Travis Smola

#WhitetailWednesday: 5 Tips for a Less Stressful Deer Hunting Season

Simple tips for a less stressful hunt this year.

Hunting should be a relaxing activity where you are able to get away from the stresses of everyday life. But any hunter who has done thing long enough realizes that sometimes things can get stressful if you aren't having any luck. Especially if there's a big buck you know is hanging around the area, but you haven't seen him in weeks.

For today's #WhitetailWednesday, here are some tips to make your hunt as stress-free as possible this year.

5. Forget obsessive scent control and just hunt the wind.

I once read a story written by a bowhunter who was totally obsessed with scent control. I'm not kidding. This guy took it to an extreme. Clothing all sealed in containers (underwear included) until he reached his hunting spot, liberal amounts of cover scent, the whole enchilada. One day, while trying to arrow a monster buck he'd seen in the area, he had to make an improvised repair to his bow in the field. Momentarily forgetting his obsessive scent control style, he used a little bit of saliva to lubricate and fix the peep sight on his bow.

The next few paragraphs of the story were him freaking out for the next hour or so thinking he'd blown his chance at the buck of his dreams by "contaminating" his equipment.

If this is you, you might be taking things a little too far. Sure, a whitetail has an awesome nose and it can be a factor in any hunt, but you don't need to go overboard with the scent control. Just get back to the basics of hunting the wind. That's what our grandfathers did before obsessive scent control became a million-dollar industry pushed by every hunting show ever.

He ended up shooting the monster buck he was after anyway. Some scent control isn't bad, but you don't need to go overboard to be successful while hunting for whitetails.

4. Consider turning off the trail cameras.


Travis Smola

I can already hear people hissing at me for this one. "Never! I'll never give up my precious!"

Look, I love my trail cameras as much as everyone else. It's like Christmas morning when I pop the SD cards into the computer. But sometimes there can be an over-reliance on them. I've heard so many stories of hunters who freak out because a buck suddenly stops his regular appearances on camera. Just relax. That doesn't necessarily mean he's moved on to greener pastures or is dead. In fact, there's be a chance that instead of patterning the buck, he has patterned you!

Whitetail bucks can be extremely unpredictable, especially during the rut. I've had bucks disappear from camera only to reappear in February. I've also shot bucks that never once made an appearance on camera. The older bucks aren't stupid, and I think in some cases, buck fever can take over and hunters check their cameras a little too often. The deer can sense this and may change their patterns as a result.

If you're stressing out over your trail cameras and what's appearing on them, it might be time for a break. Go back to the basics of scouting based on deer signs. In some high-pressure areas, this might even work to your advantage if there are fewer signs of human presence than the neighbors who check their cameras every Saturday like clockwork. Using cameras less can also cut back the stress in the heat of the moment if you DON'T know exactly how big the buck you're shooting at is.

3. Take a social media break.

Everyone has probably experienced this one. The season is not going at all how you'd hoped. Yet day after day your social media feeds are full of friends and family posing with their big bucks while proclaiming it's "the best hunting season ever!"

It's hard not to get discouraged when this is happening. Eliminate the problem by taking a break from social media for a day or two. Focus on your own hunt and no one else's. It'll help you recharge and refocus your efforts on what you need to do to be successful before the season's end.

2. Set smaller goals for yourself.


Travis Smola

There's nothing more frustrating than approaching the tail end of the season and having multiple tags burning a hole right through your pocket. Too often I feel like hunters feel a pressure to fill them all when that's not always going to be possible every year.

Personally, I don't shoot bucks under 100 inches anymore, but in the part of Michigan where I hunt, it can be hard to get just one, let alone two. That's one of the reasons I haven't bought multiple tags in years. Once I did that, the stress of trying to fill both tags melted away. Sure, it means the season is over if I take a buck, but I'm able to live with that. Do what works for you. Instead of making a goal of filling both your tags with B&C bucks, maybe just try to to fill the freezer instead.

Even if you only shoot a doe, that's still a successful season. The goal doesn't even have to be harvest-related. Maybe you make a goal to get a certain number of all-day sits in or to endure harsher weather conditions. The possibilities are endless.

1. Enjoy the little things.


Travis Smola

Ok, so I'll admit to stealing this from the movie "Zombieland," but it's true. This happens far too often in hunting, deer hunting especially these days. Too often we get so wrapped up in making a successful harvest that we don't even enjoy the hunt as much as we did in the past.

And that's a shame, because these are the things that made hunting a form of stress release in the first place!

What little things am I referring to? The fun times with friends and family in deer camp. The crimson sky as the sun comes up on opening morning. The songs of birds in the trees. A cup of hot chocolate or coffee on a particularly cold morning in the stand or blind.

You don't have to enjoy the squirrels, though. You can still hate them. How a 2-pound rodent manages to sound like a 200-pound whitetail buck sneaking up behind me every single time, I'll never know.

Instead of focusing on the kill, focus on enjoying every aspect of your hunt. You'll stress less and be more confident, which will likely lead to more success.

Now get out there and hunt, the season only comes around once a year after all!