Insanity is doing the same things over and over and getting the same results. If the results are positive, then at least there is hope. If failure is the result every time, then it is time to do something different.

As a young deer hunter, I read every magazine and book I could find about deer hunting. When I was around other deer hunters, I asked lots of questions. With patience, perseverance, and experience, I finally began having success. A big part of it was sitting still all day. Once I learned how to pick a spot and set a stand, I was able to start seeing more deer. With fine tuning and adjustments, I learned from my mistakes.

Here are some of the best suggestions I can share after a lifetime of deer hunting.

1.)    You must shoot deer to learn how to shoot deer.  Sounds simple but not all states have liberal limits. You may have only one tag and hope to use it on a buck. Personally, I like to eat deer. Antlers are cool but does are better eating than bucks. I prefer doe antelope as well. If you wait for a great buck, you may have to eat your tag. Take the first decent critter God sends your way. Over the course of a lifetime, you will tag great bucks but, one in the freezer is way better than none.

2.)    Avoid other hunters. Deer and elk will leave the country once pressure is too much. Hunt the areas where escape cover exists. Go where no hunters go. Leave earlier to get higher on the mountain and let the morning coffee hunters drive the deer to your uphill stand.

3.)    Talk to the animals! Most hunters claim calling is a waste of time. The problem is most of these hunters call when there are no deer. Many hunters use the wrong call at the wrong time. If you are doing a doe in estrus call in early season, you are talking to yourself. Deer also call softly. Their calls are often hard to hear. Call softly and do not scream at the deer. Also use a decent call. Cheap calls sound cheap and not natural.

4.)    Tree Stand Placement and height. There is no clear perfect tree stand height. Placement is more important and make sure that you have a wide tree/s to break up your silhouette. Background is huge! Go only as high as you need to get a clean shot within your skill limit. Wearing camo, scent masking, and good placement allows you to get closer. The higher your stand the smaller your target becomes. Use a range finder to pre-mark your shooting distances.

5.)    Aim at the exit! When shooting a deer, think about where the arrow or bullet will exit. You will not kill the critter unless you take out the lungs or heart. Know deer anatomy and select you kill target carefully and responsibly.

6.)    Be Prepared! Check your equipment regularly. Keep your guns and bows in a protective case. Practice routinely. When I can hunt from camp or home, I take a few practice shots every time before heading in the woods. Practice while wearing your gear. Gloves, head nets, loose camo clothing and a harness will change things. When I get to my bow stand, I shoot one scented arrow, into the dirt, where I feel the best shot will be. It is always under 20 yards and suited for my shooting style. I can’t tell you how many bucks I have taken while they are smelling the marker arrow.

7.)    Hunt long and hard! Deer hunting is about hours of nothing and moments of intense excitement. If you snooze, you lose. Hunt early and stay late. Know the legal shooting times and be a responsible hunter. Those last final moments will often pay off. I also hang tough during mid-day when other hunters head back to camp for lunch. Their unintentional deer drives fill many tags.

8.)    Lower your bow pull weight. Accuracy is more important than speed. I have never shot an elk or buck over 18 yards, with a bow! The whole point of the camo gear, scents, stalking, stands, scouting, is to learn how to get close! Archery hunting is intimate! Get comfortable getting close! A comfortable, accurate shot is better than a quick one. You may need to hold for an extended time so practice.

9.)    Hunt a new stand location often. Staying in the same stand allows the deer to pattern you. Place several stands in your hunting area for different wind and weather conditions. When bucks are chasing does your stands need to be in those areas. Stormy weather stands tend to be nearer pines and thickets. You will also learn your hunting area better. I often see more deer the first time I hunt a new stand. If you need to move a stand, do it during mid-day when deer are resting.

10.) Don’t be afraid to hunt on the ground. Still hunting is an effective way to hunt. Move slow, have great camo, and manage your scent. Always stop by a tree or cover. Take 2-3 steps and stop. Natural ground blinds can be very comfortable. Simply add a stool or bench. Practice drawing your bow or raising your gun in the limited space or stand before you hunt. This will alert you to a position or obstruction problems.

Hunting is different than killing. Anyone can hunt. I have hunted with guys that have spent a lifetime doing the same things wrong. They are still waiting for their first deer. If they are satisfied, then great. For many of us, success is measured with meat in the freezer as well. To increase your success, hunt hard and hunt harder. Hunt when you can and as often as you can. The biggest bucks and bulls I have shot have been in mid-day, 10-2. I see more critters earlier and later but…

Do it often and do it different!

Montana Grant

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