By Chris Larsen
We can become so wrapped up in the latest gear and newest techniques and tactics that we often overlook the most basic factors in being successful hunters. I often make notes after hunts to record what went wrong and what went right during my deer hunting adventures. After recently reviewing those notes, I’m sharing my observations with you. Hopefully, these help both of us this season.
gun deer hunting tips
Walk The Property
This will be my third straight season of hunting on my primary deer hunting property. I know a lot more about it now than a few years ago. However, there are always changes occurring. If it is possible, walk the property boundary a month before the season. Look for changes in surrounding crop plantings, timber practices, food plots, or even construction.
Last season a few small alterations drastically changed the way deer used our property. A neighbor began a food plot program for the first time last fall. After agricultural crops were out of the fields, these food plots drew a lot of deer in. They were still using our woods for cover, but deer movement changed drastically. In another case, a stand that was very productive a few years ago, went cold last season. I never figured out why until after the season. A section of fence broke about forty yards from a main deer trail the stand was set up on. The deer simply shifted their travel to take advantage of the lower fence. A walk around the perimeter during the preseason may have prevented a handful of fruitless hunting days.
Take Advantage Of The Calendar
On weekends, especially opening weekends, hunting pressure is at it’s peak. On these days, plan to sit in your stand all day long. Use neighboring hunters to do drives for you. When they start moving off the stand to head in for lunch or coffee, they will move deer around for you. If sitting all day is just too much for you, set a goal to sit until two or three o’clock. Taking advantage of the lunch crowd is often all you need. Hunting season is the high point of autumn for most of us. But football season is also going strong as the deer get moving. If your local pro team has a game scheduled during the day, expect a lot of hunters to leave the woods in the hour leading up to kickoff. Sorry Michigan hunters. This strategy doesn’t work for you.
Hunting is slower during the week. The casual hunters are back at work and the woods begin to return to normal. However, deer are still holed up in thick cover and spooked from heavy weekend hunting. This time you won’t have the crowds to push deer for you. Weekday hunts are perfect for still hunting and mini-drives. If rain or snow has fallen, use the damp ground to cover the sounds of your footsteps while still hunting. Move slowly through cover while watching for flashes of antler or the flick of a tail or ear. Deer that are bedded in thick cover won’t stick out like a sore thumb so you’ll have to look for little clues. Most hunters focus on big pieces of woods or cover. Smart deer know this and congregate in small islands of cover. Check out all surrounding habitat, not just the obvious spots.
Sighting in my gun is an annual tradition. Why people choose to skip this step is beyond me. Not only is it smart and ethical, sighting in a gun is fun. We’re talking about another opportunity to shoot a gun! What I’m not so good at is making checklists. It seems like every season I arrive at camp missing something. This year, I’ll be making two lists. One list of items for camp such as pillows, blankets, alarm clock, radio, extra batteries and food. The other list will be things I take in the field with me like a rope, license, ammunition, knife, and gutting gloves. Nothing is more frustrating than not having something you need. Start building those checklists well ahead of the season so nothing is left off.