There’s a difference between a casual hunter and a serious one. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being one or the other.
But if you declare yourself on the serious side of the spectrum, listen up.
We’ve got a few things to talk about.
1. Do I want to hunt my best spots now or save them for the rut?
Deer are very responsive to pressure. Something as minute as leaving scent on the wrong tree, forgetting to spray your boots, or dropping your glove on a deer trail can send a buck packing. The first time you hunt a stand is the best time to hunt it. Why? Because the more you go in there, the more you push deer out.
That’s why I save my best spots until the conditions for that location are absolutely right. Grant it, the term “right conditions” can vary in meaning. The point is, I don’t hunt my best spots unless I believe that particular day is the best shot I’ll have at taking a deer in there.
2. Am I going to shoot does in the early or late season?
Shoot does early, and risk bumping bucks…or shoot does late, and hunt pressured deer? That’s the question. Well, there are pros and cons for both sides of this argument. Personally, I prefer to shoot does early to get some meat in the freezer. You just have to weigh both sides and decide what will be best for your plans, goals, and expectations.
3. What is the smallest, or youngest, buck I’m willing to take?
This is a fairly easy one to answer. Or is it? I tell myself every season that I won’t shoot anything under 140-inches in Kentucky. What usually happens? I shoot a 120- or a 130-inch deer.
This is an important issue, though. Setting a limit on age and size is critical for trophy management, if trophies are your forte. Hunting public land? You might not be able to manage the ground. But you can still hold out for a deer you really want. Just be realistic with your goals and don’t expect a 170-inch deer on a heavily-pressured property in South Carolina.
4. What did I learn last season that will change how I hunt this season?
I learned two major things from last season that I will implement this year. The first is how I will use my trail camera photos to plan hunts. The second is how I will hunt once I implement that plan.
When you scroll through trail camera photos, you’re looking at what’s already happened. But just because it happened once doesn’t mean it will happen again. Use this year’s photos to determine which bucks are in the area and to get an idea of their personality and behavior. Then analyze trail camera photos from past years — of all deer — to see when the deer will likely move most. Look back at factors such as date, wind direction, wind speed, temperature, barometric pressure, etc.
Once it’s time to hunt, be more aggressive when the conditions call for it. I’ve been way too passive and overly cautious in the past. Don’t get me wrong; being cautious is a great trait. But it can ruin opportunity under certain circumstances. This year, I plan to remain cautious but stay poised for when it’s time to go for broke.
5. What does deer hunting mean?
The first four questions were tactics-related. This one isn’t. But that doesn’t make it any less important.
We’re at a critical point in the history of deer hunting. CWD is gaining ranks across the Midwest. Deer populations are in decline across the nation. And we’re losing hunters. But deer hunting has given something to all of us. It’s time we give back to deer hunting, to ensure it’s around for future generations. Be an informed individual, and know what’s going on in your state. Be active.
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