If you watch hunting shows on television, or spend your day scrolling through social media feeds about hunting, it’s easy to see how unrealistic expectations are created compared to how a hunt typically goes down. What you see on the show are usually the highlights of many long hours, days, weeks and sometimes months of time, effort and hard work.
Of course there will be times when everything comes together on the first attempt, and congratulations to those who make that happen—but that’s not the norm. What is normal? Facing adversity on a hunt is very common in one way or another.
Here are a few common things that may happen on your hunt. Realize that you’re not the only one these things happen to, and try to make the best of your time in the field. There is one thing for certain: You can’t be successful if you never put in the time, so get out there any chance you get and start increasing your odds.
Weather. The weather does not always cooperate; in fact, it very rarely does. If the weather is unseasonably warm, hunt anyway. If it’s raining and you’re not excited about going out, set up a ground blind or box blind instead if possible, or grab a tree umbrella to keep you dry throughout your sit. The bucks are still moving, especially in November, so don’t let the weather bring you down.
Moon Phase. There are mnay people who swear by the moon phases, and that’s fine, but during November I’m a firm believer if you have time—hunt! I’ve killed deer on every moon phase possible and know that if a hot doe is running around, a mature buck doesn’t care. They will chase, and hopefully chase her right by your stand.
Short on Time. I don’t advocate getting to your stand at the very last minute, but I also understand people lead busy lives. As much as we’d all love to do all-day sits during the rut, that’s not always possible, so make the most of what you have. Try to find places where you won’t bust your deer coming in, and take the time to clear entrances so you can get in and out as quiet as possible. For example, we have a stand on a bean food plot and its always noisy getting in and out. We took the truck and drove a path right to our stand in early October so we had a quiet in and out.
Bad Timing. This is especially common on outfitted hunts—the old, “you should have been here last week!” or “I’m positive next week’s going to be on fire.” Well, here’s the thing: You’re there now, so let’s make the most of it.
Over-Pressured Land. Unfortunately I’ve been on stands where it seems every deer that walks through picks its head up and stares right at my stand. If you’re not moving, there is a good chance there have been hunters there before you who were busted. Deer learn quickly, and it’s not uncommon for them to start looking up before entering a field, for example. There are two ways to combat this. You could move your stand slightly to a different tree, or just sit completely still. Often times they will check it out and if they see nothing out of the ordinary or any movement, they will carry on with their business. If you get a few deer to pass through calmly, the chances of getting a buck to follow their path becomes increasingly better.
Neighbors Non-Stop Shooting. Just because you’re hearing shooting from the neighbors’ property doesn’t mean they’re killing all your big bucks. Look at it as a positive. In other words, with luck they’re pushing everything off their property onto yours. I’ve known people who have been shooting squirrels, coyotes, does, just shooting for practice, etc. right during the middle of deer season. So just remember if you hear shots that doesn’t mean big bucks are dropping left and right.
Outfitted Hunt Not What You Expected. Even after all your research, you may encounter hunts where it’s just not what you expected. Remember, you chose the state and area for a reason, so stay positive. The best thing you can do is sit back, take a breath and be happy you’re not home working or doing others chores, and put in your time. I’ve had about four hunts in my life where I would have bet almost everything there was zero chance on earth it could possibly work out, and by some miracle I got lucky. This isn’t always the case, but stay positive and make the most of your time. With that said, always learn from your mistakes, and figure out what to ask next time in order to avoid the misunderstanding.
Feeling Ill. If you hunt enough, there will be times where you’re just not feeling up to it. Sometimes you’re better off not doing the morning hunt, getting some rest and hope that you’ll feel better by the afternoon. Skipping a half day and feeling better is much more enjoyable than sitting out there all day feeling sick and getting more run down.
Big Buck Already Shot/Gone. If you had a buck on camera that you were chasing and news spreads that your neighbor shot him, don’t quit hunting. The reason he was wandering over to your neighbors’ was probably because of the rut. The good news is that means other people’s bucks may wander to your area. This is the time of year where everything can change in a heartbeat, so stay positive!
Nothing on the Trail Camera. Cameras are a huge help when it comes to scouting, but I’ve seen too many people (myself included at times) decide not to hunt because there have been no shooters coming through an area. We went an entire season without one of our biggest bucks ever showing up on camera, and we had cameras everywhere. The only way we saw him was by actually hunting, so as good as cameras are, you are still the best scout on earth!
No Daycare. There are times when nobody is home to watch the little ones, and this can often lead to having to skip a hunt. If the weather is nice enough or you have a box blind or heater—take them with you! It’s a great learning and bonding experience, and if you can keep them entertained and quiet, your chances are better than sitting with them at home, plus you’ll make memories that none of you will ever forget.
Access to Private Land. If you can’t afford a lease or don’t have access to private land, there is always one other option. Find some areas you’d be interested in hunting, research who owns them (The HuntStand App has property ownership data) and knock on doors or make a call. What I suggest is to always offer them something first, so explain that you love to hunt, will be respectful of their property, and offer to trade for services. This can be anything you’re able and willing to do: Fix a fence, help out around the house, do repairs, or if you have a specialty, tell them! People appreciate taking the initiative and you may be surprised at the doors this can open.
Too Tired. This will happen to everyone at some point. I’ve been to the point of exhaustion, and if it’s just being tired, often times I’ll push myself to get on stand and then take a nap there. Sleeping on a stand isn’t ideal, as you may miss something, but it’s better than staying inside. When you awake you may just be covered up in deer so learn to wake up slowly.