It’s hard to believe another year has come and (almost) gone. But it has. And the final days of deer season (for most) are wrapping up with it. Some filled tags. Some didn’t. But if you fall in line with the latter, it’s important to note that certain common mistakes could have been the cause. Luckily, there’s still time for some of you. And for those where there isn’t, keep these tidbits in your hip pocket until next year.
1. You Lost Ground and/or Didn’t Find New Places to Hunt
Losing a hunting spot can be devastating. But it happens all of the time. You have to learn to get over it and move on. Sometimes that means finding permission to hunt another property. Other times it might mean scouring public lands for the right spot. Whatever the answer, always be searching for new hunting ground. That’s one of the most important factors in consistently filling tags each year, and few hunters do it.
2. You Scouted Poorly and Didn’t Work to Find Deer
Scouting is essential. But you already knew that. What you might not have known, though, is that you should scout more than you hunt. Spend many more days scouting than hunting each year. Part of that is spent on prep work and analysis. Part of it is in the field. Nonetheless, it’s a major part of the process.
3. You Were Too Aggressive or Not Aggressive Enough
Deer hunting requires a delicate balance of decision-making. It’s important to be aggressive, but not too aggressive, when deer hunting. Knowing when to hunt, when not to hunt, when to make a move, and when not to make a move is a big part of the puzzle.
4. You Failed to Locate Buck Bedding Areas
Outside of the rut (and even then), you have to hunt close to buck bedding areas to see mature deer during daylight. Determine where they bed, and you’ve won half the battle. Then, all that’s left is slipping into position for the hunt. Easier said than done, for sure. But if you fail to locate their bed, it becomes that much harder to begin with.
5. You Didn’t Stay Ahead of Ever-Changing Patterns
Deer are constantly changing their patterns. Whether is it food-, cover-, water- or hunting-pressure-related, they change. And you have to not only recognize those changes but also stay ahead of them in order to succeed.
6. Your Entry and Exit Routes Were Terrible
A lot of hunters only worry about spooking deer while in the treestand. That’s only a third of it. You have to keep from bumping deer walking to and from the stand as well. If you don’t keep that in mind, you risk using subpar entry and exit routes, and your hunting will suffer more and more as you continuously spook deer.
7. You Passed on a Good Opportunity in Hopes of a Great One
You imagine that perfect shot all year long. Then the season starts, and that moment fails to materialize. Sure, you see deer, and maybe a shot opportunity or two presents themselves. You didn’t take them, though. It’s easy to imagine that perfect shot while in the stand. But you have to remember the balance between taking an ethical shot and passing up on a decent opportunity. Remember, don’t pass up a good opportunity in hopes of a great one. Most times, those “perfect” opportunities never come.
8. You Made Minor, But Costly, Mistakes on the Hunt
Moving too much. Making too much noise. Not monitoring the wind. Losing focus. All of these things and more can result in spooked deer, blown opportunities and unfilled tags. Stay poised and focused while afield. You can daydream about Twinkies and Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders after the hunt is over.
9. You Refused to Adapt to a Situation
Deer hunting is all about adaptation. Recognize and react. That’s the motto to live by. Deer are wily creatures — perhaps the smartest in North America. Being able to adapt to a situation is crucial when trying to fill deer tags — especially those antlered ones.
10. Buck Fever Got the Best of You
This results in a lot of sadness each year. He was right there. Standing just within range. But you muffed, whiffed or did something else to screw it up. Don’t beat yourself up too much, though. It happens to us all. We’ve all made mistakes that cost us deer. That’s part of deer hunting. Sometimes, the whitetail has to win. And that’s okay. In fact, that’s great. It’s part of what makes chasing these four-legged creatures so challenging, so appealing, and is what keeps us coming back each year.