By Alex Comstock
Have you ever read an article or watched a Television show where somebody claimed that the only way to shoot big bucks is to do "x"? That if you don't use this product, or don't apply that strategy, you won't be successful hunting big bucks? I'm not trying to knock anyone, or anything of that nature, but what frustrates me is some of the people that say things like this, are people that others look up to and will listen to.
The whole point of this article is to explain to you that one certain product or strategy isn't going to bring success for all hunters. Do you want to know the true secret to killing big bucks? There isn't one. There isn't a singular product that can be put on the shelf of a Cabela's or Bass Pro Shops that will make everyone a magical big buck killer. What I like to think about is the variety of ways people are successful. Take a step back, and look at how many different ways there are to hunt deer, and to ultimately be successful at harvesting mature bucks, if that is your goal. The trick is to figure out how you can be successful.
Understand Your Situation and Set Realistic Expectations: The first step to figuring out your own style for success, is to truly understand your deer hunting situation and therefore set realistic expectations. For instance, if you live in New York and hunt highly pressured areas of public land, is it going to be realistic to try and manage that area for big mature bucks? If this is your situation, and you try to mimic how somebody hunts their 1,000 acre farm in Southern Iowa that you saw on TV, odds are it isn't going to work very well. That doesn't mean you can't be successful shooting older age class deer. Once again, you'll need to understand your situation. Don't set goals of only shooting 5 1/2 year old bucks or older if there aren't any bucks of that age class to hunt. If the average buck that gets shot is a 1 1/2 year old in your area, maybe consider trying to hunt 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 year old bucks.
The reason I think this is so important is because your hunting situation and expectations can dictate your style of hunting, and how you end up being successful. There is a major difference in the way I would hunt a public swamp/marsh in Minnesota compared to how I hunt public land in North Dakota, or how I would even hunt my private land in Nebraska. Each one of these areas present a different situation, and therefore my expectations change in each location. Once you truly understand your hunting situation(s), you'll be able to more clearly set those expectations, and in turn create a style of hunting that will yield success for you as a deer hunter.
What Works For You? What I have found through experience is you need to figure out what works for YOU. Like I said earlier, there are so many ways to deer hunt, and in order to figure out what kind of style you can adopt for success, you need to figure out what works for you. Not your neighbor, or your best friend, or Joe Schmo down the road that shoots a booner every year. For example, some guys love to run and gun, and hang and hunt damn near every sit. You might give that a try, but on the first morning hang and hunt, you figure out that you hate hanging stands in the dark. If that's the case, then don't keep doing it! Maybe you change it up, and run and gun during afternoon hunts, but not morning hunts and have success with this.
Different people have different favorite foods right? That does't mean one person is wrong because their favorite food is pizza, but yours is sushi. The same goes for deer hunting. Just because you know a guy that kills giants every year, and he swears that the way to do it is by hunting solo, doesn't mean you can't produce the same results by doing all of your hunting with a friend. Figuring out what strategies and tactics work for you will be a big step to having a style of hunting that is unique to you, and successful.
Give it a Try: Like most of you reading this, I do a ton of reading and indulging of whitetail content. There are so many different strategies and tactics you can apply to hunting whitetails, and the best way to figure out if some of these work for you is to give them a try. This is a great way to help figure out what works for you. I know of some people that swear by using doe in estrus urine during the rut. For me, I've never had it work once, so based on my experience, I'm not going to ever bank on that tactic. In the last paragraph, I talked about figuring out what works for you right? There may already be some things that you know works, but there might also be some things you have thought about, or read about that you'd think could work. Give it a try! If something doesn't work, it'll be alright, and you'll be a smarter deer hunter going forward.
Conclusion: The biggest point I wanted to drive home with this article is that just because somebody is successful, that doesn't mean copying the way they hunt is going to automatically make you successful. I want to encourage you to try new things, and not to stay in a "rut" if you haven't been finding recent success. I always think of being a deer hunter as an evolutionary thing. If I still hunted the way that I did five years ago, I don't think I'd be shooting very many deer. I've learned new things through trial and error. Don't be afraid to fail, because not everything you try is going to work. But through these failures, and by picking up on things that do work, you will become a much more successful deer hunter.