By Aaron Farley

Hunting season is in full swing. The leaves are turning, acorns are dropping, and I am spending more time sitting in a tree than is probably healthy. I’ve already been fortunate enough to tag one good 8 point buck this year, and I’m hoping to make it two (my first year getting two 8+).

It’s easy to become obsessed. I’ll admit it. My mind wanders every 18 minutes or so and productivity in almost every other area of my life decreases during hunting season. I am focused. I am determined. I want to kill several deer for the freezer and get a couple nice bucks. I spend a lot of time in the woods, thinking.

There is a lot more to hunting than killing deer. 

Sure, if I can’t read the sign and find the deer, I won’t have much success. Knowing deer behavior and movement are critical to hunting success. But it doesn’t stop there. There are other critical skills that a hunter must develop if he’s going to consistently be successful. There are “side skills” that make for a well-rounded and adaptable hunter.

As a hunter, we must also be a sort of “Jack of All Trades”. If we cannot make changes on the fly and respond to situations, too many hunts will end prematurely. Here are a few areas of skill that can keep us in the field, even when things aren’t going according to plan.

A Gear Mechanic

Arrow rests freeze. Guns misfire. Things come untied. Gear fails. What will you do when it happens?

Being able to respond to gear failures can keep us from having to pack it in early. Can you tighten your sight if you find it loose when you get in the tree? What about when your scope gets bumped? Can you remove it and use iron sights?

A simple working knowledge of our gear and a few basic tools can save the day on a hunt.

Suggested Tool: Leatherman. If you don’t carry a Leatherman multi-tool on every hunt – start now. Trust me. 

A Navigator

You’ve been there, right? You look in every direction and the trees all look the same. This pine looks just like the pine you passed 2 minutes ago.

Good hunters are usually good navigators. Learning how to read the land, creeks, ridges, and sky will help tremendously. Most of the guys I know who continue to put down big deer every year, know their woods like the back of their hands. It’s their territory. They “own” it.

Having confidence to trek through the terrain will lead to better hunting spots, plain and simple. Knowing how to read a map, a compass, or a gps can save the day. The woods are filled with guys who stay within eyesight of the roads. Up your game, hump it deep into the timber, and drag out those deer that other guys will never see.

Suggested Tool: GPS. There are tons of great options out there. Mark your “home” camp or truck, and start hunting. You’ll always be able to find your way back. 

A Woods Engineer

How am I going to get from down here to up there? How can I ambush the deer in this wide open bottom? How can I hunt here without everyone knowing my honey hole?

A little woodsman engineering can go a long way to improving a hunt. An improvised ground blind made of a few trimmed branches and brush piles have killed many a deer. Venison quarters hoisted up a tree has kept many coyotes from ruining precious meat. I’m sure thousands of deer have been drug up steep hills with make-shift paracord and stick dragging rigs.

With some creativity and a few resources, a good hunter can “make-do” to get the job done. He can access hunting spots like a ghost and build a makeshift camp fit for Fred Bear himself. He’s a woodsman engineer in the most practical sense of the words.

Suggested Tool: Paracord. Hunters can pack 100+ feet of 550lb test paracord into a tiny pocket. It is useful for tying blinds, dragging deer, hanging meat, and hundreds of other things. 

A Family Counselor 

We hunters can be a little obsessive. I’m not sure if you knew. Every year guys wear hard on their family relationships in pursuit of a huge buck. In time, that’s a recipe for disaster.

If a hunter wants to be successful year after year, and be good to the ones he loves at the same time, he’s going to have to do a little family counseling. Kids don’t grow up telling stories of how awesome it was that their dad was always gone. Spouses don’t visit their friends and rave about their disconnected marriage. We are smart to give some good family counsel – to ourselves.

Our families need our time. Our kids need our encouragement. Our spouses need attention. It’s critical to know when enough is enough. Quality time with the family is important. If hunting becomes the enemy that splits families, nobody wins – especially the hunter.

Step back, ask some hard questions, and make sure the family is healthy before spending another weekend away. It will lead to better hunting in the future, I promise.

Suggested Tool: Conversation. Talk with your spouse and kids. Talk early and often. Make sure they understand. Include them in the process. Listen to their hearts behind their words. Don’t be selfish, and just talk about it. 

We all want to be great hunters, that’s why you’re here on this website. Good hunters are better at much more than just finding and killing deer. They are usually a Jack of all Trades in a sense. What other skills did I forget? Is there something that helps you achieve regular success in the woods? Let us know in the comments below.

– Aaron Farley,