Man oh man! The Fall hunts are about to pop off here in Arizona. All that I can say is, it’s about time! Soon we will be met with our OTC(over the counter) archery deer season towards the end of the month. This is a super popular hunt and a great opportunity to get out and chase some velvet bucks with your bow. Bucks are usually out in the open this time of year, due to the sensitivity of their antlers, which makes them prime candidates for spot and stalk hunting. On top of that it’s hot out, so they are also usually hitting water on a regular basis, which opens up the opportunity to ambush hunt as well. If this is your first year chasing velvet bucks in Arizona with a bow, let me say that I’m so stoked for you. Whether you want to go for mule deer or coues deer, it doesn’t matter. That OTC archery tag is good for both species. Here are some things that we have learned throughout the years pursuing early season bucks.
Buy or Rent the Best Optics That You Can Afford
Right off of the bat, the first area we need to address is optics. We live and die by our optics down here in Arizona. The country is vast and it demands attention in the name of having a look around. Because of that, the country can sometimes be somewhat overwhelming. The best way that we tackle this here is by sitting up high with quality optics and scanning the surrounding area for deer. I can’t stress enough that word “quality.” With spending so much time behind the glass, it is imperative that a hunter goes afield with optics that aren’t going to give them a splitting headache. By buying the best optics that you can afford, you are eliminating that issue all together. If a new pair of binoculars or a spotting scope isn’t in the cards for you this year though, Ross Outdoors has got your back. You can actually rent the highest qualtiy optics from us should you need to. So, whether a hunter buys new optics or rents them, the point is, don’t go in the field with sub par optics. Chances are, you will regret it.
Mount Your Optics on a Tripod
An opportunity not noticed is not an opportunity at all.
Once a hunter decides which optics to bring along, the next crucial tip we are going to bestow on them is to mount those optics to a tripod. Mounting a set of binoculars or spotting scope to a tripod is a game changer when it comes to locating deer. It gives the ability to spot the slightest bit of movement. This can be the deciding factor in whether a stalk happens that morning or not. Coues deer especially are notorious for melting into their surroundings. An opportunity not noticed is not an opportunity at all. With that tripod, something not mandatory but incredibly helpful, putting a fluid panning head on it will change your glassing life for the better. Many of the heads that come with tripods are sticky in a way. This doesn’t allow one to smoothly pan across the landscape. It means the greater potential to miss that ear or tail flick. Whether you get a fluid head or not, the main thing here is to utilize the aid of a tripod with glassing.
Extend Your Effective Shooting Range
Our third tip for your first early AZ archery deer hunt is to extend your effective shooting range with your bow. This is huge and something that many regret not doing beforehand. Especially if they might be coming from the midwest where shots on deer are more in the 20 yard range. Out here in the west though, things are just more wide open. A 20 yard shot is incredibly hard to come by. Between the crunchy desert floor and increased visibility in habitat, getting that close isn’t something I’d put my money on. I’m not saying that a hunter needs to be ready for a 130 yard shot or anything like that. A 60-70 yard shot though? Now, that is more what I’m getting at here. By being proficient at these greater distances, you are just increasing your odds of success in the desert. I know that might sound like a long ways for some of you, but this is just plain Jane stuff in the west.
Do Your Homework Beforehand
Doing your due diligence beforehand in the name of scouting is never a bad thing. The more prepared a hunter can be, the greater odds of success. Achieving great things takes great effort and this is a prime example of how that works. So, whether this means boots on the ground scouting or the ever popular e-scouting that has become so prevalent today, make it happen. Another resource that a hunter can utilize is our game and fish office. By calling and talking to a biologist one could learn a ton about both our deer species as well as the country. These folks want to help you out, but show them that you’ve been putting in the work. Don’t just call up and say “where are the deer?” Mention specific areas from a map to them and let them know your thoughts or plan of attack in these areas. They are more than willing to help out. Put in the work and you will be rewarded. Remember, you are stepping into their(the deer) house. They know it better than you ever will.
Be Realistic With Yourself
Hunt the experience.
The day and age that we live in is highly driven by digital media. Social media has become a constant in our world and with it comes some misconception. Don’t get me wrong, I love social media. It’s a fantastic way for us to interact as a community and that is something special. However, every hunting season that rolls by our feeds get littered with giant bucks. Giant bucks are great, but if this is your first time, you might want to check yourself. Heading into this situation with the expectation of harvesting a 120″ coues or 200″ mule deer isn’t one that is remotely easy to come by. In some areas it isn’t event realistic. On top of that, evaluate yourself as a bowhunter. Have you had the pleasure of taking world class animals like this? If so, then by all means find that next level buck we are all dreaming about. If you are new to bowhunting though, I’d highly suggest that you take what you are given. This bowhunting thing requires experience in order to get better at it. Having the experience of possibly taking your first archery deer, whether that is a spike or a 200″ buck is a priceless experience that will teach a ton. Hunt the experience.
Archery deer hunting velvet bucks has grown into something that I’ve really started to look forward to every year. It’s a great excuse to get up north and out of the heat. Enjoying time with family and friends in the juniper and pine scented air is always time well spent. While doing that, you can try your hand at outsmarting a majestic mule deer or keyed up coues deer buck with your bow. With any luck that freezer at home will be a bit more filled up come the end of the hunt. Something that I didn’t mention earlier was that this hunt also offers the opportunity for a mixed bag hunt. At the same time the deer season is going on, fall bear and archery turkey are open. Which adds a whole separate level of excitement to the matter. That is 4 species that a bowhunter can be pursuing at one time! Arizona may be hot, but so is the opportunity it holds for a bowhunter.
Written by Josh Kirchner of Dialed in Hunter