What separates the men from the boys when it comes to deer hunting, is what is done during the spring.
When most people are planning summer vacations with the family, getting their poles ready for the opener of walleye or bass season, or getting the seeds ready to plant in the garden, the hunters that are a cut above the rest are doing something totally different. If you want to rise above average, you must refuse to be average and find out what the guys are doing who consistently put big bucks on the ground. From my observation, these 5 things will help take you from average, to standing tall with the best around.
1. USE A MICROSCOPE: Hunters that excel don’t take a break during off season, and they don’t accept good enough. They look into the fine details and the nuances of their past season with a critical eye to determine what is working, and what isn’t. They peer systematically into the depths of every hunt, every piece of gear, every strategy of every property from every angle to see where they can improve. Details matter. Every trail cam picture, weather pattern, every slip up, every stray bit of data is analyzed to a minute level and evaluated to see what can be learned. The idea is learning and not making any of the same mistakes, gathering key data most would overlook that will help seal the deal next time, and discovering what needs to change this next season. And everything is on the table for an overhaul with great whitetail hunters.
2. PROFILE A KILLER: The cops do it on TV, great whitetail hunters do it as well. The idea is killing next years buck on paper first, and to do this you need to have a detailed profile of him. This may or may not be of a specific buck , but the characteristics of the buck you will want to chase, and one that you can kill. This needs to be detailed enough that you will recognize him when you run into him. What are his feeding habits, travel habits, favorite places to bed, how does he approach and use these places, what is his age class, when is he active, what’s his home range look like, etc. By profiling him you will have a leg up on what bucks you will hunt, which ones you won’t (because they are harder to hunt or you’re not sure how to approach them), and how you will hunt them. Get in his head. Along with this profile should be key strategies or approaches to hunting him that should take advantage of his quirky weaknesses, just like on the cop shows.(READ HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS)
3. ROOT OUT THE DEVIL: The devil is in the details, and you need to root him out. Don’t allow little things to ruin a season, because those are exactly the things that do. Specifically, I’m talking your gear, and using the spring as the time to improve it in little, yet critical ways. How can you make your gear better? Can you eliminate motions, eliminate noise potential, eliminate weight, or even eliminate gear altogether? One key area is removing buckles, snaps, clasps, hooks, straps, ratchets, and a plethora of noisy and unneeded accessories or somehow silencing them. Good whitetail hunters know these are make or break items (or making a stray noise with them) and are fanatical about pruning and cleaning their gear list to be absolutely silent. (For more on silencing gear like climbing sticks, see THIS VIDEO).
4. REMOVE THE CUFFS: Has anything crept into your hunting domain that is handcuffing you? It’s time to identify it and remove it. Maybe it’s the few extra pounds you gained over the winter, or immobility that has crept in with age. If so, get on a physical plan to remove excess weight, improve mobility and agility so you are a top athlete again (or for the first time). It’s amazing how physical ability is a HUGE obstacle in hunting, and one that is well within your power to improve. Any poor gear or setups inhibiting you? Then do what you can to remove this obstacle. Ask what is holding you back, and take drastic action to make a change. If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward, so the key here is unlocking these “handcuffers” with a proactive plan.
5. KILL SOME COWS: Sacred cows are unexamined ways of doing things for the mere reason of tradition or laziness. They may not be the best way, or even a good way/tradition, but are left alone and unchanged despite this. Great hunters identify and kill sacred cows, since they can lead to poor decisions and being stuck in less than ideal hunting situations. One big example of this is the hunter who hunts the same stand or area season after season, with no empirical evidence to support why they are doing this. Hunting in the same spot only makes sense if the sign tells you to, but many continue this practice season after season. This is a sacred cow that needs to be killed. Why do you hunt in a certain location? Familiarity is not a good enough reason. Effort should be taken to get out of these dangerous ruts, and improve where you hunt, and how you hunt these locations. Great hunters are constantly finding new hunting spots, new properties, resetting stands, and tweaking strategies until they have bulletproof setups.
If you want to be a great hunter, and leave Average Joe in the past, then it’s time to start implementing some of these critical practices!
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PROFILING A KILLER (BUCK)
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