Sometimes making Opening Day isn't possible. It's never fun, but it is not the end of the world.
There is nothing quite like the anticipation of Opening Day of deer season. From Canada, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Virginia, and all the way to Mexico, we all get fired up for this time of the calendar year.
Almost a full shift in seasons, spent anxiously waiting, practicing, and planning for this very moment, makes us extra excited once those season dates arrive. You can't sleep at night, you can't focus on other things, all your mind is going to is how that opening day hunt will unfold. You haven't been this excited about deer hunting since, well, last season.
There's one problem though, you can't make the Opening Day hunt! It could be because of a multitude of issues, but sometimes life just gets in the way.
Although it may seem like the end of the world, it isn't, and here are a few things to do if you find yourself in that situation.
Go ahead and get this one out of the way. We all know there or more important things in life than hunting., but that doesn't mean it won't be painful to miss that highly anticipated Opening Day.
Shed your tears, get the pouting out of the way, and then you can start to focus on things that actually matter. That will help culminate the pain of your absence.
Make sure you have a hunting license, the proper deer tag, know all your hunting regulations, and put your big boy pants on. With your blubbering out of the way, you can now toughen up until that first hunt presents itself.
Don't Get On Social Media
Social media is a big part of our lives today. Whether that is for good or bad can be heavily debated. But one thing is certain, you do not want to be on Facebook or Instagram on Opening Day when you aren't hunting.
Why? You will already be down in the dumps because you aren't hunting, but if you see 25 treestand selfies, 15 sunrise pictures, and five dead whitetail deer photos from acquaintances on your newsfeed, you're gonna be even more bummed. If there's an #OpeningDay hashtag on them, and you see it as you sit behind your desk at work, you will quickly realize why this one is on the list.
I have been there, and it hurts.
Take Some Practice Shots
If you can't be out hunting, you might as well get a few extra reps in to sharpen up for your first hunt. Don't sulk and wish you were hunting; instead, stay focused and use one less day in the treestand to get better with your shot.
Remember, you don't want to "just shoot." Make it as similar to your hunting situation as possible. Get elevated, use a 3D deer target, and try to mimic your first hunt of the year as closely as you can.
Use those final practice sessions to build confidence and work at longer distances. That way, when those 30- and 20-yard shot opportunities present themselves, you can have the confidence to make it count. This small tip can change your whole season.
Watch Your Favorite Hunting Series
Hunting videos are right at our fingertips nowadays. With Facebook, YouTube, and other media outlets, you can find hunting content at any point in time, even via your phones. Sit down, relax, and enjoy the next best thing to an actual hunt: a hunting show or series.
Fulfill the itch with an educational episode from your favorite hunter. Try to find one that relates to Opening Day or early season hunts. Maybe it will help give you a pointer that can assist you. Learn how to make the right move on a buck in your area and hopefully increase your chances of getting an arrow in him.
Just because you can't make the Opening Day hunt doesn't mean you can't get in on the action somehow.
Check Your Data
You have scouted and ran trail cams for months now, so use this missed Opening Day hunt as an opportunity to sit down and really think about your strategy. Scroll through your trail camera pictures and mark where your target bucks have been spotted on your properties. Try to dig deep into the information and see if there is a pattern to those appearances.
Go to your memory bank and try to recall deer sign you have come across, and determine what areas might be good to focus on. Check the 10-day weather forecast and see if there are any breaks that might get bucks on their feet, and plan an approach when the wind is in your favor.
Sometimes it is actually a good thing you can't hunt, because that keeps you from pressuring your deer herd. Just make sure when you aren't hunting, you are finding the next best time and place to go when you can.
Maybe you had to work, so you couldn't get to the stand in time, but hopefully you got out of the office before dark. Use the last hour of daylight to cruise the fields surrounding your hunting properties. This last minute scouting trip could be a super beneficial move for many reasons.
For one, you might be able to see if there were any other hunters out that evening. This may bode well for pushing deer into your private land property, and if it is public land, it may help you decide where (or where not) to go. It may spark an idea, or influence you to take a different entryway to your stand for the next hunt.
You may also see a target buck of yours using a certain field you didn't know he was keen on. That could lead you to find the hot food source, or learn the exact point of entry into the agricultural field they are using that you didn't know about.
Sometimes a truck drive can do wonders and be one of your best scouting tools available. Don't let the fact that you missed Opening Day of deer season keep you at home, and use your time wisely and try to get a step ahead of the deer.
Enjoy Your Family Time
This may be the single most important thing you can do if you happen to miss Opening Day of deer season. If you are an avid hunter, you know just how many days you will spend in the woods this hunting season. We live for this time of the year, but we also understand that every time we hunt results in a few more hours away from the family.
Make it a point to enjoy the day with those that you love. There will be plenty of other days to hunt deer, so take the family out to eat, have a game night at home, or go enjoy a movie.
If they are up for it, maybe you can convince them to join in on the scouting drive, too!
Above All, Don't Just Sit There
Now that you have all these different ideas, make good use of your time and choose two or three of them to help you get over the Opening Day conundrum you've found yourself in. Your hunting will come, so do let the fact that you are missing the first chance ruin your week.
Get up, make a plan, and hang with the family, because you will be in a tree in no time. Hunting season is more than just Opening Day, and just because you missed it, doesn't mean there won't be plenty of chances.