While so many of us are grabbing whatever little bit of summer that is left by hanging out at the beach or the local swimming pool, there are those that are quietly preparing for the upcoming hunting season. These folks are trying to gain every little edge they can, which means more than just checking your equipment and wondering where in the basement you put your hunting boots or walking through your local Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s to see what sales are going on to buy the newest equipment for this season. Here are some great tips to help you gain an edge over your quarry, and over the other guy who just doesn’t think about putting in a bit more effort.
One of the first thing hunters need to do is to decide how they are going to hunt this season, and if you are planning on being one of the growing number of bow hunters heading into the woods this year, you will have to take even more time for preparation. Practice, practice, practice; and look over your equipment to replace anything that may be worn or troublesome before it causes you aggravation. You need to get out and shoot at least once or twice a month, I prefer shooting outdoors, but if you can only get to an indoor range, so be it, but remember, there isn’t any wind indoors. The key to successful bow hunting is knowing what your comfortable distance to your target is and being able to accurately judge that distance accurately. At the range you will have your distances marked for you but remember that you are shooting flat. If at all possible try shooting from a tree stand outdoors to more precisely simulate your hunting situations. A rangefinder is of great help if you are having trouble correctly judging distances. When you are sighting in your bow get a good idea of how small corrections on each sight pin changes your shot. I have gone back to using only one pin that is sighted in for 20 yards which is an easy shot for me and I am very accurate with only slight trajectory changes from this one pin. After 30 yards, I am hesitant to take a shot in wind beyond 20 yds as my average ability could make this an irresponsible shot. One or two pins should cover most situations with dedicated practice. If you don’t have a range finder, count out the comfortable yardage from your stand and place a marker there for some idea of distance when hunting.
Whether you are hunting with a gun or a bow, it is important to practice from where you will be hunting, this means the tree stand or the ground blind, not in the exact spot you will be hunting. I tend to frown from practicing in the exact spot you plan to hunt as even though it may be a while before you use that spot to hunt, why take the chance on polluting the area with scent, or giving the critters something to get nervous about. If you do go to place your tree stand or ground blind in the woods, (and perhaps place a trail cam), then bring along your weapon by all means, and make certain you have adequate shooting lanes and are comfortable with the stand, Also remember that the prevailing winds may be a bit different by the time hunting season rolls around, so take that into consideration when placing your tree stand or ground blind. If you are hunting on public land and must remove your blind each time you hunt, try marking your trail with tape, reflecting tacks or something that will assist you to find your spot. Also become proficient in setting up your ground blind or tree stand in the dark. This you can do in your backyard or a local park, the quicker and quieter, the better.
I have recently begun hunting with my Ruger Super Red hawk .44 cal handgun with leupold scope, and god only knows that I need lots of practice with this. I will try to get to the range a few times a month before season opens to know what my comfortable shooting distance is and how many yards out I feel I can take a responsible shot. I’ve used the term responsible shot a few times in this article, there is nothing sensible in taking a shot that requires more luck than skill. If you aren’t reasonably certain you will make a clean kill, don’t take the shot, there is no feeling worse when hunting than wounding an animal that you will not be able to harvest. If you are planning on hunting with a rifle or shotgun, practice at the outdoor range and know the distance and comfortable range for the weight of the bullet you will be using. The folks at Bass Pro Shops have helped me a lot with instruction on various techniques for using my Ruger Super Red hawk, and I now feel comfortable out to 35 yds. Funny, all I had to do is ask for some assistance at the range, don’t be afraid to ask for help!
It is so important to do some serious scouting well before the season opens not only to familiarize yourself with the area so you can easily and safely get to and from your stand but to also learn what animals are frequenting the area. In addition to placing a few inexpensive trail cameras in the area, you may want to take some walks or sit in an area that you have found deer sign so as to actually see some of the deer moving about. This is done well in advance of the season as we do not want to pollute the actually area we would like to hunt. Take a leisurely walk through the woods and look for deer scat, deer scrapes and converging game trails. These are usually great spots to place a trail camera. My good friend and hunting buddy Dave Sumner, owner of Turkey Dave’s Footrests and Flirty Girty Panfish jigs in Wisconsin always has a hot cup of coffee ready in the early morning hours when I visit. This and an extra set of binoculars and then we are off to ride around the local farms and fields in order to see what the coming dear season may hold for us, (before he kicks my butt in a “friendly” round of golf). The point is; do your homework, see where the deer want to be, and with the camera, when they want to be there. Look for a good tree or area for your tree stand or ground blind and perhaps cut some shooting lanes.
OK, so the key tips for a successful deer hunting season are practice, practice, practice, make sure you are skilled enough with your weapon of choice and the maximum comfortable distance for taking a shot whether it be bow hunting or rifle. Familiarize yourself with the area you wish to hunt, including scouting possible locations for a tree stand or ground blind. Place trail cameras at those areas in which you have found substantial deer activity, such as deer scrapes, game trails and bedding areas, this includes scouting the area from time to time with binoculars in advance of the hunting season. If you put the time and effort into preparing properly, you will not only give yourself the best chances for harvesting a great buck, but you will more than likely have a nice end of summer and be ready for an even better fall!