Friday, November 1, 2013

Deer, Deer and MORE Deer Hunting

Sitting in a deer stand on a frosty cold clear November morning, watching the sunrise and the forest come alive is enough to warm the soul and quite the mind. Suddenly this silence is shattered by the distinctive footfalls of a deer slowly creeping up the hardwood ridge. As a large buck comes into view it is enough to get even the heart of veteran outdoorsmen racing.

By the time November arrives, a hunter’s dreams have turned to the pursuit of large bodied deer, to assist you in achieving the goal of harvesting one of these impressive animals this season, I am going to share the surprising number one secret to successful deer hunting and that is a mental preparation. A positive attitude is infinitely more important to an outdoorsman than scent blocker clothing, a high end ATV or the latest fad in ballistics. Success in the field is about the ability to remain positive despite the weather, moon phase or season of the rut.

A motivated individual will hunt longer, harder and through more adverse conditions then someone who is unprepared mentally to go the distance. Hunters that truly believe “this is going to be their day”, are much more likely to be in the woods during that critical time. Most individuals are prone to invoke certain skills to allow them to sharpen their mental focus and attitude. For example, taking a deep breath to settle ones shooting hand, counting footfalls while climbing a steep incline or even pinching ones self to keep from falling asleep. I even have a friend, who had been on a seven year losing streak and claims his success last deer season was due to the purchase of a rabbit’s foot! Obviously, rabbit feet have little direct connection with success in the field; however, their indirect effect is that they instill confidence, a characteristic key to filing a tag.

Pre-Season Scouting
This may seem like a no brainer but to shoot deer it must first be determined where they are located. A tree stand may be set in a beautiful spot with long shooting lanes and a lakeside view but if there are no deer signs (rubs, scrapes, tracks or droppings) then an entire season could go by without a single deer being seen. To increase the chances of putting a whitetail in the crosshairs this season, start walking. Absolutely no replacement can be made to thoroughly and personally scouting an intended hunting area. Maine’s subtle terrain features and the obvious physical signs of deer can only be effectively understood through intimate first hand knowledge. Pay close attention to the minute details, bring a notebook and write down GPS coordinates, prevalent wind direction, food sources, game trails, sign and location of sheltered bedding areas. Use this information to devise a plan as to where to set-up stands or still hunt. For those looking for a canoe driven deer hunting adventure, “The Great Heath” (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 25, C-3) provides an option for hunters to use the Pleasant River to access remote and a typically untouched wilderness.

Scent Control 
Highly technical clothing creates the illusion to most hunters that they can pull off miracles in body odor elimination by simply putting on specialized scent blocking apparel or using a bottled spray. A more traditional approach relies on impeccable personal hygiene and using wind direction to gain the advantage. I advocate the use of this approach at deer camp only to find that my lamentations fall short on the ears of individuals dressed head to toe in scent blocker and chain smoking cigarettes.

To be more effective this season, plan to implement using a pee bottle and no scent detergent, shampoo and deodorant. No scent hygiene products are available at the local drug store (for individuals with fragrance allergies) and are typically cheaper than at a sporting goods store. Wash hunting clothes frequently (not once a season) and seal in a plastic bag with a few spruce boughs to lessen the chance for cross contamination with smells that may be lingering in the basement. If driving to a hunting location, dress in hunting clothes and boots upon arrival, as this will avoid the possibility of picking up odors from the car, gas station or local convenience store.

Packing for Success
Finalize mental preparations by believing one hundred percent that success will occur. To enforce this belief, include a gutting kit (deer tag, pen, sharp knife, drag rope, florescent orange marking ribbon, dish washing gloves, paper towels and a 1 gallon zip loc bag for the heart and liver) in your pack to make it easier to field dress and bring that trophy to the tagging station.

Electronic Calls and Deer Decoys 
I remember the first time I showed my “traditional” deer hunting family members my buck call and bottle of deer pee they practically fell over backward laughing. Several dead deer later, their laughter had stopped and they had become converts and began using the same products and consistently shooting more deer. I was met with this same comical reaction last season, when I began using a remotely controlled electronic deer call and a doe deer decoy to attract bucks into shooting distance.

Despite the initial mockery, let me offer an assurance that these two products (in the right situations) bring the deer running. They work because hunters create a distinct advantage when they set-up an electronic call and a decoy along a field edge several 100 yards upwind or cross wind from their positions. The decoys create confidence by showing deer that it is safe to be out in the field feeding, tempting others to follow suit and emerge from their hiding places before the end of legal shooting. The remote call has deer honing in on an upwind location, allowing less chance that their keen noses will detect human scent. Also, for those not entirely proficient on all of the various deer vocalizations, the electronic calls allow novice hunters a chance to call deer like champions and truly “speak” the whitetail language. With electronic calls one truly gets what is paid, so make sure to invest at least $200 or more when purchasing one of these units. My personal favorite electronic calls are those made by FoxPro but many other quality calls exist on the market.

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