Make sure you're prepared to have the deer hunting season of a lifetime


For generations, hunting seasons have ended with memories of great hunts, the heartbreak of close calls, and inevitably, hopes for what next year could bring.  Too often, outdoorsman quickly put down their guns and camo and pick up their fishing rods or golf clubs and fail to think about hunting season until it sneaks up on them.  Make this year different by implementing these 3 easy tips to ensure that your next deer hunting season is the season of a lifetime.

1. Develop a Plan

When hunters allow hunting season to arrive without mapping out a plan for the upcoming season, they miss an opportunity to do two things:

a) Learn from the mistakes and knowledge gained from past hunting seasons, and

b) Develop strategies to make them successful in the field in the future.

This can involve a variety of activities.  Depending on how much you document and catalog  every hunt, reviewing past journals or logs can help hunters predict deer patterns and tendencies.  

These planning activities are also dictated by your hunting access in the upcoming season.  If you hunt public land, eliminate obvious hunting terrain while focusing in on other potential areas with the use of aerial imagery services online.  Periodic scouting of the terrain will further inform you of water levels in low-lying areas, prescribed burns, acorn production, etc.  

For hunters with access to private land, using trail cameras and frequently glassing open fields with a quality set of binoculars offers opportunities to track game and gauge the relative success or failure of the most recent reproductive cycles based on the observation of fawns and yearlings.  These methods allow for relatively unobtrusive tracking of animal activity.


2. Scout to Determine Potential Hunting Locations

If you have reviewed historical data and watching deer herds from afar, you should have an idea of some of their daily patterns.  Your scouting will further provide you with vital information, such as where deer tend to bed.  Knowing the travel corridors between these important areas and sources of food and water are a good starting point for selecting treestand or ground blind locations.  

If you plan to utilize a climbing stand, thorough scouting prior to deer season will familiarize you with possible trees based on game trails, food sources, and prevailing winds during the hunting season so that you don't spend a half hour in the dark on opening morning trying to find a tree that provides clear shooting lanes, is free of low limbs, and is an appropriate circumference.  When possible, select several possible trees for different wind scenarios.  Be sure to trim any low branches as well as shooting lanes, if necessary.


3. Practice Shooting and Tune Up Your Equipment

When hunters let impending seasons sneak up on them, they mistakenly believe that a quick trip to the gun range or shooting the bow in the backyard after work the Friday before opening day suffice as preparation.  However, to be fully competent, comfortable, and confident in your ability to ethically harvest deer, it is crucial that hunters visit the gun range and/or shoot their bows regularly.  

If you notice your weapons performing at less than peak efficiency, the offseason is the time to remedy these problems.  This could include tweaking rifle scopes and experimenting with new load combinations, or taking your bow to a professional to have it paper tuned.  Hopefully, you cleaned (mandatory) and serviced (if necessary) your firearms and bows before storing them for the offseason; however, while inspecting your equipment prior to the season, a fresh coat of anti-corrosive spray could protect your investment from the elements while also decreasing your chances of a malfunction while in the field.


Plan, Scout, Practice

When the golf course or your favorite fishing spot beckon you this summer, don't forget about that trophy whitetail that slipped you last year.  If he has survived the offseason, your chances of a successful encounter with him in the upcoming deer season will greatly increase if you take the time to plan a strategy, scout for travel corridors and stand locations, and practice and fine tune your competency with your weapon of choice.

"Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning"

- Thomas Edison


For more practical tips for your upcoming hunting season, keep checking back to Ryan Hachenberger's articles on