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How To Get Started Bowhunting Blacktails

Learn to bowhunt in Oregon

June 20, 2014 – Jeff Mack, Guest Blogger

How To Get Started Bowhunting Blacktails

So you want to learn how to bow hunt for blacktail deer? Blacktail deer are the most elusive and hardest deer to bowhunt due to the dense cover and their nocturnal behaviors. Bowhunting blacktail deer can be one of the most frustrating hunts you can have and can also be one of the most rewarding, regardless if you’re a seasoned hunter or its your first time.  Here are a few things to consider when preparing to bowhunt for blacktails for the first time.

Choosing your Bow
How do I learn to bow huntWhether you decide to use a compound bow or a traditional bow, use what is comfortable to you. Don’t use a bow because your buddy says it’s the latest and greatest bow to have or because it is what everyone else is using. Find the bow that fits you and is comfortable to shoot. Many archery shops will allow you to shoot different types to try and find the bow that is just right for you.  Once you get your bow they you can customize it to your liking. There are many different rests, sights, releases and accessories so find what you like. The staff at the archery shop will have great knowledge and recommendation to help you fit your bow, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Then….. Practice, Practice, Practice. Shoot your bow daily and get comfortable with your bow and your abilities. Shoot from different positions from standing to kneeling on the ground. 3D archery courses are a good way to practice shooting and getting ready for real life situations.

Know your limitations! Just because you have a 60 yard pin on your sites, doesn’t always mean that a 60 yard shot is right for you. Some people are deadly accurate at 60 or more yards but you have to know your own abilities and what is a good and ethical shot for you.

Learning about Blacktail deer
Hunting blacktail deer is not like hunting mule deer or whitetail deer. Their behaviors are different and a lot less predictable. This is why there aren’t many hunting shows on TV that show blacktail hunting, it’s tough and takes a lot of work. There are a lot of great resources out there that you can read to learn more about hunting blacktails from great hunters who live in the middle of blacktail country. Two local Oregonians, Scott Haugen and Gary Lewis have written a few good books on blacktail deer hunting.

Early Season vs. The Rut
One of the great things about hunting black tails with a bow is you get two seasons. The early season when it’s hot out and in November when the rut is on.

Scouting for blacktail deer in oregonEarly season – In the beginning of the early season, the bucks are still in velvet, this will tend to keep bucks out in the open because their antlers are sensitive and they don’t like hitting them on the brush. However when it is time, they will scrap the velvet to come off, and retreat into brush and become nocturnal and hunting them becomes a real challenge.

The Rut – During the rut bucks will be moving all day in search of does to breed with. They become less wary of their surroundings. Hunting during the rut can be some of the most exciting hunting you will experience. At any given time bucks are up and moving and sometimes have multiple bucks appear at one time.

You can also rattle bucks in during the rut. I personally have never had success with this, but I am pretty sure it’s just my lack of knowledge as to how to do it. I know many people who have great success rattling in bucks during the rut.

How do I learn to blacktail deer huntYou need to put in the time to scout areas. Whether this is by glassing a clear cut or use of a trail camera you need to learn about the animals in the area you are hunting. Learn their feeding area’s verses their bedding areas. Where do they get water? What is the terrain like? Are you hunting private land surrounded by public land? What is access like to you hunting location?

Trail cameras are a great tool to find out what animals are in the area. They can help you learn what the deer population is like in the area you want to hunt. A previous Oregon Outdoor Council guest blogger, David Leer, wrote a great article, “10 Tips To Help You Get The Best Trail Camera Pictures.” ( careful when putting these on public land because they can get stolen.

Google Earth is another great resource to learn an area and works great in conjunction with topographical maps. With Google Earth you can zoom into areas and see where water is located, where roads are located, and whether the land is bare or covered in large vegetation.

Style of Hunting
You need to decide how you are going to hunt. Are you going to use a treestand, pop up blind or spot and stalk? This will be determined based off of the scouting you have done and how you think you can be successful. Each style has its strengths and weaknesses.  For example a tree stand puts you above the animals and vegetation for better viewing in comparison to a pup up blind that has you hidden on the ground level. The pop up blind does cover movements better where a tree stand you are in the open view.


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Put the effort forth to get into shape. Your own conditioning, or lack of, can severely impact you ability to be successful. Get plenty of cardio. If you’re walking in steep terrain you need to be in shape to help you be successful and also so that you don’t have a medical emergency by over taxing your body. If you want to learn more about how your physical conditioning can impact your success check another Oregon Outdoor Council guest blogger, Calvin Halladay’s piece, “Top 6 Tips That Will Improve Your Hunting Success.” (

Learn to bowhunt in OregonShooting a bow requires muscle training (AKA Muscle Memory). It’s not like placing your rifle on shooting sticks and taking your shot. You need to train your body to shoot and to be able to hold your bow and shot for a period of time until the opening to release the arrow presents itself. You need to strengthen your core muscles. If your core is not strong, your other muscle won’t be strong. It’s like the old saying you can’t build a house without the foundations, well your core is your foundation.

Battling Frustration
You will inevitably experience great highs and lows while bowhunting, regardless of the species.  Don’t let the inevitable frustration discourage you. I know that is easier said than done, but it is critical. Every hunt or time spent in the outdoors can lend to a teachable moment.  Learn from your mistakes and enjoy all the beauty that is in the outdoors. And when the time comes you begin to feel frustrated, find a nice spot to sit, drink some water, eat a snack, and clear your head for a few minutes.  It’s not always about the harvest but the time spent learning and enjoying what you are surrounded by.

You can be successful, but success is defined differently for each of us. There is luck involved also, so you need to be prepared for when the time comes you are ready, you can do it! Don’t be afraid to reach out to others. If you have questions, hunters are often very willing to share experiences and lend advice, just not their secret spot.  Go out and have a great time, create some memories and welcome to the blacktail club.

Bowhunting with the Oregon Outdoor Council
Jeff Mack

P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Oregon Outdoor Council’s blog to receive more tips, how to’s, and action alerts to help get our deer and elk hunting back to where it should be! Use the form in the top right of the webpage.