Looking back at hunting successes over time, there is a striking consistency that doesn’t pop out. Most hunters understand some concept of “hunting in the zone” or staying alert. Hunting in the zone is similar to playing a sport with your senses tuned into what is happening and what may happen next. It is making the right moves and fakes, setting the right blocks and keeping your head in the game. If you hunt with your guard down you are liable to see that white flag bouncing into the brush at the edge of your vision. Hunting relies heavily on seeing game but the other senses shouldn’t be forgotten. Tune them in to improve your hunting success.
Ok, vision is still first on the list. If you don’t see game you won’t succeed. Develop your skills and take every movement into consideration. Was that the twitch of an ear or just a bird flitting in the brush? Binoculars, spotting scopes and range finders all have their place to improve vision. For spotting game, rifle scopes help seal the deal. The other side of vision is managing how visible you are. Ask yourself, “Am I skylined or behind the ridge? Do I have to move now or is there more I can see from here?”
Almost half of my deer and elk fell victim to my ears. Learning to hear and interpret sounds in the woods is almost as essential as sight itself. Learn to differentiate between deer, bear, elk and squirrel. One afternoon at the end of deer season I heard what I thought was deer fighting. This put me into sneak mode and soon enough there were two clear footsteps at about 40 yards. My rifle was halfway to my shoulder when the buck stepped out from behind the tree. Meat down! Do you think the game is up when you hear a deer running or blowing? Are you sure it’s you that alerted the game?
The other side of hearing is managing your noise in the woods. There is plenty of noise in the woods and if you don’t go crashing around you can get away with a lot. Sometimes it is hard to stay quiet. When it’s noisy in the woods, stop frequently to watch and listen. Being still is another trick to managing your noise.
Smell is bigger than sight or sound in some ways. Starting backwards this time, how you keep deer from smelling you will be a huge part of your success over time. Stand hunters and bow hunters tend to have hundreds of tricks to lessen their smell. The chief trick is, always hunt into the wind. Scent killer soaps, sprays, clothes and cover scents all help, but the fact remains that if the wind gets to the game in front of your bullet you won’t ever see the deer. Constant awareness of wind direction and shifts keep hunters in the zone.
My hunting partner has killed a buck that he smelled first! He was hunting late in the season on a brush choked road when he smelled buck. Evidently the deer herd his quiet footsteps and mistook him for a doe. When the deer stepped out, it was inside ten feet. I have been alerted to the presence of elk by their smell, and my most recent bow kill resulted from smelling the elk.
If you keep your senses tuned in while you hunt, the taste of venison will become more and more familiar. Conversely keep your senses tuned in to avoid being a tasty treat for a grizz.
Keep all your senses on and hunt in the zone. If you find your mind wandering while you hunt refocus, notice everything there is to see hear and smell. May venison grace your table this fall.