Avoid These Deer Hunting Mistakes to Punch Your Buck Tag
They say the best way to learn is often through trial and error. And if you’ve been hunting for any amount of time, you’ve surely made a few deer hunting mistakes along the way. Whether you were a naïve kid learning to hunt by making all the wrong moves or you’re starting as an adult and just don’t know what you should be doing, there’s a lot that goes into deer hunting. And as a result, there are a lot of things that can go wrong or that you can mess up. It happens. What’s important is that you then learn from that mistake so you don’t make it again. So in the spirit of helping you try to avoid some mishaps this season, here are 10 common deer hunting mistakes you should keep in mind for hunting season.
Deer Hunting Mistakes
1. Not Practicing Enough
If there’s one deer hunting tip to pay attention to, it’s that practice makes perfect. Over the offseason and during the season, it’s important to practice with your bow or rifle often, which builds your shooting confidence and engrains some muscle memory as well. If you neglect picking up the bow until 2 weeks before season, multiple things could happen. You might find there’s something wrong with your archery equipment that you’ll then need to quickly fix. Your body won’t be as conditioned to shooting, which will make it all the more difficult after sitting still in a tree stand for hours. You won’t have the skill and confidence in the moment of truth that you could have had if you’d practiced regularly with your Morrel Targets over the summer. The same can be said for rifle hunting. Not checking your zero, switching to a new round, or just not getting comfortable again with longer shots could be a mistake. All of these things could cost you a shot when it matters most.
2. Checking Trail Cameras Too Often
If you hunt on private land or are brave enough to use trail cameras on public land, they can be great tools for hunting success. But it’s also very tempting to check them…all the time. And the more you check them, the more intrusive it becomes, the more scent you spread, and the more deer you potentially spook. If you can’t control your urge to check trail cams every week, you may be better off not using them. For a better solution, try using a cellular trail camera. The Bushnell Impulse cellular trail cameras will transmit images directly to your phone so you don’t need to be out contaminating the area with your presence and committing this hunting fail.
3. Scouting Balance
By late summer, most deer hunters are fighting the urge to scout for the upcoming season. Regardless of whether you’re hunting a new property or the same old ground you’ve always hunted, scouting for whitetails is important. You need to know the terrain and habitat types well, and should have an idea what kind of deer are around or where they’re spending the most time. And while desktop scouting can be useful, there’s nothing that matches actual boots on the ground. But a common deer hunting mistake is scouting too much. If you’re out every weekend tromping around the woods, you’re very likely to spook any mature bucks out of the area. However, in season scouting can be crucial to pick up on sign on a different part of the farm or property you are hunting, and with one trip you can be in the game again. Find the right balance and scout as stealthily as possible.
4. Planning Access Routes
Before you settle on a spot to hang a stand or put up a blind, you need to think about how you will access it without alerting deer. This is one of those deer hunting mistakes that most people don’t think enough about. Many hunters find a spot that looks great, and then are confused why it doesn’t pan out. It might have something to do with the fact that they walk right next to a major bedding area on their way in and out, thus pushing every deer out of the area. If you can stealthily access your stand via a dry creek bed or by steering clear of food sources and bedding areas, you have a much better chance at ambushing a mature buck.
5. Hanging Tree Stands
As the season drags on, should you continue to hang new sets, or stick it out in the same stands or blinds? This, like in-season scouting, can be an internal battle for any hunter, especially with a big mature target buck on camera. While the rut drags on, the varying activity of buck movement can have you double guessing all your stands… While a few blinds and ladderstands or hang on stands in a few deadly spots like food plots and funnels are a given, it may be useful to keep an extremely mobile stand available. This way, if you scout or have new trail camera intel, you can hang and hunt quick, without tromping heavy equipment through the woods.
6. Clothing Choice
You should seriously consider the right hunting clothing for the conditions you plan to hunt in. Many people commit this deer hunting mistake in hot or cold weather alike. In hot weather, wear multiple light layers that you can wear for cool mornings and sneakily slip off as the heat of the day comes back. For colder conditions, don’t just wear one ultra-insulating layer, get a system like the Element Outdoors Tempest Series. Choose multiple layers constructed of synthetic materials or wool. Why? You avoid sweating and overheating as you walk into your tree stand, and can slip additional dry layers on as your body cools down again. Underlayers that can channel sweat, and can control odor like the Drive Series can be crucial for comfort and your scent. The combination of early, mid, and late season clothing can dial your hunts in to be more comfortable, keeping you in the stand longer.
7. Forgetting Equipment
If you’ve hunted long enough, you’ve probably arrived at your tree stand, only to realize you forgot the release, your magazine, deer call, or your pull up rope at the truck. Whatever gear it happens to be…Forgetting hunting equipment happens to everyone at some point. Try making a list to check each morning if you’re prone to forgetfulness. Keep all your necessary hunting equipment in one backpack that never leaves your vehicle, and then you only need to grab your backpack before heading to the woods.
8. Scent Control and Wind Direction
At the beginning of each hunting season, most hunters seem pretty diligent about their scent control practices. They may shower in scent-eliminating soap, wash their clothes in scent-elimination products, and pay close attention to the wind direction. And then after a week or so, their diligence starts to fade. Pretty soon, they’re stopping by the gas station in their hunting clothes and the deer camp hygiene starts to take over. And magically, the deer seem to disappear from the woods. If you truly want to maximize your hunting success, you need to stay on top of your scent control practices throughout the season. Scent Crusher and Code Blue both offer multiple products to help you avoid this issue.
9. Hunting the Wrong Conditions
This is another one of those deer hunting mistakes that most hunters make at some point. After finding their “perfect spot” for opening morning, they get tunnel vision. Regardless of where the wind is blowing or what conditions it is, they will be in that stand. But hunting a prime location before the conditions are right can ruin your chance before you even get one. Imagine a tree stand directly east of a doe bedding area during the rut. With a west or northwest wind, you can bet that bucks will be traveling near your stand to scent-check the bedding area. If you find that the wind has switched to coming from the east (going directly into the bedding area) on opening morning, you should come up with Plan B. Hunt another tree stand and save your prime location for the right conditions. If you aren’t super confident with hunting the wind and thermals yet, read up on some advice to become more familiar! Another key condition to base whether you are hunting or not is weather… look out for and hunt cold fronts every chance you get!
10. Don’t Sweat it…it’s Hunting!
As the hunting season progresses the social media pressure to kill a buck, deer shaming, or just lack of personal success can get intense! Don’t let it bother you. Hunting is hunting, hunting is fun, its an escape, it’s your time…enjoy it! Don’t let the pressure make decisions for you on when and where to hunt, go off your instinct and your experience. Ultimately your experience, your decision, and the satisfaction of your hunting is what your left with after the season, not just a set of antlers on the wall. If you think you might be getting caught up in the trophy aspect…this might be a great read – The Philosopher – Hunting for Answers with Michael Waddell.
While direct experience can teach you some painful and lasting lessons, we hope you can avoid these deer hunting mistakes this season.