Deer hunting is challenging enough without shooting yourself in the foot. Not literally speaking of course but making mistakes in the field will only make it harder to bag the trophy of a lifetime. So what are the most common mistakes made by deer hunters? We cover all of them to help you avoid making them. Learn from others and you’ll be a more successful deer hunter in no time.
Not Enough Practice
Going out to your deer stand without much practice is a common mistake. There are a lot of hunters that certainly practice plenty before opening morning, but there are also just as many and probably more that do not. Some don’t even pick up their gun or bow until it’s time to go hunting. Not only can your weapon shoot differently from year to year but not being familiar with your weapon can easily cause you to make a bad shot at an animal.
Changing things like your broadheads, arrows, shells, or sights will mean you have to re-sight the weapon. It’s also necessary to be good enough to consistently hit a small target while practicing. I was out practice shooting with a fellow hunter one time that was using 3 different types of shells in his shotgun because that is what he had lying around. As long as he could hit a 4×8 sheet of plywood at 50 yards he was good. Give me a break! It’s necessary to practice year round and get used to shooting that way when the time comes it’s almost second nature to make a perfect shot.
Ignoring the Wind
With the recent outbreak of scent free this and scent trapping that way too many hunters are forgetting to play the wind. I’m not arguing that the scent free clothing does not work, I actually highly recommend it, but you should not solely rely on it to keep you from beating a deer’s nose. In addition to watching your scent, always play the wind to be safe. Set up tree stands for prevailing wind conditions and always have a backup stand for uncommon winds. Stay out of areas when the wind is not right and you’ll increase your chances of seeing a shooter buck the next time you sit there.
Too Much Movement
When I talk about hunter movement I’m mostly referring to moving around in your tree stand or blind, though it can pertain to any part of the hunt. When I can spot a hunter from the road freely moving around in his stand, I just want to slap them in the back of the head. Not to be mean but because they deserve it. For some reason, when a hunter does not see any deer he subconsciously believes it is safe for him to move around, he thinks because he doesn’t see anything nothing can see him. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I’ve watched hunters in their stands that just lose focus and move around way too much. Just like sitting in their living room they move their hand up to scratch their head, stand up and stretch their legs, and even cough and clear their throat like no big deal.
Hunters have to realize that most of the time deer will spot you before you spot them. Whether you realize it or not, it’s extremely likely that deer have spotted you in your stand and left the area before even realizing they were there. Even more disheartening, chances are one of them was a shooter buck. You have to hunt like you are constantly being watched. If you do have to move, do it slowly. Remember in Jurassic Park when Dr. Grant told the the others “don’t move, he can’t see us if you don’t move?” Well even though you aren’t hunting a T-Rex the same goes for deer hunting. A deer’s eyes are drawn to movement, you may get away with it on a windy day when the trees are blowing around but on a calm day you better be a statue even if you don’t see any deer. Always be aware that they are watching you.
Lack of Scent Control
I talked about this in the play the wind section but it works both ways. Just because you are playing the wind doesn’t mean you can walk out there in some smelly overalls and a flannel that has been hanging in the garage all year. You still need to practice scent control. A mature buck is one of the most elusive creatures in the woods. One sniff of you whether it’s directly or picking up on your day old trail, he will vacate the area or become nocturnal. Big bucks don’t get big by being stupid. Play the wind and take care of your scent and you are doubling your advantage. Take a shower before hunting, wash your clothes and store them in a scent free bag, use field spray, wear rubber boots, and get dressed in the field. Like I mention in this scent control article, everything you can do to tip the odds in your favor will put you that much closer to bagging a big one.
Calling Too Much
To call or not to call that is the question. My theory is only call when you spot a buck and he isn’t coming your direction. I’m not big on calling blind but I’m not saying it doesn’t work. Just don’t be disappointed when you rattle and a huge buck doesn’t come running like they do on the hunting shows. During rut, blind calling and rattling can work great just don’t overdo it.
One of my biggest deer calling tips – if a buck is heading your way don’t make a sound, just let him keep coming. If he turns or goes of coarse then a snort wheeze or grunt is certainly in order because at that point you have nothing to lose. As a general rule deer don’t communicate nearly as much as a call happy hunter would believe them to. Too much calling can easily educate the deer in an area and cause any type of calling to be inefficient so remember that less is better.
This one seems obvious but there are many hunters that sound like a bull in a china shop when they’re hunting. Snapping twigs, crunching leaves, clanking things against their tree stand are the most common. It can be impossible to be completely silent but you should at least make an effort. If it’s a really crisp and quiet morning your noise just from walking can be heard by deer hundreds of yards away. You should take the part of a ninja and walk as softly as possible. Don’t walk in the usually crunch, crunch, crunch form like humans do. Deer can tell that it’s a man. We are the only 2 legged creature in the woods so it isn’t hard for deer to recognize it. Walk inconsistently to your stand. Think about how a cautious doe walks when she is coming through the woods. Take a couple of steps then stop and scan the area. Take another step or two then pause, be unmethodical when walking and they just might pass it off as another deer.
Another mistake commonly made by hunters is clanking their weapon or accessories against tree steps or a ladder stand. Metal making noises are a definite alarm for deer. You might as well ring a dinner bell and yell come and get it! Be as quiet as possible when walking and entering your stand or blind and you’ll increase your chances of seeing deer once you’re settled. If possible try to pack lighter for deer hunting.
Not Being Persistent
A big reason a lot of deer hunters are not as successful as they would like to be is due to a lack of persistence. We’ve all heard the stories of someone hunting for the first time and killing an absolute monster but it isn’t commonplace to say the least. You have to put time in your deer stand if you want to be more successful. I don’t mean go sit in the same stand every single day or even the same area, you definitely don’t want to overpressure the deer, but just get out there and hunt.
The hunters on the hunting shows sit for hundreds of hours a year to get only a few minutes of actual hunting footage. When we did a 6 day bowhunt in Kansas we put almost 50 hours in a tree stand. It’s a lot of work and not much the vacation as some would think. Obviously it’s what we love to do but it isn’t all peaches and cream. The more time you put in the sooner you’ll be rewarded so be persistent and keep a great attitude and you’ll be a more successful deer hunter.