Whitetail deer are smart animals. They also have a keen sense of sight and smell. These attributes make them difficult to hunt without any attention to detail. That said, it's not surprising that many amateurs make whitetail hunting mistakes when starting out. If you are new to hunting, below are some of the most common mistakes you need to avoid:
Mistake #01: Not Being Aggressive Enough
There's a trend in whitetail hunting to put as little human stress on the deer as possible. While this strategy has its time and place, many hunters have limited time to hunt and don't have the luxury to engage in low reward and low-risk sits. In other words, most average hunters don't have the option to just sit back and wait for the rut.
However, stomping through the woods with reckless abandon won’t also guarantee your success. The idea is to look for and know the fine line between observing deer movement and moving in for the kill. Often, this can involve hunting the timber and moving close to the bedding. Don't allow field edge kills to keep you from penetrating the woods.
Mistake #02: Becoming Complacent
Many hunters make the mistake of becoming emotionally attached to the same trees year in and year out. However, branching off and doing something different is one of the best ways to grow as a hunter. If you sit in the same tree stand with minimal to no deer activity, you are wasting your time.
Just like fishing, you don't want to hunt memories. If nothing happens in your regular spot, strikeout and hunt new dirt. Don't get too complacent. Hunting new dirt will give you a new and fresh perspective and will let you see things you might have overlooked, such as the deer's favorite bedding and their preferred browse.
Mistake #03: Ignoring Midday Action
Thinking buck movement stops between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. is a common misconception. While it is believed that deer recognize there's minimal human traffic at lunchtime, it is also the time when they are often observed seeking out a willing female. However, to be successful at midday, you have to be at the right location.
Case in point: hunting a field edge at noon won't often yield many buck sightings. It is recommended that you focus your efforts on thick covers and bedding areas where deer are comfortable moving in during the day. Funnels in timber and pinch points are common places where you can find a buck cruising at midday.
Mistake #04: Not Preparing for the Big Moment
What would you do if a deer appeared behind you? Would you stand up and shoot over your right shoulder? If you have hunted long enough, you have likely found yourself in a situation you are not prepared for or didn't see coming. In line with this, practice sitting while drawing your bow.
You need to also make sure that you have practiced drawing for different shots or ranged some landmarks while in the stand. Some of the best hunters draw their bows at least a few times each day to ensure they know exactly what to do if a buck comes from an unexpected angle.
Mistake #05: Overusing Scents and Calls
Calls and scents are great tools you can use to draw bucks into your stand. However, most serious hunters would recommend that you proceed using them with caution. It would be counterproductive if you saturate an area with scent day after day and fill the woods with grunts.
Know when to use these valuable tools accordingly. For instance, rattling is considered most effective during the pre-rut and the breeding phase. Short grunts and scents are also best used when bucks are trailing does in estrus. The bottom line is to not overdo anything.
If you want to boost your chances of a successful hunt, you need to avoid the common mistakes and be willing to reflect on your hunts. This is key so you can see missed opportunities and blind spots. Also, keeping a critical eye and open mind can help you easily see there's always room for improvement in whitetail deer hunting.
About the Author
Maren McReynolds is the Content Marketing Director of Black Mountain Outfitters, a company that offers world-class guided hunts in New Mexico, Arizona, and South Dakota. When not working, she spends time swimming with her two kids and giving back to the community.