By Steve Sorensen
Learning to hunt? Don’t miss these basics!
Many hunters remember every detail about their first successful deer hunt. At 15 I was walking behind my father in the early morning darkness. We made our way through a patchwork of snow and wet leaves to our chosen stand site. Silently — except for the “zwish, zwish, zwish” coming from my legs. It sounded like I was cutting a 2-by with a crosscut saw. Although I shot my first buck that day, I vowed never to wear corduroy pants while hunting again.
If you’re a tenderfoot hunter, or mentoring a new hunter, it’s a good idea to learn from the wide range of rookie mistakes people make over and over again. Here are four kinds of basic blunders greenhorn hunters should avoid.
1. Wrong clothing — think comfort, color and quiet.
Corduroy pants are only one example of a foolish clothing choice for deer hunting. Other unwise wardrobe choices include cotton underwear, blue jeans and the shirt you changed oil in. You might get by with cotton underwear in a lot of situations, but if the weather is hot or wet, or if you’re doing a lot of walking, cotton underwear will soak up your perspiration and won’t evaporate. I know firsthand how uncomfortable that can be. You’re better off “going commando.” A far better choice is one of the new moisture-wicking fabrics.
Blue jeans are another no-no. They’re also made from cotton so wet weather will make wearing them miserable. Dry weather is not much better because blue jeans are one of the most unnatural colors you can wear in the deer woods. Some research suggests deer have extra sensitivity to ultraviolet light, which makes blue jeans almost appear to glow. Steer toward synthetic fabrics, quiet fleece or wool.
And wear your hunting clothes for hunting, not for working under the car, running your snowblower or doing any other activity. Every scent you’re exposed to will be deposited on your clothing, and foreign scents will alert deer.
2. Wrong gear — look for basic, serviceable equipment.
Some new hunters think they need all the best gear when starting out. Don’t fall for that. Even if you hunt with a guy who uses top end guns and gear, realize it took him years to work up to that.
On the other hand, don’t get a rattletrap rifle with functional problems. Buy a good used rifle in a common caliber, or borrow something serviceable. Top it with a mid-priced scope with a reputable name and make several outings to shoot it before going hunting. Also, learn how to shoot in the field from a rest, such as using the side of a tree as an anchor point.
Hunting isn’t a fashion show, so don’t feel like you need to dress in the coolest camo. Don’t think you need a pair of boots that will last a decade. All you need is footwear that will support your feet and keep them dry. And don’t invest in a custom knife. The Havalon knife is second to none — it’s wicked sharp, reasonably priced and will do everything you need it to do.
3. Wrong advice — experienced hunters can lead you astray.
Experienced hunters can be a big help, but they can also give you bad advice. Some have forgotten what it was like to start out, and may explain things in a way you don’t understand. Some will try to sound like the experts you think they are so you’ll keep them high on a pedestal.
Two things must come with every piece of advice. The person advising you should remember that you’re a beginner, and he should give you confidence that you can get it done. If he acts as though you should already know certain things, or belittles your efforts, seek advice elsewhere.
4. Wrong expectations — wait until after the hunt to call the butcher.
Some people think if they don’t come home with a nice buck the first time out they have failed. Believe me, that’s as far from the truth as North American whitetails are from Indian elephants.
Your expectations should be realistic. Getting exposed to hunting in a positive way should top the list. You also want to learn about deer habits, learn about the land and learn how deer relate to the land. You should also expect to enjoy hunting in the way an athlete enjoys his game. You win a few, lose a few and go home tired but confident you can play better next time out.
Remember Daniel Boone? You’re not him.
Chances are you won’t be the rookie who stumbles into the woods, picks his head up and sees a trophy buck that’s oblivious to his presence. You might be the person who analyzes everything, considers every contingency, makes a detailed plan and still goes home skunked. Don’t be frustrated. You gave it your best shot. Daniel Boone sometimes went home deerless, too.
Or, sometimes you’ll get a deer despite your mistakes, as I did. But did I tell you? That was my fourth year hunting. So, be patient.
About Steve Sorensen:
Steve Sorensen is the author of “Growing Up With Guns” and “The Everyday Hunter Handbook Series.” He writes an award-winning newspaper column called “The Everyday Hunter®” and edits content in the Havalon Post. He has published articles in top magazines across the USA, and won the 2015 “Pinnacle” Award for magazine writing. Invite Steve to speak at your next sportsman’s event, and follow him at www.EverydayHunter.com.
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