Four Tips to Increase Your Odds

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I see quite a few deer hunters every year across the river from me. And I’d guesstimate that 90 percent of them make four mistakes that lessen the chances of filling their tag. What I am about to say isn’t an earth-shattering epiphany, just good old common sense. Experienced hunters know these mistakes, but some still make them.

1. Don’t Skyline Yourself
Sit across from a ridge during hunting season, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you will see someone crest that ridge. Deer see that equally as well, and if the hunter stays atop the ridge pirouetting with his binocular everyone and everything knows it. Yet every year I see countless hunters do just that.

When you need to crest a ridge, try to find a bush, tree or rock formation that can help break up your outline. Peek as little of your head over as possible and do a quick survey. Are there any animals out in the open? It’s rare, but it happens often enough to be prepared for it. Next, look for a place very close on the other side from which you can sit down and glass. Get there as quickly as you can without any noise and little movement.

2. Sit Still!
Last year a guy crested the ridge across from me and came down a bit. He began to glass the area below him, but he shuffled around and walked through sagebrush instead of around it. Two deer—a young buck and a doe—heard and saw the commotion and got the heck out of there quickly. The hunter should have seen them, but he was looking in another direction, fidgeting all the while.

Game animals key on movement. I have been in the wide open in front of deer at ranges that could be measured in feet without camouflage, and the deer stayed put or moved off slowly. The secret is to remain absolutely motionless. If, like me, you are a habitual fidgeter, consider using a ground blind. My ground blind holds me and my two dogs, and it conceals motion, as well as the odd cough or other noxious auditory emissions.

3. Shut Up!
For many hunting is a social endeavor. It’s a time to get out with a buddy or several and enjoy some quality time. But even normal conversational tones can carry a great distance, especially in the open country of the west. Several times each season I’ll hear some guys carrying on a conversation across the river—and I have lost more than two-thirds of my high-frequency hearing! I may not be able to understand what they are saying, but I can hear the conversational tone. You can bet that every deer within a half mile can hear them as well.

4. Learn How to Shoot From Field Positions
Say you have just climbed a ridge, and you peek over the top and see a nice buck. Too many guys get excited and start blazing away off their hind legs. Some may get into a hasty sling and let fly, again standing up. The standing position is the most difficult one to shoot accurately from. Rule of thumb is: The closer you can get your body to the ground and still see your target, the better the chance you’ll hit it.

Practice all four shooting positions—prone, sitting, kneeling and standing—at the range. Buy or make some shooting sticks and carry them with you every time you head afield. At one time I was pretty good at dropping into a sitting position quickly and getting off an accurate shot. Age and an artificial hip have largely stolen that skill from me, so I now utilize shooting sticks virtually all the time.

Like I said, these points aren’t anything new; they’re the basics. But ignoring the basics in any endeavor will most often lead to failure.

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