This a guest post from Andy May, a new contributor for Wired To Hunt and an experienced and very successful whitetail hunter from Michigan. To learn more about Andy and how he has success on highly pressured deer, check out our 2013 feature on how he gets the job done. – MK
By Andy May
Hunting in extreme high pressure areas isn’t for the faint of heart. I can think of nothing in the hunting world that is more difficult, frustrating, and yet rewarding. But with that being the case, staying motivated and positive just might be the most important hunting skill in having consistent success in these high pressure areas.
After talking to countless hunters, I’ve found that almost everyone out there thinks that they hunt high pressure. Although there is certainly “some” pressure anywhere that whitetail deer live and can be hunted, in my opinion, extreme pressure would fall somewhere in the range of 20-40 bow hunters per square mile. This often occurs in areas with high hunter density coupled with smaller land parcels, as in the case where I hunt in the southern half of Michigan. For the hunters that don’t own any hunting ground and are at the mercy of small parcel permission land and public land the outlook of mature buck success can seem pretty bleak most of the time. One of the biggest obstacles in being successful in an extreme high pressure environment is maintaining your mental edge and staying motivated.
Hunting in the areas described above is nothing short of a mental grind. Having and utilizing adequate hunting skill is a given requirement, but keeping the mental edge can often be the most challenging part. Staying motivated when you might go an entire season without getting an actual visual of a buck carrying a 120” rack is not easy. I have friends that have completely given up on hunting my area of southern Michigan and only hunt when they travel to lower pressure states like Iowa, Kansas, etc. So with these challenges in mind, here are a few things that help me stay motivated while hunting an area where the odds are so stacked against you. Hopefully they can help you too.
The hunting TV shows today have a way of making you feel like a pretty crappy hunter. As these TV host hunt their huge exclusively owned managed properties, passing 140” deer, it tends to make the guy sitting at home feel like he/she should be experiencing the same type of hunting success. But any hunter worth a lick knows that this isn’t the real world for 95% of hunters out there. You simply cannot compare your situation to anyone else, no matter where they hunt. Everyone’s situation and opportunities are different. In some places in Michigan or other extreme high pressure states a 100” buck is a more difficult task than a 150” buck on a managed Iowa farm. If you are going to commit to hunting in high pressured areas, be realistic in your goals. I personally like to hunt the top 10% of the bucks in my hunting areas that I determine through scouting efforts. Your goals may be different. There was a point in my career where I told myself I wasn’t going to shoot anything smaller than 140” in Michigan from that point forward. Unfortunately, I didn’t even see a deer over 120” in person or on camera for the next three seasons. Unrealistic goals will no doubt lead to frustration.
EXPECT THINGS TO GO WRONG
Let’s face it, things go haywire when hunting so close to other hunters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prepared a stand location in what I thought was the perfect setup, waited for what I thought was the perfect time to hunt it, only to find out that the area had been overrun with other hunters. It’s just part of hunting in high pressure areas. If you expect things to go wrong many times through the season, you won’t be so frustrated when it actually does happen. Always have back up plans, adapt and move on.
It’s not all doom and gloom when hunting in extreme high pressure. If you’re the type of hunter that pays attention to the little details, tweaks their hunting strategies, and hunts hard/smart you will experience success. If you can become even somewhat consistent on taking mature deer in an extreme high pressure environment you will undoubtedly gain some very valuable knowledge and skill that will carry over anywhere you hunt. Taking a mature deer under extreme pressured conditions is the most rewarding feeling I’ve achieved in my hunting career. When I look at my wall I always find myself gravitating to my high pressured Michigan kills. While we should certainly be proud of any deer we take, the ones that you worked for the most just tend to hold a special place in your memories.
If you don’t enjoy hunting extreme high pressure areas, then do something to change that. But if you’re situation requires you to stay close to home or you like the challenge, then maybe a few of these tips will help you stay mentally tough through the grind of hunting in extreme high pressure.
– Andy May