Even when the deer hunter does everything he or she thinks is correct, plenty of things can and usually do go wrong on a whitetail hunt.
Add human error to the equation and the probability of problems arising is multiplied. Give a seasoned buck or a protective doe an opportunity to escape, they will. Hunter errors usually involve issues that could have been eliminated if some serious forethought and planning been applied.
In over 40 years of deer hunting, I have committed most of the errors listed here, and then some. All hunters have such a list, and they likely contain goofs others haven’t even considered.
The list below includes 12 classic deadly deer hunting sins, shared in hopes other hunters can avoid them. If any of these hit home, correct them before this year’s season opens.
1. Failure to Prepare
Such a basic mistake, but I cannot count on all my fingers and toes the episodes I have witnessed of hunters coming into camp with no idea whatsoever of what to bring or stock for the weekend. I have seen a hunter start to go out of the camp to the stand wearing white tennis shoes. I discovered one hunter with .270 ammo for a 30-06, without a clue. One guy came to camp and when he unpacked his gear he had no pants, because he let his wife pack for him. Another guy had no gas in his four-wheeler. Another guy left his hunting cabin key at home.
Just a little thinking and planning ahead would have solved all these issues. Think long and hard before you go hunting. Make lists and accomplish all the needed tasks well ahead of the upcoming hunting season. Buy the supplies you’ll need and bring extras, because somebody else will likely forget to bring theirs.
2. Skipping crucial maintenance
Nothing is more frustrating than arriving at camp and having to deal with equipment problems, as Dr. Andy Dulaney of Raymond can attest.
“Last year my ATV suffered a flat tire and later a dead battery,” said Dulaney, who added new items to his “possibles” list said. “I bought a can of Fix-A-Flat ® and a battery charger.”
Getting regular maintenance on your UTV or ATV is important, but it applies to everything from boots, to guns, to scopes, camp generator, hunting stands, trailers and virtually anything mechanical that has to do with deer hunting. Keep all your gear in good shape and it will keep you in good shape. Inspect everything on a frequent basis, but especially before deer season.
3. Ego over practice
As good a shot as hunters might naturally be or believes they are, if their equipment is not performing up to snuff, expertise does not matter.
Hunters that let time slip by and either forget or just refuse to practice shooting with their primary hunting tools are hedging their bets on making a shot good at a critical moment. I have been guilty of assuming a rifle that was dead-on last season would still be that way the next year. Sometimes it works out, sometimes not. It is not a smart idea.
If you bow hunt, shoot your bow and verify your distance pins. If you gun hunt, dial in your rifle, shotgun, smokepole, or handgun, before you go hunting.
Maintenance (see No. 2 above) can affect aim: Tune your bow, clean your firearms, check scope mounts, and buy fresh ammunition if needed.
Never let a “know-it-all” attitude ruin a good hunt.
4. Forgetting to re-supply
One of the best practices a hunter can adopt is to make a list of everything used up and needing to be resupplied before the next season. Hey, when possible (non-perishable items), it’s prudent to go ahead and replace them right after the season.
October or November is not the time to try to remember what you ran out of the previous January.
I have a campmate famous for never stocking up on anything at camp. To teach him a lesson one year, I hid the toilet paper. It didn’t work.
Some people just can’t be helped. Don’t be one of them.
5. Scouting suffrage
Arriving in a public hunting area, private lease, or camp without having set foot in the area since a year before is a huge mistake. Again, assumption makes you less than smart. A plethora of things could have transpired in your hunting area over the off-season. Trees can be down. Stands could have shifted loose or be gone. Trails could be clogged and everything can be grown up.
Scouting means more than just locating and patterning deer, a lot more, which Clint Nelson of Hinds County learned the hard way.
“One year we rolled into our hunting lease in Claiborne County and found the owners had cut all the timber,” Nelson said. “We had to start over virtually from scratch.
“It was a tough season.”
6. Too reliant on trail cameras
Technology is taking over deer hunting, which can turn hunters lazy.
Many hunters now spend more time placing and monitoring trail cameras than actually hunting, or actual scouting.
They really expect to see a buck filmed September to be in the same area in November. That rarely works, and Dr. Drew Dulaney knows that all too well.
“We put out several trail cameras that caught a couple decent bucks,” Drew Dulaney said about Spring Lake Farms in Holmes County. “ I was pretty exited with what I was seeing on my laptop. Ha. Come hunting season we never saw one of those bucks.”
Trail cameras can obviously help hunters monitor their deer herds and identify specific “shooter” and “non-shooter” bucks with multiple camera sightings, but camera evidence is fleeting and should never be relied upon 100 percent of the time.
7. Neglecting safety concerns
This list is long, so we will stick with the basics.
* First avoid hunting alone. If you do, leave a detailed note on your location or call family to let them know exactly where you are hunting and when you expect to be home.
* Charge your cell phone and take it along.
* Check hunting stands for security before climbing into them.
* Don’t load a gun or nock an arrow until you’re safely settled into the stand.
* Be sure of your target before you fire.
* Operate your ATV in a safe manner.
* Watch the knife when you dress your deer especially when it is cold.
* Don’t let hypothermia sneak up on you.
8. Blindsided by tree stand safety
The No. 1 cause of hunting accidents is falling from a tree stand, and the best prevention is this: If you climb a tree, regardless of stand type, always wear a safety harness.
Today’s full body safety harnesses are lighter, easier to put on and are stronger than ever. Some even have devices built in to safely lower you to the ground.
You may think that hunting only 10 feet off the ground is no big deal, but a 200-pound hunter falling that distance hits the ground like a ton of bricks. Bones break easily with such impacts. Simply don’t risk it.
Never, ever, bypass a safety concern.
9. Ignoring weather
Before hunting, check the latest weather forecast. With smart phones, laptops and tablets, and even weather radios, there is no excuse for being caught up a tree in a storm.
Knowing weather ahead of time can keep you safe, as well as help you plan on what to pack or take along just in case. Call ahead to the camp or anyone near by to check on weather conditions, area flooding, rivers rising, etc.
Before you decide on which stand to hunt get an idea of the prevailing wind and always hunt into the wind, not into a pending storm.
Hunting is a sport that requires time, and a lack of patience can lead to increased anxiety when an opportunity arrives.
It’s natural to get nervous when a big buck walks into view, and hunting wouldn’t nearly be as fun if that weren’t the case. But, getting overly so can mean catastrophe and lead to committing any of the many deer hunting sins.
Learn not to overreact. The No. 1 skill a good deer hunter can have is to sit still and remain as motionless as possible. Deer may not be able to see a human form or pick out colors, but they sure as heck can see movement. Their eyes are built for it.
Fight off deer fever. Make the move to shoot slowly, calculate the placement and control the shot.
11. Game recovery misgivings
Even a clean, well-made shot can result in a deer escaping the scene either for a brief or long run. Techniques of trailing wounded deer vary, and each hunter and hunting groups have their own.
The key is to always put those techniques to work, and making sure hunting partners use due diligence in recovery, no matter whether it takes a few hundred feet or over a mile of tracking. Failure to do so can lead to dire consequence, and a hunter at my camp is a perfect example.
The hunter shot a deer and it ran off. The hunter did not pursue.
A few minutes later, the hunter shot a second deer. It also ran off, and the hunter did not pursue.
Believe it or not, it happened a third time. The hunter shot deer No. 3, which ran out of sight like the previous two, and the hunter stayed put.
When we arrived at the hunter’s stand, the blood trails were discovered, and all three deer were recovered, all dead as a hammer. The hunter was barred from our camp.
If you shoot or wound a deer, track it until it is found or deemed unhurt.
12. Pitching in around camp
This may sound like an odd item for this list, but it’s an important one. The best deer hunts are done with family or friends, and is a joint venture in fellowship.
Slackers will quickly catch a cold shoulder, and well they should.
* If you like the campfire, then help cut some wood.
* If you like to eat, bring food, cook or clean up the kitchen.
* Sweep the floor.
* Help track and skin deer.
* Help repair broken stuff.
* Buy supplies.
Pitching in will help the camp run smoothly so everyone can enjoy it. Remember, fellowship is as much a part of the hunting experience as taking a trophy deer. A failure to cooperate can ruin a day, a weekend or an entire season.
Mistakes are going to be made. Some are unavoidable, but many can be avoided by using common sense.
Maybe, after all, that is the most prized skill a deer hunter can have.