Bow Hunting Whitetail Deer

Bow hunting is much harder than hunting with a firearm. Bows by definition have a much smaller effective range than a whitetail deerfirearm. Most of my bow kills are within 20 yards. Getting them that close without them knowing that you are there is all part of the challenge. For me its about me beating their senses. Their nose is extremely sensitive and the have really good eyesight. Both much better than a human senses.

To get that close takes good equipment, a good strategy, and luck. Equipment can make or break a hunt. Use inferior equipment can cause equipment failure and/or excessive movement. A good strategy will get you close to the animal and luck. Well deer do not always act in a very predictable way. Deer can sometimes seem to appear out of thin air or take an unexpected route. That’s what makes hunting so interesting and frustrating at the same time.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you have to have the latest and greatest equipment. For some hunters that is a must but not for me. Spend the money on equipment that works as intended and that required the least amount of movement. My compound bow is over 10 years old. It is still doing the job and takes a deer every year. Take care of your equipment and it will take care of you.

Be mindful of what you are purchasing and don’t get the cheapest of equipment if you can afford it. You don’t have to have the best of the best either to get the job done.

Bow Types

There are three major types of bows that can be used to bow hunt with. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages. The most commonly used bow today is the compound bow. Crossbows are making a major charge forward as many of the states now allow their use during the bow season. The third type is a recurve.

Compound bows store energy using the cams to reduce the amount of strength needed to keep the string pulled back. This can be as much as 85% let off. That means that you are only holding 15% of the total strength needed. The cams do the rest of the work. This can be very helpful when a deer stops outside of a shooting lane after you pulled the bow back.

Crossbows are fully mechanical. You can get a pulley system to help pull the string back or I have seen automatic ones now. Crossbows shot a short arrow called a bolt. The string is held back by the crossbow and it shoots very similar to a gun. Most crossbows have a trigger and working safety.

A recurve is more for traditionalist and are very challenging to shoot. They take a lot of practice to master. The further you pull the string back the more energy is stored. All the energy require to keep a recurve draw ed back is all on the shooter. Every year deer fall to a recurve bow so it is still a viable way to hunt.

Stand types

Careful consideration needs to be made when choosing a stand to hunt out of. Bows require much more space to function. This needs to be taken into consideration when selecting a stand. Some tree stands have a bar that goes into the front to use as a rest for a gun. This bar will get in the way of a bow/crossbow when they are fired. The limbs need to move outwards as the string moves forward.

Blinds run into the same issue. When selecting one make sure that it is big enough to accommodate you needed room to shoot the bow or crossbow. I made that mistake and didn’t make sure the blind I was going to hunt out of was tall enough. Luckily I always shoot out of them and after the first couple of shots I realized what was happening. The top limb of my bow was hitting the roof of the blind causing me to shoot way off. I was able to return the blind and get a bigger one.

I would suggest shooting a few times at minimum out of what ever stand that you are going to hunt out of. This way you will know the limitations of each so you can plan accordingly. For example in a blind you usually can’t see behind you very well. I try and put that side of the blind into a brush pile or somewhere where I do not expect a deer to come from or pass through.

A little time spend shooting out of whatever stand you are going to hunt out is much better than having a nice deer come by and you can’t get a shot or hit something with the bow/crossbow. Then you either miss or worse make a bad shot causing undue suffering to the animal.


Where it is legal baiting can be a very effective way to hunt. Deer will become used to finding food in one area and return on a regular basis. This works very well in the wooded areas where there are not many farm fields around. In the corn belt of Wisconsin for example where there are more farm fields than timber baiting does not work all that well. Food sources are abundant.

I will bait an area usually trying to get to an area where more than one trail converge. I will also look for an area where I came move my treestand around depending on which way the wind is coming from. I would suggest trying different baits and see what the deer prefer. Corn and apples seem to be the most popular. In my experiences apples work better than corn but corn last longer if it takes the deer a while to find it.

If the regulations allow it, I would suggest that you try baiting. Worse that will happen is you will waste the cost of the bait. For me I enjoy seeing the animals so baiting allows me to watch deer on a regular basis. I don’t have to shoot a deer every time out but I get to see more deer and how they interact with each other. Thirdly it allows me to continue to hone my skills of being able to remain unnoticed for long periods of time.


Bow hunting takes a lot of patients. There may be many times that you will see the animal that you are after but they pass by just out of bow range. Or worse be well within bow range but don’t stop in a shooting lane or hung up just before the shooting lane and never present a shot.

As part of my scouting, I will look for areas where there are funnels or where trails come together forming a Y. This increases my chance of getting a whitetail deer into bow range. Funnels will move deer in a predictable area usually created by the natural terrain.

If baiting is allowed, I will try and bait. By using a camera on the bait, you will be able to see what is coming in. I will also use camera’s on areas that I plan on hunting. Makes no sense to hunt out of a stand where the deer never come past.

As a reminder be very mindful of prevailing wind conditions. I design stand locations where I can hunt as many wind directions as possible.

Lastly spend as much time as possible practicing with the weapon of your choice. I start shooting my bow in the spring and shoot through the season.


Getting the right equipment is an important part of being successful. Chose a weapon type to shoot. Then practice as much as possible. I try and shoot 30 arrows a day at minimum starting in the spring and through the season. I owe it to the animal that I am hunting to make as humane of a kill as possible. Practice gives the confidence that I am able to do that.

I scout a lot to figure out where the deer are and where they are moving to. That information will give me likely areas to set up an ambush. Cameras are a great help in this endeavors as they run 24/7. Look for funnels and areas where trails converge together. These make excellent ambush points.

Last words of wisdom. Have patience and enjoy your time out hunting. Its one of the main reasons that I bow hunt. Getting out in nature and watch all of its creatures is something I really enjoy. I can’t stress the patience enough. I hunt all season and may not get a shot opportunity till late in the season. That’s a lot of time in the woods without taking an animal. So patience is key. Enjoy the time you get to spend in the woods.

On a side note try taking a kid hunting. I have so much fun out with a kid teaching them the ropes. Watching the excitement in their eyes when they see a deer moving through is a wonderful thing. These are the times that I treasure more than the actual taking of the animal itself.

Thank you for reading my article. I look forward to hearing your questions and comments below. Good hunting.


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8 thoughts on “Bow Hunting Whitetail Deer”

  1. I like how you describe each bow, the tactics, stand types and baiting. It’s simple and informative. I would go for the mechanical one as it kinda seems easy to use. Since I’ve never used any of those ones mentioned before, I think the crossbow would be a good one to start with

    • That is one of the reasons that crossbows have become so popular. You don’t have to spend as much time practicing with them. They shoot very similar to a firearm and you don’t have much of the human element involved. With a compound and recurve you have to pull back to the same spot every time to be consistent. Thank you for your comment.


  2. I have never been hunting but I once did bow shooting just for fun and it was a disaster, where we were shooting they were some monkeys and I could’ve sworn they were laughing at me because every time it was my turn, they were making funny sounds lol

    great post, I might try again.

    • Hello Rose,

      That is kind of sad. I would have spoken with those people and tried to help you get better. Shooting is a very fun thing to do and no one should be making fun of someone that is trying something new. The more you practice the better you become. Thanks for your comment.


  3. Hi Dan, just got my firearms license up here in British Columbia and am looking forward to my first deer responsibly hunted. I like your site and will be looking for it before I head out for my first hunt for deer.

    • Hello James,

      Welcome to the wonderful world of hunting. It can be frustrating and rewarding at the same time. Bow hunting is usually harder then firearm hunting but both are enjoyable. Good luck with your hunting and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.


  4. As I understand Crossbows are beginner friendly and it is easy to understand the mechanics of it. Do you think that it is the best option for beginners?

    • I prefer compounds as they are a mix of both styles. You get the mechanics of the cams but still have to pull the string back. Using a trigger holding the string back is not that bad. It adds to the challenge. For a beginner a crossbow is the simplest of the styles to start with. You don’t have to worry about pulling the string back to the same place every time. The mechanics do it for you. Its all up to personal preference as well. Thanks for the comment.


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