Opening day of deer season is closing in fast! Some states will have openers this month, and most all states will have opening days within the next five to six weeks. Use these fundamentals to ensure your success this year. Don't overlook the advice in Fundamental #5!
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” - Benjamin Franklin
There are many different quotes out there about preparation. Everyone from Benjamin Franklin to John Wooden acknowledge how important it is. The question is, do YOU believe them? Are you preparing NOW for hunting season in a few months?
Taking care of some important elements now can absolutely make a difference this fall.
You may be thinking, “Um…what is it exactly I’m supposed to be doing while it's so hot outside?”
Whether you hunt on private or public land, land prep is an important area. For some of the most successful hunters, there is no off-season when it comes to getting the land ready. They are planning and strategizing for next season while they’re hunting deer this year. They pay attention to how the deer or turkeys are currently using the land and formulating a plan based on those observations.
If you have access to private land and can change some of the habitat, you should be paying attention to food sources, bedding areas, and water sources. Do you have enough various food sources to keep wildlife fed throughout the year? What nourishment is available for them during the spring and summer? Do you have feeding options in winter? Are there adequate bedding areas? Can you do something to create another bedding area near food and water sources to reduce stress on the wildlife?
We could go on and on with questions about land prep, but it really comes down to food, water and bedding.
What if you hunt public land? Even on public land, when those three are found in close proximity to each other, you will find deer. Now, you aren’t going to be able to plant or cut, but you can get in the woods and do some scouting. Finding those bedding areas and food sources on public land in the off season is an important step to increasing your chances this fall.
This could be one of the most important pieces of the preparation puzzle. I once missed a doe during bow season because my expandable broadhead actually hit the rest on my bow - making it expand before I was able to shoot. My arrows were just a little too short, which is why the broadhead hit the rest.
As I was making excuses for why I hadn’t killed that doe, one of my friends said,
“All I’m hearing are excuses that should have been fixed in the backyard before ever going into the woods.”
I had been doing a lot of shooting preparation (which is #4 - stay tuned for more on this), but I hadn’t actually put all my equipment into play. I was getting in my reps shooting field tips and decided that it would be fine to just screw on the Rage Expandables (they have a rebate going on right now!!) and hit the woods. Well, I learned a valuable lesson that day!
Maybe you’re planning a hang and hunt situation with your new Hawk Helium sticks and Millenium hang on stand. Have you tried carrying that setup into the woods on a hot and humid day like it usually is in September? Can you actually hang that stand safely and quietly when sweat rolls off your forehead into your eye? Or in the dark?
Making sure you can use each piece of your equipment as quietly as you will want to while you’re hunting can significantly decrease your frustration level when heading into the woods.
I don’t know about you, but I think deer have a frustration detector sense that no one has scientifically figured out. It always seems that when I’m frustrated by something not working out with my equipment, the deer know. They end up walking just out of bow range, or I barely catch a glimpse of them walking by.
I’ll never underestimate the importance of being willing to make a change or move during the season. However, my goal is to get any of the major treestand moves or stand prep completed well before. That way it doesn't mess me up when I would rather be sitting in a stand instead of moving it.
This includes checking and changing any ratchet straps that have been on each stand for a few years. I would much rather change out a strap that is slightly suspect than to have one break during the season. Nothing could ruin a deer season faster than falling out of a stand because you didn’t want to buy new straps this year - or didn’t even think about it.
Obviously, this step goes along with step one and two. If you decide to put in a new food plot or add a bedding area, you may need to add or make changes to treestands in the area. Also, re-checking your older treestands and replacing them before it is actually needed can keep you ready to hit the woods and actually get to hunt once the season starts.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself here, but making sure you can actually shoot out of your stands is also important.
What if you’ve created that perfect food plot in the perfect ambush spot and you decide to place an elevated box stand on this plot. That should keep your scent down in warmer weather and allow a propane heater in colder weather!
But, can you actually draw and shoot your bow from this new stand? Trust me, you don’t want to be sitting there on opening day and your target buck steps out, only to find that all your shooting preparation is null and void because you didn’t have enough room to stand and shoot from your new stand. Which brings us to #4.
This is probably the area that I like to spend most of my effort, both shooting my bow and shooting our guns. In the past few years, we have done a considerable amount more rifle shooting throughout the year, because it has helped us bring more videos to you!
We used to pull our rifles out a few weeks before the season and take a few shots. If we were able to hold a decent-sized group, we figured it would be “good enough.” I’m sure you’ve been there and done that.
I guarantee when you tell the story of how you missed that deer and still don’t know how or why, “good enough” wasn’t really good enough.
Most errors in shooting can be attributed to operator error. It’s much easier to blame our equipment, but an equipment error should be taken care of now - in the off season. Just like my friend mentioned in his comment above, it should easily be fixed in the backyard instead of missing the chance to take a shot at a deer.
Of course, if you’re planning to bow hunt, I hope it goes without saying that you need to be shooting!
Don’t forget to shoot how you will be shooting - sitting down, from a downward-facing angle, from your platform, or even aiming uphill (another lesson learned).
One of the worst mistakes you could make is only shooting in the completely controlled environment of your shaded backyard and never trying to simulate a hunting situation. Call me crazy if you will, but I’ve even gone as far as jogging a half mile or more to raise my heart rate and then coming back to shoot. This allows me to create a heightened state of adrenaline and heart rate, then teach myself to calm down as the time to squeeze that release draws near.
Another great way to add some pressure to your shooting is to shoot with friends.
It changes the dynamic and timing of your normal practice routine when you add variables such as another person. Inevitably, my goal is to shoot better than anyone else. So how else can I do that unless I’m actually shooting with them?
This might mean that you need a different target, but make sure you don’t overlook this step. It can be the difference between a successful harvest or going home empty handed. When I’m shooting field tips, I most always shoot the Bulldog target because of how easy it is to remove the arrows.
Here is the part that most people overlook. Don’t underestimate the power of your mind to overcome all kinds of obstacles. On the flip side of that, add in all those obstacles!
The most successful hunters are the ones that are able to stare all those frustrations in the eyes and know they have the fortitude within themselves to continue. I can guarantee that if you head back to the couch when the hunting gets tough, your opportunity to harvest that big buck will significantly decrease.
Probably the most important mental prep you can do is completing the four sections above. When you’ve put in the work ahead of the season, your mind has the opportunity to focus on what lies ahead, not on what you should have done before lacing up your hunting boots and heading to the field.
One of my favorite mental prep suggestions comes from shooting a bow. Some of you may balk at this advice, but hear me out. Read it to the end and then come back to read it again before you think I’m crazy.
Once you’ve got your bow sighted in and you’re putting in the reps before the season, shoot the edges of the target. Spray paint a few spots really close to the edges of your target, and aim there. This forces you to face the possibility of failure (and losing a $20-25 arrow setup) instead of always shooting the middle of the target with lots of room for error.
When you’re drawn back on a big buck or have him in your scope, the room for error is small. Shooting the edges helps you get prepared for that moment. This type of practice will work for shooting your bow as well as your rifle.
Face the possibility of failure and learn to overcome it. I guarantee your success rate this fall will be higher if you shoot the edges.
A: Don't settle for "good enough is good enough." You need to know where you're planning to hit whatever animal it is that you're trying to harvest. Good enough is not good enough when it comes to taking the life of an animal.
A: If you're asking the question or thinking they are the least bit suspicious...the answer is YES! Falling out of a tree stand is going to cost a lot more than the $10-15 for new ratchet straps.
A: Shoot the edges this year. Then write me back and tell me about your success!
These are just five of the main areas that you should be thinking about as fall draws near. The days are getting shorter, and your time for prep before elk season, deer season, or even waterfowl season is steadily getting shorter also.
Start today planning for your preparation. The work you do now will change the outcome of your hunting season this fall. Don’t wait, Now is THE Time!
Robbie has enjoyed the outdoors since he can remember. His earliest memories include hours upon hours of squirrel hunting and learning how to enjoy all aspects of hunting season in God's wonderful outdoors. Now he is always working hard and testing gear in the field to give you the best review and most thorough information he possibly can.
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