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Matt
MATT
CHEEVER

Flatlander

Prioritize deer hunting for success

Wed, August 05, 2015

As I sit here pushing the limits of deadline dates for writing projects, I think about how busy life has gotten and how many irons are in the fire.  I know you are likely in the same boat, varied obligations tugging at your heart. 

Deciding what gets done and what can wait is a challenge to say the least. I know we all deal with a job, or two or three in some cases, most have kids that are involved in many things or maybe parents that need care later in life. There are more clubs, groups, church activities and sporting events than we could fit in even if we didn’t work! 

How do we fit in all that needs to happen for us to be a successful deer hunter?

We are all very busy but that doesn’t change the fact that there are certain aspects of the hunt we need to prepare for. There are a myriad of details in doing everything right to continuously kill whitetail deer, and even more so to go after big mature bucks. 

I’m going to prioritize what I think it takes to be successful. Let’s face it, having sharp broadheads tuned and flying straight or having matching camo patterns on your hunting clothes don’t exactly have the same amount of direct effect on your success. I’ll sort these out (in my opinion) the most critical on down the line.

I believe along with success, ethics of making the most accurate deadly shot we can has to be the foremost priority of any bow, shotgun or muzzleloader hunter.  I know it takes time and is tough to work in to a busy schedule but if you can’t reasonably make a 30-yard shot with your bow or one 100-yard shot with your gun then you have no business taking that shot! 

If you don’t know what your effective range is then you should simply hang up your gear and allow someone else your hunting spot. Yes it’s that simple, practice and be effective or don’t hunt, accidents and mistakes will happen but if you haven’t prepared for this one you need not read on.

Next priority is scent control and not getting winded by game or deer in this case. I know you are thinking this would be way down the line, and that is precisely why so many aren’t as successful. If you aren’t going to get serious about scent control you’ll only be “so lucky.” 

I am not going to say you have to run out and buy every scent controlled garment or ozone-fixing machine on the market, though some of those products can help. What you do need is a system that you never deviate from. Years ago we used garbage bags filled with pine cones and corn cobs after washing our clothes in camper’s soap. 

Technology has come a long way since the days of pine cones and corn cobs, but I still go through a regimen of washing my clothes in hunter’s soap and storing them in scent-tight containers.

I also don’t skimp on bathing with scent free soap before a hunt whenever possible. Dedicate boots, gloves and hats to hunting only, they don’t get used for work or pleasure. You don’t need to smell like gas from the log splitter, the bacon from the diner or the lovely scent your wife has simmering to make your home more appealing. 

You need to smell like twigs, dirt, crops, trees and nothing else at all. Make that a priority and you’ll automatically make yourself more successful. Never skimp on this!

Ranking close behind scent control is having scouting information and a hunt plan. You can’t have one or the other and expect to fool an animal that makes his living keeping alive.  You need most recent information whether it’s from walking a parcel of land, trail cameras, reports from the mail man, the farmer or just seeing deer moving as you travel to and fro. 

Once you have this information you have to have a plan. Don’t just rush in and hunt a big buck you know is nocturnal, wait until he presents daytime movement, like the rut or late season food sources. 

To help with this keep a list of your tree stands and blinds and what time of year you will hunt them and what wind direction they will be best for.  When those conditions dictate the spot, you hunt it. This will keep you from hunting off a bad hunch. Choosing spots off a predetermined list has been the biggest factor in changing my “luck” to success in the last decade.

Next I find myself leaning towards habitat management. This is the toughest for me to fit in between kid’s ball games, fishing trips, overtime, side jobs, etc. I really feel to be successful you have to improve the property you hunt, and it’s good to give back to what gives itself to you. 

I won’t go in to detail as I typically write about habitat management, you can catch those details in other articles.

Lastly I truly feel butchering and cooking your meat have to be a priority. I know not everyone is set up to butcher at home, though you easily could be! At the very least make sure you know what kind of cuts you are getting from the butcher and what you plan to do with them. 

It is very important to know how many deer you can eat in a year. If it’s two, don’t shoot three, if it’s four don’t shoot five. There is nothing wrong with sharing, but please don’t feel you have to save the planet with donated venison. 

If you truly feel led to help the needy, most food pantries or shelters will gladly accept a check and purchase meat from the locker. Don’t decimate the deer herd in the name of helping others.

Hopefully prioritizing your hunting preparations will reduce the headaches associated with a full schedule and trying to get it all done before season. Some things can be overlooked but some simply can’t if you want to be successful year after year.

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