By Mark Kenyon
Excuse the awful pun, but are you in a deer hunting rut? Do you find yourself doing the same thing year after year? Are you visiting the same properties, the same treestands, seeing the same types of deer, the same kinds of results?
If you nodded your head yes to any of these questions, you’re not alone. When it comes to deer hunting it’s easy to fall into a routine, to stick with what you’re used to, to follow tradition. And heck, sometimes that’s great. But on the other hand, sometimes a change is in order. Sometimes you need a little adventure.
The allure of the unknown. The challenge of the unexpected. The nose to toes blood-rush of discovery, of that first glimpse, of that new reality. These gifts of adventure are fundamental to the hunting experience, and yet sometimes in our efforts to become more successful in our pursuits, we inadvertently remove the adventure that we so desperately need.
With a new year ahead of us, my challenge to you (and myself) for this next deer hunting season is to try something new, to push your boundaries, to once again experience true adventure. Here are four ways to help make that happen.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain
1. Try a new tactic: If you’re not into traveling, but you still feel the need to try something new, a drastic change in tactics might be in order. Adventure is sometimes defined simply as an unusual or exciting experience, and throwing your usual hunting playbook out the window will certainly qualify as unusual and exciting. Are you guilty of hunting in the same way every year, from the same treestands, with the same weapon, on the same days? A lot of folks are. This is your year to break the mold. Try spot and stalk bowhunting from the ground. Try using “run and gun” stand set-ups during the season. Try using traditional archery equipment. Whatever it is, try something new. Get out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself.
2. Hunt new properties: A huge number of deer hunters find themselves hunting the same properties year after year. We know that deer feed in this field in the evenings. They travel past that oak early in the mornings. They bed in that swamp every afternoon. The neighbor always sits in that dingy old box blind on opening day. Etc, etc, etc. Sure, there’s something nice about knowing a property well. But it can also be a recipe for complacency and boredom. This year, switch things up. Knock on some doors for permission, save a little money for a lease, explore some new public land. Whatever way you go about doing it, the exploration and learning of a new property is both exciting and a catalyst for making you a better deer hunter.
3. Go out of state: If you’ve never traveled out of state to deer hunt, you’re missing out. Hunting a new property is a great step towards getting out of a hunting rut, but visiting a different state is a whole other ballgame. Getting out of state inherently requires travel, and that can be an adventure in itself, but you’ll also likely be experiencing a whole new region, a different culture, a different landscape, and most importantly, different deer. Maybe this is your year to finally make the pilgrimage to “big buck country”, or maybe it’s time to head west and see deer in a wildly different setting, or maybe this year you’ll head north and experience the tradition of the big woods. Whatever you choose to do, heading out on the road for a deer hunting trip will without a doubt be an adventure you’ll never forget.
4. Go backcountry: If you’ve tried new tactics, new properties and even new states, it’s time to take things to the next level. The backcountry deer hunt. This concept isn’t a new one to mule deer hunters, but for the whitetail guy it’s a fairly foreign idea. But it shouldn’t be. If you really want a whitetail deer hunting experience that will test your mettle and remain firmly entrenched in your memory for years to come, throw all your hunting and camping gear in a pack or a canoe, and escape into some public backcountry for a week or more. There are plenty of areas out west, up north, down south, (etc) where you can hike in deep, set up a camp, and hunt long and hard without seeing other people. You’ll likely be able to get in to areas that other hunters won’t, so the deer hunting could be good. And even if the hunt is a struggle, the memory of sitting by a silent campfire far from other hunters and the sounds of civilization is reward enough.
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal.”
– Paulo Coelho
Are you ready to commit yourself to an adventure this next deer hunting season? Let us know in the comments what you’re thinking about trying!