14 Oct TAG SOUP!!!
So, as we are about to enter a fresh hunting season, here are some thoughts on how not to hunt! Most articles will tell you how to get the right weapon, place a stand or camera, make a food patch, use technology, or discover some secret way of filling your tag. The truth is, that hunting is about feet on the ground and time spent afield.
When I was a Young Buck deer hunter, back in the day, I invested time and energy into my archery hunting. Before the season started, I practiced with my bow and scouted regularly. My stands were placed a month before the season. I had put eyes on almost every buck in the county.
One of my best new habits was to create a map of the area I hunted and mark down every bit of sign, beds, rubs, scrapes, etc. It didn’t take long to show patterns of where the deer were and where they would be. The other part that is essential is practicing with your bow, gun, or rifle. Trigger time is important to filing a tag.
On the first day of archery season, I went to my afternoon stand and within 30 minutes, a 10-point buck was on the ground. At first, I was disappointed that my archery season was over. Heck, I only hunted 30 minutes and now had to wait months until gun season for a fresh tag. In perspective, I realized that my real hunting season started well before opening day. I had shot at the range for many evenings. This was a nice problem to have.
Most hunters are lazy. Sitting in a tree stand from dawn till dusk is hard! There are certainly ways to be more comfortable, but it comes down to self-discipline. Once you convince yourself that the patience will pay off, a day in a tree will pass by easily and quickly. If you fail to have confidence, you will succeed in getting nothing.
Where you stand is critical. My old hunting mentor Doug often laughed about how so many hunters would spend the day in a place where he “wouldn’t even stop to take a dump!” Stand sights must be supported by good scouting and sign. Otherwise, set the tree stand up in your driveway.
In Montana, many antelope, deer, and big game hunters spend most of their days riding around in their truck or on wheelers. The grass is always greener over the next hill. They burn a lot of fuel and time. Ironically, much of the game is just out of view from the road. Inn Pennsylvania and Maryland forests look for those forgotten out of sigh honey holes. Once you find one, they will pay dividends for years.
There are 3 rules to Big game Hunting. Rule #1 Find the critter. Rule #2 Shoot the critter. Rule #3 Go back to rule #1. If you have done your homework and scouted, then Rule #1 is easy. If you are lazy, then you are relying on luck or a chance encounter. If you are on a great piece of property, then luck is more common. If you must hunt Public, then…
For years, I was the guy with “Lucky Land”. Deer were aplenty and I had exclusive access. I was able to ride a truck or wheeler close to my stands and could manage a 300-pound mule deer on my own. Then the landowner died. Suddenly my luck changed.
Hunting public land in a herd of hunters is different. Even if you scout and locate the patterns, random, roaming hunters spook or contaminate the areas. More private landowners are leasing their land to outfitters or private clubs. Others simply post the property and ban hunting altogether.
When you find a place to hunt, get back to your younger hunter ways. Plan, Prepare, and Put in the time. Make a map and record the data of sightings, sign, and scouting. With more information, the patterns will be easy to see. Otherwise, you will need to develop a taste for Tag Soup. Oh and don’t forget to thank the landowner.
Sadly, hunters today have a lot of pressure on them. A cell phone keeps them in communication, and they are rarely “alone”. A quick cell message can distract or interrupt a hunt. Hunters spend more time checking their e-mail than watching for that Big Buck. They need to turn off the technology and focus on the field or forests!
If you can discipline yourself with your cellphone distractions, it can also be company. During a tree stand deer hunt a few seasons ago, I was hunting along a river in Baltimore County, Maryland. Another friend was bow hunting at the same time in Grant County west Virginia. My friend Mike in Montana was on stand near Bozeman. Other friends were hunting in the Worthington Valley and near Butler Maryland. My buddy in Garrett County was also waiting for a deer. All of us were hunting alone, but together.
None of us tagged out but that was one of my favorite hunts. We shared pictures of deer, sounds and sights of our evening ritual. It takes discipline to ignore the message from the wife, marketplace, or Facebook post. That stuff can wait. Focus on the hunt.
Hunters that enjoy Tag Soup are one of two things. They are lazy or ignorant. Both issues are fixable. Put in your time and pay attention. Find an experienced Mentor that can teach you how to be a hunter. Retain and practice what you are taught. Most great hunters enjoy sharing the tradition.
Eating Tag Soup is a choice not a craving!
For more Montana Grant, find him enjoying meat from a tagged critter at www.montanagrantfishing.com.