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The 10 Best Excuses for Unfilled Deer Tags

Brow Tines and Backstrap

The 10 Best Excuses for Unfilled Deer Tags

Posted 2024-02-19  by  Josh Honeycutt

Cut yourself some slack if one of these reasons kept you from bringing home some backstrap

Deer season ended and your tag went unfilled. Unfortunately, it happens to every hunter. This is the time of year to be thinking about excuses — and this list covers all the best excuses we could think of for not killing a deer. Be forewarned; our list of the worst excuses is coming up soon.

Image: excuses

Sometimes, life gets in the way of deer hunting; and that’s OK. Image by Realtree

1. Personal commitments superseded hunting.

For many people, hunting is important, but things such as faith, family, friends, and work are higher priorities. That’s as it should be, and it’s completely acceptable and admirable for these things to get in the way of filling a tag. Heck, maybe you even had jury duty throughout the best days of the rut.

2. You lost your hunting spot.

Unless you own ground, private land hunting access is getting more difficult to find. It’s getting quite difficult to hold onto as well. I’ve lost several hunting leases in the past 10 years, and several properties where I’ve had permission to hunt, too. Properties are sold and passed down, and when that happens, the hunting rules frequently change.

3. Your public land hunts kept getting interrupted.

Hunting public land means sharing the resource with others. Other hunters might beat you to the spot you’ve scouted, or they might even walk up on you in the middle of a hunt. It can ruin your day and even an entire season.

4. A bumper mast crop spread out the deer herd.

A bumper mast crop is great for the health of a deer herd, but it makes deer hunting more difficult by spreading animals out over a larger area, reducing sightings, especially around crop fields and food plots.

5. EHD hit hard this year.

A single bad outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease can wipe out a large percentage of a deer herd, and it can do it in days or weeks. Most outbreaks aren’t that severe, but even limited exposure can take out several mature bucks right before hunting season.

6. There aren’t any good access routes to the best spots.

You have one piece of hunting land, and it has a killer spot or two on it. Unfortunately, getting there or back out without spooking deer is downright challenging. That results in botched hunts that yield no fruit. “Good” spots without quality access actually aren’t all that good.

7. The mature bucks mostly lived on neighboring land.

Some big deer were around, but their core areas were on neighboring land, meaning they didn’t spend enough daylight hours in the spots you were hunting to be killable.

8. There weren’t any mature bucks on camera this season.

You can’t kill a deer that isn’t there. And if there aren’t any mature bucks in the area, it’s virtually impossible to shoot one. Some years, you have to bide your time or look for another spot to hunt.

9. Your weapon or gear malfunctioned.

Good maintenance, proper care, and a watchful eye will eliminate most weapon or gear malfunctions, but some issues sneak up on your regardless, and the problems always seem to arise on the best hunting days, or even when a shooter is in sight.

10. You notched your buck tag on a lost deer.

The anguish about shooting and losing a deer is one of the worst feelings a hunter can have. Many lost deer survive their injuries, but some do not, and the not knowing is difficult. Though it’s rarely legally required, some hunters choose to notch their tags for animals they don’t recover but believe are dead.


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