Regardless of location, Deer Hunting is a journey, whether you started at a young age or take it on as an adult. Regarding hunting success, it’s easy to get in a rut without even knowing it.
Many hunters seem to have the mindset that if they are seeing a fair amount of deer, it’s just a matter of time before they get a crack at a big mature buck. What really amazes me is how many guys and gals do this every year with very little success, chalking it up to bad luck.
There are a couple of phrases you hear often in the deer hunting vernacular.
One is “I would rather be lucky than good”. Let me assure you, when it comes to consistently killing big bucks, “luck” has little to do with it. Sure, you can get lucky (and I have a few times). But, under this mindset, my unlucky hunts are way too many to count.
Another common phrase is “you can’t kill a buck from the couch”. It’s pretty hard to argue this one unless shooting your television or the shoulder mount over the mantle counts. I admit that I often cling to this adage. But on its own, it’s not enough. The more you hunt, the more you learn things such as optimal hunt times, conditions, and the concept of wearing out stands.
These days, there are a lot of proven strategies aimed at stacking the odds in the hunter’s favor. However, they have to be implemented and executed well for success. That’s a fancy way of saying, you have to actually do them. It’s not enough to get off said couch and hit your favorite stand with wild abandon.
There is another saying that goes for virtually all facets of life, including hunting; “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results”
Unfortunately, I can, at times be guilty of this violation. Season after season, I can procrastinate improving my shooting rest, oiling my whiny blind chair, or heaven forbid cleaning my rifle. The little things.
With the 2020 season in the rear-view mirror, it’s a good time to plan and put some practices and mindsets into place for next fall. The list of tasks includes basic, involved, and easy undertakings. Here are a just few of them.
Stand and Blind Management
Stand and blind location is always a popular variable that many hunters get complacent with. Aside from mobile public land hunters, many poor saps continue to hunt the same set ups in the same spots year after year. Note that I’ve fallen in this poor sap class a few times over the years. There are often good reasons; great lines of sight, easy access, and large deer numbers lead the charge.
There are also reasons such as “grandpa used to sit in that spot and smoke half a pack of cigarettes and he always got a nice buck.”
Be intentional about maintaining your equipment such as your bow and blind.
Don’t let your brain get stagnant. There is often a better spot, even it only 20 yards away.
Sometimes stand placement doesn’t need changing, rather an additional stand or two can be added to hunt the same draw, field, or woodlot; one that is better for prevailing winds or with easier entry and exit.
Of course, whatever location you choose, the spot needs to be maintained, for example keeping effective shooting lanes.
Adding Nutrition and Attractants
When the food supply is low, you’ll see signs of it on your property if you pay attention. Constant browsing of the native habitat usually means that adding food sources will pay dividends before, during, and after deer season.
Regardless of the deer density on your hunting property, it’s always a good idea to add food sources. Food plots are a great method. This not only attracts whitetails for hunting, but provides needed nutrition. A win-win. While this approach takes work, it’s worthwhile, especially if neighboring sections don’t have them.
If legal in your state, add free choice protein feed in the offseason. Add automatic feeders as well, especially during the summer and hunting season. However, don’t just put them out, thoughtfully place them and learn from the travel patterns you’ve created.
Mineral sites can also create traffic on your parcel, if nothing else during the summertime when deer need salt and other minerals for growth. It’s all in the
Timing is a huge variable when it comes to deer hunting. Starting with the simple, strive to leave on time, whether hunting in the morning or evening. At night, organize your gear, get the coffee pot ready and be ready to roll in the morning. Sitting in the stand in the predawn darkness or in the middle of the afternoon gives your whitetail woods time to rest before money time.
Of course, timing is also important in terms of choosing the times to go afield at all. There is nothing wrong with the just go hunting mentality but maximizing your time in the stand based on such things as wind direction, thermals, and the rut can really pay off. Less is more. More times in the field can sabotage your set ups fast, especially when it comes to hunting mature bucks. It can be tough, but if you have the flexibility and will power, sit out those low-percentage days – or use that time to scout other areas. The latter makes the day far from a lost cause.
This tactic has been beaten to death. There is a reason though – it can greatly enhance catching up with good bucks. Trail cameras are arguably the most pivotal invention in the deer hunting world other than the weapons we use. Now with cellular cameras, the sky is the limit for deer scouting and hunting target bucks. Game cams are also fun to a fault. I polled a few hardcore hunting buddies and every single one of them admitted that it’s largely the act of capturing and sharing images of bucks that appeals to them. Every one of them also disclosed that trail cameras are a huge component of their hunting and scouting regimen, but… they fail to utilize them to their full potential.
There is good information to be analyzed from these boxes of whitetail intel. You can do as much legwork (or keyboard work) as you care to do but it’s easy to simply gawk at the photos and share them with friends. While they’re ultra-useful, remember that their use is limited. They don’t require a deep dive. If you’re willing to analyze your images and document your findings, you can escalate your learning about the deer you hunt.
But as they say at Nike, you gotta “Just Do It”.
Don't just set out trail cameras, analyze the data they provide.
Pay attention to variables such as travel times, weather conditions, location, and temperature and document them. Analyze the data points within and across seasons. If you have to, use image management software to ease the task. If you don’t leverage the very data you’re capturing, you’re wasting a lot of time surveying a ton of images, only to leave the information important for future success on the table.
Other Things to Not Put Off
The list of things to follow through on are almost limitless. Practicing with your bow or rifle, making needed fixes and adjustments to equipment, offseason scouting, scent management,…I could go on. If you’re anything like me, there is any number of these and other tasks you’re continually stalling with – during both the offseason and hunting season. Take an honest mental inventory and get after it.
Deer hunting is supposed to be fun but if you have aspirations of taking a nice buck or two (whatever that means in your whitetail world), procrastination is your enemy. Successful hunting means constantly learning. If you follow that up with planning, acting, and executing, your prospects dramatically improve. There’s likely a nice whitetail buck out there with your name on it. Start stacking the odds in your favor now.
Based in Texas, Jerald Kopp is President of 1st Light Hunting Journal. His articles cover a variety of topics about hunting and the outdoor lifestyle. Jerald is an avid outdoorsman with deer hunting and whitetails being by far his greatest passion. He was introduced to hunting and fishing at an early age and has been enjoying it for 40+ years. In 2005, he established the Empowerment Outfitter Network (EON) – a faith-based non-profit organization that provides hunting opportunities for disabled and terminally-ill children and youth. When not hunting, he spends his time traveling and enjoying life with Amy, his wife of over 30 years. Jerald and Amy have two adult daughters and a son-in-law.