Hunters have their favorite spots, friends, and weapons. They become attached to these things because of past success. For some hunters, trying new places, friends, and weapons is a challenge.

You will never have enough hunting places. Always look for new and fresh opportunities. Hunting areas go through cycles.  Back inn the day, I was the park Ranger for a large, wooded, suburban park. When I first scouted the area, I rarely saw a deer. Maybe a few tracks, but no huntable population. Two decades later, the Park was crawling with deer.

Deer populations change due to food, disease, pressure, timbering, and basic environmental/habitat changes. A decade is a blink in time. Your great hunting stand location is great for a reason. When a neighboring landowner cuts down their trees, alters a crop, builds a house, or makes a dramatic change, your hunting spot will change too. Usually for the worst. Therefore, proper management of the land and critters are so important. Everything is connected and hunters do not always have control over their hunting spots.

Hunting Buddies are harder to find than a wife. As we age, our pool of potential candidates decreases. We are no longer in school where there are a ton of other people. Jobs do not always have large numbers of co workers to pick from. No matter how hard you try, finding a safe, reliable, and skilled partner is hard. Many of the best hunting buddies come from a random meeting.

You cannot make a hunting buddy. It kinda just happens. One of my buddies, Dave, literally ran into his best hunting buddy. While driving, Dave collided with Archie who was riding on his motorcycle. The accidental meeting led to a future turkey hunting partner. They hunt together to this day.

Many hunters are favor a certain weapon or style of hunting. As a young man, I was taught to still hunt. This style of hunting required you to know the wind, have sharp eyes, and be physically tough. Most hunters today sit in a blind or tree stand. Some bait the area to attract the deer instead of “hunting” for them.

Different weapons have different ranges. For a reasonable archer, 20 yards is the range. In my life, I have never tagged a big game animal with a bow at more than 18 yards. Getting close is an intimate way to hunt. It requires more skill and time than drilling a critter at 500 yards. It is like the difference between having sex or making love. One style is more exciting than the other.

Whatever weapon you choose, you must learn the safety requirements. You cannot bring the bullet, slug, arrow, bolt, or buckshot back once it leaves your weapon. Pulling the trigger or releasing a shaft is an incredible responsibility. No critter is worth an injury or death.

Different hunting habitats will often determine what weapon is the best choice. If you hunt an open field or area, then a long-range weapon is needed. The longer the range, the more practice you will need. Being a marksman is a perishable skill. Without constant repetition, you will lose this practiced ability. That one perfect shot is the result of hundreds of trigger pulls from the bench.

Archers require a different arsenal. These weapons may range from a homemade primitive bow to a modern crossbow. A more modern recurve may be your choice. Compound bows are now capable of speeds over 300 feet per second. Each weapon has its pros and cons.

After successfully harvesting deer with most of these weapons, I challenged myself to make a truly primitive bow and arrow. A friend mentored me as I shaved and shaped a limb of Osage Orange into a fine bow. The string was made from sinew from a roadkill whitetail. Each arrow was hand crafted using turkey fletching’s, and knapped chert points. Once I was practiced, using a 3-finger release, I went on the hunt. It was amazing to see a sharp rock on a stick fly from a limb and pass through a deer at 15 yards. What a challenge!

Many developed areas have strong deer populations but restrict what weapon you can use. This means a shotgun slug. The range is less but todays modern sabotted slugs can accurately reach out to 300 yards. Back in the day, when we shot “Punkin balls”, anything over 50 yards was a hail Mary shot.

These restricted areas may also allow a primitive Black Powder weapon. Vintage flintlock weapons require a different skill set than a modern breech loading style. Newer bullets and balls are consistent, more aerodynamic, and accurate. Scopes and other high-tech gizmos offer advantages.

The best shot that I know hunted a huge, open cornfield, in a county where only shotguns were allowed. This was back in the early Punkin Ball days. Accuracy was limited to maybe 50 yards. Keith hunted in a thousand-acre field, where the deer stacked up for safety and privacy. In the middle of that field was a sunken Goose hunting pit. Keith would get into the pit and use sandbags to support his primitive, 50 cal. Black powder Enfield rifle. Even from the blind, Keith needed to take shots of several hundred yards. Using practiced shooting skills, Keith always came home with a huge buck.

Near where I live, we have a Weapons Restriction Zone. This means no rifles. You can use almost anything else and additional tags are $10 each. Most hunting is along a watershed and near developed homes. Access is hard but the deer are abundant. During one season, I challenged myself to harvest a deer with every legal weapon. This meant a Black powder Hawken rifle, shotgun, pistol, and bow and arrow. Each weapon required a different hunting style and strategy. Ironically, every deer was harvested at less than 30 yards! Sadly, the area that I hunted so successfully is now subdivided and developed. No hunting allowed.

My point is to challenge yourself to become a genuinely great hunter. Search out new places and destinations. Mentor new hunters and companions. Pull the trigger on several practiced weapons. Adapt, adjust, and overcome.

During this challenge, you will discover that the best part of hunting is the hunt!

Montana Grant

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