By Ben Smith:
If you hunt north of Highway 84, the day you’ve been waiting for is almost here. With the way the calendar falls this year, archery hunters in Mississippi get the opportunity to begin the season in September. Even though it feels nothing like deer season, I doubt many hunters will pass up the opportunity to get things kicked off. And with all of those hunters in the woods, there are bound to be more than a few mistakes made that cost them the opportunity to put some early season meat in the freezer.
Mistakes are an obvious part of hunting. Do it long enough and you’ll make your fair share of them. The kicker is, do you learn from those mistakes? For me, sometimes I’ve got to mess up things several times before I even realize that I did something wrong. And trust me, I mess up stuff a lot. Most of the time it’s simple things that get overlooked. Doing the little things right are often the difference between having success or living with failure. This week let’s take a look at some of the simple things that often get neglected resulting in an empty freezer, or worse, an injury.
Let’s get the most important common mistake out of the way first, especially since there’s more riding on this one other than just coming home empty handed. Failure to properly check all gear before hunting is a huge mistake that not only keeps hunters from having success, but it also results in hundreds of injuries each year. If the first time you strap your climber to the tree is on your opening day hunt, you’ve already messed up. Dozens of hunting injuries, and deaths, each year could be avoided by simply inspecting your stand before your feet leave the ground. This goes for ladder stands, climbers, tripods, and any other device used to gain an advantage through being up high. Give a thorough inspection of all frames, straps, bolts, cables, and safety harnesses before climbing.
It’s a good idea to inspect, and practice, with your weapon of choice before hunting for the first time, as well. It’s not only important to you to ensure that your weapon is properly dialed in, it’s important to the deer, too. If you hunt long enough, eventually you’ll wound a deer. It’s a terrible feeling when it happens. It’s an even worse feeling when you know your weapon might not be dialed in and you could have avoided it.
The second mistake to avoid is unnecessarily spreading your scent in your hunting area. This one is pretty common, and most of us know not to do it, but we do it anyway. A lot of you have been running cameras for weeks now in hopes of catching an early season buck in a pattern ahead of the colder months. It’s hard, especially if you get a shooter on camera, not to get excited and want to go check your film every chance you get. That’s operating under the assumption that most hunters, like me, still use the ‘ol SD cards in trail cameras. If you have a cellular camera, this isn’t something you have to worry about. Either way, don’t make unnecessary trips into your hunting area.
The third mistake hunters make is being unprepared during the hunt. Even if you feel confident about the timing of when your big buck will arrive, deer are often unpredictable. I don’t care if you’ve got a buck that shows up on camera at 4:45 every day that week, there are a lot of uncontrolled variables that can change that in an instant. It doesn’t take a lot to mess up a buck’s routine. That said, you’d better be ready from the moment you get in your stand until the moment you leave or there’s a chance you’ll miss your opportunity. I’ve heard dozens of stories about hunters playing games on their phones when all of a sudden there he is. Now you’ve gotta move and put up your device and ready your weapon without the deer seeing, or hearing, you. That’s a lot of unnecessary distraction and movement that could cost you a chance of killing your target buck. The buck you missed today because you were distracted might be the buck someone else kills tomorrow.
Fourth is the failure to know and understand the property you are hunting. This one will absolutely ruin not only a hunt, but your entire hunting season. In order to have sustained success, you need to have a good idea of where your deer are bedding, feeding, and where a water source is. It’s a good idea to also know what’s beyond your property for safety of yourself and others. Have a general idea of where your deer are coming from, where they are going, and why. A lot of early season hunters miss opportunities by trying to hunt the same way you’d hunt in late December. There’s still a lot of browse on the ground for deer this time of the year and acorns will be falling soon. You need to know what trees are dropping and if deer are eating them. Then you need to know what direction they are coming from. Take this knowledge and play the wind for a chance at an early season buck.
The fifth mistake is constantly changing locations. I mentioned it earlier…bucks are unpredictable, especially the older, bigger ones. They didn’t get old by being stupid. If you find a good-looking spot with plenty of sign, post up and hunt that spot. I’m not saying that you should never change locations. Obviously, some spots are going to be better depending on the time of day or the weather. Just because you don’t bag your buck the first time you sit in what looked like a promising area, don’t give up on it. I believe those who are patient will be rewarded. Plus, moving around a lot spreads your scent to even more areas. Choose your location wisely, avoid distractions, be patient, and eventually you’ll get your chance.