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- Category Deer Hunting
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- Prostaff Member Dan Braman
After 24 years of professionally hunting I have seen so many things in the form of the "latest thing". It seems like every day there is a new product of some kind coming out that is going revolutionize whatever it is we are hunting. It's been my experience that 95% of these never work. It has constantly blown my mind at how many people fall off into this trap and continue to do so.
To me there are three main things one needs in order to become a more successful hunter. First and foremost is the wind. I think it would be safe to say that 90% of the time when something negative happens on a hunt (excluding migratory birds) the wind had something to do with it. It doesn't always have to mean that whatever your hunting smelled you. You can have a bull elk coming to your cow call and if he walks down wind of a couple cow elk chances are he'll go to them instead. A perfect example of this happened yesterday for me. I was guiding a Black Buck hunt for Mellon Creek Outfitters when a black buck walked out and started walking parallel to us. If he stayed on his course I was going to allow him to walk by and then once the wind got in my favor stalk him. As he stayed on this course out of range he walked straight down wind from six black buck doe. He immediately turned and started walking in our direction. Long story short, the hunter took his first black buck at between 200 and 250 yards.
This is obviously a case where the wind helped us. More often then not the wind hurts us. To me it can't be stressed enough to always pay very close attention to your wind. Simply walking to your stand in a way that the wind blows into the area the deer are feeding or bedded could mean you don't see anything. If your hunting elk and you make an approach so that your scent blows into the area where you think the elk are, your done. It is so important to make your approach to anything with wind at the front of your mind. If you'll practice patience and play the wind you will without a doubt have a much greater success.
Secondly, I've noticed over the years that how people move while walking creates a lot of problems. I assume everyone reading this has sat back and watched wildlife walk around. If animals are unprovoked they move slowly; meandering here and there. Likewise, you've noticed that often they stop frequently to look around, feed, or just stand in one place for no particular reason. I've watched people out scouting or hunting and they have a very deliberate movement to them. They walk as if they are going to a fire, or running from one. Animals that can't see you but can hear you notice this. They know it is not something they hear all the time. They become suspicious and start looking. Perhaps they don't look, they run. Once they run, everything they run by starts wondering why they're running. In essence this has caused a domino effect that could have been avoided if the hunter would have been moving more like an animal. Another thing, how many times have you been walking in the woods or set up on a mountain overlooking a canyon and something catches your eye? Most of the time you stare in that direction only to realize it was a bird, but your eye picked up on quick movement. If our eyes pick up on fast movement, what do you think animals see that survive in a predator filled environment?
Move slowly, stop, look, listen; walk like you see animals walk. Also, and this happens more times then not. People buy boots or shoes with bad soles on them. It is important to get whatever you put on your feet with soft soles. I would bet that 85% of the hunters I take hunting sound like they are walking on bubble wrap when we stalk animals. I know they are trying to be quiet but their shoes simply won't allow it. Soft soles will flex and bend when you step on branches and bigger sticks. With soft soles you can feel an object under your feet and make the right weight adjustment to keep from making unnecessary noise. Granted, they do need to be of good enough quality to keep thorns from coming through and sticking your foot, but there is no need to have shoes with soles so hard they break anything they touch.
For me, Russell Moccasin Company makes the best hunting boot there is. They are rugged, comfortable, and quiet. I have had two pair in twenty years and have only had the soles replaced on one of them one time. I wear these boots roughly 240 days a year. I've suggested them to countless clients and I always get the same answer, they are too expensive. My answer to that is, " You can buy two pair in twenty years or a new pair of what you have every five." Good boots are worth the money and will help far more the most realize in success. There are a ton of good companies out there, pick one and see how much they help.
Third and equally as important is scouting. I know there are so many people that just don't have the chance to scout as much as they want to, but with the trail cameras we have these days it sure makes things easier. You cannot spend enough time in your hunting area or at least close enough where you can see what's going on. I guide on 110,000 free-range acres in Texas for three months a year. 30 days prior to the season opening we are literally out there from daylight to dark. Once I find a buck that I know I will hunt for a client I'll start an entire sheet of paper dedicated to him. I'll make notes of where I saw him, what he was doing, what time it was, and moon phase. Each time I see that buck after I will make the same notes.
You'd be surprised when you go back and study the notes how many times you can find a pattern. Granted, most hunting areas don't require notes; I just do it because of the numbers of deer I find on a daily basis on this ranch. The season has been open now for 9 days and I have 17 bucks on my notepad. Make that sixteen as my client this past week got one of them. Because I keep tabs on specific animals with my trail cameras and my notes I knew where that buck would be and pretty much when he'd be there. When I scout I always have an idea of where I think the deer will be but I never assume that to be a fact. I approach cautiously and look where I think they won't be also. I don't want to disturb the areas but at the same time I want to know enough about them that I don't walk in blind opening morning and run everything away.
These kinds of preparations may seem extreme for some hunters and perhaps they are. However, I think everyone wants to be successful and better at whatever they do. I am constantly learning on a daily basis. Experience is the best teacher on earth but it demands an awfully big price. We are all going to blow stalks, scare animals, and make bad shots, but, the three things I mentioned above are what I believe to be some of the most important points to helping make your hunt a success. Pay very close attention to the wind, be careful how you move, and know your game. Whatever it is your hunting doesn't have the ability to reason like you do. Your quarry moves on instinct, may it be, hunger, thirst, or mating. Don't over think things, just move slow, pay attention, and don't give their instinct a reason to react. I hope you all have the best season ever. Good luck!!