If you bowhunt long enough, you're going to hit a limb with an arrow. Hopefully it happens while taking a shot a doe for the freezer and you can laugh about it later.
Whether the shot is at a doe or the buck of a lifetime, though, the experience often causes bowhunters to become paranoid about sticks and limbs. The result is we tend to go overboard when trimming shooting lanes thereafter. And even those who have yet to experience the heartbreak of a deflected arrow are often guilty of over-trimming their shooting lanes.
I spent many hours trimming lanes with my hunting buddy in my early bowhunting days. One of us would get in the stand while the other simulated a deer walking nearby. Whoever was on the ground would then follow the stand occupant's instructions about which branches to trim. While the logic is sound, we went way overboard and did too much trimming.
Not only did our excessive efforts dramatically change the look of the area, they made it nearly impossible to move without being spotted by the deer. In short, we put them on edge by changing their surroundings and cleared away much of the cover we needed to remain undetected. Picture walking into your living room and realizing that someone had changed the curtains and raised the blinds while you were away — that's what many of us do to a deer's living room when trimming shooting lanes.
Trimming branches is necessary at most bow stands, but always keep in mind that archery is about stealth and getting the right shot. You're better off to keep the extra cover and get away with a little movement. Think of shooting lanes in terms of small windows rather than major highways.
Finally, remember that foliage drops throughout the fall, often opening up the woods even more. The shots and cover you see from your stand while scouting in August and early September could look very different by mid-October.
--Ken Piper, Buckmasters Editor