Traditional Archery Discussions on the Leatherwall

Catch and release deer hunting

The owner of this topic has requested a DEBATE FREE discussion

Messages posted to thread:
George Vernon 02-Jan-18
onager 02-Jan-18
Germandogs 02-Jan-18
casekiska 02-Jan-18
David Mitchell 02-Jan-18
Mpdh 02-Jan-18
Rock 02-Jan-18
Stickbow Felty 02-Jan-18
Orion 02-Jan-18
foxbo 02-Jan-18
Ollie 02-Jan-18
George Vernon 02-Jan-18
woodsman 02-Jan-18
bigdog21 02-Jan-18
foxbo 02-Jan-18
WBD 05-Jan-18
Buckdancer 05-Jan-18
From: George Vernon Compton's Traditional Bowhunters
Date: 02-Jan-18

About 40 yeats ago Drs. Norton and Jackson at the University of Wisconsin surveyed a large number of hunters to better understand them and their hobby.

One of the unanticipated findings is most hunters, as they age and have more experience, move through five distinct phases of interest/participation. You can do an online search of the ‘5 phases of hunter’ to see the details.

From time to time on this forum and the T***G*** site I have seen threads dealing with folks who notice their feelings about bowhunting changing from trying to limit out in their early years to sitting back and taking a broader view of the whole hunting experience—the scouting, finding a good spot, seeing deer, maybe getting a shot, and sharing the experience with good and trusted friends.

Now that I’m in my 60’s I’m pretty sure I’m in this fifth stage. Here’s a new to me idea that made this year’s season one of my most enjoyable yet. When I shared it with my good friend Dave Mitchell, he dubbed it ‘catch and release deer hunting’. I share not to say others should do it, rather, here’s something that worked for me.

It starts with finding a good area and selecting several ground blind spots to be able to manage the wind. I like using natural materials to build the blind and try to have them all in place by September. Nothing new here.

Then the hunt begins. I’m blessed to have an area with a good population of deer. In the early part of the season it’s common to see several deer together from one of the ground blinds. Usually one or two mature does and several of the current year fawns. Bucks will come sooner of later. Nothing new here.

In the past I would sit and watch when a group of deer appeared thinking there is no way I can move and not be seen. This year I decided when such an opportunity came along, I’d try to pick a deer, come to full draw, see the small spot I wanted to hit, and then would let down. I’ve found being able to do this is a remarkably satisfying experience that ranks, in my mind, pretty close to taking a shot at a good buck. Clearly there was no guarantee of a hit had I taken a shot but I began to understand ‘success’ did not have to include letting the arrow go and making a lethal shot.

So far this season, I’ve had over 20 such ‘shot’ opportunities. I’ve been ‘busted’ 5 times. The first 4 in a row, and then the most recent with nine deer in front of me. This approach has taught me several things.

First is how to sit still. I know that sounds simple, but when several deer are present and nerves are still pumped with a little deer fever adrenaline, it’s tough, at least for me, to take my time, move oh so slowly and get into position in full view of inquiring eyes.

Second, how to better judge what deer are actually looking at to know when I can move and minimize the chance of being seen. It’s an easy call when they are looking in an opposite direction. But how close to a direct, in line look right at you, can you get and move without detection.

Third, learning to breathe. Again sounds simple. But being able to take a few deep breaths can really calm the nerves, aid in sitting still, and add a bit of patience. No need to rush.

Fourth, how to sit really still. So far this season I’ve had six deer come within 10 feet of me. One got so close it sniffed the broadhead end of my arrow and knocked it off the shelf (I put a little Montana pitch on the cutting edges to prevent rust). When they are close enough to count whiskers, you know they are close.

Fifth, find joy and satisfaction in passing on a shot. Something I don’t think I could have done 40 years ago.

Sixth, I’m not sure it’s possible to have five or more deer present and be able to make any kind of move while in a ground blind.

Seventh, I don’t think I could have done this without the swivel ground blind seat from Milleninum or one that works just like it. Being able to swivel and not move the upper body parts is a real plus. The ground blind needs to hide you from the waist down so none of the foot or leg movements can be seen.

Eighth, having a hand on the bow at all times really cuts down on movement.

Ninth, be open to trying new things to add to the enjoyment of being out with your traditional gear. I know a few folks who don’t hunt anymore because they don’t want to take the ‘shot’. Well, you don’t have to. You can do a version of catch and release.

From: onager Professional Bowhunters Society - Qualified Member
Date: 02-Jan-18

Good post George. I am acquainted with other very accomplished bowhunters that have done the same thing. We realized that only by going all the way to full draw, undetected, can one say they actually let one pass. Doing it on the ground like you are is a real test of bowhunting prowess. Good for you.

From: Germandogs
Date: 02-Jan-18

I done this " Catch And Release on three Deer this year in Kansas Fun Fun FUn

From: casekiska
Date: 02-Jan-18

I have been doing exactly this for years and have a very strict set of criteria I must meet before I can say I had a shot opportunity and actually let one pass. I have kept a written record of this for a long time and find I normally get about two dozen "shot opportunities" at does & fawns during a season. On antlered bucks, I have gotten up to twenty "shot opportunities" during a single season. My norm on bucks is approximately a dozen.

My criteria as to if or if not I call it a "shot opportunity" is as follows: 1.) The animal must be within my effective shooting range 2.) The animal must not know I am there 3.) The animal must be relaxed and positioned for an effective shot 4.) I must have a clear window for the arrow's travel, free of obstructions 5.) I must be able to get into position, come to full draw, aim, achieve proper back tension, anchor, settle the pin on the vitals, and go through all the motions of executing a shot except for squeezing the trigger on my release. Then I let down and do not shoot.

When all these conditions are met and I have executed them properly, then and only then do I ever say "I passed up a shot."

As I said I have been doing this for many years and it is great fun. I find I pride myself, at the end of the season, on how many actual "shot opportunities" I was able to pull off during a season. Plus, it is a great learning experience and allows one to practice their craft of bowhunting without the necessity of actually killing something. Even on the young fawns, it can be fun to do. The only draw back to this whole scenario is that sometimes you do all this and then realize in the process you have alerted a deer (buck?) you didn't see to your presence. That's a bummer 'N I learned it the hard way!

From: David Mitchell
Date: 02-Jan-18

George, glad to see that you put this on here. I enjoyed our discussion of this yesterday.

From: Mpdh
Date: 02-Jan-18

I wouldn’t do anything that might spook a deer that I have no intention of shooting. Spook a few that you don’t want, and pretty soon those deer and others that you would shoot, will shy away from that area.


From: Rock Professional Bowhunters Society - Associate Member Compton's Traditional Bowhunters
Date: 02-Jan-18

I use to do this years ago on almost every animal that I got close too. But one day a small WT Buck came in and I drew on him as always, everything felt so good that I could actually feel the string starting to slip off my fingures, had to close my hand into a fist to keep from shooting it. Tried drawing on him twice more with same results so pretty much quit drawing on anything I did not intend to shoot after that.

From: Stickbow Felty
Date: 02-Jan-18

What MP says. The deer will pack there bags and leave.

From: Orion Professional Bowhunters Society - Qualified Member Compton's Traditional Bowhunters
Date: 02-Jan-18

Had a friend try that with an unanticipated outcome. A wheelie guy with a trigger. Put a little too much pressure on the trigger and shot the critter he wasn't planning to shoot.

I count coup, but don't draw on any animal I don't intend to shoot, though I have done it a few times int he past. Not many deer in my neck of the woods, and if one makes me for any reason, subsequent sightings of deer decrease.

Also, to me, just not the same drawing and letting down. When I drew on a critter I knew I wasn't going to shoot, there just wasn't the same level of adrenalin/excitement.

And, though it hasn't happened to me that I'm aware of, I've have friends who have drawn on a doe or small buck and let down, only to discover a buck they would have shot was watching the show.

I usually pass on a couple of small bucks a year, as well as several does, but I always try to avoid any movement that could potentially alert them to my presence.

Whatever floats your boat.

From: foxbo
Date: 02-Jan-18

Where I hunt, you wouldn't try that method. If I get two chances per hunting season, I'm doing good. Must be real fun to be able to practice catch and release with game when it's that plentiful. It ain't happening here in VA, at least where I hunt. It takes me about 35 to 40 hours of hard hunting to get one chance.

From: Ollie Professional Bowhunters Society - Qualified Member Compton's Traditional Bowhunters
Date: 02-Jan-18

Not a good idea for the average bowhunter who suffers from target panic, etc. Some can maintain control and others "have" to let it go just as soon as the brain says you are on target.

From: George Vernon Compton's Traditional Bowhunters
Date: 02-Jan-18

A few folks have asked some questions of potential interest to others about catch and release.

“How do you keep from spooking deer out of the area?” I have six primary ground blinds. I never hunt the same one two outings in a row and never two days in a row. The few times I’ve been ‘busted’ I would leave the area for at least a week. I also am very serious about wind direction. I think deer are more prone to leave an area when two or more of their senses tell them there’s danger. Seeing movement alone without sound or smell, and they may move away from the location of the movement but not out of the area. I’m guessing if the same deer saw movement in the same location several times, it might be a different story.

“Has catch and release ever cost you a buck?” No. One of the behaviors I’m watching for, especially near or in the rut is a doe looking over her shoulder at where she came from. Or alertly watching a specific direction for minutes at a time. This is a good indicator of ‘company’s coming’. Usually another deer, and often, but not always a buck. I’ve seen the alert stare for noisy raccoons, fox, and especially coyotes. No movement on my part when this company coming behavior is displayed. Was able to tag a nice 11 pointer using this approach last season that field dressed over 267 lbs. Not clear if he was looking for companionship or just wanting to share the white oak acorns the does were eating.

“Have you ever slipped up and shot an arrow when you did not intend to?” No. I started playing with this approach three years ago and went to it exclusively this season. I only draw on mature deer I would be happy to put in the freezer just in case something goes wrong between my ears at full draw. Now when I see an animal, especially one I intend to shoot like the big buck last year, I can do the set, draw and release with no buck fever until after the shot is made. That improves my confidence and, I think, makes me a better shot.

Please know I understand this approach may not fit anyone else’s style or preference. And may not be a good choice for every location. Just sharing an approach that has sparked a new level of interest in me to get out in the woods looking for deer.

From: woodsman
Date: 02-Jan-18

Some really good posts here.. Thanks guys


From: bigdog21
Date: 02-Jan-18

I take two deer a year this is all I need. with all the other game animals in the freezer. so i practice this a lot. usually get 3 or 4 i let pass before taking one if I shot the first one my season would be over the first week. the secound one I take is during muzzleloader season with flintlock no catch and release with it only a three day season

From: foxbo
Date: 02-Jan-18

I knew of a compound hunter who said he shot deer thru the ear for a "catch and release" I don't draw back on anything I don't intend to shoot.

From: WBD
Date: 05-Jan-18

Take a picture. Follow all your rules when a shot opportunity presents itself click. Get the pics developed write "gotcha" on the pic and start a catch and release wall. New definition of "wall hangers"

From: Buckdancer
Date: 05-Jan-18

Yep . Iv been hunting with my camera.for years now . I've hit that 5th stage awhile ago . Still hunt with my bow but count coup a lot . 6 point and up .well that's a different story . Lol

If you have already registered, please

sign in now

For new registrations

Click Here

Visit A Traditional Archery Community Become a Sponsor © 2003. By using this site you agree to our Terms and Conditions and our Privacy Policy