The definition of luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Lucky Michigan deer hunters would be the first to admit that the more you prepare for opener the more likely you will succeed. Certainly there is no time like the present to begin your preparation for the upcoming hunt.
The first step in preparation is shooting your weapon. I’m a big fan of crossbow hunting for turkeys and deer and shoot routinely in my basement at about 12 yards. The target and crossbow industry would probably scoff at recommending you shoot bolts in close quarters, especially a basement. However, my target has a backdrop of clothing that would slow down or stop a runaway bolt, which I have never had. Modern targets are so reliable at stopping arrows that sportsmen can shoot them at extremely close range and a growing army of archery shooters practice in an apartment, garage, basement or back yard.
After a hunt I never unload my crossbow in the field but wait until I’m back home or in camp and take steady aim at about 15 yards to double check accuracy. If the sights or scope is off you can sight-in immediately and be good to go the next outing. The trick is to have a reliable target that will stop the fast moving bolt or arrow. I’ve used a variety of back stops and must admit that there are a number of outstanding targets available. My choice is simple. I got tired of using both hands and pulling my guts out when dislodging arrows or bolts from the target. My solution was a Big Green Target. It is about 24x24x13 and weighs 33 lbs. It has two sides you can shoot into and is made of 100% recyclable materials. This target is for field tips only. The advantage of Big Green Targets is arrow removal requires only a one handed pull. Boy, bolts from my TenPoint Stealth crossbow are moving fast but removing them from the target is easy, guaranteed. Other good choices include the Morrell Yellow Jacket, Block, McKenzie and more.
It is a good idea to practice at least once a week at a variety of distances and make certain your equipment is ready for the hunt. Need new cables, arrows, bolts, broadheads, cover scent, no scent soap, Scent Loc suit, bow case, what about the serving or string? Do ya need a new scope? Now is the time to work the bugs out of your equipment and be fully prepared long before you go afield. This is the season to buy that new crossbow, bow, automatic rifle, muzzle loader, or sight in new ammunition. Do your test shooting and equipment purchases now so you can get used to the new gear and be on target long before the weather gets cold and masses of hunters show up at the range. Folks who rush the range the last couple days before opener are often rookies or the kind of hunter that is unorganized, constantly late and seldom fill their tag.
I like to take my Big Green Target outdoors and practice shooting my crossbow outdoors at a variety of distances and varied weather conditions. Sometimes practicing in the wind or rain can be a humiliating experience when you get cold, shaky and your accuracy goes tube city. I like to hike around the local archery course and try to walk fast or jog between targets to get the blood pumping and heart pounding to mimic what happens when you draw down on a monster buck and you slip into a high stress situation as massive amounts of adrenalin surge through your veins. Training helps to control emotions and condition your body to automatically get off accurate shots in rushed or stressful situations.
Most gun hunters do not practice enough. Oh sure, many go to the range just before opener and their gun is still shooting bulls eyes at 100 yards, what’s the big deal. Well, fact is none of us shoot enough. Most of us practice wrong. You should practice with your gun on a regular basis and from positions you will likely shoot deer.
The problem with most range shooters is they are in a controlled environment and they have a super-solid rest. Concentrating on hitting the target boils down to holding your breath and squeezing the trigger. But how often do range shooters shoot free hand? In order to keep your shooting form it is a good bet to practice, try dry practicing in the privacy of your own home. Shoulder your gun on a regular basis. Get your gun out of the closet and aim at a target, using its sights, and scope. Make certain you can get the safety on and off with little noise and become intimate with you gun. The idea is to use a gun that fits you properly, feels comfortable against your shoulder and this comfort only is acquired by repetition dry fire exercises. Next you practice shooting at targets. The goal should be to practice until you can hit a 4-inch target, off hand or any position every time at 50 yards. The idea is to condition your body and learn how to shoulder the gun, get on target fast, point the sights on a small spot and hold them there long enough to make an accurate shot.
One reason hunters miss easy shots is because of bad triggers. Shotguns often come with 8 lb. trigger pull. From a bench you can manage a heavy pull trigger but shooting off-hand is a different story. Combine a bad trigger with increased heart rate when a big buck suddenly appears in range, cold temperatures, a little wiggle and it is easy to miss shots. The solution is to get a quality trigger or have a gunsmith modify the trigger to a 3-4 lb. pull.
My .30-06 has a 2 lb. trigger pull and recently I bought a new .308 with two-stage trigger that I replaced with a quality Timney 4 lb. trigger. Both rifles are extremely accurate and when the cross hairs are centered on the target a slight touch of the trigger guarantees shots in the kill zone.
By practicing with archery gear or gun the idea is to draw over and over, quickly gain target acquisition, get the sights on the kill zone and concentrate on shot placement. The biggest reason hunters miss shots at deer is because they shoot too soon, rush the shot, pull the sights off target and the buck of a lifetime bounds out of sight. By practicing you learn aiming discipline, how to concentrate on the shot and when the moment of truth arrives you are conditioned to make the extra effort to accurately aim, squeeze the trigger and place a shot in the kill zone.
Wise hunters learn to use technology to their advantage and the end result can produce a dandy buck. Finding a shooter buck requires a lot of scouting and savvy hunters have learned to use trail cameras to locate deer. Now is also an ideal time to get the trail cam in the field and start evaluating bucks on your hunting turf. This helps you to estimate deer numbers in your area and take a preseason peek at bucks. Plus it’s fun to use video mode on modern cameras to see bucks in motion and better evaluate them. Videos provide an opportunity to more precisely age bucks because they see deer in a variety of moving positions. Videos are a fantastic tool for gauging the precise antler size of bucks without actually walking all over your hunting grounds, leaving human scent everywhere that can spook wise old monarchs. Some sportsmen use multiple cameras in different locations to gauge deer activity and pinpoint buck hideouts.
There are several quality trail cameras on the market that offer unbelievable quality and are affective at recording whitetail activity. I love my Stealth Cam G42 No-Glo Trail game cameras that take sharp images and videos. But don’t overlook the vibrant videos the Browning Strike Force Sub Micro can take up to 100 ft. and it is compact, offers a long battery life and is a workhorse. Some hunters swear by the Bushnell 8MP Trophy Cam HD Hybrid with night vision and sharp motion-sensing technology; this baby shoots high definition videos. Don’t overlook Blusmart and Moultree A5Low glow trail cams that have the bells and whistles to help deer hunters to use electronics to their advantage.
When corn is tall, in brush, thick leaves or deep woods it is often difficult to get quality pictures. Therefore, many sportsmen prefer to place cameras near well used trails, along water sources, under apple trees, open areas and on the edge of agricultural fields like beans, alfalfa and more. Some make mock scrapes using modern scents and others use trace minerals to attract deer into camera range. Setting up and maintaining trail cams require woodsmanship and understanding of deer habits in your hunting area. Some hunters use ATV’s while scouting and getting out cameras, by riding in an ATV they cut down on human scent. Batteries and photo cards are maintained during mid-day when deer are bedded. Savvy hunters spray boots, legs,
and clothing with odor eliminating products when maintaining cameras to control and minimize human
interference that could alert wary deer.
There is one aspect of deer hunting that I’m particularly passionate about, and that is being fully prepared. This boils down to practicing with your weapon long before the hunt. I’m not talking clothing, rain gear, food or accommodations; you can get that organized at lightning speed. I’m talking about using your weapon enough that you develop muscle memory. I consider the instantaneous use of your weapon to be the most important part of harvesting deer. The trick to success hinges on how much you practice, build the specific muscles needed to automatically draw, shoot and get accurate results. Shot placement means very little if you are fumbling to get your weapon ready and up for the shot. Of course there are those missed opportunities when a dandy buck is suddenly in plain view. Now, just how fast can you load, draw, get the sights on the vitals and execute a lethal shot?
I hope you get outdoors soon, practice with your weapon of choice and enjoy the shooting fun. Learn to be tenacious about building muscle memory that will enhance your
shooting and help you fill your tag.
In specific terms it means working with your weapon and all aspects of operation. When you consider that most encounters with dandy bucks take place at lightning speed, you
can understand the importance of training to automatically get off a deadly shot.
So, are you fully prepared for deer season? If not, now is the time to get new gear and don’t forget to start practicing early. The results can be impressive.