Lessons Learned from Last Deer Season
Bob Robb measures hunting success by the quality of the experience, the people hes shares camp with and the lessons learned. And last year he learned a lot.
April 06, 2011
If you measure the success of your deer hunting by how many tags you fill, then in 2010, I was an abject failure. I hunted whitetails a total of 37 days in the states, and mule deer another 13 in Mexico, and only shot one buck.
I, on the other hand, measure my hunting success these days by the quality of the experience, the people I share camp with and the lessons learned. And last year I learned a lot.
Bad Weather Doesn't Always Mean Bad Hunting
The buck I killed-a dandy 9-pointer from central Illinois that scored 147 2/8 Pope & Young-was shot on a day that began with a tornado warning and the afternoon wind was blowing well over 20 mph. I set a stand in a creek bottom sheltered from most of the wind. On one side of the creek was a thick bedding area, while the other was filled with acorn-filled oaks. I caught the buck late as he fed along eating acorns in the calm. Lesson? You cannot shoot a deer from the La-Z-Boy in front of the TV.
Never Underestimate Their Noses
I watched this from a tree stand across the field. A buddy who doesn't believe all the "mumbo-jumbo" about scent control decided to sit a field edge stand one morning in early November. He did his usual routine-no morning shower, wore old clothes, didn't use any scent-eliminating sprays-and strolled to the stand. About two hours after first light I watched a 2 ½-year old peacefully walk along the edge of the field-until he hit the trail my friend had walked in on. That young buck stopped as if he had hit a brick wall. His eyes bugged open, his nostrils flared and he spun around 180 degrees and raced out of there like his tail was on fire. My friend never knew that deer was on the planet. Lesson? Always follow a meticulous scent-control program.
Make Sure Your Gear Works
I had a binocular, the brand of which shall remain nameless, for a field test project up a tree one day when I spotted a deer working its way toward me through the trees. I had to screw one eyepiece out a bit so it fit as I slowly raised the glass to my eyes, and it came completely unscrewed and fell to the ground! I now had a monocular-and no backup in camp. Lesson? Never hit the woods with equipment you have not thoroughly checked out beforehand.
Trust Your Guide
Nate Kingsley is a 30-something hunting guide I met in Kansas. A former marine who did a couple of Iraq tours, Nate is tough, focused and has real woodsmanship skills. So when he told me he had seen a really big buck working a particular area and I should be patient and hunt one specific stand all week, I said absolutely. And I did, for seven days, not seeing anything special but keeping the faith. On day 8 I decided I needed a change of scenery, so Nate allowed another client to hunt my stand. You know what happened next. The man put an arrow in a buck scoring in the mid-170s. Lesson? If you are not going to trust your guide, why did you hire him?
You Can Never Practice Enough
State to state, camp to camp, I am always amazed at how casual most hunters I meet are about their shooting. Bows, rifles, muzzleloaders, it doesn't matter, it just seems like most guys think they are Deadeye Dick and do not need to practice. Truth is, most hunters are mediocre shots at best, the proof of which is the number of times I've seen a hunter come back to camp with his tail between his legs and proceed to tell us about the deer he missed or, worse, wounded. Lesson? Make time before each season to target practice until you have sharpened your shooting skills; then, once the season starts, keep practicing. We owe it to the magnificent game animals we hunt to do everything in our power to kill them quickly and cleanly.