By Mark Kenyon

Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, arguably the greatest sports coach that ever lived, is a deer hunting genius. Please, let me explain.

In Pat Williams’ book “Coach Wooden’s Greatest Secret”, Pat described a conversation during which he asked John to pinpoint what he believed was his one greatest secret to success in life. Wooden’s answer?

“The closest I can come to one secret of success is this: a lot of little things done well.”

Little things.

This was Coach Wooden’s great “Aha”, the secret to success, the magic pill, the cure-all, the key. Something as simple as doing a lot of little things well. Surprising? Maybe to some, but to me it makes perfect sense. And I believe this simple truth also applies 100% to deer hunting.

In fact, I believe that this mindset, when applied in the whitetail woods, can be the single greatest difference maker in your success this deer season. I’m not the only one thinking this either.

When interviewing well known whitetail writer Steve Bartylla for our Rules of the Rut 2.0 Podcastshe described a similar thought.

“My entire approach to hunting is to stack as many little things in my favor as I ethically and reasonably can. It’s amazing how often that one little thing I did, or that one little thing I didn’t do, makes a difference between success and a thrilling encounter that ends up with me still holding onto my tag.”

Deer hunting, in my opinion, is a game of inches and this is especially true when it comes to hunting mature bucks.

You might pick the right tree stand, and be there on the right day, and use all the right techniques at the right time to call in a big buck. But one small overlooked detail could bring it all to a crashing halt. For example, maybe you walked into your stand not wearing gloves and touched a tree trunk. Now when that buck comes strolling in towards your call, he passes by this tree and catches a whiff of your scent. Game over. One little thing. One small detail. A single “inch” in the big picture made the greatest difference.

This is but one example of an infinite number of situations where the tiniest of details can change your entire hunt. A single misplaced piece of gear, a flinch during a shot, one small limb in the way, a slight swirl of wind, one task ignored or overlooked because of your rush. Or on the other end of the spectrum, maybe it’s the fact you greased the joints on your treestand, or the extra care you took walking into your stand, or the additional time you took practicing shooting your bow at odd angles that led to your success.

For this reason, it is my belief that it’s this attention to detail and focus on the little things that separates the great deer hunters from the average.

There are a thousand different ways things can go wrong during a hunt, so take control of all that you can. By crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s, you can at least minimize the potential for failure and maximize opportunity for success. Influence every piece of the puzzle that you can, avoid laziness, sweat the small things. And while your focus on each tiny item may not immediately make a noticeable difference, in the long run it will pay off.

During my conversation with Steve Bartylla, he elaborated on this topic by explaining the following, “It’s not going to change the world for a person. But, lets say over the next ten years you end up killing one more buck because every time you set up in a telephone pole like tree, you add extra cover. And over the next ten years you kill one more buck because in those areas without really defined buck traffic you end up cutting and planting a scrape tree to draw them over. And over the next ten years you kill one more buck because of odor control. Well all of a sudden that’s three more bucks that you’ve killed over ten years, that you wouldn’t have killed otherwise, and that’s not bad.”

No, not bad at all.

So this deer hunting season, keep Coach John Wooden’s advice close to heart. Pay attention to the details. Sweat the small stuff. And do a lot of little things well.

I’m confident the results, eventually, will be much bigger than you could ever imagine.

Interested in hearing more on this topic from Steve Bartylla (and a whole lot more on hunting the rut from other experts)? Check out our Rules of the Rut 2.0 eBooks and Podcasts