How to Tell Where Whitetails Are and What They’re Doing with Nationally-Known Bowhunter Jerry Simmons
How to Begin Bowhunting
Editor’s Note: One of the best bowhunters I ever have met is Jerry Simmons of Jasper, Alabama, the creator of the Interceptor and Land Shark broadheads as well as other helpful bowhunting aids. Some years ago, in 80 days of one season of bowhunting, Simmons let arrows fly at 53 deer and harvested 43 of the whitetails. One of the primary reasons for Simmons’s success is because he finds places in the woods to put his tree stand where the deer will walk to within 18 yards or less. Simmons, with more than 40 years of experience, spends most of his time scouting.
Like most productive bowhunters, Jerry Simmons appreciates having the advantage of maps as he says that, “Topo maps and aerial photos will show you where woods openings are in the forests. These maps will give you an idea of the terrain and show you where the creeks, valleys, trails and roads are located on the property. I’ve found that the most-critical element in successful scouting is knowing the road systems of the land you want to hunt. After I have an overview of the area from the maps, I next drive the roads. A hunter must identify the kinds of trees in a region to determine where to start looking for a place to hunt. A bowhunter also must know what foods the deer prefer, and where these foods grow during the early season, the middle of the season and the late season to scout effectively.
“If there are river-bottom hardwoods present on the land, you need to know what kinds of acorns grow in that section of the woods. If a region has hills and mountains, the sportsmen must learn what kinds of foods are available on those ridges. For instance, in my part of the country, the first acorns to fall are usually the mountain oak acorns. These trees are found on thetops of high ridges and mountains. And, when these acorns first start dropping, the deer feed on them heavily. But as soon as the other acorns fall, the deer will quit using the mountain oak acorns. Perhaps the mountain oak acorns don’t taste as good as the other acorns. Therefore, when I scout, I try to identify the mountain oak trees on high ridges first. Then I can hunt them the first 2 weeks of bow season in my region. Next I search for the white oak or the water oak acorns for the third week of hunting and on into the middle of the season. In my area, deer seem to prefer acorns – probably because they haven’t had any since the winter. And the first acorns that fall seem to concentrate and draw the deer. I’m looking for those trees that will drop acorns first and concentrate the deer. So, you need to know which trees release their acorns first.
“But the acorns aren’t the only food source I scout for at the first of the season. In the South, persimmons and crabapples will also draw deer, although this food source is short-lived. Deer can eat these fruits up in about a week. To be effective at scouting, you must know what the deer will eat when you’re hunting, and that that food source is actually providing the food during that time. The key to remember is that the only way you can consistently bag deer is to take them when you know what they’re doing. Of course, you can harvest a few deer accidently. However, to be a consistent bowhunter, you must be able to take a deer when it’s feeding, working a scrape or traveling a trail. You’ve got to know what that animal’s doing, besides when and where he’s doing it. And scouting does help you more-accurately predict where the deer are, what they’re doing, and when they’re doing it.
“To scout and locate food trees, the hunter must know what the bark, the leaves and the fruits of various trees look like. If you understand what the leaf of the tree is, you can search for the leaf, find the tree, see whether or not the tree has acorns on it, and if it has dropped any of them. Also by knowing the tree’s leaf, if you find a leaf on the ground of one of the food trees you want to hunt, you’ll know that tree is in the vicinity. Then you can start hunting for it. Or, if you can recognize a tree by its bark, this also will make identifying a tree easier and quicker. And by locating the fruit or the nut of a tree, you’ll know exactly where to hunt. Although most sportsmen don’t realize how important tree identification is, this knowledge can drastically reduce the amount of time you must scout.”
Tomorrow: What about Droppings?