Controlling the Controllable…in the deer woods

In the sport of deer hunting there are many things that are out of our control.  Many of these uncontrollable elements of the hunt receive our blame for the lack of our success.  Examples of this may include the weather, moon phase, rut timing, acorn crop, farmer activity, and the list goes on. It is easy to deflect the blame to these occurrences, dwell on their unpredictability and just chalk up another unsuccessful season to bad luck. One thing many people forget is that those who were successful were faced with the same unpredictable challenges and somehow managed to produce a different result.  Certainly some will attribute this to luck; but luck alone cannot account for all the taxidermy bills after a tough season. It is quite likely, that many of these fortunate hunters were doing a better job of focusing their attention, on the factors of the hunt that they can control.

deer hunting from a climber So many things can go wrong during a hunt that are self-inflicted a book could be written on the subject.  Since this is an article and not a book I will focus on a few.  Several of which I have experiences with this season, which led to the inspiration of this writing.

Did you make a bad shot?  I had the unfortunate experience the first week of November of losing a beautiful whitetail buck.  The shot was certainly within my shooting abilities, the angle was good, penetration was complete and the deer reacted as though it was mortally wounded; all signs that I was going home a happy hunter.  After a wait of a few hours and a very solid blood trail for quite a distance, I was left scratching my head as to why we ran out of blood and had no buck to show for it.  My immediate thoughts went to my shooting.  Had I done everything in my power to insure I was shooting to the best of my ability?  Had I spent enough hours with my new equipment to be automatic in my form?  Was I focused and settled when I turned the arrow loose? With a cloud of doubt around my mind the only answer was to practice relentlessly until I gained the confidence to climb back into a tree.  This is one key element to a successful hunt that we can control.  Practice makes you proficient.  Perfection is unattainable and anyone can make a bad shot, but practice till you know you’re in control at the moment of truth.

Did you get skunked? Did you accidentally spook a deer? About a week ago I was sitting in a stand on a wide open fence row.  I could see for hundreds of yards in every direction which makes it a great stand for observation and calling.  After an hour of no animal activity I grew fidgety and bored.  When at a distance of 400 yards I saw a deer crossing a corn field.  I eagerly reacted to the sighting! Spinning around on my seat, grabbing my binoculars, and even standing up to get a better angle for viewing; all to catch a glimpse of a basket racked buck slipping into the brush. As I sat back down to my resting position I was satisfied that I hadn’t let one “slip by me” unnoticed. I then glanced back the opposite direction that I had held in total disregard for the last couple minutes and there stood a mature doe at a distance of 150 yards, in full alert, looking my way.  My movements were so exaggerated that I had caught her attention from a considerable distance away.  As she ran off with her tail held high I was only left to wonder whether Mr. Big was close behind her in the brush.  This was a good reminder to always maintain control of my movements and my immediate surroundings.  I often wonder that when someone says they got skunked maybe they just spooked all the deer before they actually became visible to them.

How will crossbow hunting effect the illinois deer population? Did you hunt a stand when the conditions weren’t right? I recall a few seasons ago.. I was stuck at work all week anxiously awaiting the weekend hunt.  The rut still in full swing and a full moon had set the stage for some great all day hunting.  The weather conditions had different plans.  Saturday was warm and extremely windy which greatly suppressed deer movement.  Undeterred I put together a strategy for the next day.  When I woke up on Sunday and began preparing for the hunt, I stepped outside to check the conditions.  I was greeted with a heavy fog, warm air, and minimal wind.  All of these are conditions that are favorable to the whitetail’s nose. The stand I intended to hunt was down in a bottom on a heavily traveled corridor.  I knew that there was very little chance of me winning the game under these circumstances.  After a consultation with the weather channel I determined that at 10 AM a high pressure system was pushing through bringing clear skies and steady winds.  I elected to pass on the early morning hunt and eat breakfast with my family, then head to the stand mid-morning.  Within minutes of my arrival to the treestand at 10:30 I began having encounters with cruising bucks.  At 12:30 one of these encounters nearly resulted in me tagging a gorgeous mature buck.  The action continued all day long resulting in one of the best hunts I have had in a very long time.  Now, it is possible that I missed an opportunity earlier in the morning; but I feel that the great hunt I experienced was a direct result of not educating the herd when the conditions were poor.  I couldn’t control the weather but I did have absolute control of how I approached the hunt given the circumstances.

There is still a lot of deer hunting season ahead of us this fall and winter.  Make the best of what remains and keep your focus centered on the aspects of the hunt that you can control.  With good decision making, ample in-season practice sessions, and a little luck, maybe some good fortune will be the result.  Be safe and best of luck!

Corey J. Wilkinson

Last Updated: October 18th, 2019

One thought on “Controlling the Controllable…in the deer woods

  1. Sage advice. And it’s nice to know even with your experience there is still much to learn. This account reminds me of your first buck which we looked for for hours in a cold rain, and finally found with Hank’s help the next day. Keep huntin’.

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