This could be the year. Waiting for daythe dayto break, your anticipation is so high your thoughts nearly become whispers. In a few minutes it will be a brand new deer season, a fresh start. The possibilities are as endless as the miles between you and the sun that seems to be taking forever to rise.
This could be the year everything goes right, when before noon you're looking over your shoulder at 10 high points of bone as you lean into the drag rope. You found the giant over Labor Day weekend, after you and some buddies put the new porch on your camp. He was standing at the edge of a nasty, blackberry-choked clear-cut no one dared enter. Except you. An hour ago you slipped into his hiding spot, creeping along the old logging road discovered on your third scouting trip, and in the chilly darkness you silently settled into your blind. The wind was perfect.
Maybe it's the year you kill your first buck. Somehow you just know it will be a big one. For more than half your 12-year lifetime, you've waited for this moment. What used to be just another day off school, provided by the district so older kids and teachers could hunt, now has real purpose. Before you merely listened to hunting stories; after today you'll be telling them. Grandpa's sitting on the other side of the treethis is his favorite spot. It's now yours, too.
It might be the year Dad finally fills his tag again. Too many seasons have passed since his last buck, and climbing mountains doesn't get any easier on a hunter in his 60s. But he's still out here, now following in your footsteps, waiting for his chance. He even bought new camo this year. Smiling through the sweat glistening on a beard more white than gray, he lets you know it's always worth the struggle.
Maybe this will be the year you take the first doe that wanders by, because times are tough and backstrap is not. You have just one day to hunt, not even a full one at that, and as a provider you're going to make the most of it. You wonder what your 3-year-old will think when he sees the glazed-over eyes of what will become this winter's meals. You hope he'll be curious and brave enough to run his fingers over the sleek hide, and pray you'll have a good answer when he asks why the animal is no longer breathing.
No matter your thoughts, your plans, your dreams on this opening day of deer season, let your mind revel in the unknownon what could happen. A chance at success in the deer woodsand never a guarantee of itis why we're out here in the first place.
Tips to Lay Out Ol' Tom
Fly-down time at dawn
is, quite naturally, assumed by many hunters to be the best time all day to bag a tom. Trouble is, the hen or hens that old fella is visiting at that time of day may not let him off the hook long enough to pay attention to your calls and come anywhere near your setup. But during the peak of the breeding season, those hens are apt to visit their nests by noon. Your best shot at calling him close may come then, when old tom is lonely for attention.
Many times a tom hangs up
not because of an obstacle, but because he's walked far enough toward your call and, having not seen a hen, walks away. Your mistake: setting up too far outside that all-important range and never seeing him. When you call, be sure of a good line of sight through terrain and vegetation, and depending on cover, try to get within 100 yards of him before plopping down.
If you hear a gobbler moving away from you,
don't waste more time and breath trying to call him back. Instead, get up and hustle in a wide circle around him. If you need to hear him for reference, use a locator call. When you feel you are ahead of him, quickly set up and give a series of aggressive yelps with a call you haven't used yet. Many times this "fresh hen" tactic will prove successful.
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Like the fossilized skeletons of its ancestors displayed in the Smithsonian, a 12-foot alligator can be scary even when it's dead—something that Shooting Illustrated's Adam Heggenstaller learned in person during a gator hunt in Florida. Read More »