Hunting seasons can literally be hit or miss.
And it's the misses, unfortunately, that seem to stick around, even come springtime... You're still think about how you could have missed.
Sometimes, a missed buck is caused completely by factors beyond your control, from poor weather to a dropping population. Other times, a failed season can be pinned entirely on the hunter. If you are trying to figure out why your 2013 hunting season was a disaster - partially due to pure curiosity and partially because you don't want to make the same mistakes in 2014 - this list of 10 common reasons for missing as buck might help you to figure things out.
View the slideshow and see if your excuses are any better.
You didn't start planning and preparing early enough
Probably the biggest reason for any failed hunting season is a failure to plan and prepare. While hunting season "starts" on Opening Day, any hunter who hasn't spent ample time preparing before that is going to be in for a rude awakening. As with any other sport, you need to lay the groundwork for your success in the field. You need to make sure you have the right gear; you need to make sure you have thoroughly scouted your properties and devised multiple different plans of attack; you need to practice your shooting skills; you need to think about how the wind could impact your prospects; and you need to lay trail cameras and plant food plots.
There is so much planning and preparation that can be done to get ready for a hunting season, and if you're not doing most of it, chances are that you've already figured out the reason for your dud of a season.
You didn't spend sufficient time practicing with your weapon
In theory, this step can be absorbed into the previous "planning and preparation" note, but practicing with your weapon is so important that we figured it deserved its own bullet point. If your weak hunting season came as a result of missed shots or shots you didn't take due to a lack of confidence, the obvious solution to your problem is to spend more time at the shooting range.
More than that, though, you need to shoot from a variety of different angles and positions to best mimic how you will be firing in the woods. The shooting range can do you a lot of favors, but if you are never shifting your positions, you are going to be hard-pressed to land accurate shots in the woods. If possible, also find a way to shoot outside in the cold.
You slept in too often
If you were consistently slapping the snooze button on the alarm last season instead of getting up before the sun and embarking on a hunting outing at 4 or 5 a.m., then that might well be the reason behind your disappointing returns. For many hunters, morning outings yield the best deer activity sightings and the biggest bucks. Every time you hit your snooze button and chose to sleep in, you were cutting down on your chances of killing a buck.
You turned in too early
Sleeping in isn't the only time-related grievance that many hunters commit every season. On the contrary, another big mistake is made by those who decide to give up on the hunt and ditch their treestand early.
If you planned to hunt all morning before work, or to play the field until the sun went down on the weekend, but then called an audible and turned in early, you were also cutting down on your chances of killing a buck. Plan a hunt and then stick with it for as long as you intended to originally. It might be cold and wet and uncomfortable, but you don't want to be the guy who walks away from his treestand five minutes before the biggest buck in the county wanders by.
You let too many other hunters hunt your property
Here's one case where permissive generosity can come back to bite you. If you own and maintain your own property, be conservative about who you invite to hunt there.
Letting a few buddies accompany you on weekend hunting outings is one thing. Giving every hunter you know permission to hunt your land is quite another. If you own the land, it's okay to be a bit selfish and to take the bucks for your own instead of allowing other hunters to kill them or scare them away.
You spooked all of the deer
Speaking of spooking, it's possible that your hunting season was a bust because you alerted all of the deer to your position and your intentions early on. Whether you scared them by setting up your stands and your cameras too late, by wandering into bedding areas, or by simply being too loud, a property full of spooked deer is the breeding ground for many a failed season.
You didn't go for broke at the end of the season
Most hunters have experienced a disappointing hunting season from time to time, but what separates the ones who snatched victory at the last minute from the ones who went home empty-handed is pure dedication.
If you get to the last few days of hunting season and you still haven't landed a deer, it's time to go for broke. That means tracking deer down aggressively. That means hunting food plots or bedding areas. That means taking every shot you can get. It doesn't mean sitting up in a stand and waiting patiently, or giving up early due to frustration.
You didn't commit to being a die-hard
Failure to commit - not just during the last days of the season, but throughout the season as a whole - is the prime reason for a lot of disappointing hunting seasons. Die-hard hunters treat the season as their first priority, foregoing sleep, social events, and other obligations to grab extra days or hours.
RELATED: The Benefits of Hunting on a Holiday
If you gave up hunting mornings for sleep or hunting weekends because you wanted to catch a football game - or if you skipped the normally fruitful hunting day that is Thanksgiving - then it's fairly clear that you simply weren't committing yourself fully to the buck pursuit.
You didn't know when it was time to move on
While many hunters give up on a stand location too quickly, there are also hunters who botch entire seasons by not knowing when it is time to give up and move on. If a property or stand hasn't yielded results, it's time to move on and try something else. Otherwise, your memories of the hunting season will be of little more than twiddling your thumbs.
You hunt in an area that experienced a bad year for deer herds
Most of the items on this list are reasons that place the blame on the hunter for a rough season. And yet some blame can be placed on Mother Nature or some other powerful force.
Many hunters from all over the country - particularly in the Midwest - reported poorer than usual hunting results for the 2013 season. It seems as if these areas just experienced slow hunting seasons for one reason or another, and that is something that can happen. Whether your state population suffered from mortality rates or was simply disrupted by rough weather patterns, there are years where there's nothing to do but accept that you were dealt a bad hand and hope things work out a bit better next time around.