Friday, October 31, 2008
Third Article PUBLISHED!
The Maine Sportsman - New England's Largest Outdoor Publication – Will be publishing my story written below in their November 2008 edition. The article will be part of the magazines “special sections” (pg. 33-34) and will highlight how attention to details can lead to success in deer hunting. For more information on the Maine Sportsman Magazine or to order a subscription click this link: http://mainesportsman.com/. The copy below is the originally submitted unedited version. Enjoy!
How to Sit in the Woods (Edited Title: Successful Stand Hunters Attend to Details)
by Steve Vose
As a young man out deer hunting my very first season, a big buck walked right up behind me and snorted at about 10 yards away. In the time it took me to turn around and shoulder my rifle that deer had relocated to the next county. That buck would be hanging on my wall right now if I had simply spent a few extra minutes looking over my surroundings and picking a better spot before committing to sitting down. How many of you have also missed a shot opportunity at a whitetail simply because you were in the wrong place or position? While years from now stories of the one that got away may be humorous to share around the campfire, it is entirely less enjoyable seeing a massive rack and bounding white tail disappear into the woods while you stand by helplessly.
Fortunately, missed shot opportunities need not be commonplace and by talking a few simple precautions hunters can maximize their chances at putting their sights on a deer this season.
Choosing Your Area
Any real estate agent will tell you it’s all about location and with hunting it isn’t any different. During your extensive spring and fall scouting you already know where the deer are regularly bedding and feeding so the next step is positioning in an area where you are provided the best possible chance at getting a quality shot. Set-up close to trails connecting feeding and bedding areas but don’t make the rookie mistake of setting up on the actual game trail. Hunters should instead set back from these areas at a distance that allows the hunter to remain well concealed while also offering good shot opportunities.
Hunters should make sure to sit so that the sun is always at their back for better visibility. This is accomplished by facing west in the morning and east in the evening. Orientating yourself in this manner, will not only help to insure that you aren’t silhouetted to possible game but it will also reduce eye fatigue on bright days.
No matter how much you think that whitetail is going to appear directly in your gun sights, that is frequently not the case. Increase your chances, by sitting in a way that will allow you the best opportunity. This is accomplished, by remembering that right hand shooters can rotate far to the left but are limited in their rotation to the right side (the opposite is true for lefties). Increase your mobility by making sure that your strong shooting side is facing the area where your query is most likely to appear. If done properly, a deer approaching from roughly anywhere on your strong side should allow for an ethical shot option.
When spotting for deer don’t focus your full attention in one specific area but instead scan through your complete range of vision. Several millions of years of evolution as both prey and predator have provided mankind with the ability to quickly distinguish movement in our peripheral range. Use this trait to your advantage, by employing your strong side vision to scan areas on your right and left without a large amount of head movement. No matter what particular hunting style you employ, it is certain that the less movement you create the more likely the chance that game will not notice your presence.
Before you sit down, clear away leaves, sticks, rocks and any other material around your feet that may make noise should it be necessary for you to switch position.
If you plan on sitting for an extended period of time, you will find that a comfortable portable chair is worth the extra weight. When selecting a chair make sure that it doesn’t squeak or make any unnecessary noise. Your chair selection should allow you to move easily and pivot so be wary of some of the hunting chairs that sit low to the ground and tend to sacrifice mobility for being ultra comfortable.
If you sit on a rock or stump make sure to clean off as much snow and ice as possible as melting water will create a damp seat that will make sitting for an extended amount of time cold and uncomfortable. A longer than normal length hunting jacket or many of the commercially available “foam seats” are cheap, lightweight and will keep you dry making hunting more enjoyable.
When you arrive at your tree stand or blind you are going to be heated from the trip to your hunting location. Before completely settling in and sitting down, put on your heavy jacket (unzipped) and have your winter hat immediately handy. These preparations will keep you from having to move again 30 minutes later when your core body temperature cools back down. Having heater packs, an extra winter hat and heavy gloves in a jacket pocket will help you maintain body temperature should weather conditions change and your body become chilled.
Mind the direction of the wind. A whitetail has one of the finest olfactory senses in the forest so plan accordingly and be adaptable to predicted wind patterns by having multiple hunting locations to pick and choose from.
Carrying a pair of pruning shears or a small cutting saw will allow you to trim shooting lanes and cut brush that may block the rotation of your swing. Cut brush can be stuck in the ground to further cover any movement or attached to your tree stands with zip ties to break up its silhouette and make it harder to see. If hunting from a ground blind it is also helpful to hide use natural features like logs and stumps to supplement your cut materials.
If you have difficulty finding good cover or are hunting where cutting brush is not an option you may want to employ the use of a small (4x8) piece of camouflaged burlap and a few 5 foot stakes. These materials will allow you to construct a quick blind in just about any conditions. Just make sure not to camouflage so well that you obstruct the shooting lanes.
Keep Hydrated and Energized
Maine in November and December can equal extremely cold weather and a season when all but the most hardy of sportsmen will stay outdoors. During this time, you will need to be consuming many more calories than normal to stay warm. The secret to staying in the woods, as the mercury drops, is keeping your furnace fully fueled by consuming high calorie foods and fluids that are nutritionally designed to keep up your energy levels. While your exact likes and dislikes will determine your selections in this category, there are some foods that are easier to eat on the run or while perched precariously in a tree stand.
Some of my personal favorites include: venison jerky, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, breakfast bars, trail mix and snickers bars. On exceptionally cold days, boiling water and pouring it in a plastic bottle not only serves as a refreshing hot drink but when placed inside a jacket also provides radiated warmth for hours.
Stay Mentally Focused
Some hunters bring along media such as a book or magazine to read while more technologically focused outdoorsmen even bring their MP3 players or video game consoles. Either approach will allow you to be less “bored” while hunting which will hopefully mean you will spend more time in the woods thus increasing your chances. While certain selections of media will allow some to hunt longer, it can also cause an additional distraction that may mean you miss a shot opportunity. For me, it has usually been easier and more effective to simply sit watching the day unfold enjoying the simple pleasures Mother Nature has to offer.
Organization in the Blind or Tree Stand
Once you sit, you need to determine how to best organize your gear. Having your gun or bow readily available to your dominant shooting hand position will allow you to take shots with limited movement. Being right handed, most comfortable for me is to place my gun to the right and bow to the left. Placing your backpack to the opposite side will allow you to use your available hand to access other essentials you may need. Since you will be using your game calls relatively often you may want to keep them in a jacket pocket or around your neck on a lanyard where you can easily access them.
Deer hunting will always pose unique challenges for the sportsmen willing to invest the time and energy studying and pursuing this worthy game animal. Whether hunting from a tree stand, ground blind or other means remember that you are in your quarries backyard, an area it has know and studied for years. To compete against this degree of knowledge it will typically entail a combination of little things that will allow you to fill that tag. So pay attention to small details, believe in yourself and remember how to sit in the woods.