If you only make one change in your hunting strategy for 2013, may I suggest this. Hunt less.
Yes, I said hunt less. Forget the old saying “you can’t kill em the couch”, and instead seat yourself firmly in front of the TV, watch some college football, and finish that overflowing pile of nachos that’s slowly slipping from your plate onto your shirt. Seriously, you don’t need to feel guilty anymore. Those nachos taste damn good, enjoy them.
That said, before your blood pressure gets too much higher and you hit Send on that nasty email you’re sending me, just hear me out.
I want you to hunt less this year for a good reason, and with a few qualifications. By limiting your hunts (at least in your best areas) to only when conditions are right, you will kill more, despite hunting less.
Yes, you will kill more, by hunting less.
Quality Over Quantity
I believe this is the greatest lesson I have learned in my evolution as a hunter, progressing from someone trying to kill any buck, to someone now who is targeting only mature bucks. When you take that step, you must also change your mindset. No longer is quantity of hunts the most important factor, instead quality of hunts is.
I’ve come to find that a few, carefully planned hunts, when the conditions are right, can be far more effective than hunting every time you can, regardless of other factors. If you’re just trying to get in the woods, then go right ahead and hunt away. But if you’re trying to kill a mature deer, you need to eliminate the hunts that are hurting your chances, and focus just on those times that are most likely to lead to a kill.
So how exactly can limiting your hunts help you kill more deer? Most notably, because by limiting your hunts, you limit the pressure being put on deer in your area. Nothing is more important in my opinion, if you’re targeting mature bucks, than managing pressure on your deer. Pressure (AKA human contact, scent, sound, presence) is a big buck’s kryptonite. He hates it and he avoids it at all costs. Any encounter with human pressure during the hunting season has the possibility of driving a mature buck to relocate or become near nocturnal. What that means for you as a hunter is that your hunt for that buck is blown.
That said, think of each hunt as a game of poker. If you throw down big money on every hand you get, you’re going to go broke. But if you wait until the time is right, and strike at the perfect time, you can win the pot.
And staying with that analogy…
Each hunt truly is a gamble.
Every time you head into the woods, you need to weigh the risk and the reward. There’s the reward of a potential shot at a deer, but at the same time there is a high risk of informing deer of your presence, and damaging your chances of getting a shot. Think back on past seasons, how many shots did you get at deer, and how many times did you spook deer? My guess is that we’ve all experienced many more spooks than shots. What’s scary is those “spooks” you can think of are just the ones you actually saw, can you imagine how many more deer might have winded you from a distance that you never saw? Or the number of deer that cross your trail a day after you left the woods, and immediately realize that a human has invaded their territory?
The point I’m making is that the risk is high. Each and every time you head out on a hunt, the odds are against you. That said, you need to strike hard and fast when the cards are right, but you need to hold off when it’s not.
So what are the right conditions?
Great question, how can a hunter tell when the cards are right? The answer to this question will be different for every hunter, in every different part of the country. But let me throw out a couple examples from my own experience.
For me, I’m looking for a confluence of factors including weather, wind direction, time of year, available access routes, time of day, food sources, and property lay out.
When all or most of these chips fall right, it’s time to head to the woods.
Enjoy Those Nachos, But Not Too Much
Now yes, I realize earlier I said you needed to stay home and enjoy those nachos. But just don’t do it too much. In an ideal world, we would all have many different hunting properties and locations that would be great for all different wind directions, times of year, etc. If you have that kind of situation, in which you can spread your hunting pressure over 10 or 20 areas, and still hunt good situations – then go for it!
But if you’re like me, and hunting locations are limited, you need to play your cards right and be patient. That said, be careful not to go overboard with this. If you’re always afraid of the risk of imperfect conditions, and then never hunt, you’ll be equally disappointed.
When you do get the conditions needed for a high probability hunt, you need to hunt smart and hunt hard.
A Balancing Act
Successfully hunting mature deer is a balancing act of patience, determination, perseverance and strategy. Unfortunately, patience is one of the virtues that many of us forget about.
This fall, remember that each hunt is a gamble. Before heading out make sure you weigh the risk and reward, and remember it’s quality and not quantity that makes a truly successful mature buck hunter.
I love getting out and hunting just as much as the next guy, but if I had to choose, I’d rather have one successful hunt than ten duds where all I see are squirrels.
As you’re going through your first few weeks of hunting this year, take some time to think about how hunting a little less, might help you kill a little more. You might just hit the jackpot.
– Mark Kenyon