Deer hunting is already tough. Don't spoil your September by making one of these mistakes
Opening week might be the best one of the year to kill the buck of a lifetime. Will you be ready? Image by Bruce MacQueen
The early season is a prime opportunity to kill a good buck. Honestly, it's my favorite time of year to target bucks that I've worked so hard to scout and pattern. Once the rut hits, all bets of predictability are off.
But not everyone takes the early season as seriously as they should. Here are 10 reasons why hunters squander their September chances.
- LACK OF SHOOTING PROFICIENCY
You can be the best deer hunter in the world and know exactly what a deer is thinking and doing at any given moment, but if you can't shoot, you aren't filling tags. That's why you have to practice and be proficient with your bow.
- The fix: Shoot for at least 10 minutes every day. Start with a single, cold shot at your maximum effective range and then shoot one arrow at 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 yards. Repeat this process.
- LACK OF SCOUTING
Scouting is just as important as the hunting. Big bucks don't live under every tree. You have to find them. And to do that, you have to scout.
- The fix: Use trail cameras, maps, and in-the-field scouting to find a deer you want to hunt.
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- INVASIVE SCOUTING TACTICS
Not all scouting is helpful. You have to be extremely careful when you scout. Being too invasive and applying unnecessary pressure to deer can ruin your chances of filling a tag.
- The fix: Take heed of bedding areas, entry routes, exit routes, wind direction, and other important factors when scouting in the field.
4. MISINTERPRETING TRAIL CAM PHOTOS
Some people notice a nice buck in their trail camera images, and then move on. Bad move. You have to truly study your trail camera photos to get a good understanding of what's really happening.
- The fix: Don't just look for daylight photos. Look at the date, time, direction of travel, behavior in front of the camera, frequency of visits, weather, wind direction, barometric pressure, moon position, and all other important factors for each photo you receive of the deer you're hunting. You'll learn a lot by doing this. And you'll notice patterns that reveal weaknesses of individual bucks.
Illustration by Bailee Valentini / Realtree
- NOT IDENTIFYING THE RIGHT FOOD SOURCES
Food sources are constantly changing for deer. You have to adapt with them. Always be aware of what the next food source is going to be, and act accordingly.
- The fix: Always be on the lookout for what food source is going to be the next desirable thing for deer. Be there when the deer switch to it.
- IGNORING THE WEATHER
Those who fail to monitor weather patterns don't care too much about killing deer. Weather impacts deer behavior way too much for hunters to ignore it.
- The fix: Download a couple weather apps. This makes it easy to check the forecast on a regular basis.
7. BAD STAND ACCESS
Many people only think about spooking deer while they're in the stand, but forget about everything they do between the truck and where they're perched in a tree. That's a huge mistake.
- The fix: Study maps and wind directions to determine the best entry and exit routes. Also, keep in mind visibility (deer seeing you) and sound (the trails you walk on), too.
8. USING RUT TACTICS
People sometimes fall into their rut hunting strategies way too soon. Don't do this. It only reduces odds and applies unneeded pressure before the rut even begins.
- The fix: Stick to bed-to-feed patterns.
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The author with a big September whitetail. Image by Josh Honeycutt
9. IGNORING THE WIND
Just because The Weather Channel says the wind is doing one thing doesn't mean that's what it's actually doing at your stand. Oftentimes, as you study the wind more, you'll notice that the wind is different at your stand. Terrain affects wind currents. For example, at one of my stands, when the wind is out of the northwest or northeast, it always blows out of the north because of the two long ridges between it. As long as it's a northerly wind (or close to it), the wind blows dead out of the north.
- The fix: Chart how different winds actually affect where you hunt. Write this information down. You'll notice over time what different winds mean for your stand locations.
10. CARELESS SCENT PREVENTION
I've never believed that you can eliminate 100 percent of human odor. But I do believe you can reduce it as much as possible. If you aren't doing this, you should be.
- The fix: Take scent-reduction showers, wash hunting clothes and keep them away from unwanted odors, and use any other practices you see fit to reduce the scent factor.
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in 2016.
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