I use when the yardage was in between… In short, it was too much thinking and too much went wrong.

Fast forward those 35 years and I now use a much simpler and accurate method for aiming in field situations. Today, I use a single pin. I site my single pin in at a distance that allows me to simply aim high heart, heart, and low heart. Any deer further than aiming high heart and they get a pass. Let me explain. I shoot about 80 pounds and my arrow leaves my bow around 350 feet per second. For me, I can sight my bow in dead on at 28 yards. This allows me only two slight adjustments with the same pin. If it’s closer than a 28-yard shot, I simply aim low heart to compensate. If I’m a little further, I simply aim high heart. My effective range is no further than about 37 yards or so and at that point aiming high heart is no longer high enough…so I’m done. I won’t take longer shots than this simply because by the time the arrow gets there (even at 350fps) too much can happen and the deer can be hit poorly even if my shot was true (otherwise known as deer jumping the string). If you’re not shooting this fast as an arrow, simply adjust your setup. My daughter shoots much slower arrow speeds but still uses this same method sighting her bow in for 18 yards, aiming high or low heart if closer or out to about 24 yards. At 24 yards she’s done.

Using this method and I dare say I rarely miss or have poor hits on deer anymore. And, because I’m only compensating a few inches high or low for my entire effective range, judging distance in the field does not have to be perfect.

Speed or Weight
The debate or argument goes something like this…a heavier arrow is better because it carries more energy thus giving you more penetration for all hits, even the marginal one. OK. Sounds good. The other side is a super-fast arrow allows the hunter to be less accurate in the field with judging distance because the arrow drops less down range when it’s faster, and deer have less time to “jump the string”. OK. That also sounds good. So, who’s right?

Well, there really is no clean-cut answer to the debate. Both arguments are valid depending on your perspective. For me, I think the most important thing in a clean kill on a deer is proper placement of the shot. A deer shot in the right spot, (heart or double lungs) is the most important part of the kill shot equation. For this reason, all other things being equal, I will choose speed over weight or even kinetic energy every time. A fast arrow allows for less guess work at the moment of truth and also means a deer has less time to react to the sound of the shot.

I don’t know of an exception to this way of thinking. And, you aren’t necessarily giving up energy, or much energy just because you are shooting a lighter arrow with more speed since speed is also part of the energy equation. Then…the experts will get into the whole speed, energy, momentum, debate and that’s where I simply fall back to my initial argument of “The most important part of the kill shot equation is arrow placement”. Each year hunters miss or wound whitetails not because of arrows without enough energy, or because they don’t have enough momentum…they miss or wound because of bad shots or aiming in the wrong place to begin with, or taking shots that are too far, the wrong angle, etc. Don’t get caught up in this debate, shoot straight and fast and you’ll do just fine. One final point…practice, practice, practice, and aim for the heart!

Rattling and Calling
I’ve gotten several questions about my opinions of using calls and rattling to bring in bucks during archery season. What part of the season do I call? Do I ever blind call (calling when I don’t see animals) in an attempt to bring one in?

I want to start off by saying this…in general terms, less is always more, ALWAYS. I think the biggest mistake hunters make when calling deer is doing it too much, too loud, too early, too late, too everything. Having said that, I’ve seen where calling can be a great way to bring in a bruiser buck that otherwise would not have been in range. So, if it’s not currently working for you, try these calling ideas that work for me.

First, I always carry my grunt tube and rattling antlers with me throughout the entire early archery season. I won’t call during a late season archery hunt because I’ve only had negative reactions during late season. It doesn’t need to be during the rut, or pre-rut, or any sort of rut for calling to work. In fact, I’ve had some of my best reactions to antler rattling during opening weekend when I have a good buck, or even a small group of bucks out in front of me but out of range. A very quiet and brief tickling of the antlers can get a dominant buck in this type of environment to come check out your location. I think this works so well because there has been no pressure at all on these deer since last season and they are sparring like crazy this time of year. Simulating a couple small bucks sparring can be quite the trick to pull over a more dominant buck. To pull it off just remember a short and quiet sequence lasting no more than a few seconds. I bring this early season calling up because many archery hunters believe you can’t call in a good buck during this time of year, but I’ve experienced just the opposite.

During the rest of the season, I will again call to target bucks that are out of range and I’m convinced will not make it into range. There is one exception to this. If I have a target buck on a pattern of sorts and I’m just a little off…in that case I usually won’t call choosing instead to move my ambush site if that’s possible over trying to call the buck in. My thought process is that I’m way more confident in moving in on the buck than I am calling to it and chancing blowing him out on a failed calling sequence. If I call, and he locks up or spooks, my chances are quite possibly gone. This is a personal preference thing that just works better for me. I have way more confidence in my ability to set up on deer through my manipulations (food plots, fence jumps, connecting timbered points, etc.) than I am in trying to call in deer. And, failed attempts to call in deer that were not alert until that point, puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on them.

My calling itself is once again shorter and quieter than most. I like softer grunts or popping my grunt call to as closely mimic a younger buck grunting. I will only grunt louder if I’m convinced a deer can’t hear it like on windy days. My rattling sequences are literally only a few seconds long…crack, crack, then a little antler tickling, grinding of the main beams, then I’m done. The whole rattling sequence will last about 10-15 seconds. Less aggressive calling just works better in my opinion for two reasons. First, I would argue it actually calls in more deer. Second, if I’m unsuccessful, I haven’t completely blown up the area meaning my future hunts will be that much better.

I will blind call during that time frame from about October 25th or so until November 20th but I will do so only if and when my confidence level with my ambush sites starts to deteriorate. In other words, I spend the entire off season planning and preparing my sets…that’s where the absolute bulk of my work is spent by manipulating the ground I hunt so that each stand has my full confidence. However, things don’t always go as planned and when I find I’m in this scenario I will definitely try to blind call in a good buck. When I do blind call, my sequence is short. I’ll start with a couple soft grunts and then wait a few minutes to make sure any deer within ear shot doesn’t come in based on that call. Then I’ll slam my antlers together fairly loudly…grind the beams together…tickle the tines…more grinding of the beams…then I’m done. The whole rattling sequence barely lasts 10-15 seconds. I find these short stints of calling work best because I’m not making a bunch of noise and motion if a buck reacts quickly and comes in on me, and using these short stints just work better. My advice to anyone blind calling is always that less is more.

Next month I again have a small assortment of various questions I’ve been saving for issues during the hunting season. It’s getting closer to season opener!

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