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How Bear Kelly Prepares for Bowhunting Before Deer Season

provided by John E. Phillips

In 1996, the late Dick Kirby, creator of Quaker Boy Calls and longtime Mossy Oak enthusiast, started mentoring Bear Kelly as a trapper. Bear primarily bowhunts, but he also hunts with a gun, a muzzleloader and a crossbow. He’s hunted in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as Alabama, Tennessee and Canada.


For me, the most important element in preparing to hunt during bow season is to be scent-free. If a deer can smell you, he’s not coming in and presenting a shot. I realize that other bowhunters may have different opinions, but that’s what I believe. 

Boots - I start with my feet. Since I believe that rubber boots are more scent-free than any other type of boot, I always buy rubber boots that are one size larger than what I normally wear. Rubber boots hold scent inside them better than any other texture of boot. I’ve tested several different types of boots, and if I walk in a boot for a day and can smell my human odor outside the boot, then I know that the boot isn’t keeping my foot odor inside the boot. To fit the larger boots, I put an extra innersole inside to take up the space between my foot and the boot, making the boot more comfortable when I walk. 

Binoculars - Next, I always check my binoculars to make sure that the lenses are clean, because I use my binoculars often when I’m hunting. I choose Swarovski binoculars, although I know there are other companies in the marketplace that make quality binoculars. However, my Swarovski binoculars have always performed really well for me. 

Bow - Most of this preparation takes place a week or two before the season, but I’ll start checking my bow and practice shooting in May before fall hunting season. I’ll check all my cables, make sure my string is in good shape and waxed. Then I check the alignment of my rest to be certain it’s the way it’s supposed to be because I have not upgraded my bow in years. Today, I’m shooting a Mathew’s Heli-M. I really love this bow; it has been good to me, and I’ve never found a reason to give it up. The bow is comfortable to carry and is very accurate. It holds its accuracy at distances more than 30 yards. 

mule deer buck in brush

I not only hunt deer, I also hunt big game like elk, mule deer, bears, and caribou. If I’m hunting elk, I know that I can make a lethal hit at 70 yards if there’s no wind, but I don’t advocate anyone taking a shot at that distance. The reason I practice at 70 yards is because at that distance any mistake I may make in form will be amplified. Then I can correct it in practice. I know if I’m dead-on at 70 yards, a 50-yard shot will be even easier, and a 30-yard shot will be no problem. 

Also, I always check my sight pins because they can get broken, bent or moved, which can cause me to miss an animal. I like to mark where each pin is on my bow. When I’m hunting, I carry extra sight pins with me because I’ve marked the spot where each pin should be on my bow, according to yardage. If anything happens to a pin, I can take the bent or broken pin off my sight, put a new pin in the same place and continue my hunt without having to re-sight my bow. I check my limbs to make sure they aren’t cracked or delaminated. I also check my risers for cracks, which can happen. 

In May, my son Zachary and I start shooting bows to get ready to hunt. I start off by shooting 30 arrows a day, and I continue to work and shoot until I’m shooting 50 arrows a day. Once I’m confident that my bows and arrows are shooting as accurately as possible, two or three weeks before bow season arrives, I may only shoot 10 arrows at different distances.

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