As I write this my 2015 hunting season is quickly coming to a close. Yet, while I understand that unsuccessful seasons happen to the best of us, I’m not ready to chalk up my struggles to bad luck. Instead, I’ve decided to look a little deeper at some of the mistakes I’ve made this year, while at the same time, discussing some that you might have unknowingly made. My hope is that next season will be better for both of us.
Hunting the Bucks Too Early
In the past I have always waited until November to chase a specific mountain buck. However, this year I burnt a lot of vacation days chasing a ghost during the early stages of the season. The problem with that is most mature mountain bucks don’t move until the last few minutes of daylight and even then it is hard to predict which direction they will go once they are on their feet.
Scattered food sources make it nearly impossible to predict feeding locations with any type of consistency. Also, hunting a mountain buck early almost guarantees you will educate him before the urge to breed makes him stupid. Which might explain why I was always playing catch up with my target buck this year. In hind sight I should have simply waited for the rut to start (when his guard is down) and then hunted known doe sanctuaries like I always do. Instead, I got greedy.
Hunting the Same Stand
If you’re going to hunt a specific buck during the rut and you plan to hunt in an area harboring does then you need a stand location specifically set aside for that cause. In other words, if your everyday stand is also your rut stand, you will essentially burn it out before the action even heats up.
No matter how hard you try, you will educate every doe in the area before they come into estrus. When that happens they will leave and take every mountain buck with them. The only thing you will have is unfulfilled expectations and an unfilled tag. The bottom line is you must have a separate rut stand in addition to your early season stand. If not, stay away from the rut stand until the bucks start cruising for love.
Too Much Social Time
I’ve come to the conclusion that I was a much better hunter before the iPhone came along. Honestly, I often times find myself so engulfed in social media that I wouldn’t see a buck if he walked under my feet. As a result, I am likely to miss clues that could help me determine what the mountain bucks (and does) in my area are doing and then react.
And, since visibility is limited in the mountains and deer can be on top of you in an instant, it is crucial to stay as ready as possible. Staring down, with phone in hand, is the perfect recipe for getting caught off guard. I think one of my top goals for 2016 will be to unplug while I am in the tree. I suspect I will have a better time while afield and maybe get back to being the hunter I used to be.
If, like me, you make it to firearms season with an unfilled tag in your pocket, you’re probably going to follow the crowd and pick up the lead-slinger in hopes of putting some meat on the ground. That’s perfectly fine. Just remember that after day one most of the deer are going to know they are being hunted; more so than during the quiet days of bow season.
That means you’ve got to find secluded safe-zones if you want to be successful. Following the “Orange Army” will likely result in low deer sightings as the does naturally react to the increased pressure; taking the Mountain Bucks with them into thicker cover. Search out these hiding places for lower hunting pressure and higher deer numbers.
At one point or another we all experience a rough year. Sometimes it’s just bad luck. Other times it is a result of our own mistakes. However, if we learn to recognize our mistakes and eliminate them we will certainly have fewer unfilled buck tags at the end of the year. Best of luck.