Be honest, how many of these hunting mistakes have you committed?
There are almost a limitless number of blunders, mistakes, and careless errors that a deer hunter can make in his or her time out in the woods. Some are more obvious than others, but some you may have never realized are imporatnt.
Here are 10 of the mistakes that you should make a note to avoid from the get go.
View the slide show to see the list.
1. Failing to scout your properties
Perhaps one of the most common hunting mistakes is made by hunters who get cocky and fool themselves into thinking they know their properties well enough to skip a pre-season scouting session. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve hunted the same private land parcel for 20 years or are heading out for your first ever hunt on a public plot: there is still plenty of information to be gleaned from a scouting trip. Head out a few weeks before opening day and walk your property. Check your stands. Check your food plots. Try to determine which trails deer are going to be using this season. Figure out where the bedding areas are. Determine when whitetails are out and about. Formulate a few routes you can take to get to your stands each morning depending on different wind patterns. Heck, make sure that there are still actually deer on your property. A lot can change on a property from one season to the next, and if you don’t scout, you’ll have to waste a precious hunting day figuring out the changes.
2. Ignoring the wind
An unwitting hunter has no greater enemy – and a big buck no better friend – than the wind. Expert hunters know to pay attention to the direction and speed of the wind throughout the day to make sure their scent isn’t being swept right into the nostrils of the animals they are trying to hunt. Those who fail to do this will be rewarded by a complete dearth of deer sightings and absolutely no prospects for a kill.
3. Using too much scent control
Like the bad smelling cologne that clueless junior high boys slather themselves in before the big dance, too much scent control can actually have the opposite effect of what it’s supposed to do. With a few drops of an estrous doe scent during the rut, you might be able to pique the interest of a buck and lure him close enough to get a shot off. With too much, you’ll probably send off red flags for every whitetail within half a mile. The rule for scents in virtually all scenarios is “use sparingly,” and that applies to hunting as well.
4. Not having enough patience
There may be no bigger mark of an inexperienced hunter than impatience. If you decide it’s time to pick up and move after an hour of sitting in your stand without any deer sightings, you are only going to hurt your chances of landing a kill. When you trudge through the woods, spreading your scent everywhere or making a racket by crashing through the brambles or climbing a tree, you might as well be waving your hands around in the air and screaming “here I am” for all the deer in the area to hear. Chances are, both actions will have the same end result: spooked deer that know to steer far clear of you.
5. Having too MUCH patience
With that said, however, there is such a thing as having too much patience. If you sit in a tree stand for a whole week without seeing a single deer and then return to that same spot the next week, it’s likely that you are hurting your chances by not changing up the game a bit. Often, hunters who use this approach are doing so because they’ve had great success at a certain spot before and aren’t ready to give up on the chance that lightning may strike in the same way twice. It won’t, you’re wasting your time; move on and formulate a new attack plan.
6. Failing to check gear
Whether it’s your rifle, your tree stand, or the pockets of your hunting pants, gear can wear out over time. Rifles can jam or start to misfire due to a build-up of filth; tree stands can rust and break; clothes can wear and fray. The consequences of not checking your gear can run the range from a rifle that won’t fire when you need it to, to a pocket that you place something in only to lose it because of a hole, to a tree stand that gives out under your weight and drops you 20 feet to the ground. It doesn’t matter whether the consequence is death, injury, or inconvenience: there’s no reason to pay those prices when the fix is something as easy as checking your gear before you head out for the hunt.
8. Letting your guard down
When you’re out in the woods and sitting in the tree stand, you never know when a buck is going to stroll out of the woods and make his presence known. It could happen in five minutes or it could be two hours. The unpredictable nature of the hunt means you can never set aside your weapon, fall asleep, or otherwise let your guard down unless you are willing to pay for those few moments of carelessness with a lost buck. In the distracted age of smartphones, this has become a bigger problem for many hunters.
9. Rattling or calling too much
Like scent control, rattles and calls can bring in the bucks in droves, but you have to know when to call and when to stop calling. For instance, in different parts of the season (pre-rut, rut, late season, etc.), different calls will yield better results. If you don’t know which calls to use at which times, don’t use them.
9. Not practicing
Shooting a gun is not like riding a bike. If you go six months without shooting, your marksmanship skills are going to be rusty, and you are going to miss easy shots as a result. The same is true for you archery fiends, so get outside or head to the shooting range before hunting season starts, and take some time to reacquaint yourself with your weapon. If you’ve got a new gun or bow, not practicing becomes an even bigger mistake.
10. Failing to learn from experience
All of the mistakes on this list are major blunders, but they pale in comparison to this last one. If you are so stubborn and set in your ways that you can’t learn from your experiences, then you’ve made the biggest hunting mistake of all. Even the best hunters in the world claim to learn something new every season (and probably every time they hunt). With that in mind, you should take some time after every hunt to go over the day in your mind, assess your performance, and try to better yourself.