If you’re not improving, you’re stagnating. I’ve seen many hunters over the years get comfortable and fail to take the next step to becoming a truly talented and successful deer hunter. These are the most common pitfalls, but it’s worth noting up front that they’re all avoidable. On some level we are all probably a little guilty of at least one of these things, so it’s worth being aware of these habits that can limit your personal growth as a hunter.
Hunting the Same Property Over and Over The trend these days seems to be buying or leasing hunting land in attempt to grow big, unpressured deer that are easier to hunt. While I think any hunter would love to own her or his own little slice of heaven, I do think this practice can land you in a rut. While limiting yourself to one property, or worse yet, creating an “easy hunting” situation, can be fun and even rewarding in its own way, it does little to increase your skill and woodsmanship.
I think back to my early years when I had permission on a 50-acre piece of ground in southern Michigan. The first two years I hunted that parcel nearly every day of the season. While I did kill some decent bucks and learned how to hunt that property, I didn’t learn much besides how to hunt that particular property. You could have thrown me into a new area and I would struggled because I didn’t have a broad scope of experience in a variety of terrains and habitats.
As I got older, my desire for new adventures far outweighed the desire to own a piece of ground where I could manage for big bucks. I believe a hunter who is constantly throwing themself into new and unfamiliar situations will develop the most skills and instincts. This will ultimately make her or him a better and more versatile hunter.
Relying Too Heavily on Trail Cameras I don’t believe any other tool has given hunters more of an advantage over the game they pursue than the trail camera. Aside from telling you the caliber of deer out there, they can also be an awesome learning tool. But, just like anything else, I believe trail cameras can be overused and ultimately can limit your own personal growth as a hunter.
These days, conversations among hunters often center around sharing trail cam pictures of big bucks they otherwise would have no idea existed. This reliance on technology to tell us what’s out there is robbing us of important sign-reading skill and woodsmanship that could potentially carry over to an unfamiliar hunting area. To make matters worse, the increased usage of cellular cameras now allows hunters to just sit and wait for that real-time image of the big buck they want to pursue. I know guys running upwards of 50 cell cameras but hardly doing a lick of actual scouting in-season. While getting that big buck picture while you sit on the couch watching football may seem cool and exciting, it clearly does very little to improve your skill as a hunter. Getting out there, mixing it up, reading the sign, making mistakes and trying to improve on them is what really creates that growth.
Too Much Focus on Equipment Modern-day equipment is awesome. From new bow technology to new mobile hunting gear, we are in the some of the best innovation years hunters have ever experienced. It’s easy to get overly focused on the new-and-improved next best thing, thinking it will give us that edge to finally become a consistent big buck killer.
The truth is, the equipment we use is just one ingredient in the recipe for shooting success. One of the most consistent public land hunters I know hunts with an untuned bow from 2003 using an original Lone Wolf tree stand and some Summit strap-on sticks. This guy could literally out-hunt 99% of the population. What he does possess that contributes to his success is unreal map-reading skills, decades of experience of pursuing hard-earned, pressured bucks and a constant drive and work ethic that propels him past the competition.
I believe having the ability to be mobile is a huge advantage. Today’s equipment no doubt makes that easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable. Ultralight tree saddles and stands give the hunter so many awesome options it’s hard to not want to try them all. I too am guilty of this. The problem exists when the focus on equipment surpasses that of the overall hunt process. Some guys are always switching bows, adjusting parts, and tinkering with stands. While these exercises could make some incremental improvements to your hunting success, the real improvements come from getting out, scouting, and learning from experiences. I try to limit my gear focus to the months of the year when my scouting is the least beneficial. For me, that falls in the April to August time frame. That’s when I really work on my shooting form and try to make improvements to my rigs. That’s the season I get new gear or tinker with existing gear. Then, once that window closes, the focus returns to planning the first hunt and locating bucks to pursue for early season.
We’ve all probably fallen into these traps as hunters. The excessive focus on gear, reliance on technology, or pigeon-holing yourself to one property are things we’ve done that limits our growth. Here’s an important question every hunter should ask her or himself: Do I just want to be successful or do I actually want to become a better hunter?
Feature image via Captured Creative