Avoiding common deer hunting mistakes could mean the difference between a rookie hunter and a successful one.
I’ve been an avid bowhunter nearly all my adult life. During that time, I’ve made my share of mistakes while hunting whitetail deer and other North American game animals. Many were mistakes every rookie hunter makes. However, some of the most humbling have been errors I made while aware I was doing something wrong.
The following are some ways to avoid common deer hunting mistakes and become a more successful hunter.
Forgetting to Pay Attention to the Wind
Every hunter knows a whitetails’ nose is its number one defense mechanism. Yet being lazy about this basic fact has cost me several good bucks over the years. I started wearing scent control clothing over 20 years ago. Before that, I washed my hunting clothes in scent free detergent and stored them in bags with baking soda or activated carbon powder. I also started wearing knee high rubber boots every time I entered the woods. I have faith that my scent control regimen works. The problem is that this attitude can lead to the erroneous belief I can sometimes ignore the wind and get away with it.
Forget what the scent control clothing ads say. Yes, today’s products work. My belief, however, is that they only minimize human scent. They don’t eliminate it altogether. My deer sightings and success rate increased when I started using scent control clothing. But they went to a new level when I learned to use scent control and keep the wind to my advantage.
Forgetting the Art of Patience
“Go early and stay late,” was a phrase my grandfather used when I started hunting as a kid. Back in his day there weren’t nearly the number of deer there are today. To be successful, old school hunters knew that putting long hours on stand was a sure way to score on a buck. But even with record high numbers of whitetails in many states, that rule still holds true.
I relearned this lesson recently on a Missouri bowhunt that took place just as the rut kicked into high gear. I had been seeing deer well into the late morning and early afternoon for several days. However, there were long lulls between sightings which gave me the false idea that the deer were done moving for the day.
I was soon shown the error of my ways when a 2.5 year-old 6 pointer nearly ran me over as he trotted nose to the ground up a fence line I was walking to get back to my truck. As I crossed a small creek behind the barn, a big 8 pointer exploded out of some tall grass on the other side. Had I stayed on stand 15 minutes longer both of these bucks may have walked into bow range.
Not Staying Awake and Alert
This mistake has bitten me in the you-know-what more often than I care to admit. Several times bucks and does have picked me out in a tree stand or ground blind when I snorted awake after dozing off. Worse is waking up just to see a shooter buck saunter out of shooting range before you have a chance to grab your weapon.
Keeping your eyes and ears open to the slightest changes around you is imperative to consistent success. To solve the dozing problem I’ve started taking small bottles of energy boosters with me into the woods. I have found these keep me awake and alert long after the morning coffee has worn off. Another way to stay alert is to stand up and stretch from time to time. You can do this easily in a ground blind. If you’re hunting from a tree stand, wait until you are sure no animals are around and move slowly.
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Not Trusting Intuition
Ever find a situation that you knew was perfect for an ambush but for some reason you decided to set up at a different spot? This mistake has haunted me for years after the biggest buck I’ve ever seen on the hoof came out of the woods later in the evening from a spot I found earlier in the day.
The lesson here is to not overthink things. If you’ve seen consistent buck activity in a particular location then it’s usually the best place to be. Sure, you should always pay attention to wind direction, whether your stand is concealed, sun direction, stealthy entry and exit, but often your first thought is the right one.
Holding Out for Mr. Big
Which brings me to one of the biggest mistakes I make. I’ve been lucky over the years to arrow several Pope & Young class whitetails including one that just missed the Boone and Crockett minimum for typical antlers. I typically pass on immature bucks and does but have eaten tag soup more than once because I waited too long for that one buck I knew was out there somewhere.
The lesson I’ve learned is to not pass on a buck I would be happy to shoot the last day of the season. During the rut you are likely to encounter bucks of every size. If a buck meeting your minimum requirements gives you a clean shot, don’t hesitate to make it. It might be the only chance you get the entire season.
There you have it – my top mistakes and ways to correct them. Here’s hoping you learn from my misfortune and are successful on your next hunt.