“Few city sportsmen will believe, without practical observation, that a man may hunt faithfully in an unbroken forest for an entire week without getting a single shot…” –Nessmuk
As mentioned before, I have compiled a short list of lessons learned from this deer season. If you’ve been here at SmoothingIt.com at all, you’ll see that I have hunted a good bit for white-tail deer with both a bow and rifle. I don’t profess to be a professional hunter and am not a worthwhile candidate for a hunting show on the Outdoor Channel. I’m just a regular guy who spends a lot of time in the woods. That being said, this is my first season that I have put forth effort towards bowhunting and is also my first rifle season that I have hunted and not been successful. There are a few factors that I’ve looked at as possible causes for my lack of success and I am going to share them here so that hopefully a future hunter reads this and doesn’t make the same mistakes that I have made.
Lesson Learned 1 – Hunt for meat first and then for antlers.
Early in the bowhunting season, I passed on many, many does. I was intent on killing a buck and decided to pass on anything without antlers. Mistake! Had I taken a doe early on (I could have on the first day of bow season and nearly every day after that), I may not have had a set of antlers for my collection but I would have had Italian dressing marinated tenderloins on the grill and plenty of jerky making venison. Take a doe early on to ensure that you have meat for the year and then put your efforts on trophies.
Lesson Learned 2 – Scouting is essential.
Throughout your travels, look for places that may prove good to hunt (this also gives you an excuse to drive around in the woods on Sundays.) When you find a few places that may have potential, review aerial and topo pics of the area. Finally, you have to get boots on the ground. Scout for rubs, scrapes, buck sightings, etc. If you aren’t seeing signs of buck activity, consider other options. Also, scout for decent trees for treestands or places to put a ground blind. There are countless books, websites, YouTube channels, etc. that can assist you in this endeavor.
Lesson Learned 3 – Have multiple hunting locations.
It’s a lot like real estate – location, location, location. Have multiple locations that are available for you to hunt. I invested all of my time into the land near my house. I moved onto 16.45 acres last February. There were plenty of deer signs – tracks, droppings, doe sightings. As the season progressed, I realized that I had little chance of a successful buck hunt here. However, I was locked in to hunting this land as I hadn’t developed any other options for this season.
Lesson Learned 4 – Keep yourself stretched and ready for a smooth draw.
Later in the bowhunting season, after the air had grown cold and dreary, I decided to take a doe. Everything went well until I attempted to draw my bow. I had practiced and was confident in my smooth and stealthy draw. But my cold and tight muscles struggled and didn’t want to work like they did when it was warm outside and I was well stretched out. At least every 30 minutes, stretch out your arms, chest and back. A fellow WV woodsman and close friend even recommends drawing your bow every 30 minutes. At a bare minimum, lean back against your tree, straighten your arms out to your front, then stretch them out to your sides and beyond. This should at least stretch you out enough for a smooth draw.
Lesson Learned 5 – Keep your wife happy.
This is perhaps the most important lesson. Never, ever, ever tell your wife that you aren’t going to hunt anymore until darkness falls on the last day of hunting season. She will not be happy with you (and support you hunting) if you tell her often that you are done hunting and want to go eat Hibachi then change your mind and pack up for the woods. A happy wife makes for a happy woodsman.
If you have any other lessons learned from this season, or any previous seasons, please feel free to comment and help other hunters learn from previous mistakes.