Enjoy turkey season — check.
Plant Summer food plots — check.
Hang trail-cameras — check.
Oh yeah, when those items are checked off that means the next big thing on the horizon is deer season. Deer season is that wonderful time of year when you get together with family and friends at camp or wherever you hunt, and hopefully also have a personal meeting with a whitetail or two. Deer season is exciting, it’s full of promise, and it provides a new year of opportunities. If your goal is to have better hunting, here are 10 objectives for the upcoming season that can put you on the fast track to success. Read through them and pick at least five to accomplish this year.
1–Hunt a new spot
We all have our favorite stand or a few stands where we always hunt the most. Whitetails are very adept at patterning us and can quickly avoid shot opportunities. They have an uncanny ability to use unpressured areas on a property. This season, pick a spot you have not hunted in the past few years, or maybe ever, and hunt it at least once. You may be surprised who shows up for the party.
2–Pass a deer
Pass at least one deer in shooting range before filling your first tag. This is not an exercise in discipline or stupidity. Rather, it’s the perfect opportunity to really watch what the deer is doing. If you’re not going to shoot, you can better observe how the deer moves, feeds, beds, reacts to noises or other animals. You can learn a lot. This also provides a great opportunity to practice your shooting and breathing skills. There is a tremendous amount to be gained by not rushing to the first shot opportunity.
Disclaimer: If you’re a new hunter (or mentoring a new hunter), this may be your only chance for venison, or if it’s a buck that makes your leg shake like my golden retriever’s when I scratch his belly, disregard my suggestion to pass it. Shoot it! And then simply closely observe the next deer you see.
3–Note other species
Identify at least 10 other wildlife species you observe or hear while deer hunting. Ever had a long, boring sit? Yeah, me too, and one way to keep you alert and increase your enjoyment of the hunt is by watching other wildlife species in their daily activities. The deer woods are the ultimate theatre for sportsmen and women, and the more sights and sounds you can identify the more exciting the venue. It’s always fun to see whitetails, but I’ve had numerous deer hunts enhanced by chickadees, bobcats, waterfowl, raccoons and other species.
4–Change your routine
Deer are crepuscular. That means they are most active at dawn and dusk. However, that doesn’t mean they are only active at these time periods. I can’t tell you how many hunters I know who hunt from dawn to 10 or 11 a.m. and then from 2 p.m. til dark. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I spend many days hunting similar times. However, this season try hunting at least once from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. That time period can be especially productive in areas with high hunting pressure and during the rut.
5–Take someone new
Hunter numbers are declining, and this has a direct negative impact on our wildlife management programs and the future of hunting. It’s up to hunters to reverse the trend, and the best way to do that is to take someone new hunting this fall. If it’s a youth, that’s great. If it’s an adult, that’s even better.
It’s amazing the number of adults in your neighborhood who would jump at the chance to go hunting. They just need an invite or the encouragement. They could then buy hunting licenses, guns and other equipment, and in doing so contribute to our wildlife management programs. They could also be future volunteers and officers in QDMA Branches. QDMA members are great at this as about 75 percent of our members mentor more than one new hunter each year. Let’s keep it up and encourage others in our communities to do the same.
6–Share a meal
A great way to gain a hunting supporter is to share a meal of high-quality venison with them. This can be with a guy or gal who may decide to try hunting, or I have personal examples where my wife cooked venison for parties where her friends ate it and then encouraged their husbands to go deer hunting. Some of those guys are still showering me with gifts.
7–Talk to your neighbor
This can be the person you literally live beside or someone who owns the land bordering where you hunt. Talk to them about how they hunt deer. Deer hunting can be tremendous fun, but it can also be frustrating if you let it. A big part of frustration stems from neighbor relations. This objective isn’t meant to convince your neighbor to hunt exactly the same as you. Rather, it’s an opportunity to share a conversation, maybe a cup of coffee, and possibly an enhanced relationship across property lines. If so, that definitely will help you have better deer hunting.
8–Go small (game)
I am a die-hard deer hunter, but I make time each fall to go small-game hunting. Small game provides fast paced excitement, numerous shot and training opportunities, and high-quality table fare. It’s also the perfect venue for introducing new hunters as well as hunting with a group of friends.
9–Read your regs
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has now been confirmed in 26 states. That means the odds are you live in one of the states where it has been found. One of the best ways hunters can help slow the spread of CWD is to not transport the high-risk carcass parts of deer they shoot. These parts include the eyes, brain, spleen and backbone. Many states prohibit movement of these parts, and as hunters we should be aware of exactly what our state regulations are. This is especially important when traveling out of state to hunt. A good rule of thumb is “When in doubt, bone it out.”
10–Process your own
Venison that is. More and more hunters are learning to skin, cut and wrap their own venison. Some of the most popular educational workshops at our Whitetail Weekend in April involved processing deer. You can simply cut steaks and roasts or go another step and grind hamburger or make sausage or jerky. My family has always processed our own deer. I have fond memories of being a little boy helping my dad, and I have more recent memories of my young children helping me. My point isn’t to put meat processors out of business. Rather, it’s to encourage hunters to connect with their quarry on another level. No one takes a squirrel to the processor, but a lot of hunters take their deer simply because they’re afraid to try it on their own. QDMA has some videos to help, so try it this fall.
Stands hung – check.
Shooting lanes cut – check.
At least five of Kip’s 10 objectives picked for my season’s goals – better get at it. Good luck this fall!