For new hunters, as well as experienced hunters, we can find ourselves falling victim to the same old mistakes. “I coulda.. woulda… shoulda…” is a common reference on a bad hunting trip. Let’s look at a few rookie mistakes that we should avoid.
1. Not Scouting
Yup. Scouting, square one to a productive hunting trip. Too many first-timers jump in on opening day and just go marching into the nearest area in hopes of bagging something. But even those seasoned with their hunting grounds begin to feel like they know it so well that there is no need. Except, that storm last year that dropped that tree, or the lack of rain this summer that changed vegetation, or the amount of other unprepared hunters that chose that same easy access spot, or more commonly – that spot never had a sign of animal activity, to begin with.
Scouting solves all of this.
Take the time – heck, even the weekend before if that’s all you got, but this process should start weeks or months before, to be honest.
2. Not practicing
This goes for both bow and rifle. I’d hate to say that there are hunters that go in with a fresh tool without ever even sighting it in, but they exist. The other part of this equation is those that went and sighted it in once, at a fixed target, at one distance, in one position, and called it good. Or, lastly, those that haven’t touched it since last year because “It’s fine, I know my gun/bow”.
Well, the issue is, every good shooter on the planet practices as often as possible and in every way possible. Because no matter how much you set up for the perfect shot in your “kill zone”, odds are, that is not the shot that you will get presented with.
Take the time, right after your pre-season scouting trips for instance (clears throat), to hit the range and really practice- for all the scenarios that may present themselves during the actual hunt.
3. Field Etiquette
If there is one thing I hear most often on social media and forums is this – “Some dude came storming in like a Gypsy wagon at 9 am on opening day and blew my spot.”
This is a thing. I have been a victim of it. Imagine being in archery season, scouted all summer, and then finally hit your ground blind over a water source that is a common stop. Then, in the heat of primetime (had just watched a covey of quail go by and can see the first doe walk-up), cling! bang! stomp! stomp!
I just stood up in my ghillie suit.
“Oh, I didn’t know anyone else was out here.”
“Ok” – packs up stuff and storms towards truck… spot blown…
…and found dude parked right next to my truck.
You didn’t know? Or you didn’t know to check what else was going on?
He was scouting for general gun season. He was actually doing it right, 2 months ahead. But, “read the room”.
There is more going on in hunting lands aside from your own intentions. Please, do everything you can to research possibilities and go with scouting rule 1.
- If there is a car there, then your spot is being used.
I have scouted spots for months only to find someone on it on opening day. I had to adapt and move on. This is why multiple locations are so important. My second spot was better that year anyway.
4. Blowing the Spot
This is also another common one for rookie hunters. Getting so involved in scouting that you blow your own spot. Or, spending every day of hunting season following the same route and going to the same stand, at the same time. Deer get on super high alert during hunting season and repetitive human intrusion will surely blow your spot.
Everything is a delicate balance.
Treat every interaction with your hunting grounds as if you are stalking the spookiest of prey.
Because… well, you are.
Alongside, if you are hunting all season, work different spots. These will be handily set up during your pre-season scouting trips (clears throat, again).
5. No Plan
This goes along with some of the others but really needs to be addressed. Not having an actual plan will be the greatest downfall of even the most enthusiastic hunter.
Planning phases include:
- Where to hunt?
- What are the regulations there?
- How will you get to your spot?
- What scent covering options will you use?
- What terrain features make this a good spot?
- Is there a lot of traffic there?
- Are there any signs of your chosen game?
- When will you go, and when will you leave?
- Did you leave a plan behind for someone to follow in case of emergencies?
- Did you pack enough food and water?
- Did you over pack?