After months of planning, the time has finally arrived for you to go on that big hunting trip. You’ve saved your money, acquired the vacation time and watched hours of hunting videos while picturing yourself as the successful hunter. But, when you arrive at your destination the outfitter tells you that the buck activity has slowed and a major storm front is about to hit. At that moment, your mindset will determine how your hunting experience will unfold.
Last year I had a “bad to good” hunting experience in Ohio that taught me a lot about “mental preparation” when it comes to bow hunting.
The weather began with 3 days of snow, sleet and heavy rain combined with high winds of 15 to 30 mph, gusting to 55 mph on the 4th day. Knowing deer movement would be nonexistent, my hunting companion, Todd McDonald and I scouted and hung stands in the rain and sleet. During the times of high wind, we sat in the pickup truck planning our strategy. At night we found ourselves chatting with the local patrons as we watched our clothes spin around in a dryer at the neighborhood laundry mat.
Finally the 5th day brought a break in the stormy weather, allowing us to safely hunt our stands. Yet, with clearing skies, deer movement was still minimal and as our precious hunting time slipped away, our confidence began to erode. Without saying the words, we both were beginning to think, “Maybe it just ain’t going to happen this time.”
Then we began discussing a picture that sits on the mantle inside the cabin where we were staying. The framed photo shows a father and son both grinning ear to ear, sitting beside huge bucks they took on the same day of hunting. The story of the photo was, the hunt occurred during bad weather and both hunters thought they had missed their deer. But, after much effort both deer were recovered, resulting in the father and son’s best hunting experience ever.
We both agreed to hunt hard up to the last minute of our trip.
Luckily I was hunting with an experienced and dedicated bowhunter who was willing to persevere through all the discouragement. Along with a solid hunting partner, it’s important to pack equipment that can handle the harsh elements that may be encountered on any hunting trip.
Rainy weather can dampen anybody’s spirit, but wearing a top quality Gore Tex rain suit will make the difference between sitting on the couch or being out scouting. Although a little uncomfortable, scouting in the rain will ensure your human scent is washed away before returning to hunt the stand site. Wind and rain dampens any noise made while scouting and deer will usually be bedded up in thick cover during windy days. Just be sure to always wear a lineman’s belt when hanging stands.
Whether it’s Ohio, Texas or North Carolina, heavy downpours can lead to high water in creeks and streams. When temperatures dip below 40 degrees, a fall in water can lead to problems with hypothermia or at least a ruined day of hunting. Just two feet of rushing water can float an automobile away, so no hunter should try to cross swollen streams with fast currents.
For normal creek crossings and rainy weather nothing beats high top rubber boots. Popular models include LaCrosse, Rocky and Muck boots. All models can be purchased insulated or non-insulated and run 16 to 18 inches in height.
For warmth, begin with a layer of moisture-wicking thermals such as Polartec microfleece or No Trace Core elements. On top of your favorite camo, Berber fleece with Windshear provides great protection from the cold and wind, while drying quickly after encounters with rain.
For head cover, gloves and socks, nothing beats wool. For years, outdoorsmen and military personnel have used wool because of its ability to keep them warm even when wet.
Especially important to bowhunters is having a folding hand saw, pruners and a telescoping pole saw for cutting shooting lanes and removing small branches. When looking through the peep sight in your bow string, small branches are often unnoticed. When an arrow leaves the bow’s rest it will be arching upward on distant shots and may encounter twigs or leaves above the shooters line of sight.
Range finders and light- weight binoculars such as those made by Nikon and Cabela’s Alaskan Guide series are worth their weight in gold when crunch time hits. Many outfitters now have minimum antler size requirements included in hunt packages requiring hunters to judge the animals’ age or trophy status quickly before taking the shot.
To assist in carrying your gear, Dick’s Sporting Goods offers lightweight – low profile Camelbak backpacks that are ideal for organizing and transporting all your gear to and from the stand.
The 6th morning of our hunt broke clear and cold with temperatures about 30 degrees and finally no wind. Walking in to my stand I applied Proscent Supreme Doe to my boots and around my stand site.
After climbing into the Gorilla treestand, I opened my pack and removed a Primos Rattling Bag, Lil Can doe bleat call and a Knight and Hale grunt tube. I decided it was time to go for broke. Every fifteen minutes I used the calls to imitate two bucks fighting over a hot doe. At 8:10 a.m. I saw a large bodied deer walking directly at my stand with his neck outstretched. The wide set of antlers swaying up and down immediately brought me to my feet.
At 15 yards I made the shot on a beautiful 150″ class buck that left me awe struck on how fast a “bad hunt can turn good.” But the miraculous hunting experience wasn’t over just yet. When I arrived back at the cabin I was greeted with the news that my hunting buddy, Todd had also shot a Pope and Young class buck at approximately the same time as I had shot my buck.
This season there will be two photos sitting side-by-side on the cabin mantle. And every time I look at the photos I’ll remember, “While it’s easy to complain and find excuses, perseverance makes the memories that last a lifetime.”