Editor’s Note: I am absolutely thrilled to bring you our most recent guest post, from one of today’s leading whitetail deer hunting experts, Scott Bestul. Scott is an esteemed outdoor writer, being featured in publications such as Field & Stream, Deer & Deer Hunting and his own hunting books. More recently Scott has been the main writer for Field & Stream’s whitetail hunting blog, Whitetail 365, quite possibly the finest of its kind on the internet. Scott has also been a great help to me personally as I’ve been working to put Wired To Hunt together, he has offered his insight and advice from the very beginning of W2H, so once again thanks to Scott! Enjoy Scott’s great post and be sure to check out his blog, Whitetail 365.
By Scott Bestul
There are perks in every job, and one of the bennie’s of my career as an outdoor writer is this; I get to meet a lot of very good deer hunters. I’ve been a deer geek for as long as I can remember, so gabbing with other whitetail nuts is a true labor of love. I listen to their tales of success (and failure) and write their stories for a magazine or my own blog. I learn a lot in the process, not only about how to hunt deer, but how to do it right, both tactically and ethically.
With that in mind, here are some common traits of the successful deer hunters I’ve met in my 20 years of writing about them.
* They learn from mistakes: Even experts get beat by deer most of the time. Some of those failures can be blamed on bad luck. Many snafu’s occur just because deer are so good at survival. But a fair portion of botched encounters are just flat-out failures on our part. Good deer hunters recognize when they screw up, and they find ways to correct their mistakes.
* They are students of deer: Anyone who kills big deer consistently is not a casual hunter. He (or she) is someone who studies whitetails year-round, looking for reasons that explain why deer do what they do. Most important, these people recognize that this is a school from which there is no graduation ceremony.
* They burn boot leather: Here’s deer hunting’s Big Lie: Most whitetails are killed from stands or blinds. In reality, only the shot is made from there. The deer was actually killed by the person willing to put in the miles of scouting required to know why the stand has to be placed Right Here…rather than in any one of dozens of possible locations.
* They respect the animal: Of course you are right and justified to feel proud when you kill a nice buck, especially if it’s an animal you have targeted. But humility and reverence should be part of the package, too. I’ve met very few true experts who were braggarts.
* They can shoot: Accuracy with a bow or gun is a highly relative term. Sure, punching the bull at 300 yards on the target range is impressive…But can you make a lethal hit on a monster deer standing 30 yards off when every major muscle group in your body is turning to Jell-O? Learning to shoot well under high-pressure field situations is tough stuff, but good deer hunters learn how.
* They share: I used to get pretty intimidated by really good deer hunters. I figured they weren’t going to share any of their knowledge with a “little guy” like me. But over the years—and almost to a man—I’ve found them to be just the opposite. If you ask them questions, they’ll tell you what they know, or at least what they’ve observed. Rather than hoard their information, they want to discuss their experience. Humble to a fault, these guys almost seem to need to check out their observations. I’ll never forget talking to a local guru a couple years back. Five minutes into our conversation he turned to me and said “Here’s something I think this buck is doing. Does that make sense to you?” It seems ironic to me, but virtually every hard-core deer guy I’ve talked to or interviewed has been an open book of knowledge and experience that I’ve learned from.
* They never quit looking for ground: Another interesting fact; only about 20% of the really good deer hunters I know own property. Some hunt on a permission-basis. Some hunt public ground. Others lease a small chunk of property. But regardless of their situation, they never rest in the search for good deer hunting.
For more from Scott Bestul, check out Whitetail 365.