And what you can do about them.
As a deer hunter, it seems a million things are going against you and your
quest to take a good whitetail. These factors can really stack up and make what seems like a simple task, almost impossible. Half the battle is knowing who these invisible enemies are, the other half is doing something about them. Well, in this article we’re going to tackle 4 big, old, nasty enemies that have been killing deer seasons since well before your time, and what must be done to defeat them and pull the trigger on the deer of your dreams.
ENEMY #1: RELENTLESS TIME. Let’s face it, we only have so much time. Deer season is only so long, and the best parts of it (where we can capitalize on a good deer) are short. Throw in work, family obligations, inclement weather, and managing hunting on multiple properties, and you’ve got a godzilla size beast staring at you. How do you know when and where to hunt so you’re in the just right spot and the right time and don’t miss your best opportunity? You’ve got to be a great manager of time. Making sure to manage your sleep, work obligations, family needs, and making that coincide that with the right time to hit the woods is essential. Each year I highlight days on my calendar that I know are time-tested, buck-killin days. Usually I circle late October (around halloween), and November 5-10 for where I hunt in the Midwest, as these seem to be the highest odds days for me year after year. If I only had 7 days in the woods, I would pick these dates. Plan your schedule accordingly, so you’re ready to go when the deer are, and make sure to plan ahead with all your priorities to make sure they are set as well. Yes, you could shoot a good buck at any time, but planning hunts around the best odds is your best strategy. Also, you have to know where to hunt out of all the places you could hunt on those specific days. (For a whole article on knowing when and where to hunt click HERE). One big thing I’ve learned that helps maximize my hunting time on out of state trips is to scout other properties at night. Deer don’t tend to be as spooky, and checking trail cameras, setting bait, making mock scrapes, and refreshing mineral sites can be done in the dark. This way you aren’t wasting daylight. A good headlamp (a red light is needed - see more about why HERE), and a pot of coffee is all it takes, and you’ll soon be giving the monster of time a lethal throat punch and on your way to putting your hands on some horn.
ENEMY #2: THE JUGGERNAUT OF INTEL. So you’ve managed time well, now you need to be sure of where you should be hunting. To do this you need good intel, and many hunters waste hunts because they do not have it. This is a silent enemy that can sneak up on any hunter - many times only to realize it when it's too late and their jugular is being crush by this beast. One of the most tempting thoughts a hunter has, which must be resisted, is “it’s hunting season, I need to just get in the woods and hunt.” I mean who doesn’t want to get on stand as much as possible? However, intel is king, and the mantra of the ultra successful is: hunt less, scout more. Unless you have fresh intel, good sign that a deer you’d like to take is daylight active in a certain area you can hunt, then you shouldn’t be hunting. You should actually be scouting to find that kind of intel first. Scout until you get it. A good system of running and checking trail cameras, as well as foot scouting midday and during wind/rain storms (if possible) should be employed until the right intel says “hunt now!” Occasionally, hunters can actually have too much intel - so much that they find it hard to interpret and boil it down to the one spot it is telling them to hunt (an entire article is dedicated to knowing just when to hunt with your gathered intel - called the “hotspot continuum.” See it HERE). However, if you’re not sure, another way to gather intel is through scout-hunting, or observation sits. These are very low impact hunts that allow you to gather better intel firsthand, to hopefully see a better picture of what is going on in the area, if it’s worth hunting, and just how to go about crushing the enemy of poor intel.
ENEMY #3: THE DECEIVER - OLD SIGN. You’ve got your day to hunt, you’ve scouted and seen some great sign (maybe some scrapes and trees just
shredded from top to bottom), and are super pumped to climb the tree, just knowing a monster is going to pop out at twenty yards as soon as you do. You hunt, once, twice, several days and see nothing - sound familiar? This is a tough one, but obviously hunting old sign is a huge time waster and enemy to your success. Is the scrape currently active or was it two days ago and has now gone cold? Was that rub made last night or last week, and the buck sign you’re hunting made by a deer shot by your neighbor yesterday? Whatever the sign you are seeing, it must be fresh, we’re talking steaming poop fresh in order to indicate you should hunt there. Gathering your intel from #2 definitely helps with this, and the more the better. Intel I like to get is a visual of a deer I’d shoot active in the area during daylight within 48 hours- either on trail camera or my own eyeballs. Other sign, like scrapes, tracks, droppings, and rubs should all be analyzed for this kind of freshness as well. If you don't, you could be just wasting your time and laying down to the grizzly enemy of “old sign.”
ENEMY #4: BIG BAD MURPHY. This enemy is also a law known as “Murphy’s Law,” which states “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” In essence, your main job as a hunter is to pay attention to this enemy, or all the little details that could go wrong during your hunt, and do all you can to minimize them. ALL details matter and need to be paid attention to. Here is a list, but is not exhaustive when trying to eliminate this killer of hunts: scent control (you, your clothes, all your gear - using a tote system, having a wash system, a backup ozone system - READ about my system HERE), noise control (soundproofing your entry and exit routes during preseason, soundproofing all your metal and plastic gear - sticks, stands, hooks, buckles, etc. with products like Buck Bumper - see it HERE), proper camouflage (stand setups, ground blinds, your clothes to surroundings, your face, masking your movements coming and going)... One foul up in this area could destroy your one chance of the season, and leave you yet another victim of this enemy of all whitetail hunters.
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