The first time I ever fired a shotgun was on Christmas Day when I was seven years old. “Hold it under your arm,” they said, “and just pull the trigger,” they said. When I did, the Stevens 20-gauge implanted its exposed hammer into my face, a gouge that required eight stitches and some time for my mother to forgive those who gave me such crummy advice.
Then there was the time my grandma told me I should put on as many pairs of socks as possible and still fit into my boots. I nearly got frostbite because the circulation in my feet was cut off during my entire duck hunt. Certainly that was terrible advice, too.
Throughout my 35 years of hunting as a lifestyle, a passion and profession, I’ve received lots of advice. Fortunately most of it is sound, but every now and then I’ll receive some that turns out to be terrible. Here are the two worst hunting tips I’ve ever received.
As a flatlander from Oklahoma, my first trip out West for elk was a real eye-opener. I’d chosen to hunt in the Durango, Colorado area, which boasts more 14,000-ft. mountains than anywhere else in the lower 48. The vertical landscape is brutal on the human body (especially if you’re not prepared for it), and because I was hunting public land, off-road vehicles weren’t allowed.
After the first two days my feet and shins were so sore that I believed something had to be wrong with my new (and top-dollar) Schnee’s Beartooth boots. That’s when one of my friends, over the phone, said, “Yea, those stiff leather boots are terrible for that up-and-down country where you need flexibility. You should try tennis shoes.”
So I did. And I almost died.
Right out of camp, as I ambled downhill, I had to cross a creek where my feet and socks were thoroughly soaked. On the way down the mountain my toes quickly wore a hole in the nylon mesh toe area, so then my feet began slipping back and forth in the shoe, an action that soon formed huge blisters on the balls of my feet. But that wasn’t the worst of it. That evening as I tried to climb and side-hill my way several thousand vertical feet back to camp, the sneakers offered no lateral ankle support; plus the soft foam outsole offered little grip on the hard rock as I tried to climb. Combined with my wet, wrinkly, blistered feet, I thought I was going to have to spend the freezing, rainy night under a pinetree.
Eventually I made it back to camp—well past dark—and threw the worthless tennies in the fire. I had to tape my blisters and nurse my feet back to health for the following few days. The lesson? In steep and rocky country, a quality leather, Gore-Tex-lined hunting boot is best.
As an avid deer hunter and a whitetail columnist for several hunting magazines, I’m ever-searching for new tactics and techniques that can make me more successful on big, wise bucks. So when some dude on the internet suggested using a zipline to access my deer stands, it made perfect sense. After all, a whitetail deer’s best defense is its nose; if it catches even a slight whiff of the stinky human scent left by your boots and body as you walk to your stand, your hunt could be over. What’s more, whitetails have great eyesight, but they don’t look up all that much—hence one of the reasons treestands are so effective.
So zipping to a deer stand above a buck’s line of sight, in theory, could be a huge advantage. And third, whitetails have ears like satellite receivers and even the slightest strange sounds—such as a hunter walking to his stand in the morning or evening—will spook them. So, if I could believe the guy on the internet, a zipline would be a silent way to enter my treestand.
So I did. And I almost died.
I spent about $1,500 and bought a professional zipline kit, and after a few days of tough and dangerous labor, I finally installed it. Turns out, I didn’t have the ⅜-inch metal cable tensioned tight enough, and my weight caused the zipline to droop to just a few feet above the ground, where I was met by a giant tree stump. Ouch! You can see the actual video for yourself right here.
I also learned that ziplines--at least those made with metal cable--are actually not very silent. They are, in fact, rather loud as the trolley rolls over the metal cable producing friction that causes vibration and therefore much sound.
But the zipline tip wasn’t a complete bust. After some modifications, the zipline indeed allows me to access my stand quickly and without leaving scent on the ground. While fairly frightening to use in the hours before daylight--it’s also pretty fun too. For more information on how to properly install a zipline, go to ziplinegear.com. For proven hunting tips, read Americanhunter.org rather than listening to some dude who claims to be an expert.