There are some whitetail hunting “methods” that have been passed down through the years. Many hunters have been told growing up, “these are the stands you’ll hunt.” Or, “pick a tree on a ridge or field edge,” whether it be near food or common bedding.
If you see a buck while using these hunting methods, great. But, if not, you just have to hope one will walk within range… next time.
While there is nothing wrong with this hunting methodology, it’s important to strive to become more effective and efficient in getting close encounters with big, mature bucks.
It seems over the last few years, using aggressive tactics on whitetail bucks has become more popular. Instead of using the “sitting and hoping” strategy, hunters are finding and hunting the fresh, hot buck sign.
It is of high importance to understand what exactly your target buck is doing and why he is doing it.
“If you are waiting for something to happen, you’re going to be waiting a long, long time.”
Greg Litzinger, “The Bowhunting Fiend”
We know that throughout the changing of the seasons, bucks change their paths quite drastically, walking longer distances during the rut. Having trail cameras set in the general area of where your buck is and moving them from time to time will help you visualize where he is traveling.
Remember, trail cameras only tell half of the story. If you really pay attention and read the sign, such as where the wind direction is, rub lines, track marks etc., you can find where your deer is bedding and moving during those daylight hours.
It’s not one single piece of evidence that paints the picture, but rather several different components being pieced together that will get you headed in the direction that you want to go.
Hunters such as Andrae D’Acquisto, and his son, Cody, from Lone Wolf Custom Gear, Dan Infalt, aka “Hunting Beast”, and another personal favorite Greg Litzinger, aka “Bowhunting Fiend,” have been perfecting this type of “run and gun” style for decades and have the deer on the wall to prove it.
I had the chance to message Greg Litzinger, who has been hunting for over 30 years, and he said, “I always use the [phrase], if you are waiting for something to happen, you’re going to be waiting a long, long time.”
“Sometimes, we have to move towards what we want and some call it ‘being aggressive,’ but it’s not really aggressive if you think about it. If you know where the buck is bedded, and you are calculated with your entry, cover, and your sound control, that’s not really aggressive. It’s just being smart.”
One thing that all the guys agreed on was that there is a large learning curve. Especially when it comes to hunting buck beds. It will take a while to really learn the behavior of mature deer.
With each new season, the bow hunter’s thoughts are brimming with the hope of arrowing a quality buck – and hopefully a couple of them.
I’ve learned a lot from over four decades of deer hunting. Further, I continue to take in a ton of hunting information from many sources such as books, blogs, podcasts, and videos. I can’t seem to get enough.
I also put in a lot of time toward this goal throughout the year. That said, I often have to stop and remember my true goal; to improve as a hunter. To achieve this, I’ve found that I have to not only learn new things but be resolute about employing the basics already learned.
We all lead busy family and work lives, yet find time to do “deer chores” during the season and off-season. We cumulatively learn facts, tactics, and habits that enhance our deer hunting success. The question is, “do we always employ them?” In the spirit of following through, be steadfast in exercising some or all of these simple hunting tips. They just might lead to backstrap and bone this coming season.
It’s smart to pattern the deer… after all, they’re patterning you.
There is so much valuable information at your disposal; entry and exit locations, weather conditions, and dates. Maintaining a hunting journal can help in this area.
Trail cameras are obviously another way to gather such intel. Don’t just gather this info – organize it and use it. Better yet, examine this data across years. Use this methodology to pattern the deer. After all, they’re often patterning you.
Late in the off-season and early in the season, step back from this area and observe. Long range surveillance is an effective way to sharpen hunting strategies before busting in and educating the deer in the prime areas. If you’re not solely a bow hunter, take your rifle for such sits during the early season period.
It’s of utmost importance to identify the deer bedding areas on property you will be hunting. Deer will move to and from these areas.
The Early Bird…
Get to your stand earlier. Yeah, we all often threaten to do this. Actually, some hunters consistently do. It’s amazing how beneficial it can be to get settled in a half-hour or more earlier for morning sits.
Remember that this is an active period for deer movement too and the more time you give a core hunting area to calm down, the better. Think hard about this one before hitting the snooze button. Obviously, the same concept goes for evening hunts.
Don’t Wear Out Your Welcome
We all have preferred go-to spots. We find them preferable because they typically grace us with consistent deer sightings. Make good timing your goal and don’t over-pressure your core areas prior to the primetime periods of the season, such as the rut.
In addition to the rut, aim to hunt these areas when weather conditions are favorable. This one can be hard, as we don’t all have the luxury of picking our hunting times. However, show patience and, if possible, don’t talk yourself into this rookie mistake.
Do You See a Pattern?
As mentioned above, deer certainly do. Be prepared this coming season to make smart exits from your stand in both the morning and evening. This means not being so lax that you carelessly tromp across crops, food plots and heavy deer trails.
Good stand location isn’t worth much if deer are constantly aware of your entry and exit. Leverage the cover you have and, to the extent possible, exit your stand and property away from these areas; even if it means more steps. Chalk it up as needed exercise. If you’re anything like me, you can probably use it.
Remember that it’s easy to educate deer even after dark. Break up your position and movement to avoid being patterned.
Making No Scents
Up your cover scent game. Though smart deer hunters take the scent they emit seriously, most can improve. Play the wind and take proper care of your gear from a scent perspective. Don’t fail to fully acknowledge what you’ve known for a long time; deer have an incredible sense of smell.
Elmer Fudd had it right. Clank, tink, thud. I’ve been guilty of letting these and other sounds resonate from my stand many times. Patience is a virtue and the same can be said for silence – total silence.
Make tweaks to your bow, quiver, seat, ladder, and calls. Cover, grease, tighten, or loosen exposed metal or plastic as much as possible – everything you can think of. Either tighten down your gear bag – or move it away as far as possible. I could write a paragraph on binoculars alone…
Finally, when one of these sounds occur, strive to not follow it with voluminous cursing. Yes, I’m speaking from experience here too.
Be the Shot
Well, that’s a little dramatic. However, it is advantageous to fully plan for various shots before they happen. For each particular shot possibility, make sure you’re clear of obstructions when raising your rifle or drawing your bow. Don’t just mentally estimate it, physically test it regardless of weapon.
Hunting television features many savvy deer hunters for sure. Seasoned hunting celebrities can make calling big whitetails so incredibly attractive. For those of us that have harvested deer due to our calling sequences know how gratifying it is. As such, it can be easy to overdo it.
Much like deciding when to draw your bow, exhibit patience with both grunt tube and rattling antlers. It’s easy to get over-zealous with them and it can absolutely crush shot opportunities. If a buck appears to be coming your way, let him come. Obviously, don’t call if he is at alert and certainly if he is looking in your direction.
It’s important to continue to learn and improve as a hunter. However, regardless of skill and experience level, embracing the basics will greatly increase your chance of filling both your tags and freezer. It’s has a lot to do with following through. I know it does for this deer hunter.
People hunt for many reasons, including sport, culture, and food. No matter what reason you’ve taken up hunting, you’re likely hoping to become the most proficient hunter you can be. We’re going to help you out by discussing the rookie mistakes that many new hunters make so that you can be ahead of the curve on your next hunt.
Spend ample time at a shooting range to perfect your shot with different targets. You’ll also want to vary your weapon choice with each hunt so that you gain experience in the woods with all of your firearms.
If you’re looking for a weapon that’s smaller than a rifle, consider using a pistol as your primary hunting firearm. An AR-15 pistol can be the perfect addition to your gear pack in this case. An AR-15 pistol is much smaller and lighter weight than a rifle, freeing up space in your pack for additional gear.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! You should be proficient using any weapon that you plan to hunt with.
Because many of us don’t have endless options at our disposal, we end up with one or two areas that we go back to season after season. The problem with this is that going back to the same location every year can result in a reduced chance of making a kill.
It may seem like going to the same area year after year would give you a chance to get to know the area more intimately, increasing your chances of finding game each time. The truth is that the deer in that area get better at avoiding you with every season you hunt there.
This is true during a single season as well. If you set up your tree stand in one area and never move, you might possibly bag a buck or two. But, once you move into an area, deer will view that area as a dangerous space. So, the longer you stay and hunt in that area, the more potential you have for driving away the very deer you are trying to harvest.
Hunting gear and accessories are getting better every year, to the delight of hunters everywhere. Marketing makes it seem like all of this gear is necessary for a successful hunt. The truth is, all of the gear in the world can’t replace skill and experience. While laser scopes and other accessories will give you an edge, they can’t replace the skills required for hunting, tracking and harvesting deer.
Remember, people have been hunting for thousands of years without any of the technological advancements we have today. Skill and experience are more important than any piece of gear you can purchase for a hunt.
Relying heavily on technology can also go wrong if that technology malfunctions. For instance, marking a certain spot on your GPS can be incredibly helpful unless that GPS stops working. This is why you should be able to back up any high-tech solutions with manual work. If you mark a spot on a GPS, take the time to mark it on a physical map as well.
Don’t rely too heavily on specialized gear and gadgets when hunting. Your mind is one of your greatest assets.
Lack of Patience
The anticipation of making a kill can make you forget that sitting in a stand can be incredibly boring. It’s often hours before any game come along, and you’re left just sitting there waiting until something happens to come your way.
It can be tempting to get distracted by your phone or a book and lose track of what’s happening in the woods around you. While having means of entertainment makes the time go by faster, it can also prevent you from noticing when a game animal walks into range. You don’t want to hear a deer noise, look up and realize that the deer has already seen you!
If you choose to bring any sort of entertainment to pass the time, make sure that you don’t get too absorbed in it. Look up from your phone or book frequently so that you don’t miss anything that walks into your field of vision.
Waiting Too Long To Take a Shot
You may be waiting in the stand for hours for a target deer to pass you by. When it finally happens, you may be waiting too long for the perfect shot before doing anything.
The problem with waiting for the “perfect shot” is you may end up letting a perfectly ethical shot slip away because you were indecisive. Now, the last thing you want to do is take a reckless shot that leads to wounding an animal and causing it to suffer unnecessarily. However, some hunters wait a little too long and get busted before having a chance to harvest the deer.
Keep an eye on the target as soon as it walks into your field of vision. Carefully track it with your rangefinder, if you use one, or your sight. As soon as the target is within range and you have a clear shot, take it.
Be sure to take an ethical shot, but don’t let your chance slip away due to indecision.
Not Reading the Wind
Many hunting rookies fail to read the wind when hunting. Wind can factor into shot angles, scent trails, and the direction that game travels. Reading the wind is as important as assessing any other environmental factors, such as game signs or elevation. If you don’t have experience reading the wind, or any other natural signs for that matter, take the time to gain this skill. You can research how to read the wind or ask a more experienced hunter for advice.
Gaining this skill will make you a much stronger hunter in the future. It will take some time to perfect it, but be worth it when you’re able to use this skill on a hunt.
Leaving Scent Behind
This is one of the most common rookie mistakes in the hunting world. Leaving human scent behind is a surefire way to ensure that game avoids the area where you’ve been.
Game animals learn to avoid human scent, as they regard humans as predators and smell is one of deer’s strongest senses. Anywhere that human scent is, game will try to avoid in the future.
Leaving human scent can be catastrophic in an area that you hunt frequently. It may result in not seeing any more game during the rest of the season, which can be devastating if that is your only hunting location. So, if you continually leave lots of scent in your hunting area, deer will simply avoid that area as they move to and from food, water and nutrient locations.
There are a slew of products on the market that are made to reduce the human scent present in your skin and on your clothes. There are also some free steps you can take to minimize your scent.
First, don’t wear any artificial scents such as cologne and don’t shower with scented soap right before you go out.
Another handy tip is to gather debris such as fallen leaves and dirt in a bag and put your field clothes in that bag. This will help your clothes take on a natural scent and lessen its obvious human scent. It’s also good to avoid flowery detergents when washing your hunting clothes.
Not Recognizing Good Days and Patterns
Experienced hunters can recognize when a favorable day for hunting rolls around. This could be types of weather such as cold fronts and rain.
Pay attention to the rut. This is a key facet of the hunting season and it will tell you a lot about a buck’s behavior. Before the rut, bucks often stay in bachelor groups, but by the time the rut hits, there’s going to be a lot of competition between bucks. Their behavior will tell you a lot about where and how to hunt.
Using Scents Incorrectly
We already touched on the fact that deer have a strong sense of smell. Because of this, many hunters use scents like doe estrous. A common mistake is that this scent is dumped in one spot and the hunter waits. However, this isn’t always convincing enough to entice the buck of a lifetime to approach.
Scents also need to be used at the right time. While you can get away with using doe or buck urine during the whole season, doe estrous is most effective during the beginning or end of the rut. All in all, you’re going to want to do plenty of research when you’re considering using scents. Be sure you’re using scents at the appropriate time to avoid spooking the very deer you are trying to harvest.
So, even if you’re a rookie hunter, you don’t have to hunt like one. While hunting is a sport and pastime that takes a lot of skill and experience, you can jump past many of these beginner hurdles and start your first season off right. Good luck and shoot straight!