By Pete Rogers
During the thirty five plus years I have been pursuing whitetail deer, there has been an evolution of the tactics used to hunt them. Hunting mature whitetail deer is a tough challenge. Mistakes are made and for some these mistakes become habit. Then they wonder why some hunters seem to kill big bucks and they do not. Let’s look at the top five mistakes deer hunters make that can hinder their odds at killing big deer.
Not Understanding and Hunting the Wind
Understanding the wind is the most important element of successfully killing deer. But the truly successful hunters know and understand the wind.
A whitetail deer uses his sense of smell as his number one defense mechanism. If he gets a whiff of anything out of the ordinary, it puts him on full alert. Barry Winsel known the world over as one the greatest bow hunters of all time has spent an inordinate amount of time just watching mature bucks. He says: “A mature buck will sniff the air, when he smells something he is suspicious of, more times than not, he simply turns around and retreats.” A buck not seen, is a buck not killed. If we cannot put ourselves in a place to see that buck, we will never kill him.
Not hunting the wind is only part of this mistake hunters make. Every time a hunter ignores the wind, they are educating the deer in the area. Successful hunters have stands prepared for any wind direction and sit only in stands where the wind is in their face. They let the wind decide where they will hunt.
It may seem somewhat repetitive to add scent control right after discussing the importance of hunting the wind. But, just as hunting the wind is critical, so too is controlling your scent as much as possible. Too many deer hunters make the mistake of simply ignoring scent control. Charlie Morris of Gloverville, SC. Morris hunts public land exclusively in and around Aiken and Edgefield Counties in SC, and he has a history of killing mature deer on public land. Morris explains his scent control regimen like this: “I do everything I can to put the odds in my favor.” He goes on to say, “I never expose my hunting clothes to any outside smells or odors. When they are washed they are stored in an airtight container and when I get to the woods I plan to hunt. I take the container and move away from the truck and then I get dressed.”
Morris says his regimen for scent control has worked very well for him. “Do everything you can to put the odds in your favor and hunt the wind.” Morris says. By doing all you can to control your scent and hunting the wind, you have put the odds in your favor.
Scouting and Stand Access
Morris also believes that scouting is critical to killing big deer. He has been scouting for good stand sites since the end of last season. “I spend a lot of time scouting. I am never satisfied with my set up. I can always improve my situation.” Morris also says he believes one of the biggest mistakes hunters make when scouting for a great stand site is not picking a great access to their stand. “If I can’t get to my stand without spooking every deer in the county, it is not a good stand.” Morris says. Too many hunters spend the off season doing other things besides preparing for deer season. “It is fine with me if they don’t scout as much as I do. But I believe that is something that helps me be successful. I spend a lot of time in the woods.” Morris says. And when he finds a good location, he takes the time to make a good trail to the stand that will not alert deer when he hunts it. Take the time to determine the best location and then find the best route of accessing your stand. Myron Williams of Cheraw, SC goes a step further. He uses a backpack blower he removes all of debris from the forest floor for at least 75 yards going to a stand.
Total Concealment – silent, still and invisible
Camouflage clothing and systems are a multi-billion dollar industry. Greg Braselton of Greer, SC is a firm believer in concealment. He describes one of the mistakes hunters make as: “It’s not enough to be silent, still and invisible. You have to do all three all of the time.” He even goes so far as to test every item he hunts with under a black light. Deer have the ability to see ultraviolet light and the black light will show up any dyes in the clothing or gear that glows ultraviolent. Braselton readily admits that staying silent, still and invisible is difficult, but insists it is necessary. Hunters need to prepare themselves to be all three of these all of the time they are in the woods. Braselton says that camouflage is important but so too is being silent, and still. Be focused, and stay on point all of the time.
Expectations of Success
Success begets success. One of the biggest mistakes hunters make happens between their ears. They enter the woods not expecting to kill a big deer or even to see a deer. Braselton says, what separates successful hunters from not successful hunters is “setting a desired expectation.” Set an expectation and make it happen. “I expect to see a sunrise. I expect to see a deer, I expect to have some experience that makes it all worthwhile” Braselton says. By setting these expectations every hunt is a successful one. Confidence is paramount to killing big deer.
Hunters who will avoid these five mistakes will improve their odds at killing a mature buck this season. We spend a lot of time and money to enjoy our hunting. Taking these opportunities to minimize our mistakes will help up be more successful.