5 Silly Mistakes Hunters Make to Skunk Themselves

They're normal, they're natural ... and they're not going to help you harvest a deer this year.

by
posted on November 27, 2023
Istock Photo Shhh In Deer Stand
Shhhh. No, really. Shhhh.

With today’s hectic schedule, dedicating more than a day or two to hunting is indeed a tall order. Many of us are lucky to find any time at all to shimmy up a tree and wait for free meat to step out in front of our guns. Therefore, it pays to prepare for your hunt to the best of your ability, and avoid any activities that might make the game you’re after decide to take a different route. Here are five areas where hunters put the odds against themselves.

Clothing

Believe it or not, your hunt starts at the closet. While the ambient temperature is likely your driving decision-making metric, one must also consider a few other factors.

First, is there going to be a breeze? Even a 5 MPH wind can make a normally comfortable temperature chilly. Look a little closer at the forecast and if gusty conditions are in your future, thin wind-breaking materials are going to keep you warmer than puffy items made of materials like wool or cotton. Concurrently, take a peek at the humidity levels, as it has the ability to amplify the ambient temperature’s effects on your skin. Wet conditions are going to require more layers, and it wouldn’t hurt to go with something waterproof for the outside.

Lastly, it’s important to consider your journey to your hunt stand and honestly appraise the level of work involved with getting there. If it’s enough to make you sweat, you’re going to want to put those additional layers on after you have reached your destination, as trapped perspiration will rapidly pull heat away from your body.

Noise making

I don’t get to point to cartoons for examples very often, but it turns out Elmer Fudd had it right when he said, “be vewy, vewy quiet.” Animals like whitetail deer and bear are far more in tune with what the woods should sound like than we are, and as such, we need to make extra efforts to ensure they don’t know we’re there.

If you plan on bringing a chair along, test it in your backyard first. Sit on it and wiggle around a bit. If it creaks, see if you can address it with lubricant. If not, you’re going to want to make another selection.

The same goes for brand-new clothing. If the fabric is swishy, wash it a few times with scent free laundry detergent (skip the fabric softener) to see if that helps. If not, understand that you must remain still as a stone when afield … or seek out other duds.

Another area that gets outdoors folk is meal time. Choose quiet snacks in minimalist, silent packaging. Leave the chips at camp and instead opt for a sandwich wrapped in a paper towel. Jerky makes a great nosh, as do most other meat-based treats, so consider those over crunchy items. Beverages are best transported in hard-sided containers in lieu of aluminum cans or crinkly plastic bottles.

Talking

Although talking can easily fit into the noise-making category, it’s so detrimental to a hunt that I chose to give it its own spotlight. In the same way that we know hearing “moo” means there’s a cow around, wildlife knows that hearing “Hey is that a deer?!” means there’s a human close by. Certain types of hunts are social events, whereas others certainly are not.

Unless you are in a mentoring situation, either as the new hunter or as the mentor, little benefit comes from sticking two deer hunters in the same blind. Doing so not only cuts the area you can watch in half, but invites game-alerting conversation.

If you’re sharing your stand, both sportsfolk need to establish and understand a system of non-verbal cues; keeping a pen and pad is handy too. If you must talk, understand that most quarry can hear a whisper better from a distance than you can with lips touching your ear. If you can’t clam up, it’s best to split up.

Scent management

Most hunters entering the field know enough to wash their clothes and bathe with scent-eliminating products, and that’s great. However, I have seen the most valiant efforts derailed through the initiation of the daily routine. The scent of deodorant, sunblock, even some kinds of makeup is more than enough to alert deer to stay away.

The trouble is, our daily grooming routines are sort of pre-programmed for most of us, and we tend to fall back into our programming when we’re tired (say, at 4:00 a.m.). The night before a hunt, I urge members of our party to bag up items like hair gel and hand lotion, and place them somewhere they wouldn’t normally look, like under a bed or in a desk drawer. Not having them in their usual place usually serves as a reminder to hit the field au naturel.

Phone usage

I have mixed feelings about using your phone whilst passing the time in a stand or a blind. If you flick your screen on before the sun rises, it’s like putting a flashlight to your face, likely sending anything within eyeshot running for the hills. However, if done right, it could be a means of keeping you from fidgeting. Sure, your thumbs will be moving, but that movement is largely covered by the back of your phone, which remains motionless for the most part.

Moreover, if it keeps you from making larger movements, like playing with your beard or twirling your hair, it’s certainly helping you. I’ve been though countless harvests that began with me putting down my phone and picking up my rifle, so I can easily stand by that theory. However, it is fair to mention that I often wonder how many deer I have missed slinking by because I had my nose in my phone. The key is to remember that you’re there to hunt and to make phone use a break, not the norm.

Mastering your behavior and your equipment will always be the key to leaving the woods with meat, so it pays to put some effort into these areas. Do so with the understanding that the game you’re after is more adept at survival than you are at pursuit. I have a good friend who says, “A deer’s full-time job is staying alive,” and those words have resonated deeply. With that annual hunt right around the corner, now is an excellent time to check out your gear, create a game plan and make a little extra room in the freezer.

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