No matter what you hunt, there are some general guidelines to follow that will make you a better hunter.
1. Get good maps and lots of them: I spend a lot of time in the great outdoors and a good map has saved my bacon more than once. The first and least obvious reason is that things aren’t always as they appear. Just because there is a No Trespassing sign on a tree or fence doesn’t mean that you can’t hunt there. I have found on more than one occasion that people have put up No Trespassing signs on public land. This is usually done by people who own neighboring property. You will of course want to talk to the people who own the neighboring property. Be polite, but don’t forget your map.
The second reason you want a good map is so that you can better understand the layout of the land. A good map will not only show you the rivers and streams, but also the elevation of the hills and valleys. You can also use the map to mark out where you have either seen game or recent signs of their activity. This will give you a good idea of where to best set up your blind or tree stand.
2. Scout out the area: A successful hunting trip can take weeks of planning and preparation. As previously stated, it’s worthwhile to mark where you have seen wild game. Most wild game are creatures of habit and tend to follow a predictable pattern. For example, turkeys tend to roost in the same area every night. Deer trails are formed because they routinely walk the same ground.
3. Prepare the area in which you are going to hunt: Some areas require less preparation than others. The real work starts after you have found an area with a lot of game activity and set up you blind/tree stand. After you have found a promising place it’s time to start clearing out shooting lanes. This will entail the use of a machete or hatchet. You will want to clear straight lines of sight by cutting branches and small bushes that may lie between you and your intended target.
4. Practice with your intended tool whether that is a bow or rifle: This may seem like common sense, but it’s worth noting. Practice bringing your rifle up and clicking off the safety before firing. I can’t begin to imagine how many deer have been lost because someone forgot to click off their safety. This is more about learning muscle memory and establishing good habits than it is about burning ammo. I recently read that for deer hunting the average time a hunter has to shoot is around 7 seconds.
5. Don’t change anything the day of the hunt: Hunting seasons can be short. As such, equipment failure can have a large negative impact. A hunt is not a good time to test out new equipment to see if it works properly. For example, opening day should not be the day that you find out your range finder didn’t come with batteries.
6. Wait 10-15 minutes after shooting big game such as a deer or elk: An animal that has been shot can still cover a great deal of ground if it thinks that it’s being chased. However, if it feels that the hunt is over it may just lie down and pass peacefully.
7. Popular big game animals such as deer have heightened sense and are always on alert: Common big game animals are much more focused on movement than they are on color. You can get away with quite a bit of movement as long as you move slowly. The second sense in a deer’s arsenal is their sense of hearing. Deer have incredible hearing. As such, hunting near a river or stream can help disguise the sound of your movement. By far a deer’s best sense is their sense of smell. As such, you want to make sure to be downwind from your prey.
8. Clean the area around your bind of leaves and small twigs: This will help limit the amount of noise you make when you position yourself to take a shot.
9. When following blood trail, it’s advantageous to carry some brightly colored tape: Use the tape to mark every spot where you find blood. This will help you get a better sense of when the deer is traveling.
10. Pack your gear in an organized fashion rather than just haphazardly throwing everything into a bag: Put items that you are most likely to use on top and inside pockets. Put less used items such as a sleeping bag or extra jacket in the bottom of the bag. You don’t want to be in a position where you need to dump everything out of your bag in the pouring rain so you can get to your waterproof pack cover that you suck in the bottom.