The consistent success of deer hunting is in the details. sure, there is are people who randomly wander through the woods without any preparation and manage to get lucky. But if you want to constantly put meat in the freezer and antlers on the wall, this quest requires an obsession with doing things right.
Of those most important little things, sound is near the top of the list. You can explore, prepare and strategize all you want, but it’s no use if a poorly timed jingle, rattle or pop sends a lot of money running the other way.
Here are a handful of the most noise-problematic pieces of hunting gear and ideas for silencing each one.
First, before delving into the details, it should be noted that the vast majority of sound problems emanate from metal. Metal clips, buckles, plates, zippers – the list goes on and on. Metal is found in much of what we take into the woods, and when struck against another hard surface, it usually makes a loud, unnatural noise. The kind of noise that doesn’t belong in a deer’s environment and is something that immediately stands out as a potential hazard.
To the extent possible, cover exposed metal parts of any equipment you take into the woods, assuming you can do so without inhibiting its function. Hockey tape, felt, duct tape, and a million other soft, sticky-backed fabrics can help moisten these surfaces and reduce the risk of premature “ding ding.”
Archery equipment introduces a great deal of noise to a hunt, especially when drawing or releasing an arrow. Fortunately, various accessories and modifications can reduce noise, such as adding a stabilizer, putting rubber sound dampeners on the limbs of the bow, and adding silencers to the bowstring.
“My favorites are the old-school rubber cat whiskers that I attach to the string,” said Tom Irwin of Irwin Archery Mechanics. “If this is done correctly, you can silence your bow by about 30% and basically no speed loss.”
Another common noise area on a bow is the arrow rest and rack. This can be easily combated by adding a felt cover to the tips or arms of the rest, so that the arrow glides silently across the surface when pulled. You can also add felt to the shelf below it, so if the arrow falls off, it won’t make a noise against the hard metal riser.
Finally, Irwin points out that many bowhunters make adjustments to their bows without checking the distance between the top of the string and the bowstring, resulting in an extra slap on the string. “Make sure your rope stop is set business card thick from the top,” he said.
Another common noise culprit in the woods is the portable climbing poles that so many hunters use to climb a tree when hunting with a mobile tree stand or saddle. In many cases, these poles are made of metal or have metal pieces, pieces, and buckles attached to them. All of that creates a high risk of noise, especially when walking with these sticks strapped to your back or while perched on a tree.
My first recommendation for dealing with this is to cover as much of the metal surface as possible, especially on the main post of the club, with a soft covering. I’ve done this with hockey tape, duct tape, and another popular product made specifically for this application called Stealth Strips.
I also advocate avoiding straps with any kind of metal buckle or clasp because a metal buckle swinging in the air and bumping into another stick is a sure way to get attention. You can replace metal buckles with a number of alternatives, such as Tethrd’s metal-free Versalink or Versastrap products, or a lightweight rope such as amsteel that can be used (with appropriate safety knots) to attach the pole without a buckle. If you still choose to use a buckle strap, wrap that buckle with tape or use something like a Yak Grip or bike pipe to cover it.
Supports for trees and platforms
Blockades, ladder supports, saddle platforms – anything you can stand on in a tree is probably another invitation for sound. All of these items are primarily made of metal and will create noise in the environment if not properly prepared and cared for. Gregg Farrell, a Wisconsin native and lead designer of First Lite whitetail products, recommends several modifications to ensure that whatever type of platform he uses to lift is quiet.
“To silence my mounts, I use Silent Touch Tape anywhere my mounts or sticks might come into contact with each other during my walk or setup,” he explained. A similar effect can be achieved with the other tape options I described when discussing sticks. The key is to wrap any likely contact areas, especially including the support post and the outer edge of the deck.
Tree supports often create noise at pivot or joint points, such as where seats and posts move up and down, where cables connect, and where ladder support segments join. To deal with these sounds, Farrell uses a powdered graphite lubricant. “Powdered graphite is a great lubricant that doesn’t have a harsh smell (even more critical than silence) like WD-40 or something similar,” he said.
Adjacent to the groves are raised box shutters, many of which rest on metal tripods of some kind. These metal platforms and the hollow sound-amplifying boxes above them are also notorious for noise. To negate this common problem, put rugs or foam pads of some kind on the floor and even, if possible, on the walls.
Another type of noisy equipment to be aware of are the ropes, buckles, cams, and clips that are associated with tree safety harnesses, lifelines, hunting saddle straps, and lineman’s belts. All of these usually have some kind of carabiner, clip, or ascension device that is made of metal, which I almost always wrap with hockey tape to prevent clanking. Another way to cover these metal surfaces, in certain applications such as on a lifeline, is to use a rubber cover such as the Hunter Safety Cowbell Carabiner Cover to protect the metal device while not in use.
“Obviously the biggest quiet factor for me is my dress system,” Farrell said. “That’s why I spend a lot of my working time developing textiles that are quiet all year round, even when it’s really cold.”
Most hunters put a lot of effort into choosing the right clothing to wear, but the sound that clothing makes is often overlooked. Make sure the outer layers you wear aren’t made of a harsh, blatant fabric that puckers, shuffles, or bursts in the wind when it rubs against itself or moves against the rough surface of tree bark.
If possible, test the sound of your clothes at the store or when you get home by rubbing them on themselves and other surfaces; if it’s much stronger than a rubbed pair of jeans, it’s too strong to wear in the whitetail woods if you hope to be within bow range of a deer.
Yes, this is a lot to deal with. But don’t let that stop you from starting your muting. You may not be perfect from the start, but progress is progress. The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. So, pick an item from your kit to start silencing today, and then work your way through the list piece by piece. Every little bit counts.