11 Deer Hunting Mistakes Even Experienced Hunters Make

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Are You Making These Mistakes?

Sometimes deer hunting seems like a simple thing. But most of the time our better judgment reminds us that there’s truly nothing simple about it. Whitetails are complex critters that take decades to understand. And while biologists and researchers have dispelled many myths and made huge strides, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface on the scientific knowledge of the species. And even the most seasoned hunters make mistakes.

Losing FocusFailing to Target Based on PersonalityFollowing Old HabitsClose-Mindedness Toward New TacticsFailing to Relearn PropertiesOverthinking ThingsBeing too PassiveForgetting to Expect the UnexpectedGetting Lazy with GearEquipment FailuresMiscalculating Shots

1 | Losing Focus

Deer hunting is a time of relaxation for a lot of hunters. They’re at peace in the deer woods, making it really easy to drift off and lose focus. Do that at the wrong time and you miss your one shot at the buck of a lifetime and/or a freezer full of venison.

Photo credit: Mitch Kezar

2 | Failing to Target Based on Personality

Every deer has its own personality. They have different food preferences, bedding habits, behavioral traits, etc. Altering your hunt plans to these personality specifics is a necessity, but can be easy to forget to do.

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Tom Reichner

3 | Following Old Habits

Over time, experienced hunters fall into old habits. They find certain things that work for some of the deer they kill and expect them to work for other deer, too. Sometimes they do. But oftentimes they don’t.

Photo credit: Brad Herndon

4 | Close-Mindedness Toward New Tactics

Those that have been around the woodlot a time or two might not be as open-minded toward new tactics as they used to be. That’s a mistake. Don’t be close-minded. Old dogs can and should learn new tricks.

Photo credit: Josh Honeycutt

5 | Failing to Relearn Properties

For those who’ve hunted the same property for several years, it’s easy to think they’ve got the place completely figured out. For the most part, that’s probably true. But things change over time. And deer use given properties differently as the years pass by. For one, the habitat changes. And second, different deer with different habits and patterns will inhabit those properties.

Photo credit: Brad Herndon

6 | Overthinking Things

It’s easy to overanalyze things. Sometimes it really is simple. When analyzing a situation, look at both the small and big pictures.

Photo credit: Brad Herndon

7 | Being too Passive

Experienced hunters understand that it’s best to hunt smart, not hard. It’s better to hunt for two or three high-odds days than 10 or 12 low-odds days. So being too aggressive isn’t generally an issue. Instead, the real risk is being too passive due to the fear of effects pressuring deer may bring.

Photo credit: Brad Herndon

8 | Forgetting to Expect the Unexpected

It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that no matter how much deer hunting know-how we accrue, we still don’t have a dadgum clue. Oftentimes there is no rhyme or reason as to why a deer does what it does. It just does it. We have to expect the unexpected and remember to react accordingly.

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Tom Reichner

9 | Getting Lazy with Gear

Whitetail hunting tech has come a long way in recent years. So it’s a lot easier to depend too much on our gear. It’s vital to not lose sight of the value of the deer hunting basics, skills and tactics that got you where you are.

Photo credit: Mitch Kezar

10 | Equipment Failures

Gear malfunctions can end a hunt in a hurry. For the most part, this is out of the hunter’s control. However, routine maintenance work will prevent most equipment failures.

Photo credit: Brad Herndon

11 | Miscalculating Shots

First off, even experienced hunters occasionally miss deer or make bad shots. Unfortunately, that’s just part of hunting. Furthermore, unless the shot is captured on video (and sometimes not even then), you can never be 100 percent certain of where you hit a deer, leading to miscalculated shot locations. Because of this, it’s important to take all of the available information to decide on how long to wait before tracking. Every situation is different, but it’s best to be more reserved unless weather or predators push you to take up the trail sooner.

Photo credit: Josh Honeycutt

Editor's Note: This was originally published on June 21, 2017.

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