Preparing for Deer Season
It’s almost that time, deer season is rapidly arriving in the United States! With that being said, I thought I’d put together a list of what to do and what not to do. This may be common sense to some, but completely foreign to others. Everything I know about hunting I learned by trial and error without any guidance. These are the things I recommend to prepare yourself for the hunting season: KNOW YOUR GEAR!
First and foremost, you HAVE to know your gear. You can be any joe-schmoe and have money burning a hole in your pocket and they will sell you anything you want. You can have all the latest and greatest stuff but, waiting to figure out how to use it on your first hunt is not the time! Prime example, two years ago I bought a new climbing tree stand, as it was time to retire my old one. Well, I thought how different could it be? I went out that morning, in the dark and found out first hand just how different said tree stand was. All I did was pull the tree stand out of the box and hit the woods with it. Had I just tried familiarized myself with the new tree stand I would have been set up in the tree well before shooting light. Lesson learned.
This applies to just about everything you buy and use for the woods. It puts a serious damper on the hunt when you walk into the water and realize your knee boots are leaking. As an experienced archer and I am a fanatic about bow hunting, I cannot stress enough how important it is to practice. This is the time to refine your shot, tune your bow and test out your arrow/broad head choice and making sure they fly well. Missing a shot on any animal because you failed to plan really kicks you in the pants. I hear more stories every year (generally speaking grossly exaggerated) about that “missed shot”. After they get done telling their story, my first question isn’t how long they’ve hunted or anything like that, but did you practice your shooting BEFORE you got in the woods? Did you make SURE it was YOU and not how that particular arrow or broad head flew? Sometimes I get the “Oh I know how it flies and I know how my bow shoots” and the like, but when you delve into the details a little further, it was a virgin arrow and a virgin broad head or a new setup never tested or something similar. Back to the first statement made, KNOW YOUR GEAR!
BE PREPARED! When I go into the woods just about anywhere I’ve hunted, I have a contingency plan for almost everything. I carry at least one extra therma-cell, which is the absolute most amazing tool for anywhere the bugs overpopulate the grass. I carry extra ammo, extra arrows and multiple head lamps. I learned this lesson, once again the hard way. I went out one very cold October morning, fresh snowfall. I’m standing beside my truck about 3 a.m. freezing, but extremely excited. I get all my gear ready and I am about to walk into the pathway I cut and viola, the batteries in my headlamp died. I searched around for and found no spare batteries. I had to use my phone, it did the job, though rather poorly. Another prime example, I was going to my first hunt at this amazing place in North Carolina, the Makay Island National Wildlife Refuge. Absolute beautiful place. They have all kinds of wildlife to include bald eagles, but the biggest population of mosquitoes that will carry you away if you let them. These things are brutal! So, as I start walking into the swamp I dropped my therma-cell, which doesn’t work AT ALL when wet. I sucked up the morning hunt, but I looked like I had measles from all the bites on my exposed skin. Having a backup, I was covered for the afternoon hunt. An ounce of preparation goes for a mile in the long run. I lost count of how many other hunters I’ve helped by having back up as well. It is always good to pay it forward by helping someone in need out. So, BE PREPARED!
KNOW YOUR AREA! Now is the time of year to be scoping out your hunting ground. Don’t wait to see it until last minute for many reasons. You could walk out and have a gorgeous place to hunt. Perfect tree, perfect shooting lane, mediocre sign of movement, etc. etc. Low and behold, that sign of animals was from last year. Yeah. Wasted spot. Or, my personal favorite, getting lost on your way in or out. It happens people. I was in a very familiar spot (for me) which I regularly hunt. I knew which tree I was going to get in and had it all planned out. Much to my dismay, as I walked in, a storm had taken out quite a few trees and I found myself in a whole new place. I didn’t mark my way in, so I had to figure my way out. Also, where I had always shot deer was no longer their super-highway. It was about 100 yards to the north. I could see them, but they weren’t moving to me. I couldn’t reach out and effectively hit them (although I know my bow at the time could and often times in competition did) and all I could do that day was sit and watch these deer casually walk by. I even got out of my stand and stalked a few, which didn’t work because I ended up sliding down an embankment thanks to mother nature changing the terrain on me. In hindsight, if I would have scoped it out I would have known this. So, KNOW YOUR AREA!
KNOW THE LAWS! This one is HUGE for me. You have to know the laws of your state, county, local area, etc. The game warden will most definitely let you know once he/she has got you, and you have a healthy ticket and sometimes jail time. Most are realists and understand, some are not. Ignorance is absolutely no excuse. Especially if you are teaching someone, especially a youngster. It would really suck for your kiddo have to watch you get hauled off because you were breaking the laws. I do my due-diligence to keep up with the laws in every state and county I hunt in. Prime example: Virginia outlawed natural scents/attractants. You have to use synthetic ones now. The local game warden can shine their light on it and tell if it’s synthetic or “natural”. It’s a hefty fine and revocation of that year’s license. I didn’t know that until the new laws were posted. I’m glad I read that, or I could have gotten hemmed up. Like I said, please, please, please KNOW THE LAWS!
BE ETHICAL! I’ve had this conversation on several occasions with several people. Benjamin Franklin once said “if common sense was common everyone would have it”. This is why ethics are taught. Let’s be honest though. Every hunter has had the questionable shot. Or pushed legal shooting light. I’ve been close. I can’t stress enough, ethics. THEY POSITIVELY SUCK! But they are there for a reason. Also, I’ve taught this to everyone I have ever taught to hunt, by all means be confident in your shot and KNOW it will hit its target. If it’s questionable, or you are shooting somewhere you aren’t supposed to be shooting, please for the love of God, don’t take the shot. More accidents happen every year from questionable shots. It just isn’t worth it! Plus the game warden doesn’t want to hear “I thought it would be good” when he’s investigating the situation. I have taught quite a few to hunt and shoot. Like I was once told by my shooting coach years ago, “be the shot. Know where it’s going. Make it go there. Don’t shoot until you can see the shot fully”. So please, BE ETHICAL!
NOISE, LIGHT, AND LITTER DISCIPLINE! This was something they taught me in the U.S. Army. I live by it. Noise, light, and litter discipline is absolute key. If you are walking out in the morning, and you are making more noise than a herd of elephants. Well, you just potentially lost a shot. If you are going out there with the light of Zeus on your head, well, they see you too! My personal pet peeve, litter. If you go out there and trash the place up, you need your head examined. You should leave the place like it was if not better. Be courteous people. There are enough anti-hunter groups out there, and that just gives them more ammunition against us. So remember, NOISE, LIGHT, AND LITTER DISCIPLINE!
YOU STINK! Let’s get real people. To an animal, we as humans stink! There is much hullaballoo about scent control products. And believe me, I’ve tried quite a few. Well, do your due-diligence to keep your stink down. This will lead to a more successful hunt. So, try not to stink!
These are just a few things I learned along the way and believe me I’m doing just about all those things as we speak. I’m shooting daily, checking my gear regularly, hitting up the sales and getting the last year’s closeouts and I’m getting ready! I wish all of you a successful and pleasant season. Best of luck, and shoot straight!
-Bill Vahle, Fall Obsession Field Staff